Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rucka & Comicsfest!

This Saturday, January 26th, from 11am - 5pm, the Sahara West Library (9600 W. Sahara Ave. 702-507-3630) will host ComicsFest. ComicsFest is free and will have workshops and panel presentations by people within the comics industry as well as a dealers room, and a drawing for free books. There'll also be representatives from TokyoPop, Dark Horse, IDW Publishing and other publishers. Amongst the comic creators that will be at ComicsFest are: Steven Grant (Punisher, Batman, Two Guns, Badlands), Jimmy Gownley (Amelia Rules), and special guest Greg Rucka (who'll be on a panel talking about his work at 1pm)! So wake the neighbors and bring the kids because ComicsFest will be a fun time and the bigger the support for functions like this is, the greater the possiblility for more such events happening in the future!

Following is an interview that local writer Jarret Keene conducted with Greg Rucka recently. Jarret Keene is much more insightful than myself and asks great questions so I'm thankful for his permission to reprint his interview here.
Women warriors

Don’t call comics scribe Greg Rucka a feminist — his heroines might hurt you

By Jarret Keene

Take writer Greg Rucka’s creator-owned comics published by Portland indie press Oni — Whiteout and Queen & Country — and put them under a critical lens. One immediately notices surface similarities. Both titles feature tough female law-enforcement protagonists who love their jobs to the point of near-madness. They are romantically inert. They are prone to mutilation at the hands of adversaries. They abuse alcohol in order to deal with the strain of their occupations. And, for reasons only they can understand (or not), they push themselves deeper into isolated environments, into those arenas where there are no lifelines — only target sightlines.

For example, Whiteout’s Carrie Stetko is a U.S. Marshall struggling to escape the memory of having killed a rapist convict. She finds solace in the crushing ice of Antarctica until someone winds up dead in her jurisdiction, and it’s up to her to figure out whose face has been rendered unidentifiable with an ice hammer — and who the murderer is. Queen & Country’s Tara Chace, meanwhile, is a SIS (British intelligence) officer who works tirelessly to impress her ops director, Paul Crocker, a man of cunning intellect and not above doing the CIA’s dirty work in exchange for certain information. Good thing SIS has a full-time shrink to deal with Chase’s post-traumatic stress disorder. Otherwise, they might have a real problem on their hands.

Whatever you do, though, don’t try to affix the “feminist” label. Rucka doesn’t like labels.

“Don’t mistake gender for character, don’t mistake race for character, and don’t mistake religion for character,” he says during a recent phone interview. “I like writing strong women characters, sure. But it’s because I prefer heroes who don’t have it easy. With every protagonist, there’s always an internal battle going on in addition to the external battle. Sometimes I think the internal battle is more interesting than the outer one. With Queen & Country, though, Chace’s ability to deal with the world is clearly dysfunctional. But the question that’s worth asking isn’t: ‘Why is she a woman?’ It’s: ‘Does being dysfunctional make her better at her job?’”

And then there’s the question of, well, the Question, a.k.a. Renee Montoya. Montoya, an alcoholic ex-cop turned costumed vigilante, is a DC Comics character from the Batman universe that Rucka is currently casting in a limited-series title, Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood. (Rucka has also scripted Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman titles for DC.)

“The Question is coming up from a previous low point in her life,” says Rucka. “In Crime Bible she’s at the best level she’s ever been, at least psychologically. If there’s a feminist argument to be made, it’s that I’m going to the women characters as brutally and honorably as anyone else. If I’m going to write a scene in which Batman is kicked in the face repeatedly, then I probably should do the same for Wonder Woman. There’s a lot of ground to be mined as far as depicting women in traditionally male situations, because it really hasn’t been done before. The only agenda I bring to the writing, though, is to try to tell a fun story.”

Queen & Country is more than fun; it’s engrossing, leaving the reader no choice but to hang on every cliff with characters like espionage agent Chace. But for every admirable character, Rucka always provides a few that are morally repugnant. Chace’s boss, Crocker, for example, is someone who’s not above dispatching his agents to take care of a petty vendetta. Despite his fierce loyalty to his people, Crocker is, once your break him down, an evil bastard who, like the current American neoconservative movement, doesn’t believe or care that Islamic extremism is fueled by Western imperialism. He just wants his agents on top.

Which leads this book critic to ask Rucka if he’s politically neoconservative.

“Frankly, writers who bring their politics into their writing are boring,” says Rucka. “Crocker is a zealot, and I don’t like zealotry in any shape or form. I don’t like situations where no one is willing to compromise. Extremism breeds extremism. Having said that, I’m not a pacifist by any stretch of the imagination. There are times when you have to spill blood — your own and of others. With Islamofacism, you can dress it up as American imperialism if you want, but at the end of the day it’s intolerance that drives them. If I have a political agenda, it’s that I’m not a fan of people who don’t accommodate others.”

A fan of literary writers like Tim O’Brien, and Joyce Carol Oates, the Eisner Award-winning Rucka (whose Whiteout characters will soon be appearing in a Hollywood film adaptation) says what he most loves about the comics medium is the inherent collaboration.

“One of the great things about comics is that any comic I write is going to end up being a collaborative work. It’s one of the beauties of the art form. A writer can’t do it alone. What a good comics artist does is tell the story visually.”

Greg Rucka appears at the Las Vegas Comics Fest on Jan. 26 at the Sahara West Library (9600 W. Sahara Ave.) from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Info: 507-3630. Admission: free.

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