women in comics
Creators | Cartoonist Stacy Curtis talks about inking Cul de Sac for creator Richard Thompson, who announced last week he’s ending the celebrated comic strip because Parkinson’s disease has left him unable to maintain the schedule: “I never felt inking Cul de Sac for Richard worked. It was like going into a theater to see Jerry Seinfeld do stand-up and watching Steve Martin deliver his lines. And that’s what it felt like. Every time I sat down at my drawing table to ink Cul de Sac, I could hear a narrator’s voice say, ‘For tonight’s performance, the part of Richard Thompson will be played by his understudy, Stacy Curtis.’” The final strip will appear Sept. 23. [Stacy Curtis]
Graphic novels | Andrews McMeel Publishing, which has focused on comic strips and comic strip compilations up to now, has announced its first original graphic novel series: The Chronicles of Desmond, by Mark Tatulli, creator of Lio and Heart of the City. The books will be published in October 2013 under Andrews McMeel’s new AMP! imprint and will be aimed at middle-grade readers. [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | Matthew Garrahan’s profile of reclusive Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter is somewhat sharper than the Los Angeles Times story linked last week, as it includes accusations that the 69-year-old billionaire threatened an employee, made a racially insensitive remark, and maneuvered Disney Consumer Products chairman Andy Mooney and three other executives (all African-American women who reportedly referred to themselves as “The Help”) out of their jobs. Nikki Finke follows up at Deadline with details of Disney and Marvel’s attempts at damage control, as well as the news that Disney has settled with the three former execs. [Financial Times]
Retailing | Comics shop veteran Amanda Emmert, executive director of the retailers’ association ComicsPRO and owner of Muse Comics in Colorado Springs, talks about retailing, the health of the industry, and the popular perception of comics shops as men’s clubs: “I have new customers who walk in and tell me how strange it is for a woman to work in a comic book store or a gaming store. Their experience comes more from watching The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory, as you pointed out, than from seeing a great number of stores, though. I am very lucky to work for ComicsPRO; I get to work with hundreds of stores around the country, a large percentage of which are owned or operated by women.” [Colorado Springs Gazette]
… all female characters have a tendency, over time, to graduate to the field of, “tough girl with an air of innocence and also you’d like to get her pants off.” It would be an interesting experiment to establish five female characters between the ages of twelve and sixty, with a broad range of body types and personalities, and see how long it takes mainstream comics to transform them all into the 22-25 year old age group, with short skirts and colorful panties.
Time, you see, moves differently in comics. It takes a fourteen year old girl two years to reach twenty years of age, while a twenty year old girl takes fifty years to reach twenty-one.
– Paul Tobin, explaining the frustration that many readers feel about Mary Marvel and — really — most female superheroes. There’s not a lot extra that needs to be said other than I’d love to see that experiment play out.
Publishing | Top Cow Productions has announced details of its retailer program for the relaunch of Cyber Force, which is using Kickstarter to raise enough money to make the first five issues of the reimagined series available for free, both digitally and in print: Retailers will be charged 25 cents per copy for the first five issues, but will receive incentive variant covers — with suggested prices of $10 and $20 — to offset the cost of the comics. The Kickstarter campaign has raised more than $50,000 of its $75,000 goal with 17 days remaining. [ICv2]
Publishing | Former DC Comics editor Janelle Asselin, who now works for Disney, talks about her experiences at the editor’s desk and offers one reason there are so few female superhero comics creators: Women aren’t lining up for the job. “In my time at DC, exactly one woman reached out to me via email, and I hired her,” she said. “I didn’t hire her BECAUSE she was a woman, I hired her because she was good, of course. But in that same amount of time, probably at least two or three men a week contacted me looking for work, some of them intensely pushy and many of them decidedly not good. I think more female creators should put themselves out there. The numbers are growing, we all can see that, especially in indie comics and comics published by traditional publishers, but if there are women who want to work on super hero books, they need to speak up.” [Women Write About Comics]
… I’m pretty familiar with marketing being done without impacting a brand. And that’s why the idea that DC [...] “risks” alienating boys by [...] marketing to women flies in the face of brands that were more testorone filled than DC Comics will ever be; more focused on “entertainment for boys.” The NFL and NASCAR [are] doing pretty damn good expanding their marketing and not alienating their core audiences [or] diluting their brand.
Sue’s quote is especially interesting as she’s one of the “superhero suffragettes” that MacDonald mentioned in her article. It’s also cool that she and MacDonald — while fundamentally disagreeing about the prospects for change — obviously respect each other and are presenting their arguments accordingly.
Sue goes on to show how things have changed at DC in particular, citing the publisher’s large number of female-led series, female-friendly programming on DC Nation, the success of the Smallville digital comic (based on a show with a large female audience), and a recent quote by Ann Nocenti in which the new Catwoman writer says, ““I think they reached out to me partly for that reason … as an effort to bring female perspective into comics.”
“I don’t mean to suggest that there isn’t work to be done of course, but we’ve hit a point where the lie espoused by the industry gatekeepers, that ‘there isn’t an audience for kids comics’ or ‘there isn’t an audience for girls or womens comics’ has finally been put to rest. Oh, the gatekeepers hung onto it as long as they could, ‘webcomics aren’t comic books’ or ‘manga aren’t comics’ or whatever nonsense they dug up. They’re still espousing it to some degree or another–I particularly liked this article by Heidi MacDonald on why superhero publishers will never ‘get’ women–but it’s demonstrably false. Comics for kids sell now, the Lego Ninjago comic has a 425,000 copy first printing, a number that dwarfs most others in comics… and DC had that license at one point btw. Comics for girls (and boys) like Smile continue to sell very well. Despite the gleeful hand rubbing over the demise of manga, it still sells quite well, thanks. And the internet…? The internet is home to a fantastically diverse array of cartoonists either making their living or a significant chunk of it from the online serialization of their work–and they’re coming for print too. They are COMING FOR PRINT.”
–Comics retailer and blogger Chris Butcher, reacting to the news that Smile by Raina Telgemeier took the No. 1 spot on The New York Times’ bestselling graphic novels list, but also providing follow-up commentary on the essay by Heidi MacDonald that Brigid quoted earlier this week. It’s a great piece by Butcher; go read the whole thing.
Well, all conspiracy theories, corporate DNA and the WB’s own woman problems aside, the simple fact is that on a meta level, DC Entertainment produces entertainment for boys. That’s its place within Warners, its demographic slot and I’m sure at some point Diane Nelson has overtly been tasked with keeping the boy audience engaged for films starring Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern.
We may think this kind of pigeonholing is stupid, but in a world run by branding, the message matters. By addressing female readers (and also younger readers), DC risks alienating its core audience of teenaged boys and men 25-35.
Heidi MacDonald hits the nail on the head: Publishers are in the business to make money, not make the world a better place, and of course they are going to cater to their core demographic. This is just one of a number of solid points that Heidi makes in this essay, which links to the other women-in-comics articles that have appeared in the past two weeks, ties them together, and frankly, makes a lot more sense than the two news pieces that were linked. It’s well worth reading the whole thing, including (especially!) the excerpt from former Drawn and Quarterly staffer Jessica Campbell’s essay on why the whole question of “female artists” is bogus at its core. And there’s a great discussion in the comments section as well (I thought Jesse Post made a particularly good point), so keep on scrollin’!
Comics | A Los Angeles Times article about women in comics concludes that “women in comics” really isn’t a topic for discussion any more; the number of women creators and editorial staff in the Marvel/DC world is slowly increasing, but outside the superhero realm the question is entirely irrelevant. It’s a good read anyway, because of the many quotes from interesting indie creators. “Teenage boys aren’t the only people with money, and unfortunately I think the mainstream comics juggernaut has just been focusing on this little section of readership for a long time,” Sarah Oleksyk says. “There’s this gigantic range of stories being told in indie comics — biographies, nonfiction, every sort of thing. So if you don’t want to read something about crime-fighting superheroes, you have 10,000 other subjects to choose, and most of those are independently published.”[Hero Complex]
Publishing| Drawn and Quarterly will publish Art Spiegelman’s CO-MIX: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps in spring 2013. [ICv2]
Bad practices in the past decades have paved over diversity we once took for granted. Instead of considering the comics industry this closed loop that can never change, how about we find those shoots trying to break through concrete and clear their path?
– Jeff Parker, on the importance of continuing to introduce comics starring diverse superheroes.
Almost as soon as the announcement was made that Marvel’s Hulk comic was becoming Red She Hulk, writer Jeff Parker started hearing that they were wasting their time on a comic with a female lead. He wrote a lengthy blog post explaining the new direction of the series and why it’s cool, but also talking about why it’s vital that creators and publishers keep pushing diversity. No one comic is going to make everyone stand up and say, “OH! A female-led superhero comic can be successful!” But the more comics that do that, the better the chances are that some of them are going to be great.
It reminds me of the article that David Brothers posted on Tuesday about guilt as a marketing tool. Publishers and creators can’t expect people to buy comics just because they’re diverse. This should be its own quote of the day:
“One ‘defense’ for not making the effort to be inclusive is, ‘Aw, but man, I don’t want to have to think about this stuff, I just want to read/write stories.’ And, y’know what? We’re sympathetic to that. Thinking about it can be really taxing, confusing, and depressing. Imagine if you had to think about that stuff all the time. Perhaps due to being not white? Or not male? Or not straight?”
– Brian Clevinger, explaining why Atomic Robo is specifically designed to be as inclusive as possible, while still telling awesome stories
“This past year, 2011, I was asked this question a lot, and here we are into the first quarter of 2012, and it’s happening again (or still, if you rather). Most frequently, it comes up in regard to my work in the comics industry. Last year was not banner for the ladies, and this one isn’t off to a strong start, either, in fact. Wasn’t good for women within the industry itself, nor within the pages of the stories being told. Those who’ve had the unmitigated temerity to actually comment upon this state of affairs publicly have ended up paying a surprisingly heavy price. The gender of the speaker has been largely irrelevant, though to be sure, it’s the women who’ve stepped up have taken the harder hits. But all who’ve pointed out the absence of women both on the page and behind it have been ridiculed, insulted, and, absurdly enough, even threatened with violence. Conversely, those attempting to defend their mistreatment of women within the industry have revealed a staggering lack of understanding, empathy, and self-awareness, while seeming to rejoice in an arrogance that is near heart-stopping in its naked sexism and condescension.
To say there are those who don’t get it is an understatement; it would be like describing the Japanese tsunami as ‘minor flooding.’”
– Greg Rucka, in an essay addressing the frequently asked question,
“How Do You Write Such Strong Female Characters?”
Retailing | The retail news and analysis site ICv2 contends sales of graphic novels in the direct market may be better than recent numbers indicate because of the way Diamond Comic Distributors reports those figures. While the distributor’s calculations are based on the wholesale value of shipments, ICv2 based its estimates on the retail value, and found graphic novel sales rose 24.4 percent in March, rather than declined 5.7 percent (versus a year ago), and climbed 27.7 percent in April, rather than just 12.6 percent: “The big differences between the wholesale and retail rates of change in recent months appear to be caused by big increases in the number of graphic novels liquidated through Diamond in March and April. So retail dollars were up, while wholesale dollars lagged. ” [ICv2]
Conventions | Audrey Gillan previews this weekend’s Kapow! in London by casting a spotlight on organizers Lucy and Sarah Unwin — they’re partnered with Mark Millar — and their efforts to create a female-inclusive comic convention. “We ourselves as women organising the show have been accused of misogyny because of the obviously male guest list, but there is just this lack of female creators and it’s the nature of the industry,” Lucy Unwin said. “There’s no point in taking it to heart because I don’t employ the creators. I would love there to be more women at the show in terms of guests.” [The Guardian]
In writing, once a gender is established … it’s often best to leave it alone. A woman does not need to walk to the door with a decided roll to her hips that a man would not have. She just walks to the damn door. Likewise, a man does not need to reach out for a cup of coffee, all the time grunting, thinking about football, about how hard it is to follow a map, and how much he believes he could beat a tiger in a knife fight …
– Paul Tobin, discussing the depictions of gender in fiction, but especially in reference to women in superhero comics. He talks about specific traps that comics creators fall into (including an observation about drawing breasts that’s both hilarious and sad) and how female characters should be written.
“You would think at some point that people who write about entertainment would clue into the fact that girls do, in fact, enjoy genres that they seem to think are boys-only. I mean, we fangirls rant about this shit all the time. Could someone pick up a clue? Here, I’ll put it in big letters so anyone still holding onto that dumbass, outdated, sexist notion will understand it better: WOMEN LIKE ALL KINDS OF THINGS. There’s not a contract that we sign at birth stating that we can only like stuff with glitter and princesses and romance. Guess what? We DO like stuff with glitter and princesses and romance, and we also like stuff with badass superheroes, aliens, and ass-kicking. So stop writing about genre films as if women haven’t the faintest clue that superheroes exist, and they need a cutesy little nudge in the right direction so they can please their boyfriends.”
– TDF Pamela, responding to Moviefone’s cringe-inducing “Girl’s Guide to The Avengers: What You Need to Know If You Know Nothing,” which advises “dutiful girlfriend[s]” on what to say (“Joss Whedon is the man”), and not say (“Do you think Scarlett Johansson is pretty?”), while attending the Marvel blockbuster with their boyfriends
Honestly, it took me a minute to notice the butts on Kevn Bolk’s “Comic Book Chicks.” The first thing I noticed was the facial expressions that hilariously illustrate the one-dimensional characteristics these three characters present in most depictions of them. Not only that; they also represent three stereotypes in most female action characters.
The butts just make it even more ridiculous.