Julia Wros

The Low, Low Woods: A Story of Pain and Trauma

Written by Julia Wros
SDSU History Master’s Student, 2021

The Low, Low Woods follows the story of Octavia (Vee) and El, two girls in the town of Shudder-To-Think; a town over a perpetually burning coal mine where women have strange lapses in memory and monsters of flesh roam the woods. Vee and El go see a movie and have a lapse in memory where they forget what happened during the entire show. There are strange things haunting the forest, and there is a history to the town that people are reluctant to speak about – or just do not know. 

It is revealed that the reason for the memory issues experienced by the women is related to water from a specific spring in the town, one that is compared to the Greek river Lethe from mythology, a river that takes away all of the memories of anyone who drinks it. The six issue comic follows the two girls as they struggle with the question of what happened during that short time period, and if they want to know at all. In the end, it is revealed that the memory problems are induced by a group of men in order to make women forget the abuse that they suffer at their hands. 

When this is revealed Jessica, Vee’s girlfriend, joins in remembering the trauma that they all went through, and her body opens up into a sinkhole that sends the boys responsible and the monsters that taught them back down to the everlasting fire. Her body, like the body of other women in the town, is transformed into a tool of justice – and of pain. 

The Low, Low Woods. Published by DC comics. June 23, 2020. Written by Joe Hill and Carmen Maria Machado. 

Jessica’s mother suffers from the same fate earlier in the comic, but unlike Jessica she was transformed into a sinkhole that never closes. The turning of a woman from the waist down into a sinkhole reminds me of the idea of the monstrous feminine. 

Written in 1993 by Barbara Creed, The Monstrous-Feminine presented a way to look at the role that women held in horror movies; analyzing the way that women’s actions would play on the fears of the men watching. The roles of women in horror, Creed argued, could show what society feared.  

In the case of The Low, Low Woods – the fear is consequences. The flesh monsters that plague the town are remnants of men who also abused women, stopped by the witch of the town, a young girl who was taught witchcraft by a trans-woman. She tried to destroy them all, but ended up starting the fire in the mines and turned the men into reflections of their monstrous deeds.

Jessica turning into a sinkhole here sends not only the old monsters, but the boys who continued the abuse against her and the other women of the town, back down into the eternally burning coal mine – a representation of hell, where the boys will presumably pay for their crimes. The ability of women to cause consequences to men, by using a supernatural ability that stems from their body, is a form of the monstrous feminine. 

The ending of The Low, Low Woods is not necessarily a victorious one, even after Vee and El figure out how to restore the memories that were lost, some people chose to forget rather than remember. And as the comic says poignantly; the lesson for the men was not that what they did was wrong, it was that they got caught doing it. 

The choice to remember is poured over by everyone in the town, and also Octavia, who gets accepted to college and has the choice to leave the pain behind. The comic leaves us in the dark on whether or not Vee chooses to remember or chooses to forget in order to leave the town behind. It mirrors the language around the choice, something that Vee talks about earlier, saying that people could pretend to know who had remembered and who had not, but no one could, that was the nature of the choice. 

We are left with a sense of curiosity, even as the comic hammers home the lesson of bodily autonomy. Rarely do we get a sense that some questions should not be answered, but these characters reach through to remind us that even as actors on a page, the characters have an agency of their own.

Through using bodies as a tool of justice and as a remembrance of autonomy, The Low, Low Woods is a poignant discussion on marginalized bodies and how we view them in media. 

Luke Heine

Comic-Con@Home: Comics Take Center Stage!

Written by Luke Heine
SDSU History Major / Weber Honors College, 2021

Comic-Con is a staple of San Diego, but if there’s one thing anyone trying to get tickets for the first time knows, it’s that the world-famous convention is very hard to get into. Despair no longer comics fans! This year, the convention is coming to you with Comic-Con@Home. Comics enthusiasts everywhere can tune in to watch a myriad of exciting programs, panels, and more. The virtual setting does mean the convention will be missing a lot of the spectacle from the big names that it has come to be known for in recent years. But there’s a silver lining for those who are fans of the ‘ol printed page: a focus on comic books themselves, and also their value to education and social justice. Let’s preview a bit of what this virtual convention has to offer. 

One panel which may interest professors and social advocates alike is Teaching and Learning with Comics, a panel on July 22nd bringing together university professors and comics creators. As the listed description states, their goal is to “connect the dots between comic books and civic action” through their discussion; those of you familiar with Comics@SDSU might recognize a similarity  to one of our initiative’s goals! For anyone looking for some professional insight on how comics and social justice can work together, this panel is a must see.

Another panel which might catch the attention of faculty is Content through Comics: Teaching STEM and Humanities with Graphic Novels, which will also take place on July 22nd. A diverse panel of educators has come together for this panel to discuss the ways in which graphic novels can increase interest and engagement in the sciences and humanities for students who might not “see themselves as scientists, engineers, or historians.” As a student myself, I have to agree; graphic novels like Speigelman’s Maus and Takei’s They Called Us Enemy connected me to the material in a way few other mediums can. Finding new ways to use comics to spark interest in new subjects certainly has exciting potential, and for faculty wanting to explore it this panel is for you.

These are only a few of the programs which the event has to offer, with well over 100 different options to watch and learn from. ‘Variety’ is an understatement; you’d be hard pressed to find a more diverse assortment of discussions on comics. Here’s a few more panel names to give you an idea: Hip-Hop And Comics: Cultures Combining; The Science of Art; Afrofuturism, Funk, and the Black Imagination; What’s New in Independent Comics; Graphic Novels Lost and Found… the list really does go on and on! And the diversity of topics doesn’t end there: there are panels for film, videogame, and anime enthusiasts as well.

In total, while Comic-Con@Home might not have the goodies and giveaways, cosplaying convention-goers, and stunning spectacle of the in-person event, it makes up for it in the wide variety of thought provoking and entertaining panels which highlight the value of the medium which started it all. So wherever you are, consider swinging by – tickets are as cheap as they come (free!) and getting there is as easy as opening your laptop (sure beats finding parking!). There’s sure to be something for everyone.

Programming for Comic-Con@Home will take place from July 21st to the 25th. For the full programing schedule, and the video links once the event goes live, go to

Fawaz Qashat

A Wanda-ful Masterpiece

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

When reading comics, some stick to reading the word balloons of the writer and ironically ignore the hard work of the artist who created the images. In fact, if we ignore those images and only focus on the text, we lose understanding of the story and miss out on vital plot points! The art and illustrations are key to fully understanding the comic you are reading as well as the characters that show up. Art allows you to see the expressions made by the characters, the emotions they feel, and the movement they make. The art works with the words to create the overall feeling of the comic. Not only is the art for depicting the characters crucial, but the art style used for the setting enhances the experience of the story. 

Scarlet Witch #1-15 (2015-2016) by writer, James Robinson and artist, David Aja are great examples of the art of the setting adding to the storytelling. In Scarlet Witch #2, Wanda makes a trip to the Greek island of Santorini. The art style in this issue is very much the Greek style of art because of its portrayal of realistic faces, the natural setting, even the way the sunset is portrayed on Wanda’s face. The reason this is important is that it evokes a feeling of relaxation in the reader, as if we were on vacation too and we could feel the breeze. The smell of the ocean and local restaurants. The chattering of people all around. The warmth of the setting sun on their faces. It also augments the plot point that Wanda is traveling across the world to fix magic and we are also taken on that journey and explore the different places in the form of different styles of art. As she moves to different locations, the different styles of art evoke the sense of the environment and situation to the reader. I’ll provide a brief description of each setting below along with its picture. (All images are from Scarlet Witch #1-15 by James Robinson).

Soft sunset, the glow of the evening sky, the renaissance figure of Wanda, the beautiful architecture are all representative of Santorini, Greece giving it its exotic aesthetic (Scarlet Witch #2).

The thick, messy lines all around Wanda, the glowing magic lines appearing brightly, the soft appearance of colors all give off the sense of a murky, humid swamp that is The Witch’s Road (Scarlet Witch #4).

The plain blue sky, the simplistic greenery of the surroundings, the rounded look of the characters, and the rosy cheeks on Wanda are all reminiscent of Logroño, Spain and its feeling of warmth (Scarlet Witch #5).

The sharp lines of the face and body, the use of the bright red with light pink, the shades of gray for the suit and rest of the soldiers, the boldness of Wanda’s expression are all representative of Paris, France giving it a sophisticated look (Scarlet Witch #6).

The detailed lines to represent the fur, the boldness of the black lines around Wanda’s lips and eyes, the small red nose and soft pink cheeks, and the clean lines of the architecture which all represent Kyoto, Japan and its edge (Scarlet Witch #10)

Each location has a distinctive art style that is different from the rest which is reminiscent of the culture and geography of the location Wanda is in. I picked out a couple of locations for you to see, but you can explore all 15 issues at SDSU library in special collections.

Julia Wros

Bobby Drake – Out and Proud

Written by Julia Wros
SDSU History Master’s Student, 2021

In the world of X-men, mutants face social stigma for their mutations. Some of these “mutants” banded together to create the X-men, a team of superheroes to combat this discrimination. One of the original X-men was Iceman, Bobby Drake, who joined when he was a teen and became a core member of the X-men and a popular superhero. 

In the 2017 run of Iceman, Bobby’s struggles with being a mutant are more family-oriented, with his father not supporting his career as a superhero and his mother backing his father up on that.  We can see this dynamic on the page shown, where Bobby’s dad tells him not to discuss mutant business at the table, saying that mutants are allowed to be themselves all the time, and that no one was angry about mutants anymore, while also suggesting that mutantism is not “normal.”

Iceman Vol 1: Thawing Out. Published by Marvel comics Dec 27, 2017. Author: Sina Grace. Illustrator/Artist: Alessandro Vitti

This line from Bobby’s father resonates in my mind with how queerness is treated in families, and with the way that dialogue can take place over the dinner table. The way that his dad discusses how mutants can be “out” in public, without anyone being mad about it, is similar to discussions that may be had around the dinner table when it comes to discussions that can happen around pride.  

The scene also takes place at the dinner table, with Bobby’s parents on one side with the food spread in between them. They present a united front against Bobby, all framed as a family discussion around the dinner table, with Bobby on one side alone.

Reinforcing this connection is Bobby’s parents’ reaction to his coming out, shown later in the volume, where their first reaction is to blame each other. His mom blames his dad’s side of the family, both for passing on mutant genes and gayness. Everyone and everything around Bobby is blamed for his sexuality – his ex-girlfriend, genetics, mutantism – without considering that it is as much a part of Bobby as his powers over ice.

Iceman Vol 1: Thawing Out. Published by Marvel comics Dec 27, 2017. Author: Sina Grace. Illustrator/Artist: Alessandro Vitti

They also talk about him as if he is not there, as the argument devolves into the two of them trying to pass the blame. It becomes a fight as Kitty Pryde tries to stand up for him, but only devolves further, ending with Bobby’s father saying that Bobby is dead and that Iceman wins. This dual sense of identity and pronunciation of death is something that many LGBT+ readers may be familiar with as a common thing that parents have said to their children upon their coming out.

Bobby’s experience is a real one, even as a superhero this part of normal life is strikingly familiar to many readers and helps to give an even further human element to one of the most well-known X-men.