The latest round of outrage over the matter of women in comics was sparked off when DC’s relaunch had only three “distaff” members. In all the talk-talk there was some along the lines of Adam P Knave’s Why Aren’t There More Women in Comics? which points out the lack of a welcome mat for female creators:
Let’s be honest. The majority of American Comics (again mainstream stuff etc) is full of women being used and abused, discarded and ignored as actual characters. Imagine you love drawing comics. Now imagine you’re told to draw stuff that marginalizes and tosses under the bus the people in the stories that represent you. How long would you do it?
Knave takes pains to point out that he’s talking “mainstream” comics, but this got me thinking about how obsessing about women at The Big Two is really like worrying about the number of saunas in the Kalahari.
For instance, last week DC rolled out a series of interviews with big guns Bob Harras and Eddie Berganza, the only interviews any DC staffers have granted to the comics press since this thing began. And who conducted these interviews?
Me,, Comics Alliance e-i-c Laura Hudson, CBR’s Kiel Phegley, Comicsvine’s assistant editor Sara ‘Babs’ Lima, iFanboy’s Ron Richards and Newsarama’s Vaneta Rogers. This was a big assignment that went to the staff ace, and four out of six were women.
Want more? Look at this weekend’s Shuster Award winners, recognizing the best in Canadian comics:
Outstanding Comic Book Cartoonist: Pat Shewchuk (and her partner Marek Colek)
Outstanding Comic Book Colourist: Julie Rocheleau
Outstanding Comic Book Cover Artist: Fiona Staples
Outstanding Comic Book Publisher: Koyama Press, owned by Annie Koyama
Outstanding Web Comics Creator: Emily Carroll Outstanding Comic Book Writer: Émilie Villeneuve
That’s six out of eleven awards going to women.
Did you know that the last three winners of the Russ Manning Award for Most Promising Newcomer were women?
Cathy Malkasian (2008)
Eleanor Davis (2009)
Marion Churchland (2010).
Another is nominated this year, Janet Lee.
What about this year’s Eisner Awards?
Best Short Story “Little Red Riding Hood,” by Bryan Talbot and Camilla d’Errico, in Fractured Fables (Silverline Books/Image)
Best Publication for Kids Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean, by Sara Stewart Taylor and Ben Towle (Center for Cartoon Studies/Disney/Hyperion) Binky to the Rescue, by Ashley Spires (Kids Can Press)
Best Publication for Teens Return of the Dapper Men, by Jim McCann and Janet Lee (Archaia) Smile, by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic Graphix)
Best Humor Publication Drinking at the Movies, by Julia Wertz (Three Rivers Press/Crown)
Best Anthology The Anthology Project, edited by Joy Ang and Nick Thornborrow (Lucidity Press)
Best Digital Comic Lackadaisy, by Tracy Butler, www.lackadaisycats.com
Best Reality-Based Work Picture This: The Nearsighted Monkey Book, by Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly) Special Exits: A Graphic Memoir, by Joyce Farmer (Fantagraphics) You’ll Never Know Book 2: Collateral Damage, by Carol Tyler (Fantagraphics)
Best Graphic Album—New Return of the Dapper Men, by Jim McCann and Janet Lee (Archaia)
Best Graphic Album—Reprint Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites, by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson (Dark Horse)
Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia Bunny Drop, by Yumi Unita (Yen Press)
< A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, by Moto Hagio (Fantagraphics)
House of Five Leaves, by Natsume Ono (VIZ Media)
Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art) Lynda Barry, Picture This: The Nearsighted Monkey Book (Drawn & Quarterly) Janet Lee, Return of the Dapper Men (Archaia) Carol Tyler, You’ll Never Know Book 2: Collateral Damage (Fantagraphics)
Best Cover Artist Yuko Shimizu, The Unwritten (Vertigo/DC)
Best Coloring Hilary Sycamore, City of Spies, Resistance, Booth, Brain Camp, Solomon’s Thieves (First Second)
Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism The Beat, produced by Heidi MacDonald (www.comicsbeat.com) ComicsAlliance, produced by Laura Hudson (www.comicsalliance.com)
Best Comics-Related Book The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen, by Denis Kitchen and Charles Brownstein, edited by John Lind and Diana Schutz (Dark Horse Books)
Best Publication Design Polly and Her Pals Complete Sunday Comics, vol. 1, designed by Lorraine Turner and Dean Mullaney (IDW) Two Generals, designed by Jennifer Lum (McClelland & Stewart)
Did you know that the two most important graphic novels of the last decade were by women? Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.
Outside the DM, how do GNs by women fare? Let’s look at last year’s Top 50 in the BookScan chart. Note, I have not highlighted books with a female “author” who did nothing but lend her name to the book, like
Diana Gabaldon and the co-op “Erin Hunter.” UPdate: My mistake! Not only did Gabaldon write the graphic novel but in her youth she wrote comics for Disney. Imagine that! A best-selling author who started out writing comics.
|1||DORK DIARIES||RUSSELL RACHEL RENEE|
|2||TWILIGHT GRAPHIC NOVEL V1||MEYER STEPHENIE and Young Kim|
|3||ADV OF OOK & GLUK KUNG FU CAVE||PILKEY DAV|
|4||SCOTT PILGRIM V 1 SCOTT PILGRI||O’MALLEY BRYAN LEE|
|5||SCOTT PILGRIM V 2 SCOTT PILGRI||O’MALLEY BRYAN LEE|
|6||SCOTT PILGRIM V 6 SCOTT PILGRI||O’MALLEY BRYAN LEE|
|7||SCOTT PILGRIM V 3 SCOTT PILGRI||O’MALLEY BRYAN LEE|
|8||SCOTT PILGRIM V 4 SCOTT PILGRI||O’MALLEY BRYAN LEE|
|9||SCOTT PILGRIM V 5 SCOTT PILGRI||O’MALLEY BRYAN LEE|
|10||NARUTO V47||KISHIMOTO MASASHI|
|11||NARUTO V48||KISHIMOTO MASASHI|
|12||BONE OUT FROM BONEVILLE||SMITH JEFF|
|13||KICK ASS PREMIERE||MILLAR MARK|
|14||BIG NATE FROM THE TOP||PEIRCE LINCOLN|
|15||MAUS I||SPIEGELMAN ART|
|16||WALKING DEAD V1 DAYS GONE BYE||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
|17||BLACK BUTLER V1||TOBOSO YANA|
|18||WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM 1||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
|20||EXILE AN OUTLANDER GRAPHIC NOV||GABALDON DIANA|
|21||PERSEPOLIS 1||SATRAPI MARJANE|
|22||BONE THE GRT COW RACE||SMITH JEFF|
|23||NARUTO V49||KISHIMOTO MASASHI|
|24||POKEMON DIAMOND & PEARL ADV V6||IHARA SHIGEKATSU|
|25||VAMPIRE KNIGHT V9||HINO MATSURI|
|26||BK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED BY R||CRUMB R.|
|27||BONE CROWN OF HORNS||SMITH JEFF|
|28||BONE EYES OF THE STORM||SMITH JEFF|
|29||BONE DRAGONSLAYER||SMITH JEFF|
|30||WARRIORS RAVENPAWS PATH #02||HUNTER ERIN|
|31||POKEMON V1||IHARA SHIGEKATSU|
|32||WALKING DEAD V 2 MILES BEHIND||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
|33||MAXIMUM RIDE V2 MANGA||PATTERSON JAMES and NaRae Lee|
|34||BONE TALL TALES||SMITH JEFF|
|35||BONE ROCK JAW MASTER OF THE E||SMITH JEFF|
|36||WALKING DEAD V11 FEAR THE HUNT||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
|37||TROUBLEMAKER BK 1 ALEX BARNABY||EVANOVICH JANET and Joelle Jones|
|38||V FOR VENDETTA NEW E||MOORE ALAN|
|39||VAMPIRE KNIGHT V10||HINO MATSURI|
|40||MAXIMUM RIDE V3 MANGA||PATTERSON JAMES|
|41||MAXIMUM RIDE V1 MANGA||PATTERSON JAMES|
|42||WARRIORS MANGA RAVENPAWS #01 S||HUNTER ERIN|
|43||BLACKEST NIGHT||JOHNS GEOFF|
|44||BLACK BUTLER V2||TOBOSO YANA|
|45||SUPERMAN EARTH ONE||STRACZYNSKI J. MICHAEL|
|46||MAUS II||SPIEGELMAN ART|
|47||POKEMON DIAMOND & PEARL ADV V7||IHARA SHIGEKATSU|
|48||COMPLETE PERSEPOLIS||SATRAPI MARJANE|
|49||ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GDE||BROOKS MAX|
|50||WALKING DEAD V12 LIFE AMONG TH||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
12 out of 50, nearly one in four bestselling graphic novels last year was by a woman. (This number could be better but you’d think no woman had ever sold a graphic novel in the US, the way some people talk.)
I was going to put in a list of women hired by major publishers to illustrate GNs — like Hope Larson, Carla Speed McNeil and so on — but it couldn’t be clearer that women are already making comics people buy, enjoy, and admire. Nor have I mentioned webcomics or indie comics, the other points of the comics pentagram. (That would be bookstore, manga, direct market, alt.comix, webcomics.)
Far from being a risky, trailblazing move, women making comics is a proven quantity, sales and quality-wise.
Actions like the postcard survey (which had dodgy methodology but accurate-feeling results) are great at highlighting inequality, but as the bookstore market has risen, it seems the only area where women aren’t working regularly are superhero comics. Given all the female consumers who are out and proud about their nerd interests, and Marvel and DC’s increasing anxiety about keeping their audience, it would make sense for them to actually attempt widening their market.
So what next? If everyone who was expressing an interest in increasing the number of women in comics would actually HIRE one of the scores of talented women professionals out there, we’d not only be a lot further along the road to equality — we’d be getting a lot of good comics.
[First image from the Women Reading Comics in Public tumblr
Second image from the new People Reading Manga in Bookstores tumblr]
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.