We here at Lady Geek Girl and Friends are big fans of the feminist re-do, in which a creator takes a formerly problematic trope, character, or plot, and twists it in some way to make it subversive and progressive. It makes sense, then, that I absolutely adored the new comic Bitch Planet.
Bitch Planet is a feminist re-do of exploitation films set in women’s prisons: rather than we as an audience taking delight in watching these so-called non-compliant women’s humiliation, the story is framed so that we want each and every one of them to fuck someone up. Set in a dystopian sci-fi future where society is (still) ruled by patriarchal values, women who stand up are hammered right back down—and sent to the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost, an off-world prison world known colloquially as Bitch Planet. The first issue follows two storylines: that of the women who have just arrived on Bitch Planet, and that of one woman’s husband, who’s doing all he can to manipulate his wife’s place in the prison system.
Spoilers for the first issue below.
Issue #1 introduces us to the society that created Bitch Planet, and to some of the women who inhabit it. The Outpost is run by a few people on computers, and a lot of the function of the prison is automated (although the guards, despite their anonymous silver masks, seem to be human). We watch the prison take in a new crew of non-compliant women, and almost immediately fall into chaos when said women riot against their captors.
The prisoners are ruled—and chastised—by a 3D construct of a woman, created by the prison administrators, who is the exact opposite of non-compliant. Rather, she demonstrates every trait that the patriarchy demands of women: busty and curvaceous but with an impossibly tiny waist; constantly clad in corsets and panties, no matter what ‘personality’ program the admins are running on her at a given time; and, of course, totally subject to the will of the men who run the Outpost.
Author Kelly Sue DeConnick is one of my personal favorites, whom you may remember from my posts about Captain Marvel (twice), and she pulls an amazing bait-and-switch on readers in regards to the protagonist. The story is framed throughout the issue so that we believe that the innocent white woman, Marian, whose husband appears to be bankrupting himself to get her released, will be our protagonist. In the end, however, we discover that he’s actually trying to pay off the prison system so that she’ll never return from Bitch Planet—he’s already replaced her with a newer, younger woman. Marian is killed by guards, and it turns out that Kamau Kogo, the kickass, fierce Black woman who was trying to defend her, is actually going to be our main character. Given that the prison system disproportionally affects people of color, it’s cool to see a Black female protagonist, and moreover, it’s awesome to see a female lead who’s actually willing to get her hands a little dirty.
While Kamau is the main Bitch, though, the clear fan favorite character is Penelope Rolle. Penny is a fat Black woman who takes less than zero shit from anyone, and who starts the first brawl of the issue when she sees that the prison coveralls issued to her are not going to fit over both her boobs.
I’ve never read any comics with art by Valentine de Landro before, but it’s perfect for the story: evocative, bright, and gripping. If you do pick up Bitch Planet, though, be aware that it contains a truckload of non-sexual nudity. I opened my copy on the train surrounded by people and immediately had to shut it again and pull out a different comic. That said, it was awesome to see a comic in which dozens of women are shown naked and yet none of them were sexualized. Every woman had varying degrees of body hair, pudge, or wrinkles, boobs moved the way boobs ought to, and no one was drawn in a remotely cheesecakey way.
Image Comics’s single issues don’t have ads, but Bitch Planet did some fun stuff with fake advertisements on the back cover. They’re designed as a call-out to the scammy back-page ads of yesteryear, where a simple mailed-in payment of fifty cents could land you real working X-Ray Specs, and include ads for a Non-Compliant temporary tattoo, X-Ray glasses that can spot men’s true intentions, and the creepy masks that the Bitch Planet prison guards wear.
I highly recommend trying out Bitch Planet if you haven’t yet. It’s a thoroughly exciting beginning to what looks to be an amazing story, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next issue. Judging from some of the ads for future issues, a prison break is in the cards, but I’m just pumped to learn more about the characters. Unfortunately, #2 doesn’t come out till the end of January. Till then, Bitches.