Denver Comic Con had 16 panels on Women—including one that was a flash mob

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Denver Comic Con is a bit of a puzzler. It’s a huge, fast growing show that entertains many people, but it’s also had a lot of problems with crowding, ownership and some eye-rolling over the claimed number of attendees. It also has a strong educational focus, which is good, but a rather chaotic panel schedule, which is bad. Anyway, as I’m sure you’ve heard, there was a blast of outrage last weekend when it was revealed that a “Women in Comics” panel consisted of three fusty male scholars talking about female characters of the 40s. I was off the grid over the holiday and missed joining in the ridicule, but Janelle Asselin-Moore has a great report on the matter here.

She has a subsequent report on what sounds like a positive outcome, as playwright Crystal Skillman, comics herstorian Trina Robbins and others put together a flash mob style “Women in comics” panel that was by all accounts, awesome and fun and washed away the bad feelings over the first panel. The panel was recorded and can be listened to here.

Bleeding Cool’s Hannah Means-Shannon, who has a close relationship with the DCC, has a rather spirited defense of the con, which I’ll get to in a minute, but one of her points is that the DCC was devoted to a spirit of diversity and one bum panel shouldn’t spoil the barrel.

Indeed, I took a quick peek at the Denver Comic Con panels and there were, counting the bad panel and the pop-up panel, sixteen separate panels devoted to “women in [fill in the blank.]” I should note that a “quick peek” isn’t really possible, as DCC is one of the many events that doesn’t put its panel descriptions all in one place where you can see them, but uses one of those “guidebook” apps. I did scan this and I may have even missed a few. (I left out the queer panels.) With two separate panels devoted to “Women in Doctor Who” alone, this was a lot of talk about diversity and women.

Women in Comics – Creators and Characters
May 23rd at 11:45 AM until 12:35 PM
With the female interest in comics increasing lately, this panel discusses many of the popular female characters from the beginning of the superhero mid 1930s comics. Also a focus on some of the women that were able to break in the mostly all male club of creating comics during that time. Includes an introduction to many of the female illustrators/creators attending the convention.

Kevin Robinette – Instructor Academy Art University of San Francisco, History of American Comics
Craig Glassen – Art Instructor, Denver area schools
Jason H. Tucker – The Way Interactive graphic novel app

Native Women in Comics and Pop Culture
May 23rd at 12:55 PM until 1:45 PM
This panel led by Native women comic creators will look at how Indigenous women are portrayed in popular culture, including comic books and graphic novels and the effect that has on real women in the world of today. From the myth of Pocahontas to the Victoria’s Secret runway, we will explore images and stereotypes and how they have been damaging to Indigenous communities. We will also discuss what qualities are empowering for Indigenous women and how Native comic creators are helping to establish stronger representations of Indigenous women.

What Do Teen Girls Really Want to Read?
May 23rd at 1:20 PM until 2:10 PM
Books created for teens can sometimes be shallow and unrealistic. Teens want more! Join an amazing group of teen girls to discuss what they want from books, with real Young Adult authors. Elements we will discuss are: character development, relationships, story line, setting, honesty and the quality of writing. We will also book talk 5 great books from different genres (manga, video game based graphic novels, scifi/fantasy/action, dystopian romance and fanfiction) showing why these books are worth reading based on the qualitites we want in books. Another great presentation from the Teen Librarians at the Anythink Libraries: Genne Boggs, mod., Teen Librarians: Lexxie Clark, Grace Derickson, Kayla Terrill, Jakie Kleuckman, Shandra Chase. Participating YA Authors: Amalie Howard, Amanda Strong, DelSheree Gladden, Gail Wagner, Kristi Helvig, Sue Duff.

Women in the Geek Industry
May 23rd at 2:30 PM until 3:20 PM
Following a career path in the geek world can be one of the most rewarding adventures you ever take. There are many opportunities waiting for those with a passion for this culture. So come to the Women in the Geek Industry Panel and hear from professionals as they share their tips and ideas on starting a career in books, comics, journalism, podcasting, video games, vlogging and much more. This year’s panelists include:
Bonnie Burton – author/actor/co-host of Vaginal Fantasy Book Club
Jen Timms – video game producer at United Front Games
Taffeta Darling – professional cosplayer/artist/ host & producer of The Fangirls of Dallas
Tiffany Wangerin – professional cosplayer Evil Mech Meru/co-host of The Sheekery Podcast
Maureen Elsberry – journalist/UFO researcher/co-host of Spacing Out/Marketing Director at Open Minds TV
The panel will be moderated by Kirei. She is the co-host of The Sheekery podcast.

Great Gaming Paradigm: Where’s Diversity in Games & Comics?
May 23rd at 3:15 PM until 4:05 PM
We will discuss what the typical hero in a game/comic book looks like. We will demonstrate a lack of representation for minorities, women, and LGBTQ people and introduce the audience to characters that are starting to emerge to represent these groups. We will also talk about: the oversexualization of women in comics/video games, unrealistic beauty standards for both men and women, and women supervillains being portrayed as seductresses. This panel will promote diversity in games and graphic novels. Genne Boggs, mod., Lexxie Clark, Kayla Terrill, Lilly Taylor, Iszaiah Lauvergeon.

Strong Women in Film & Fiction
A comprehensive review of some strong female charactes we all love in fiction and motion pictures. Molly Tanzer
Kristi Helvig
Betsy Dornbusch
Sherry Ficklin
Stant Litore
Amalie Howard

She Makes Comics – Presented by the Denver Film Society
She Makes Comics traces the fascinating history of women in the comics industry. Despite popular assumptions about the comics world, women have been writing, drawing, and reading comics since the medium’s beginnings in the late 19th century. And today, there are scores of women involved in comics and its vibrant fan culture.

Women of Whedon – Amy Acker, Jewel Staite, Clare Kramer, Emma Caulfield
May 24th at 10:35 AM until 11:25 AM
The Women of Whedon! Stars of Joss Whedon’s hit series, Buffy, Angel and Firefly – get together and share stories: Jewel Staite, Amy Acker, Clare Kramer… and now with Emma Caulfield. An All-Star Line-Up and a once-in-a-lifetime event!

Diversity in Dr. Who
May 24th at 11:00 AM until 11:50 AM
We just had our first female director and next season will have our first female writer for the television show. How has Doctor Who traversed Diversity and has it been successful? Join our panel as they discuss Diversity in Doctor Who. Giveaways at this event. Moderator: Chris Getzan. Panelists: Heather Maloney, Kerri Sharner and Shad Gray.

Girls and Geekdom: Position Papers and Roundtable Discussion on Finding the Feminine Voice in Comic Culture
May 24th at 11:00 AM until 12:20 PM
· “Muted Group Theory as a Lens for Finding Feminine Voice: A (Dad)cademic Perspective”—Thomas Endres

· “The Her Universe Irony: Voices in TV and Film”—Carleen Endres

· “The Sexual Super(hero)model in Comic Culture—Aundi Rameriz

· “Hers and His: A Couple Compares Perspectives on Gender Roles and Cosplay”—Kellsie Moore and David Moore

· Tracy Bealer (Respondent)

Minority and Women Authors of the Past
May 24th at 11:45 AM until 12:35 PM
Who are the greats that paved the way for today’s authors?

Van Aaron Hughes
Mario Acevedo
Rebecca Moesta
Peter J. Wacks
Panama Soweto
Colleen Watsonto

She Can Do It: Awesome Women in Comics
May 24th at 12:10 PM until 1:00 PM
This reader’s advisory-style panel geared towards teen and adult fans will focus on fascinating women in graphic novels and why this trend is so exciting for fans. Nick Taylor, Alison Slyziuk, Bridget Kiely, Emily Keel, Galina Derevyanko

Changing Times: The Role of Women In the Whoniverse
May 24th at 1:20 PM until 2:10 PM
Depending on which era of Doctor Who you’re watching, women have been portrayed in many different ways, be it headstrong and brave or something “for the dads”. Join us for a discussion in the changing role of women in Doctor Who. Shelley Duncan, Somer Suter, Erica Feather, Trevor Byrne-Smith

Woman of Nerdom w/ King of the Nerds
May 24th at 3:15 PM until 4:05 PM
Join cast members of King of the Nerds as they discuss women in nerdom. Special guest panelists TBA

Beyond Bechdel: Queer Femmes and Women in Comics
May 25th at 10:35 AM until 11:25
From Catwoman to Miss America, Betty (Rat Queens) to Kat Donlan (Gunnerkrigg Court), the range of queer femmes and women in comics is broader than it’s ever been. A conversation with queer femmes and women about representation in comics. Panelists: Audrey Zarr, Emily Smith, Gina Bernard, Melanie Gillman – Comics Creator and Instructor at RMCAD and California College of the Arts, Pam Steele. Moderated by Katie Barak.

Is there Discrimination in Pop-Culture?
May 25th at 12:55 PM until 1:45 PM
A discussion on the perceived and real discrimination in pop-culture toward women, minorities and the LGBT Community. Pros from a variety of pop culture fields will talk about how traditional biases may have affected their careers or those of others in their industry in the past, and how this may or may not be changing. Moderated by Animator Jan Scott-Frazier, with playwrite Crystal Skillman, comics creator and historian Trina Robbins, comics industry editor and historian Jackie Estrada, Flobots musician Stephen Brackett, and TV director Vince Gonzales.

Women in Comics NOW!
May 25th at 3:00 PM until 4:00 PM
Some of DCC’s many female comic creator guests come together in a roundtable discussion about their careers, their passion for comics and their places in the industry. Come support DCC’s Diversity Mission with this guest-led discussion. With Trina Robbins, Crystal Skillman, Joelle Jones, Amanda Conner, Marguerite Bennett.

Now I wasn’t at the con, and haven’t conducted a thorough investigation, and have been mad busy all week with Book Expo, but I think we can learn a few lessons here:

• One fuck up is all it takes to ruin everything. Obviously the topic of “women in …” was covered at the show, but all anyone cared about was the dumbass “men talking about women in comics” panel, which, if it had had a different name, would have escaped without notice, like the other 14 panels. I don’t have the time to click on all he “comics” panels, but I’m HOPING they were mixed as to gender and ethnicity, because that’s ultimately what diversity actually is.

• While I’m not the biggest fan of “Women in Comics” panels, it sounds like the flash mob panel was a great healing experience for everyone who participated, as the accounts quoted in the second Comics Alliance link attest.

• A larger problem, from the bits and pieces I heard, is that the programming for DCC was very ambitious (12 tracks, nearly 400 panels) and it was not very well organized. Means-Shannon kind of alluded to this in her defense of the con:

But Denver overreached in their programming, clearly, because the checks weren’t in place to prevent this panel from happening. If Denver Comic Con is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the geek community (and they are), this was their youthful pratfall. One panel out of 300-400 went wrong. I think we can talk about it, use it as an example, but also forgive them and stop acting like this mishap was somehow intentionally organized by Denver Comic Con. How do I know that? Because one of the con’s earliest supporters, who has a great deal of influence over the tone and content of the convention, now the con’s Director, is Christina Angel, a woman in comics who I have known for a few years now and it’s hard to imagine meeting a professor and con organizer more passionate about diversity and “doing things right” at conventions. She’s a major part of why the charity that launched the con began, and of why there is so much programming at the convention. I know that had she realized there was a Women in Comics panel at DCC with no women, her head would have nearly exploded and the panel would not have gone forward. But people who don’t know Denver Comic Con, and only read about it online, don’t know the personality of the con and how far from intentional this event was.


As I mentioned above, I kind of hate “Women in Comics” panels and I won’t do them any more! I will do panels that discuss the issues of diversity and gender, which often end up being the same thing, but at least the focus has shifted. If there is one thing I think almost every “Woman in [fill in the blank]” can agree on, it’s that being asked “What is it like to be a woman in [fill in the blank]?” is tiresome and needs to be put to rest. But I can guarantee that it won’t be. Obviously, the fact that women and girls like comics and read them is still a matter of some astonishment to people who haven’t been paying attention for the last few years, so there will always be inappropriate wonderment and curiosity about these strange creatures, these…women in comics.

Personally, I would like to see more panels like this:

Hat Making Basics
May 25th at 11:45 AM until 12:35 PM
A crash-course introduction to the materials, techniques and intricacies of traditional hat making. We’ll begin with basic hat vocab and materials and move into discussing materials and fabrication of both the basic fabric covered hat and the pulled felt hat. We’ll end with an open Q and A. December Wynn


We need more hats in [fill in the blank] panels. The world is waiting.

And just to reiterate what I said above, to any potential con organizers, heed this tale. ONE FUCK UP IS ALL IT TAKES.

1 COMMENT

  1. Heidi,

    Definitely a good point on the outrage about the one panel. I’ll agree that even if it was primarily a scholarly panel, they should have at least included Trina Robbins on it since she was a guest of the convention.

    As someone who has programmed 100+ panels for several years in the author track at a similar sized comic con (and who was dismissed from said con this year when I objected to cutting said programming by 50%), 400 panels for a con that large is not really that much. It does take someone who knows the subject matter (both in specific areas as well as general areas) and makes the effort to get familiar with the participants and their strengths and interests. Each pop culture con can make themselves unique in their programming outside of the big media guests but it seems most of them aren’t really putting a lot of effort into it or have no clue how to do it.

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