Boy, is it good!
It saddens me that it has taken this many years to go from Women in Refrigerators to MSCSI, but regardless, Iâm not only happy that this series has received some buzz, but that I was lucky enough to in some way be included in it, as a reader. I think itâs a very important comic series of our time, and hope to see more like it.
In addition to being good social commentary and a great example of what female characters in comics can be, My So-Called Secret Identity is also just a really fun read, for men and women alike. The characters are compelling, and the story (written by Will Brooker) is interesting and exciting. It provides some terrific twists on the typical superhero lore weâve come to know and expect. The artwork by Suze Shore and Sarah Zaidan is great, too, and is particularly commendable for not falling into the trap that so many comics do of giving their female characters bodies and costumes that defy the laws of physics. Both issues each also feature an intricate âmind mapâ by Zaidan, which provides us with a glimpse into Catherineâs thought process and how various details and events fit together as part of the whole.
The tagline of My So-Called Secret Identity is âSmart is a superpower.â And, it serves as not just a description of the comic itself, but as an important message to anyone who might be reading it. Being intelligent is nothing to be ashamed of. Itâs not something you should hide, downplay, or try to deny. And, whether youâre a man or a woman, you shouldnât ever let anyone make you feel less-than, just because youâre smarter than they think you should be. Being smart is an amazing gift, and you can use it to be something incredible. Even if youâre not the flashy, glamorous hero type, smart is a goddamn superpower.
Not just principled, smart and promising, but repeatedly downright enjoyable. Brooker's work is typically brightly structured and touching.
The panel-to-panel storytelling in the book is by Suze Shore, whose work is lively, empathetic and discerning...Shore entirely sidesteps the uber-masculine in favour of the winning specifics of emotion and setting.
Cleverly interwoven into My So-Called Secret Identity are several pages from Sarah Zaidan, whose lively digital pages suggest a smart-minded fusion of exceptional skill, found objects and unconventional materials. Her exuberant, double-sided representation of Cat's desk - all maps, scraps of notes and newspaper articles - is a joy, and as such, is well in keeping with the spirit of the project as a whole. For this is a tale which expresses both a love of the possibilities of the superhero as well as a respect for the storytelling fundamentals of comics themselves. Similarly, there's an exhilarating expression of deeply-held convictions on display here, and yet they sit perfectly well with the very best traditions of the sub-genre as entertainment. As such, this isn't a feminist critique of the super-book itself. Instead, it's a determined counter to the way in which superhero comics have tended to be dominated by a misogynist approach. Not a lecture but an adventure then, and not an alternative so much as the real-deal. It should reward all but the most irredeemably blokeish of readers. To suggest, as many generously have, that it's a comic for women who'd more often than not be alienated by the sub-genre would undoubtedly be true. Yet there's an awful lot of blokes who've been worn through by the same unrelenting bigotry-posing-as-cheesecake too.
To suggest that My So-Called Secret Identity is worth reading because of its ideological convictions would be to patronise its creators while seriously diminishing their achievement. Yes, there are moments where the storytelling wobbles a touch, but this is an undeniably intriguing and enjoyable superhero comic. If the point ever did need establishing again, then this proves once more that there needs be nothing of the ultra-conservative about the heirs of Princess Diana and Kal-El. Unashamed of the sub-genre even as it despairs of how poorly it's so often been used, My So-Called Secret Identity reads like the glimpse of a far more decent-hearted and interesting future.
Weâve all seen the endless debates, arguments, and downright abuse surrounding the women in comics âissueâ; whether itâs about visual representation (see the Hawkeye Initiative) or the staff of the books themselves (Gale Simoneâs firing and re-hiring at Batgirl), there always seems to be something new for us ladies to feel at least vaguely insulted by. What we donât see quite as often is someone actually doing something constructive about it. Thatâs where My So-Called Secret Identity comes in, a new comic series with an almost entirely female staff written about a woman with a back-story more well-developed than her body, the proportions of which stay healthily within the realm of physics.
MSCSI is the brainchild of Dr. Will Brooker, the Director of Research at Kingstonâs Film and Television Department and editor of Cinema Journal. Brooker is the author of a number of books and articles on popular geek culture and is most well known for his monograph Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon, published in 2001. He decided to create MSCSI to show the world that positive female representation in comic books can be done, rather than simply criticizing the mainstream for their current practices. Susan Shore and Dr. Sarah Zaidan were hired as illustrators and issue one was released online on February 17th.
I hope My So-Called Secret Identity can make its way into many households, especially those where young girls are being disillusioned by the scantily clad women posing all over their current comics. Issue one shows the promise of a multifaceted character who will be remembered for more than her costumes and facial expressions.
YOU SO RULE XO
Smart... a great comic.
My So-Called Secret Identity features a superhero we all can rally around, an antidote to the brawny chauvinists and busty sex symbols of mainstream comics. Cat certainly has a bright future ahead of her
New web comic My So-Called Secret Identity is a breath of fresh air. Cat, our superheroine, might not have the usual super powers, but she has something even better: sheâs very very smart. She can remember details and make connections unlike anyone else. And best of all? Cat doesnât have to strip down to a spandex bikini to fight evil.
Brooker, Shore and Zaidan have displayed not only an admirable respect for themselves and their character but also the reader. Details are pointed out in the art, yes - but the story doesn't put its building blocks of world-building out in the open so plainly that the mechanics of necessity become distracting from the details.
And it's in those details that the work shines - both in the art and in the story. Brooker is in no hurry to scream & shout at the reader about what's important here. Are you more intrigued by the events of the first half of the book or the second? Are you more interested in the goings-on in the city, or in Catherine's place in it? Really, the book marries those two circumstances hand-in-hand and walks them down the street in front of you, but there's been a careful crafting here to make sure both elements play off each other without it being two different stories. Thus, Catherine's story becomes the city's story, the world's story - and Catherine serves as a legitimate gateway into the world instead of merely a figurehead cypher in a tight costume.
I can hardly wait to see how this story develops. Her struggles include militating with the oppressive supervillainy that hangs over Gloria City, yesâthe first comic literally opens with a bangâbut also with quotidian sexism brilliantly and economically sketched on a single comic page that could usefully serve as a definition of âmicroagression.â She is told she ought to be less academically forthright and confident, constantly made to feel little and âmodest,â and thus it feels like quite a stirring victory when she confidently confesses what her superpower is: âTo put it simplyâŠ Iâm really, really goddamn smart.âHaving read through the first issue, posted for free on their website, I must say that this comicâCatâs life, aspirations, and storyâreally speak to me.
Relatable characters are hard enough to come by, but one that actually reflects the textures of a real womanâs life as lived, and then proceeds to spin that tale into fantasy escapism, are truly priceless.
The groundwork is laid in this first issue for the action to come; you get a sense of Cat, Gloria City, and the terrorism that wracks it. Itâs not hard to see where this comic is potentially going, and what is hinted at is quite enticing indeed. Can Cat subvert the âtheatreâ of Gloria Cityâs superheroes and villains, and perhaps become a true heroine for the âlittle peopleâ? Iâd really, really like to find out.
A brand new comic superhero series entitled My So-Called Secret Identity is introducing the world to what may become the best and definitely least sexist female superhero to ever enter the hero-sphere, and sheâs not defined by the color of her lipstick. Described as having a âfeminist approach from the ground up, in terms of story, character, artwork and production,â My So-Called Secret Identity seeks to challenge the popular trend of female heroes acting as sexualized, peripheral to and weaker than male counterparts, and fulfilling antiquated gender stereotypes. A female PhD student superheroine is a necessary addition in an age where badass smart women like Elizabeth Warren are taking the Senate by storm, and women continue to earn doctorate degrees at unprecedented rates.
My So Called Secret Identity has a feminist approach with a fully-clothed female protagonist whose superpower is intelligence.
The art by Shore and Dr. Zaidan is very photographic; in fact, it feels very reminiscent of Bryan Lee O'Malley's work in Scott Pilgrim. All the panels are presented in such a way that they could easily be framed and displayed. As the main character, Cat is in just about every panel and is given top-billing. At the same time though, the artists make sure that the world around her feels vibrant and alive as if it's another character.
There's a few pages that really stand out. One two-page spreads shows a mind map, which presents a visual interpretation of Cat's thinking. The path her mind follows is something of a disjointed race that likely makes perfect sense to her ...it's a great means of really connecting with the reader and presenting Cat's intelligence. There's another full-page panel that's the same scene over four vertical panels. While the scene fills the page, each panel showcases a different character at a different state in the setting, helping to present the variety of characters in Gloria City.
The entire package is pretty special as well. The website features the comic and a Lookbook by Lindsay Searles, which showcases some of the thoughts behind the design process. Dr. Brooker takes no profit from the work. Instead, after paying the artists, the remainder of the donations go to A Way Out, an outreach charity for women and young people.
My So-Called Secret Identity #1 is the start of something powerful. There's potential here for all involved to make something special, giving women a work to look up and forward to as one that effectively captures what it means to be a smart, independent woman with a desire to do more.
My So-Called Secret Identity #1 is available online now. This is definitely a property that bears keeping an eye on. And the fact that it's free really makes it a no-brainer that it should be read. If you like what you read, be sure to donate some money to help get the rest of the series finished.
The first issue of My So-Called Secret Identity had wonderful prose-like narration that immerses you in the setting of Gloria City. Even with a simpler art style, you get a strong sense of Catâs personality and the struggles sheâs faced because of her intelligence. We only get a hint or two of how her mind works in this first issue with a splash page of Catâs âmind mapâ process. But it made me want more. Artists Susan Shore and Sarah Zaidan bring Brookerâs script to life in a stylized yet realistic form.
Gloria City feels like a real city and it was almost as if Cat was walking through my own town, doing the things that I like to do. She lives and breathes on the page, and you simply cannot help but to sympathize with her as you witness her struggles. The truth of the matter is that women are NOT treated equally in todayâs society, and while this book aims to highlight this, and is, in fact, the purpose behind the book, it doesnât beat you over the head with it. Her struggles in life as a woman are simply a part of who Cat is, just like itâs a part of all women in todayâs society. This book intends on delivering an important message, and is doing so in the most entertaining format possible: SUPERHERO COMICS!!!
A great comic, 4.5 stars.
The first issue of MSCSI (the acronym that also serves as the new seriesâ Twitter hashtag) introduces main character Cat Abigail Daniels, who resides in Gloria City, a comic book alternate-universe metropolis where terrorist attacks are more common than usual, and whose superpower is basically that sheâs super-smart. Brookerâs writing builds on familiar superhero tropes in a way that makes the reader instantly comfortable with this new environment, while the comicâs female-centric narrative is handled in a matter-of-fact way that mostly just makes one wonder why on earth this type of comic book isnât more common. I wish My So-Called Secret Identity every success, and look forward to finding out how the story develops in subsequent issues.
Stylish, engaging and just a little bit romantic - a superhero story for the Grazia generation
I have an almost 1-year old daughter, so finding strong female characters for her to read when she's older has become a new obsession of mine ("Daddy, why do all the superheroes' girlfriends end up stuffed in refrigerators?"). When she's closer to high school, I'll give her My So-Called Secret Identity.
I LOVE IT. Genuinely, hugely, madly.
In a moment marked by growing frustrations around the representational, demographic, and industrial devaluation of women within comic book culture, MSCSI represents an important transformative intervention. Imagining a future for comics in which smart is the new sexy has never felt less preachy, or been so dynamically visualized.
I havenât read many comics featuring a female character whoâs not wearing a ridiculous skin-tight costume and high heels to fight crime; with a young woman whoâs not relegated to love interest or victim; where I have to decide how much misogyny Iâm willing to overlook to get to the story. I've got one now though, and I canât wait to share more of my life with Cat.
My So-Called Secret Identity exceeded my expectations. I love it. It speaks to me like no other comic I've ever seen.
Splendid... the Lookbook is excellent, like the special features on a DVD. I loved the feel of the art, with not a panel wasted.
The comic follows Cat: Catherine Abigail Daniels, a copâs daughter and PhD student; an average young woman who just happens to be very, very clever. Sheâs not a twit, sheâs not a victim, sheâs not a love interest who is introduced and discarded. Sheâs the whole thing. Sheâs the focus. And sheâs real.
For the first time ever, when I read the comic online I found a character I got, in every way. I didn't need to ignore some thing in order to get to the good bits. I didn't have to skim over art that was ridiculously misogynistic. I didn't have to ignore insipid dialogue. Everything about Cat, and her story, is something I can buy into.
When Cat says in Issue #1 âThe problemâs not me. Itâs other people.â I instantly got it. Here is a comic that doesn't require girls to choose one thing over another. Here is a comic that gives us everything we want about comics- great art, fully-fleshed out characters, villains lurking in the background, the promise of phenomenal things to come, but doesn't require us to trade anything in order to get all of this.
Dr. Brooker and his team are publishing online, and the website offers lots of goodies.
The first issue is 22 pages of full colour comic available for free, plus a âlookbookâ of behind-the-scenes sketches and costume designs. The team are inviting donations towards issue 2, with a $5 suggested minimum; higher bids earn bonus material like extra pages, original art and the chance to see yourself in the comic as a supporting character.
Itâs a good bet where my money will be going. Because I canât imagine anything cooler than having a chance at being a supporting character in a comic this cool.
I look forward to seeing what Cat does, and what stories she has. While I canât help wishing sheâd been around when I was younger, Iâm infinitely grateful sheâs here now.
The website goes live on 18 February but until then, you can get your Cat fix on Facebook and Twitter.
Youâre in for a real treat, as the interactions with Cat on social media are lots of fun, and especially her Facebook page offers some great teasers for fans.
I for one will be following religiously, because I canât wait to see what happens next.
Move over Wonder Woman! Have a seat Batgirl (does anyone else get super annoyed with the fact that sheâs called girl?!). Here comes a NEW super woman and she is (actually) the one weâve been waiting for! Meet Cat Abigail Daniels. This is precisely the type of gloriousness that I would gladly empty out my pockets for. Cat and MSCSI promises to finally deliver what GEEK-ladies and gents have been clamoring for. MSCSI is the type of comic I would give to my nephews so that I could finally point to a female character who looks a hell of a lot like the women they know and love and say, âSee? Weâre pretty damn cool, huh?'
To put it simply, it's really, really goddamn good.
I'm really impressed with this project, and it is certainly needed right now. With print comics sales skyrocketing and superheroes continuing to blast into mainstream media, the gender gap in female readership and female representation in comics only becomes more obvious. As the founder of Comicspedia, the most frequent question I'm asked is, 'What comics would you recommend for girls?' MSCSI provides the answer. It's a solid, wonderful comic and I hope it explodes in popularity.
Thank you so much for this. It's incredible! I never thought I'd identify with a comic character - but as a female Irish-English red-haired PhD student I think I've found one! Looking forward to following Cat's story!
What a cool project....it'll be nice to see a comic where the women don't look like someone attacked their breasts with a bicycle pump before each frame!