Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro's new comic series Bitch Planet is billed as "Margaret Atwood meets Inglourious Basterds." And after just one issue, we're incredibly excited about the story of women on a prison planet — many for the crime of non-compliance. NSFW images below.
Bitch Planet #1 came out earlier this month from Image Comics, introducing us to dystopian future created by writer DeConnick (Pretty Deadly, Captain Marvel) and artist Valentine De Landro (X-Factor). In the future, women who are found non-compliant are sent to the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost, commonly known as "Bitch Planet." There, everyone from murderers from women who have disobeyed their husbands are at the mercy of the guards, while creepy monitors oversee everything.
You can see the first three pages below:
The women of Bitch Planet come from all walks of life, all races and body types. There are tough women who are looking for an opportunity to fight, heroic women who defend the weak, women who have never seen hardship in their lives and suddenly find themselves terrified and humiliated, and women who mind their own business in the hopes of surviving. And it becomes clear in that very first issue that survival is not a guarantee on Bitch Planet.
We spoke with DeConnick about what we can expect from Bitch Planet, the challenges of writing in the exploitation genre, and why feminism and comics are such a natural fit.
What drew you to exploitation as a genre?
You know, it was something I really loved when I was younger. And I had an interesting experience, because I also loved [Sergio] Leone westerns when I was growing up. And when I was working on Pretty Deadly, I went back and rewatched a bunch of these westerns and I still loved them. They still really hold up. They're extraordinary. And then I went and rewatched a lot of these old exploitation films and — oh my god! They're horrible! I couldn't make it through them. I'd get to the point where the rape scene is underscored with soft, romantic music and I'm like, "I'm out!"
Yeah, so it was something that I remember fondly and as being kind of progressive and badass, and when I went back and actually watched, was like, "Oh, oh, transgressive, yes. Progressive, not as much."
So in this book are you more looking to capture your memory of you thought exploitation was when you were younger?
You know, I don't know that I'm trying to do that. I'm trying to play with — yeah, maybe, maybe. I'm trying to play with those things that I like and figure out why I like them and trying to figure out if I can do a book that's overtly political and also have it be fun. There's a lot of questions that I've posed to myself and to Val: Can we do exploitation without being exploitative? Can we have a book that's overtly political and have it still be fun? What level of comedy is going to work in this context? There's a lot of stuff that I don't know that we have the answers to and what we're trying to do is figure it out.
One of the things that I really like about the first issue is the way you make the readers somewhat compliant in what's going on. You have the monitors watching all the action, but at the same time, we are the monitors.
Issue three opens with the lines, "I can't see you but I can feel you judging me." And it's Penny and she's talking about the people who are watching her at that moment, but she's also talking to you.
Oh, I love Penny. I wasn't sure what to make of her at first, but then she literally dives right into the action.
Yeah, I'm terrified that something is going to happen to Penny. I don't know; it is not part of the plan that something has to happen to Penny. But I'm afraid there's going to come a point where something where something is going to happen to Penny, because there's not too many people who are going to get through this okay.
Should we not get too attached to any of these characters?
Yeah, watch yourself.
I'm very intrigued by Kamau Kogo, even though she hardly says anything in the first issue.
I always like characters like the Man with No Name [from Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy] and Deathface Ginny [from Pretty Deadly]. I like characters that don't just tell you everything.
It's interesting to be reading you writing Captain Marvel and you writing this at the same time, because they feel like very different feminist texts. Is this a desire to explore different angles of what women have to put up with?
I don't sit down to write feminism, you know? Bitch Planet is certainly overtly feminist and so is Captain Marvel, but I would argue that Carol Danvers as Ms. Marvel was overtly feminist when I was seven years old. I had nothing to do with that. And honestly, if you think my books are unsubtle, you should read the 1977 version, because they are subtle like a sledgehammer. Bitch Planet is very clearly feminist, but I don't sit down and I don't approach it like I'm writing a flier. What's important to me is the characters and the story.
And my feminism is clearly very important to me, but it's about fairness across the board. And I think that's what a lot of comics are about. I mean, comics traditionally in this country there's a huge domination of the superhero genre, and superheroes are about standing up for the little guy and fairness and equality of opportunity. And those are the same things that feminism is about. I don't understand why people find this a novel pairing. It seems to me the most natural thing in the world. I find it peculiar that anybody could be a big Steve Rogers fan and not consider themselves a feminist, because it seems to me that everything he stands for is everything that feminism stands for.
Are we going to see what happens more off the planet as well?
Yeah, you are going to see a whole lot of the government and the bureaucracy back home. And a little bit of the day-to-day on Earth, but a lot of governmental hijinks.
And the authority hologram, is she an AI?
Every third issue is the biography of one of the characters. You find out a little bit about them and how they got to the planet. And the pink woman, we call her "the model," because she's the compliancy model. And the model will have a third issue, a bio issue. I don't know what number issue, but she'll have an issue where you learn a whole lot more about her.
Are you getting sick of Orange is the New Black comparisons with flashing back to how the characters wound up in prison?
Not really, because I haven't seen Orange is the New Black, on purpose. I understand it's really, really good, but I'm super scared of being paralyzed by it. And I'm doing something very different. I'm just worried. Like, if I had known that they did that, I would have been like, "Oh, we can't do it." But I didn't find out until I had already said it; it was already in the works.
So I'm staying away from it, which is hilarious, because we try to be influenced by old stuff, but try not to be influenced by contemporary stuff, and I don't understand why I do that exactly. But I guess I want to make sure that I'm telling the story that Val and I want to tell and not let myself get scared away from anything because I'm afraid I won't do it as well. This needs to be uniquely ours, and sometimes uniquely ours is doing the same things that somebody else talked about! So, I'm staying away from it, but I don't mind the comparison because I've heard nothing but good stuff about it.