BODYMOD: Are you woman enough to survive Bitch Planet?
Imagine a world where women are subject to punishment for being “non-compliant” and sent away to prison, literally on another planet! That is the premise of the smash hit Sci-fi series “Bitch Planet.” In this dystopian universe, when women are seen as being defiant and resistant they are sent to The Auxiliary Compliance Outpost, aka “Bitch Planet.”
I recently started reading the Image Comics series (Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine De Landro) after first being introduced to Triple Feature issue #4 (contains 3 short stories in one book!) The short stories coexist in the Bitch Planet universe and you can read them without reading the bitch planet series and vice versa. However, it captivated my attention so I am now reading the initial BP series! Check them out Here:
I’m going to focus on one of the mini stories from Triple Feature Issue #4: Body Mod written and illustrated by the super talented Sara Woolley.
This original story is a perfect demonstration of an extreme sci-fi extension of today’s society.
Body Mod: Written and illustrated by: Sara Woolley
Bitch Planet Triple Feature #4
BodyMod is a sci-fi world where plastic surgery is a norm and done to the max. So extreme that there is literally a Build a Babe! Can you imagine, modifying bodies as a part of everyday life.
This mini story presents some touchy subject matter, heavy themes and can relate to society today, which is pretty disturbing. I think it’s alarming thinking of this world as a reality and potentially something that could be likely in the future when our youth is so heavily influenced by what’s trending in pop culture, social media, and “enhanced beauty”. Today’s beauty standards are already disturbing, and Body Mod demonstrates a perfect exaggeration of today’s society with a sci.-fi twist.
Here Sara takes us into the deranged world of BODY MOD.
1. How did you first get involved with the Bitch Planet series?
I met Kelly Sue DeConnick at Heroescon in Charlotte NC, 2 years ago. She not only took the time to check out my work, but wrote to me after the fact to let me know she liked it so much she had passed Los Pirineos all around the Milkfed Criminals office. I love work so needless to say I was totally floored. It was really very cool of her. I sent her the 9th of april when it came out the next year and maybe a few months later we saw each other at ECCC in Seattle. She was looking for contributors for the anthology, and asked if I would be interested. HELL YES!
2. Congrats, as this is your first independent comic that you have both written and illustrated! How did you go about the process of accomplishing this?
When Kelly Sue asked if I wanted to be in the anthology she said “You do it all, right? Write and Draw?” I said yes… and then panicked a little inside. This story is my first professionally published solo work. Up to this point I have always written with collaborators, for example the Los Pirineos Books which I coauthor with my mother.
3. Any issues, you faced or did you have the creative freedom to do you what you wanted with the story?
I definitely had a lot of freedom on Bodymod. Kelly Sue and the managing editor at Milkfed Criminals whom I worked with primarily, Lauren Sankovitch guided me through the pitching and writing process, but they gave me the space and encouragement to come up with and to pursue my own vision. They had me come up with several different story ideas that would make sense in the context of the Bitch Planet Universe – but made me limit myself to very rough, brief ideas. So I was able to really be broad about the story generation process without investing too much time into it. My biggest issue was figuring out how to tell the story I wanted to in 8 pages. I still feel like there was a 24 pages comic in there somewhere… but I tend to be long winded. I learned a ton from Lauren and Kelly Sue working on this project.
4. You typically write children’s books, did you find it difficult working on this storyline, and how did it feel crossing over to more mature themes?
I felt absolutely fine with it. I’m not a child, and I the work I generally read is not aimed at children. To be honest, it actually felt very freeing. However, the different content definitely confuses some people. I’ve had fans of my previous books get a bit freaked out when they find out this is also my work. I’ve been told that it doesn’t look like my work and seems like another artist did it. I definitely don’t agree with that, but I can see where they are coming from. I hate the idea of having to be pigeonholed into one genre of stories and one way of making art. So… I’m just not allowing that to happen.
5. How did you come up with the premise for Bodymod?
The premise behind all the stories I came up with for the anthology came from the experiences of just being a woman navigating daily life. The premise behind Bodymod in particular comes from my feelings around the social pressures that are omnipresent in our lives every day asking that we conform to an idealized and unrealistic concept of feminine beauty. Growing up I had my own struggles with body image. I’m 5’10 and just under 200 lbs, and I’ve been this size since High School. Lets just say the 90’s were not kind to thick girls, and being strong was not thought of as sexy. The anger and sarcasm present in the story is the current me, who feels great about who I am and what I look like, telling the world world just how little a fuck I give about fitting into a role and size I was never going to be anyway. (steps off soapbox.)
6. Although its sci fi, this subject matter touches some heavy themes pertaining to real life. How do some of the themes in the comic tie into issues our society faces today?
The whole premise of Bodymod comes from the idea of redesigning your body to be beautiful to the point of discomfort, in the story its taken to an extreme because the Bitch Planet, sci fi world allowed me to really push it. However its important to understand that the cultural norms that Julie and Monica are assimilating to are not Sci Fi. Whats the difference between lotus feet, stilettos that can only be worn in bed, or feet surgically altered to become mermaid fins? Yes in my story the women essentially turn themselves into helpless pets, but all of them sexualize fettered women.
There’s a spread on pages 2-3 where Julie is on a bus and you see background advertisements behind her. I had intended to make up some really jarringly misogynistic ones… until I looked them up. There is NOTHING I could come up with that was worse than reality. ALL the ads on the page, including the magazine cover, are real. I never stop hating this one ever time I see it:
7. Who has had the biggest influence on you in or outside of the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?
Also what else can we look forward to from you in the near future?