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Best of Fantasy 2008: Articles and Interviews

Last week we revealed our favorite columns of 2008, but there was a lot more non-fiction on offer. Interviews, articles, and more. Here are our favorites.


"The Chosen One" vs. The One Who Chooses by Naamen Gobert Tilahun -- I particularly liked this piece because it highlights an all-too-common trope and then presents an example of a different, and mostly superior approach.

Female, Muslim, and Mutant by Jehanzeb -- The first in our series of posts about Muslim characters in comics explores the character of Dust from the X-Men comics and the ways in which she breaks ground yet illustrates how far the writers and comic publishers still have to go.

A Conversation With Guy Gavriel Kay by Alaya Dawn Johnson -- When two great fantasy writers sit down and have a conversation about myth, history, metaverses and Dorothy Dunnett, it has to be good.

David Anthony Durham - Epic Proportions by K. Tempest Bradford -- David wrote one of the best debut fantasy books I've read in a long time, and I was really interested in exploring some of the aspects of race and gender the text brought up.

Justine Larbalestier & Ekaterina Sedia in the Fantasy Salon -- I got these two authors together because I wanted them to talk about different ways of feeling Othered as non-Americans writing for American audiences. What I got was so much more.


What were your favorites?

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The Objectification of Women in Comic Books

A handsome intelligence officer of the United States Army, Colonel Steve Trevor, crashes his plane on "Paradise Island" (an island full of Amazon women, what else would it be called, right?). Trevor is found by a beautiful Amazon Princess named Diana, who nurses him and subsequently falls in Love with him. When she learns about the war against the Nazis, she dons a costume of America's red, white, and blue, and departs for the "Man's World." She is Wonder Woman -- "beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, stronger than Hercules, and swifter than Mercury". She can fly like Superman, she can hurl heavy objects like the Hulk, and if you really make her mad, she'll crack out her golden lasso and tie you up (especially if you're male).

At first glance, she may look like an empowered, kick-butt, feminist super-heroine amidst a realm dominated by male super-heros. But is Wonder Woman really empowered? Is she really the icon of feminism in graphic novels? Is her message really all about defending sisterhood, freedom, and democracy?

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A Critique of Muslim Women in Comics — AK Comics’ Jalia and Aya

"Jalila: Protector of The City of All Faiths" and "Aya: Princess of Darkness" appear in AK Comics, founded by Dr. Ayman Kandeel. Not to sound too negative in my introduction of these female super-heroines, but the images and roles of women in Kandeel’s comics are not an improvement from what we typically see in mainstream American comic books. These characters represent an unimaginative redux of unrealistically curvaceous and buxom super-heroines who look like clones of Wonder Woman and Catwoman.

Unlike “The 99,” the writers and artists for AK Comics seem to be more concerned with drawing voluptuous women rather than focusing on character development and original storylines. By bringing their characters into the spotlight, we can learn how incredibly significant it is to battle sexism and racism in comic books as well as how we can create a much-needed dialogue and understanding between the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world.

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A Critique of Muslim Women in Comics — The 99

While I believe there is very little known about the images and roles of women in comic books, the subject of how Muslim female characters are portrayed is even smaller. There is at least one comic company interested in realistic, nuanced portrayals of Muslim women: Teshkeel Comics. Naif Al-Mutawa’s The 99 shows us arguably the best depictions of Muslim female characters to have ever appeared in comic books.

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Female, Muslim, and Mutant

Meet "Dust," or Sooraya Qadir, a burqa-garbed adolescent Afghan girl who has the ability, as shown in the scene above, to shape into sandstorms and tear the skin off her enemies. She has been a member of Marvel Comic's X-Men since her first appearance in 2002 and she currently appears regularly in the Young X-Men comic books. In the male-dominated world of comic books where female characters are depicted with large breasts and skimpy skin-tight (or lack of) clothing, it's interesting to examine whether or not Dust and other Muslim super-heroines escape the sexual objectification and sexism that women often suffer in comic books. Are the Muslim women subjected to stereotypes? Are they doomed to the same fate of other female characters? Does the "male gaze" still apply? The answers are fairly complex when applied to the character of Dust and other Muslim characters in both American and non-American comics.