Robot 6

What’s in a name? The return of Girl Comics

Girl Comics #1 (1949)

Girl Comics #1 (1949)

Yesterday Marvel announced a new three-issue anthology mini-series called Girl Comics, which will be edited by Jeanine Schaefer and created exclusively by women.

As you can see in the comments section for my original post, there’s been a mixed reaction to the project, particularly because of its title. You can also find even more commentary on it over in The Beat’s comment section, where they story broke.

So where exactly did that title come from? Well, as Douglas Wolk pointed out in the Beat comments section, it seems to stem from an old Atlas comic that was published from 1949-1952 (before its name was changed to the even more unfortunate Girl Confessions). Atlas, of course, is the company that eventually evolved into Marvel Comics and also published Strange Tales — which you may recognize as the name of another recent Marvel anthology. So there’s some symmetry there, and you have to wonder if they’ll be using any other old Atlas titles in the future (I vote for Bible Tales for Young Folk; you can find a complete list of titles Atlas published on Wikipedia).

Here’s a quick round up of thoughts from around the web. We’ll start with Johanna Draper Carlson, who shares her thoughts on her blog:

I dream of a day when a comic created only by women doesn’t get tagged with a stupid title like Marvel’s Girl Comics. In fact, I dream of a time when it’s not even special enough to remark upon, instead of being some kind of attention-getting stunt that ends up resembling a plea for charity. “Please pay attention to us — look! we’re letting the women do superheroes!” But we’re not there yet, still.

She also breaks down some of the responses by Schaefer and adds, “Don’t give me an event, give me real changes in your hiring and employment practices and your publishing slate.”

Johanna adds that she plans to get the book because of the creators who are involved, which seems to be a common sentiment from just about every quarter. In fact, Kirk Warren at Weekly Crisis says he loves the concept but hates the name:

However, the name is my problem. I absolutely hate defining works of any kind by the people involved, whether it be their gender, race, affiliations or what have you. Yes, promote this as an all-female creative effort, but Girl Comics? Seriously? They didn’t call Strange Tales, an indie creator filled anthology, “Indie Comics”. They wouldn’t call an all African American created comic “Black Comics”.

Rachelle Goguen at Living Between Wednesdays calls the title “unfortunate,” and talks about what she hopes from the book:

This is what I am truly hoping for with Girl Comics: I want the comics to be ridiculous enough to match the ridiculous title. I want it to be silly and fun and gratuitous and shamelessly girly. I want the male superheroes exploited. I want a shirtless Daredevil centrefold. I want a soft focus every time Winter Soldier appears. I want a round table “Who would you do?” discussion between all of the women on that cover (especially Sue Storm, because you know it would make her uncomfortable at first). I want Namor to appear in this series for whatever reason. I want a bunch of ladies to pull a prank on Tony Stark because he deserves it. I want to see dating and drinking and shopping punctuated by the occasional ass-kicking. I want Iron Man and Captain America to finally kiss.

And one of my favorite comic book-loving feminists (and former Robot 6 contributor), Ragnell, seems fairly positive about it as well:

All female creators, writing about superheroes. There’s no pushing towards female characters or girly stories, just the stories female creators wanted to make. With a stupid name, yes, but someone’s even found a historical reference there.

This… might actually be a good idea… come up with by Marvel.

When Fangirls Attack has a good roundup of other blog posts on the project.

As for me, I’m looking forward to the project like most others because I’m a big fan of many of the creators who are involved, but I also hope it leads to many of them getting even more work at the House of Ideas. Right now the list of creators includes a few women who work regularly at Marvel and a lot who don’t — and it would be nice to see that change not because they’re women, but because they’re damn fine creators who make damn fine comics.

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Comments

10 Comments

It just seems like with this project, Marvel is making it seem like them being women is more important than them being good professionals. I wish some of these people were given ongoing titles instead of an anthology mini.

Let’s see what they actually do with the title before passing judgement. It’s not like there isn’t a swarm of Girl or GRRL-whatever designations in other media (thinking music in particular) that aren’t sexist.

I’ll gladly take a Teen Comics, made by teenagers or something in that vein.

That’s not to say this couldn’t end up badly in a “look, girls can do comics too and look how pretty they are” type of way. In which case, I’ll exhale, roll my eyes and sigh in unison with everyone else. But it strikes me as unlikely.

“Don’t give me an event, give me real changes in your hiring and employment practices and your publishing slate.”

This however seems like a pretty bad idea, as it seems to imply that Marvel should institute an Affirmative Action plan. Which is as sexist, as doing the opposite. I’m not saying, that there couldn’t be an underlining, prehaps even unconscious, gender discrimination, but the industry is still not at a point, where A. there’s a 50/50 split of genders in all the creative roles, B. nor are all art styles or writing styles what Marvel are looking for, so there might be some other reason, aside from gender, that influenced the hiring decisions.

Let’s see what they actually do with the title before passing judgement. It’s not like there isn’t a swarm of Girl or GRRL-whatever designations in other media (thinking music in particular) that aren’t sexist.
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Why does that make it better?

Christian Otholm

December 16, 2009 at 1:32 pm

That there are tons of other mediums, where having GIRL slapped on the title isn’t sexist?

I’m trying to establish that there is a precidence for this type of title elsewhere, and that calling a series sexist without actually having read a single issue is a lazy shorthand, and isn’t a particularly beneficial for anyone.

The name is a bit on the blunt side, though given that the premise is all-female creative teams, I’m not sure I could think of anything especially better that communicated the idea (“Women Comics” sounds kind of stiff).

People have been ragging on Marvel for the title. I’m not sure which came first, the project or the decision to resurrect the old title (something Marvel has been doing a lot lately…) but I can’t help but think Marvel thought the idea both cheeky and a nice nod back to their heritage as a publisher. The people raging about it on the other blogs seem to be missing that and reading way too much into it…but then again, that’s what the comic blogosphere does…

@ Christian Oltholm: Or it could be that comics are a gigantic boys club. Particularly superhero comics, from the creators down to the characters, and it would be nice if they made an effort to hire more female writers, pencillers, inkers, and colorists. Even more females in the marketing department would be nice.

People complaining about Affirmative Action (which, by the way, the initial poster never said anything about) always make me laugh. The % is always some negilible number like 10-15% of workers being not WASM (White Anglo-Saxon Males), and people are always assuming that this percentage of workers of another race or gender simply does not exist, and even if they did they wouldn’t be as talented.

Marvel Comics grew out of Timely Comics. Atlas was merely a step in between.

Another thing I realized after yesterday’s announcement is that it IS really cool that literally everyone involved in this comic series is a woman, which is kind of Marvel’s way of celebrating the fact that hey there ARE a lot of women working in the comics industry and the proof is that there are more than enough for it to be an all female project. But of course, like other aspects of the project, it is a double edged sword in that it raises the question: “If there are so many female creators why aren’t more of them involved in more projects?”

Christian Otholm

December 17, 2009 at 4:35 am

“@ Christian Oltholm: Or it could be that comics are a gigantic boys club. Particularly superhero comics, from the creators down to the characters, and it would be nice if they made an effort to hire more female writers, pencillers, inkers, and colorists. Even more females in the marketing department would be nice.”

I don’t disagree about the characters, that’s spot on. But hiring people based solely on their gender and not their abilities, scope or their specialty strikes me as a particularly bad idea. There’s a reason a lot of indie artists and writers don’t work for the major companies- Their styles are, according to the company, not compatible with the stories the companies want to tell. There are more factors than just gender, that influences hiring policies.

Saying that the industry is male-dominated is fine, but the consequence of calling it a “Gigantic Boys’ Club” is, if it was true, just reinforcing the idea that it’s impenetrable to new female creators. Perpetuating that idea is going to have a negative effect and it needs to stop.

“People complaining about Affirmative Action (which, by the way, the initial poster never said anything about) always make me laugh. The % is always some negilible number like 10-15% of workers being not WASM (White Anglo-Saxon Males), and people are always assuming that this percentage of workers of another race or gender simply does not exist, and even if they did they wouldn’t be as talented.”

“She also breaks down some of the responses by Schaefer and adds, “Don’t give me an event, give me real changes in your hiring and employment practices and your publishing slate.”"

I took this to meaning that Marvel should start hiring women, and prioritize them above men, because they’re women. Which is the definition for Affirmative Action.

It could be that Marvel predominately hires men, because these particular men, because they suit the styles and workform that Marvel wants. Maximizing diversity is great, but that diversity should be creative and not gender-based. It could also be that simply more men apply for jobs at Marvel and thus the ratio is shewd compared to the population. Simplifying an issue like this to be based solely on XX and XY chromosomes, and not looking at it in a more nuanced manner (again, such as styles, workform and availability) isn’t desirable.

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