London Film and Comic Con 2014

My sister and I were able to visit the London Film and Comic Con this weekend, over Friday, Saturday and Sunday (we just went to the Saturday event, though), which was a really fun experience, especially as this is the second comic-con showe we’ve been to after the MCM London Comic Con last year. The event was held at Earl’s Court and showcased a number of things – I love that Comic Con has now become much more than just comic books and superheroes. This one covered film and TV series, comic books, computer games and also fiction books. There were a number of TV and film celebrities available for photos and signings, and also comic book artists and book authors who were in attendance, ready to sign their work.

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My sister had the foresight to buy ‘Earlybird tickets’ – which still meant queuing up but it meant that buy paying a little extra, we could get into the venue at 9.00am, which we managed to do. While queuing we saw a huge variety of costumes, merchandise and cute little children dressed up as Supergirl/Superman/Spiderman/that little girl from Dispicable Me which were a fun prelude (and a sign of who the real fanboys were).
When we finally got inside, the place was already busy and there was lots of things to see and visit. The venue was divided into different ‘zones’ for varying interests as well: the Book Zone, the Comic Zone, the Anime Zone, the Video Game zone, the Cosplay zone and Artists Alley, alongside the talks, celebrity photoshoots and signings which were going on, not to mention various raffles, stalls and competitions.

As always, this year’s Film and Comic Con was full of costumes which had been really well thought out, I loved some of the originality of costumes, not to mention the attention to details which made some of these look really good (a lot of them stayed in character too, Chewbacca spent the whole time growling and making squealing noises everytime we went past him).

The celebrities were a big appeal for us. We managed to see most of them with the exception of Carrie Fischer (Princess Leia in Star Wars) who we missed, and comic book legend Stan Lee, who was in a separate area and which we would have had to buy extra tickets for (which were expensive but still very popular!) Below are just some of the celebrities we saw, there were a lot more which I haven’t included! We recognised pretty much most of them, partly because I watch too much TV and also because some of these people were pretty cool. The celebrities all seemed really nice and down-to-earth, which was great to see.

There were also a lot of talks going on during the day with various actors and writers, my sister and I are big Sherlock fans (the British version) and there was meant to be a talk called ‘Sherlocked’ with the writers and producers of the show, which we wanted to attend. However after we took one look at the huge queue and the fact that it would be at least an hour and half wait, we decided not to go (and just stream the talk online at home!) – it was just too hot and would have made the long day longer, if we hadn’t been fasting it would have been worth the wait.

I loved the fact that there was a separate section for YALC – Young Adult Literature Con, which was apparently the first one in the UK. I’m a big book-reader and aspiring author, and it’s always great to see support out there for people who want to write. There were also a lot of names I recognised, many from books I read as a teenager whom I was a big fan of like Malorie Blackman, Darren Shan and Patrick Ness, who are pretty well-known.

And of course there were hundreds of stalls, booths and tables to buy all sorts of things, comic books, costumes, gadgets, computer games, toys and souveniers. We kept an eye out for anything we wanted to buy, but some of the things were a little pricey (I wanted a comic-book print dress but wasn’t really prepared to spend £65 on it), but it was still good to see the buzz of people selling all sorts of things.

My sister and I spent a lot of time looking at various comics, gadgets and quriky stuff, and we ended up at the table of an emerging artist, Hameed Catel, creator of kirucomics which we had a good discussion with as he told us the premise of his two comic book series (and also sold us one, which he also signed!) I really like the idea of both of his comic series, one about a young thief who is suddenly given powers, and who doesn’t behave as heroic as he should, which sounded pretty funny – the Champion of Dema graphic novel is the one we bought. He also told us about his other comic series which was waiting to be published, about a detective called Hani. We both really liked the idea of this one because it seemed more Middle-Eastern based, and also very Muslim-friendly, goodness knows there aren’t enough Muslim superheroes out there, although it’s a growing niche! The series is still waiting to be published very soon, I’ll post about it as soon as I hear more!

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We also stopped to play a few vintage arcade games, as well as look at the latest games being released (I beat my sister at Pacman, naturally). It was good to see people of all ages at this place, there were an area of old-style arcade games grouped together which gave an arcade-feel, as well as lots of computer and television monitors around with the more modern games.

 

Throughout the venue were plenty of displays, from books, TV series and films, and all pretty spectacular. I love the Sherlock set (I have no idea if its the original one, but I wouldn’t be surprised), and the Batmobile (something my nephews would love).

Because we were fasting, we didn’t want to spend all day at the Comic Con and left in the afternoon after we had spent time looking at everything and stopping again to peeki again at several celebrities. It was also a really warm day, and as we walked out of the building back to the Underground Tube station, we could see the queues of people waiting to come in were still getting longer and going down past the roads – it really was astounding how popular this London Film and Comic Con is, and how far people travelled to come.

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All in all we had a good day, and it was interesting to meet various fans who interpreted film, TV and comics in their own way. I don’t think I’m as big a fan as some of the people who attended, but it was fun, and who knows, maybe next time I’ll go in costume!

The Last DC-slash-Marvel Supper

I saw this yesterday and thought it was pretty interesting, a graphic-novel-superhero take on the iconic Da Vinci painting, The Last Supper.

I thought it was pretty interesting that Superman is put in the middle (I have read comparisons of Superman to Jesus so it makes sense), and it’s cute that Batman is in the role of Peter (the jealous disciple in this painting) – aka, Superman’s biggest rival. Also, Wonder Woman as Magdalene is a pretty good choice – the only other alternatives I can see there is Cat Woman or a X-Men heroine which would have been interesting too.

I like how all the major superheroes are in this painting – although I’m not sure how fans would like the mixing of DC superheroes with Marvel – although there is a good message of tolerance in this Last Supper!

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Superman: True Brit

Superman: True Brit is a silly, tongue-in-cheek satire about what life would have been like for Superman if he landed in Britain instead of the USA to live the American Dream. This book is a part of a series of ‘Elseworld comics which take DC Comics superheroes and takes characters out of their normal settings to theorise their alternative lives (for example, there’s another Superman novel called ‘Red Son’ about Superman landing in Ukraine to become U.S.S.R’s hero!)

Superman: True Brit is more of  a silly, light-hearted version of the story, with puns and plenty of poking of fun at the old British boys – although that’s to be expected with a graphic novel co-authored by the writers from Monty Python! So here’s a quick review-slash-recap of the graphic novel (*be warned, there’s spoilers ahead!*), I enjoyed reading this graphic novel simply because the idea was pretty funny, and it has crossed my mind a few times that Superman may have been a different person in a different country, rather than the all-American boy.

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So we start off with an alien baby landing – in all places – in the heart of the British Empire (or not quite), Weston-super-Mare, where he is found and brought up as Colin Clark; taught to mind his manners, suppress his powers and not scare the farm animals.

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His adoptive parents play their part, satirising middle-class British values (perhaps in the 1900’s, can’t say society is like this today!) with a social-niceties, paranoia about the neighbours and reminders to always wear clean underwear.

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In the meantime, Colin meets his girl-crush, Louisa Layne-Ferret, a Page 3 girl and ambitious journalist (with a convenient resemblance to her American cousin Lois Lane, who we also meet later on!), and has a fe20131117_125344w mishaps at school (such as playing cricket a little too fiercely and impaling a school-fellow with a cricket bat. Oh dear).

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Soon after (and inevitably), Colin is unable to suppress his powers and finds an outlet for them instead – in his alter-ego, Super Man, dressed in disguise to appease his parents while saving the country from disasters.

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Soon however, he is set three challenges by the skeptic public and his less-adoring fans – which of course turn out to be typical British complaints (and also satirical comments about British society!) The first task turns out to be to make trains run on time – Superman solves this by speeding up the trains and introducing the train staff to schedules (“Radical thinking!”)

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The second task turns out to be to reduce waiting times for hip operations, which Superman ‘solves’ by advising surgeons to play less gold and work more. Of course.

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The third and last task is challenging Superman to raise the quality of BBC programmes – which he resolves by scaring BBC executives into less ‘dumbing-down’ of television and more shows for  under-30s age gap.

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Despite all of this, poor Superman falls into more trouble, with the Bat Man out to get him (the previous victim of the cricket bat incident), the editor of the Daily Star out to defame him, and worst of all, his parents trying to run away from the embarrassment of their son being Superman.

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On top of this is the news that the ‘Three Impossible Tasks’ that he apparently succeeded in have had some negative results, meaning that Superman has to pay fines, gets further bad publicity, and his love life is not working out with Louisa quite how he wanted it.

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Eventually though (although slightly predictably, and in a very Monty-Python-ish way!), there’s a happy ending to be had, and Colin Clark reveals himself as Superman to avoid being black-mailed, and urges the public to stop supporting both the Bat-Man and the slimy editor of the Superman-hating newspaper. I loved this comment at the end, where Colin resolves to change his name – to Kent Clark.

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And Superman goes back full circle to say he is emigrating to the US for new opportunities (not before some references to The Rutles and a few digs at British society), changing his British-flag costume for a more recognisable one, complete with a Christopher Reeves-ish hair-curl.

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Overall, this graphic novel was certainly a lot less serious than the other DC comics I have read – and certainly, it’s not meant to be taken seriously. I liked the humour of it, but found it a little clichéd at times when it came to British traditions (I can’t help but wonder whether Americans still view us British at tea-and-crumpets-with-the-Queen types, although I did like the depiction of Queen Elizabeth in wellies and a crown!)

This is certainly something for Superman fans to read, especially if they want to get away from the dark tales that Superman sometimes comes across (and even Batman fans, which has plenty of dark humour and depressing stories!) Although this may not be to everyone’s liking, and some may find this a little patronising, it’s good for a few chuckles, and it certainly gives a good send-up of British media and culture.

MCM London Comic Con 2013

I mentioned before that I visited the MCM London Comic Con, which is a big comic convention that takes place in London twice a year. While it’s not as huge as the San Diego Comic Con, it’s still pretty popular, and draws a huge crowd with interests in drawing, comics, gaming and various films.

We spent the day looking at comics and merchandise for sale, meeting comic book artists and seeing hundreds of fans in costume (known as ‘cosplay’), and generally had an interesting day. I’ve always wanted to go to a Comic Con but have never had the chance, so it was a different experience for me to see various different groups of people get together and have fun.

Here’s a few pictures of the hundreds I took, some of the costumes we saw were just mind-blowing, with some really great detail. I don’t have a single favourite costume because there were far too many, but among my top favourites would be a girl dressed up as Cersei Lannister from the tv series Game of Throne (and looked spot on!), and a girl dressed as Storm from the X-Men, white contacts and all!

Stormtroopers against the horizon at London Comic Con…!

I attended the MCM London Comic Con today, which was great fun, not least because of the amazing, detailed costumes worn by a lot of the fans. I’ll be posting properly about the Comic Con in a couple of days, but in the meantime here is one of my favourite photographs that I took at the Comic Con.

I’m not sure if it’s because of the awkward posing of the Stormtroopers, the fact that the backdrop of the Royal Docks behind make an almost anachronistic setting (it’s not the Death Star, is it!) or even the fact that I wanted to (and almost did!) dress up as Darth Vader (the hijabi version) for the Comic Con that makes this picture memorable for me – but I do think these were one of the many highlights of the day : )

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Journal Your Ramadan – Day #4: Currently Reading

I’m a big reader, which means I have piles of books in my room, several hundred ebooks on my laptop, book reader and mobile, and about three or four pages of lists of ‘To Read’ books to collect. I also have quite a bad habit of reading more than one book at the same time so that I’ll have about three or four different storylines in my head which I pick up again when I’m reading a book.

Here’s what I’m reading at the moment, a novel about a Slovakian Gypsy in World War Two, Zoli; a book on my eReader called The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I’m really enjoying, a graphic novel called Superman True Brit, which I’ve mentioned a few times before, and which I’m trying to re-read so I can post a review/re-cap of the best bits on my blog; and lastly a book given to me by my sister called The Four Agreements, which is more of a philosophical self-awareness book (which I’m not usually into, but it comes very well recommended and I’ve heard good things!)

Over the years, I’ve had less and less time to read (and I’m sure you can all relate) as I get more commitments, more things to do at home and work, and less time to myself, so it’s nice when I do get to sit down and read. I’m always in a ‘cycle’ when it comes to reading too, sometimes I’ll feel like reading a lot of fantasy, sometimes it will be a lot of murder mystery, and then this could be followed by a lot of dystopic sci-fi. At the moment I’m leaning towards historical and epic novels (and Batman comics), although previously I was reading a few novels by Charlaine Harris which were all based in The South (of US) which was interesting!

Ramadan is the best time to read the holy Quran during thee month, but there are other things to read too, to improve your day-to-day life or to reach inner-peace –  with some talks, some stories of the Prophet, or even just a few verses of prayer which can be read with prayer beads. It’s easy to forget to do this in this time, we’re tired, hot and not always able to concentrate, but time and time again I’m reminded of the value of praying and reading so that we can reap the rewards.

Also on the subject of reading, here are a few Ramadan Links to read for those of your who want food ideas, kids activity ideas or just lectures and talks to listen to – have a browse!

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Weekly Magical Unicorn Hoodie Links

Weekend time! Here’s some links to get inspired and help you do that thing you always wanted to do…like climb Mount Everest. Okay we both know that’s a big crock of rubbish, so here’s some links to waste time instead.

A photo-journey on the planet Mars. Or perhaps not, just someone’s backyard. I love how close-up photography can create effects like this (and something I need to try myself!)

Remember those adventure books with options on every page to choose your own next step (like ‘pick up the axe and fight a troll, page 23, or run away to the woods, page 76), which you may have a read as a kid? Well here’s an online (blog) version, which you can click your way through, great fun. Although having said that, I did used to try and cheat with those books by bookmarking pages to go back to!

A magical unicorn hoodie-slash-backback. What more do I need to say.

If you’re a big comic book fan, this is a link for you. 60 comics everyone should read, from the superhero greats like Batman and Superman, to the sillies like Matt Groening’s strips. Although I have to say I’ve never really liked the Moomins and would never read a comic about them.

It’s not a good weekend unless there’s some Lego thrown in – here’s some Lego Stilettos, which should have been made years ago, in my opinion.

Teachers who got the last laugh. Unfortunately, none of these went to my school, nor were as cool.

I’ve seen a lot of series of photos of objects which have been taken apart, like these immaculately lined up objects. I liked the Blackberry one best, but that’s just because I don’t like Blackberry phones very much.

Here’s a cool game – Mapcrunch – for those of you who would like to purposely get lost and find you way home in any country, all in the safety of your home on a computer. A bit like a stag night out, I suppose.

A series of photographs of buildings – looking up. I really liked this perspective, and it’s definitely a lot safer than standing on top of a lot of tall buildings and looking down.

Lastly, you know how I love my Disney links – honest titles for Disney films.

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Even Batman needs to mind his Ps and Qs

Saw this in a Batman comic –I mean graphic novel– book I was reading yesterday and thought it was hilarious.( Yes I’m a grown woman who still read comic books, don’t you judge me), I love finding little silly things like this in serious scenes (Batman’s trying to find out some information about his ex-protege who was killed in this scene), and I just thought this whole bit was just cute.

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Image taken from ‘Batman: War Games‘ by DC Comics

Love, Graphics and Slavery in ‘Habibi’

Habibi, by Craig Thompson, is a novel with a difference. Not just because it is a beautifully drawn graphic novel, full of layers of subtle meanings, stories-within-stories and a depiction of society, but also because of the ingenious way the artist weaves together the life of a young slave woman’s, Dodola, with that of a chance meeting with another, slave child named Zam, whose own life is shaped just as he shapes hers.

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Thompson, then, begins20121111_134856 a story which, although not conventionally happy, becomes one which is beautifully moving and extremely easy to engage with. We follow Dodola from her poor and unfortunate beginnings of being sold by her parents to be a wife at the age of six, and from there, her life does not get any better – kidnapped, sold into slavery and rounded up until she meets Zam, a toddler with whom she runs away with to look after.

From there, we see plenty of layers, of love, of slavery, of being gender roles and of being a possession. Thompson does not shy away from the brutality of sex, as well as the hardships of being a slave, of being poor and of course, of being a woman.

Dodola, then, becomes almost an archetype for almost every role a woman can assume – mother, sister, daughter, wife, slave, prostitute, and even food-bringer, as she shrugs off her hardships and her past to try her best to survive, and of course, bring up Zam.

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Throughout the novel, we see both character’s roles, personality and even relationship change, which has a tragic effect on both Zam and Dodola. This is particularly emphasised as Thompson combines modern realities such as coming to terms with your own identity and sexuality, with older-fashioned values such as trading for food, the life of a slave and the realities of  being a woman, being black or being poor.

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Just as we see Dodola’s concerns in bringing up her adopted child, however, we see Zam’s (whose name is no accident, originating from Zamzam water, a holy well situated in Mecca), anxieties in his own role as a man.

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And that is not to say that the story focuses purely on these characters, as Thompson weaves in beautiful architecture in the Middle East combined with the grimy, poor dwellings of the rest of the country. Stories of King Soloman, the Queen of Sheba and Islamic number based puzzles are weaved in as parables to mirror Dodola’s dilemmas and concerns, as well the history of the country, different plans in the city, and the environmental concerns of current society.

And it is no accident that there is a motif of story-telling, calligraphy, writing and drawing throughout the story, artist points not only to the graphic form of the novel, but also the centuries old form of telling stories, writing and recording history, and in a way, recording our identities. Thompson does not leave20121112_125713 a topic untouched, yet this does not feel messy, everything is weaved in beautifully and depicted in seriously beautiful, detailed drawings.

I particularly also liked the architectural drawings in the story, which ranges from ships and small towns to beautifully regal palaces and gardens, and back again to shanty towns and rubbish filled waste-grounds. Again, Thompson points out the range of cities and it’s environments through these encounters – the danger of pollution, the apathy of its citizens and the excess carelessness of the rich are all movingly captured – one sub-plot which struck me was a fisherman who catches rubbish from the sea every day, never getting a fish and yet remaining happy until he has a breakdown – which is surely symbolic of the Earth slowly killing itself with pollution in a truly depressing scene.

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As each scene and circumstance changes, it is no accident that the characters change and adapt with them – Dodola changes from young innocent girl to a teenage thrifter to a harem woman and still goes beyond this, just as Zam’s identity anxieties take him on his own adventures.

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While I though this novel was brilliant, some readers may be put off by the amount of sexual content in this novel, which is never crude but does seep into a lot of its chapters and scenes, and can feel unrealistic. When reading this, while I felt sympathy for Dodola’s character, I also felt it was depressing to see that she is constantly measured by her worth as a woman, and how she can satisfy men sexually. While I’m sure that this is Thompson’s intent, to show that she is objectified to the extent that this defines her above all else, it is sad to see that she is constantly seen as a sexual object by all the characters in this book, which is only stressed by the fact that she is the only female character in this novel and essentially is alone in any type of sisterhood, motherhood or any other positive, female relationships.

Without revealing too much, there are certainly some twists in the novel which changes the initial outlook on not only Middle Eastern society, but the rest of the world and its history in general by the time you reach the end. While the ending itself is ambiguous, it is not a sad one and there is certainly a note of hope by the end of it, although it one which has taken a hard journey to get to. Thompson has done a great job with this novel, and one which is full of beautiful illustrations, poignant meaning and amazing symbolism which is weaved together cleverly – it’s certainly made me want to look out for his other work.20121112_231253

Alison Bechdel: A contemporary author explores the vexed relationships between children and parents.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
(Philip Larkin, This Be The Verse)

Parenting theories established in our post-modern society advise parents on the most effective methods of raising their child, stressing the idea of awarding and approval, rather than discipline. There are changes in the socialization of children, as there are increasingly more outside influences, such as the mass media and their peers, rather than their parents. There has been an increasing change in attitudes, which have been found surveys carried out in the past decade, where around ninety-three percent of young people and eighty-nine percent of their parents and grandparents believe that the main goal of socialisation of adolescents today is independence (statistic taken from here). According to research data, many youths in post-modern society aspire towards the state of autonomy, rather than making their decisions based on their parents’ views.

Alison Bechdel’s graphic Fun Home presents the idea that the child is not allowed to be a proper child, exploring the relationships between child and parents. She looks back on her childhood as an adult with retrospect, emphasising the idea of the individual, and effectively highlighting the difference between parent and child. Contemporary literature often stresses the importance of the individual, which is significant since the child from an early age establishes itself through its relationship with its parent.  The idea of individualism is, then, seen as a process to gain independence from parental authority. While previously a sense of belonging was created from “the culture of interrelatedness”, a process of socialisation where the child referred to its elders for control and approval in its behaviour; in these post-modern times, this is no longer the case. Children, it can be argued, are becoming more conscious of their own identities, choosing to make their own decisions and shaping their futures rather than take the cue from their elders. It is interesting that while the Bechdel family fit into the traditional nuclear, middle-class family model, they are revealed to be quite dysfunctional, thus exposing the myth of a ‘normal’ family, so that in these contemporary times, it is abnormality that becomes the norm.

There is a continuous theme of the traditional parent-child relationship being challenged, as these roles are often reversed, reflecting the idea that these roles are fluid. It can be argued that in the creation and telling of Fun Home, Alison effectively gives birth to her father Bruce’s identity, thus making her a sumbolic  ‘parent’.

The most interesting reversal of these roles is through the ‘Icarus and Daedalus’ allegory applied and reworked to suit the characters. Although initially, it is Bruce, the parent, who is required to support Alison in their ‘Icarian games’, this is quickly reversed as Alison depicts her father to be Icarus who “was to plummet from the sky”. There are other references, however, later on in the novel where Bruce is designated the role of Daedalus, who he relates to as a designer, “that skilful artificer” as well as a father. Thus Bruce becomes both the father and son, which also corresponds with Alison’s alternating identification with Icarus and Daedalus, which subsequently blurs their roles. It is interesting that the last and first pages of the novel present an almost symmetrical idea, which is that of Bruce supporting Alison. This may not be entirely convincing, since their relationship is revealed to be stilted, and complicated with their sense of fractured identity. However, ultimately, these last, idealised images of Bruce as a father catching Alison seem to stand as a clear symbol of the traditional parent-child relationship, serving as a form of resolution for their troubled relationship.

Another example of role-reversal is the scene with Alison reading her mother’s Dr. Spock parenting books while her parents fight in the background. Alison presents a double perspective of herself as an adult in the present while observing her child self, who makes herself “subject and the object, my own parent and my own child”. By explaining this as a “self-soothing, autistic loop”, Alison suggests that she is taking control of her parenting, as well as her status as a child or ‘object’.

There are also reversal in traditional, or rather, socially accepted gender and sexual roles, which shows how the roles of men and women in Fun Home are constantly sliding from one category to the other. Gender reversal is prominent in Fun Home, which is significant since this is one of the key ways that Alison is able to identify with her father on equal terms. Alison is ‘outgayed’ by her father: that is, when she reveals to homosexuality to her family, this is overshadowed and turned into a spectacle to reveal her father’s affairs, as well as his insistence that she should not ‘label’ herself. Although this would seem to undermine her sexual identity, it allows Alison to regard her parents as individuals as well as become secure in her own identity. Alison describes this reversal using Proust’s term, ‘inverts’:

Not only were we inverts, we were inversions of each other.
While I was trying to compensate for something unmanly in
him, he was attempting to express something feminine through
me.

Thus Alison attempts to takes on the masculine gender that her father ‘should’ have, while her father correspondingly attempts to express feminine tastes. This is most clearly seen at the ‘centre’ of the novel, where Alison confronts her father in his car in order to ascertain his homosexuality, as well as her own. Interestingly, the pictures in this scene are as equally informing and significant as the text, with the same picture used in sequence that is unique to the rest of the novel, in the form of a film strip, thus making it iconic. This is a profound moment, with father and daughter mirroring each other’s actions, and perhaps is the moment where they confront each other and becomes equals in their own rights rather than through the fixed roles of parent and child. If anything, it is Alison who feels “distinctly parental” towards her father, while simultaneously explaining her own preferences. Ironically, not much action occurs in these pages, suggesting that it is the meaning applied to the scene that is important. Their relationship is best summed with their comparison to a “fatherless Stephen and sonless Bloom” , where although there is no “joyous reunion” ; there is still a form of acceptance and compromise. This scene serves as a metaphor for Alison’s and Bruce’s relationship, posing a sort of resolution: they are side by side, and while they do not look at each other, they hold an equal status.

In another scene, Alison depicts herself holding two photographs: one of herself taken by a girlfriend, the other is a picture of her father aged twenty-two.

“The exterior setting, the pained grin, the flexible wrists, even the angle of shadow falling across our faces – it’s about as close as a translation can get.” Again, Alison shows how she sees herself as an equal to her father through the realisation and acceptance of their respective sexualities.

Alison also plays on the words she uses to describe her home, like “queer home”, showing an awareness of her own and her father’s sexuality. Bruce’s obsession with restoring and decorating the house displays the idea that his identity and sexuality become buried in the house, effectively fetishizing it. It allows Bruce to channel repressed, secret desires, so that ultimately, the house also buries the family’s secrets.

However, this relationship with the house consequently affects the way that the children are treated, who become accessories:

“I grew to resent the way my father treated his furniture like children, and his children like furniture.” It is implied that in his absorption with the house, Bruce neglects his role as a father and distances himself from his children.

Literature is also a medium used by Alison to understand her parents, while also introducing the idea of ‘intertextuality’, where there are texts used within texts.

“My parents are most real to me in fictional terms” Alison states, comparing them to characters from Henry James, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust and James Joyce’s Ulysses. It is interesting to note, for example, that the conversation between Stephen and Bloom in Ulysses is echoed by the only real conversation she has had with her father about their homosexuality. The Bechdels’ library is seen as the emotional centre of their home,  and Alison contextualizes most of her experiences by thinking of them in terms of literature. It is also significant that her realisation that she is gay is not due to attraction to a specific person, but from looking at books recommended by her father. Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives, Colette’s autobiography, Kate Millett’s Flying and especially Ulysses provide the basis for Alison’s final discussions and correspondence with her father, as well as pointing her toward some kind of understanding of his death. Thus it can be argued that what ultimately brought her and her father together, in fact, were books. Even the fact that Fun Home itself is an autobiographical account shows how Alison understands her father better, delving into his past in order to better related to him.

“My parents seemed almost embarrassed by the fact of their marriage.”

Marriage is a big factor which affects both parents’ relationships with their children and the upbringing of children. It is significant that divorce rates have been steady since 1980 but six times higher than they were in the 1950s, with around forty to fifty percent lower marriage rates than previously . This inevitably implies that there is an increasing awareness of children affected by their parents’ relationships, with recurring themes in literature of idea of being ‘broken’ and having a fragmented identity.

Alison and her sibling’s discomfort at their parent’s, albeit rare and chaste, displays of affection can be argued to be a result of the “arctic climate” of the atmosphere cultivated by their parents and their home life. This is described as “unnerving as the antagonism” that their parents have with each other; by comparing her parents’ affection to their arguments, Alison depicts the awkwardness of their relationships. The fact that the couple do not appear to have a comfortable relationship with each other, such as Bruce avoiding addressing his wife by name, have the same effect on the children: that is, they too take on a “cool aesthetic distance” from personal situations. Like their parents, they are unable to criticise their father, nor show affection, which is a “dicier venture”, thus creating an atmosphere of detachment between them.

It has been suggested that in patriarchal cultures, achievement, competition and material success are highly valued, with a strong emphasis on sex role differentiation. While contemporary literature challenges the idea of a traditional male earner, as well as the traditional housewife figure, there is also an emphasis on the idea of giving children the right amount of attention. Although in this text, both parental figures have careers, the focus on the mother as a working woman highlights the progress of women in modern society. The changes to women’s statuses and their rights mean that new values have emerged in the system of bringing up children: the woman has been provided with more egalitarianism and more opportunity to contribute to her family income. Thus there is an increase in the representation of working mothers, which is present in both texts. Alison’s mother appears to be absorbed in her career, which, it could be argued, is a result of being neglected and becoming bitter over the years, so that her relationship with her children is also affected. Both her parents’ “rapt immersion” in their “creative solitude” suggest that it is not possible to give equal attention to their children and their careers, inevitably one will become neglected. In Fun Homeit is the children who are overlooked so that they are forced to look after themselves, and thus become more independent: “I learned quickly to feed myself”.

This leads onto the idea of absent parents, which also affects a child’s bonding with their parent. The fact that Alison’s mother is absent during the important milestones of her life: her period, her realisation that she is gay, her discovery of masturbation, serves to symbolically estrange them. Alison herself notes that it is only after she establishes herself as a lesbian and becomes secure with herself that for “the first time my mother had spoken to me as another adult”, where ironically her mother uses her as a confidante to complain about her husband. Similarly, Bruce is also described as absent, since “he really was there…but I ached as if he were already gone”; suggesting that Alison craves attention. It is interesting to note that while the novel focuses on Bruce, even though it was created after his death, Alison’s mother is still alive and yet treated with a sense of detachment, suggesting that this is a result of being unconsciously pushes away from her parents.

Death in contemporary writing is also a theme that affects parent-child relationship, since this leads back to the idea of an absent parent. Bruce’s death is a key moment, since it sums up the numb reaction felt by his children, who even laugh at its absurdity. However, this also creates a sinister overtone to the scene, since it shows the feeling of displacement they feel. By using his death to provoke a reaction from other people, Alison exposes the idea that they are ‘meant’ to feel something. The children’s lack of emotion makes them want to displace this disjointedness onto someone else, since it is too painful to confront, making them push it away. Perhaps this is their ‘legacy’ passed onto them by their father, and a result of their upbringing.

There are layers of life and death throughout the novel, since Alison’s father engages with her beyond his death, such as the ‘clues’ and notes written in his books which point to his sexuality and his death. It is here that the idea of meaning becomes significant, since her father’s death is seen as suicide not because of the ‘evidence’ but because of the meanings applied to his death.

One particular scene also becomes emblematic split across two horizontal frames is the image of Alison’s dead father in his coffin: Alison, with her back to the reader, is divided in two across either frame. Each half gives the reader the illusion of a single complete image, that of the daughter looking at her deceased father. However, the reader feels the divide more sharply than the connection, thus exposing the illusion of completeness.
Thus the idea of replacing the parents is also prominent, such as symbol of Bruce’s grave, which simultaneously disguises and highlights his death.

Although the relationships between parents and children are often vexed, writers have managed to create awareness about giving children the required attention, depicting the potential consequences of being neglected. Alison can finally make sense of her own history through her parents as well as a re-construction of her life. Like the actual graphic novel itself, relationships operate on the idea of the said and unsaid, which puts the responsibility of interpretation and revealing the truth back onto the reader. It can be argued that only when Alison leaves her family and her home can she confront her sexuality and identity.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel (London, Jonathan Cape: 2006) pp.