The Con Artist by Fred Van Lente
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A mystery sent at a Comic Con, sign me up.
The best-selling point of this novel are the inside jokes about culture – the LOTR references, Star Wars, Cosplay. There are even some interesting points about how it is a Comic Con but most people seem to think that comics are no longer being published. A convention to celebrate something and that thing gets pushed to the margins.
Mike Mason is a comic artist who makes his living by going to cons. He is currently unemployed by a publisher. At the most recent con, he finds himself a quasi-suspect in the murder of his sort of romantic rival who also was a harasser. Mason then sets out to solve the mystery and save the job of a friend, who as a woman artist is in danger of being replaced on the Batman like book.
And along the way, you have rants about everything that is wrong in the comic industry.
Which is fine. The mystery is workable, there are some funny jokes. But, but,
First the romantic lead is totally added on and feels so false. Second, we have the stereotypical noir of good girl= blonde, bad girl = dark hair, which pisses me off because I have dark hair.
But the main problem for me, and one that isn’t at first obvious, is that despite being a partial critique/send up of comic cons, it still hues to some of the problems of fandom and its treatment of women.
In this book, there are four women of note– the ex-wife Mason still has a thing for and who isn’t an angel; the Pedi-cab driver who is a nice, caring blonde, Mason’s biggest fan who has a pretty good cosplay, and Mason’s artist friend who helped get her start.
The cosplayer is eventually revealed to have mental issues, so female fans are at risk of being crazy; the artist needs to have her job saved and only Mason can do it. See, she’s about to give birth, and her husband has some shit going out his job. Which, quite frankly, jerked me out of the book because the description of her husband’s adjunct life makes very little sense, and I say this as an adjunct. For one, most adjuncts teach in at least colleges/universities. But I digression. The ex-wife is revealed to be a baddie and gets murdered. So that leaves with the romantic interest of a Pedi-cab driver, who really isn’t into the whole con thing and just makes money. She is on the margins, and she is the only woman without problems or in need of saving.
So, women don’t belong in fandom is being showcased whether that was Van Lente’s intention or not. And to be fair, I don’t think it was. He doesn’t describe women by their tits.
Perhaps I am too sensitive to it because I feel like I am always on the fringes of fandom. I tend to prefer the books over the media. I tend to play more attention to plot. I have a decidedly feminist bent to how I look at sci-fi and fantasy.
But still, especially with the treatment of the woman fan, this book just re-enforces the idea of women and fandom not mixing.
Nice artwork, however.
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