J. Caleb Mozzocco at Blog@ had a good post yesterday about women in comics. Again? Yes, again. Mozzocco tries to put a positive spin on things — pointing out that writers G. Willow Wilson, Amy Woolfram, Ivory Madison, Grace Randolph and Marjorie Liu all debuted this year or last year. And Amanda Conner, Amy Reeder Hadley and Nicola Scott are drawing mainstream comics, while a few folks like Colleen Coover and Kathryn Immonen have been working on slightly more offbeat fare.
It’s a nice piece, although praising a book by saying “it hasn’t been cancelled yet!” sort of speaks for itself. More to the point, will we EVER get to the day when there is more than one woman allowed to write comics? I’m encouraged to see Wilson, Wolfram, Randolph and Madison come on the scene, but when it comes to women writers in comics, Gail Simone has sort of cornered the market, through no fault of her own.
For some reason, for women to break into writing “mainstream” comics has been ever harder than women drawing mainstream comics, perhaps becuase artists are generally more in demand than writers. It actually strikes me as odd, since writing — in journalism and novels, at least, two fields where women readers are a given — women writers have near parity with men. Off the top of my head, I would say that three of the all-time greatest comics writers have been women: Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel and Posy Simmonds. All are cartoonists who write and draw, of course, but even reading a few panels of their work shows a mastery of language and dialogue that anyone would envy.
Maybe I’m just cranky at the end of the year, but any idea that women in comics in the mainstream have progressed over the last few years is wrong. A colleague and I were trying to come up with the name of a noted female industry figure other than Karen Berger, and the list was shockingly short. Try it yourself. Diana Schutz and Jann Jones. Shelly Bond. I sincerely hope I’m forgetting someone, because that’s just one more than there was five or 10 years ago. (Yes I know Francoise Mouly, but we’re sticking to the “mainstream” for now.)
While indie and manga scenes have given rise to dozens of notable women creators on all levels, there are still only a tiny handful of mainstream female “superstars.” For instance, the New York Comic-Con has announced dozens of featured guests — including the tech writer for Newsweek, the marketing director for Bandai, and the guy who covers video games for MTV News — and only two women, Barbara Canepa and Colleen Doran. Now, Canepa co-ccreated one of the most successful properties worldwide over the last 10 years — W.I.T.C.H. — and Colleen is Amerca’s Sweetheart, and I think both of them have given a little bit more to the industry than the guy who covers video games for MTV News. No offense. In fact I can think of a dozen women who have done more for comics than the guy who covers video games for MTV news.
Looking at the guest list thus far, I do wonder, what do you have to do to get recognzied in this industry anyway? If you are a man, draw an issue or two of CAPTAIN AMERICA. If you are a women, you must slave away your whole life, and hope that some day, some guy somewhere deigns to put you into a history book.
Am I overstating the case? Maybe a little. But only a teeny, tiny bit. I’ve been in this game for a long time, and looking around, women aren’t in any better position than they were 10 years ago. There are many reasons for that, among them, yes, sexism of some kind, but also women who don’t want to compete at being as loud and attention-getting as men are expected to be. It’s a complex issue.
To end this on a high note, one area seems to have made major progress in the last decade — and it’s not where you think! DC now has 9 or 10 female editors at all levels, including, by my count, four or five in the DCU. That’s a sizable percentage, and I can only imagine what kind of influence it will have down the road. Let’s hope that these young women have long, distinguished careers and don’t become “symbols” of anything other than their own tastes and abilities. That would be true equality.