Before I get into my thoughts on Geek Girl by writer/creator Sam Johnson and artist Carlos Granda, I want to acknowledge that I know what it takes to go end to end with an idea and produce a finished product. I know that ideas are hard to tackle and even harder to put a saddle on and ride across the finish line. So, in keeping with the tone of this sports analogy filled opening paragraph, good on these guys for stepping up to the plate and swinging for the fences. Everyone involved should be proud that they got the work done and that their comic is out there for people like me to examine and critique from the comfort of my desk. So credit to you guys, but if I’m honest, as is my nature, your game needs work.
Published by Markosia comics (whose logo looks really, really similar to the Star Wars rogue squadron symbol), Geek Girl tells the story of college student named Ruby, who wins a pair of glasses that give her super powers in a game of strip poker. She then dons a skimpy costume, calls herself Geek Girl and tries to balance her normal life with new career as a super hero.
With the premise out there, I thought that maybe this story was going for satire. I take that back – I hoped that the story would become satire. As a riff on ’90s image style swimsuit costume super ladies (I’m looking at you, Gen-13), Geek Girl could have played with its concept and gone all the way with it. If you’re serving cheesecake, you may as well cut a big slice.
However, satire and cheesecake were not on the menu. While I can’t claim to know the intentions of the creative team, its hard not to read this book as a serious attempt at crafting a layered story with some commentary on college life and the insecurities of being a young woman. The fact that Ruby is transformed into a super person by putting on the glasses, instead of taking them off a-la-Superman, makes for an interesting spin. Which, again, really could have gone somewhere but doesn’t.
So, this is the part where I say that the book isn’t very good. It reads like a guy trying to write girls like he thinks a girl should be/is. It reminds me of something my high school drama teacher told me (and please read this with an outrageously British accent):
“Richard, men talk like this <smashes finger tips of flat hands into each other>. Women, talk like this <swirls hands around each other without them ever touching>.”
Her point was that men are, generally, more direct and blunt, while woman talk around a subject without always stepping right into it. Is it perfect advice? No. But for a 16 year old boy with hormones all over the place, it was solid coaching, something writer Sam Johnson could really use.
Structuring a story, laying out an arc, crafting believeable, three dimensional characters is something done so effortlessly by the great comic writers out there, that when its done poorly, its hard to overlook. And, that is what happens in the pages of Geek Girl. Plot threads come out of nowhere, characters speak in on the nose dialogue and for a book with a core female cast, the portrayal of women leaves a bit to be desired.
The art is worth noting at this point because, as is the case with the writing, an earnest attempt is made to deliver quality work. With a lift from the colours of Nahip, Carlos Granda does put together some solid panels. However, much like the clunkiness of the dialogue, the art gets weighed down by what I am chalking up to youthful inexperience and the afor mentioned “hormones”. I believe the team on this book genuinely likes girls/women and has attempted to portray them as both strong and sexy, but they just fall short of the mark on both counts.
There is more I could say, and if I had the chance to sit down with the creators and offer advice to them I would. Geek Girl is not nasty, lewd or intentionally degrading toward women in any way; it means well and has a heart and humour of its own. The creative team has taken a quirky concept and tried to layer it with positive messages and comic book action. Where it succeeds in the attempt, it falls short in delivery. But it tries hard.
I hope that everyone involved continues to work at their craft by reading great comics and seeing how they are constructed. By listening to real people speak and comparing it to dialogue in films and television. And, by taking a tough review, keeping their heads up and continuing to improve.
Til next time, this writer is geeked out.