Moving Beyond Outrage: The Real Solution to Women In Comics
a open letter from a comic book professional
[Note: This letter expresses my own personal opinion and not that of any of my employers or professional partners past or present. ]
"We need more women in comics!" Such has been the rallying cry of the consumer and media for the last several years. One I wholeheartedly agree with, but the real problem of women being underrepresented in comics is increasingly being offered fake solutions and the comic book media is as much the problem as the big publishers.
Allow me to explain:
1. The Big Two (Marvel and DC) have very few women on staff (let’s leave female characters aside for now and just focus at who’s sitting at the creative table, particularly writers and pencilers).
2. This is noticed by the comics media, who respond with outrage.
3. The media advocates for the Big Two to hire more women, but only names the same handful of established professionals, many of whom have already worked for the Big Two (or worse, encourages them to seek an unknown woman with little or no professional track record). Smaller, working comics pros are ignored.
4. The Big Two (having already employed at least some of the only women being advocated for) feel no need to add more female creators to their roster. Smaller, working comics pros continue to be ignored.
5. Steps 2-4 become a vicious and unending cycle.
This is my very simplified thesis and I can tell you as a female comics professional, it is a crushing burden to bear.
When I started writing on IDW’s Transformers line I reached out to both journalists and bloggers who had written about “women in comics” as well as Transformers news sites to trumpet that I was the first women to write professionally for the TF brand in comics (and, obviously, that they should buy said comics because of that).
The response from the fansites was overwhelming positive, but the response from the general news sites and “advocates” was…nothing. In fact the few who bothered to respond to my requests for an interview/review/anything said they were happy I’d achieved such a milestone, liked my work but “just weren’t into” Transformers as a brand.
This was obviously a slap in the face, but it is by no means a unique story. In fact the more I talked to women (and marketing departments) in comics, the more I found that the media is only interested in promoting women who write/draw the right kind of comics. Women at IDW, Boom, and other working professionals are being ignored in favor of the ultra-established and the ultra-indie. Our books are too male, or too all ages to get attention. The fact that Boom! employs about as many (if not more) female writers/artists than DC and that IDW’s Hasbro panel at WonderCon was majority female go completely unnoticed. The women who put out books through Archaia are equally ignored. Yet everyone is constantly asking, “Where are the women?” The answer: RIGHT HERE!
Now, I don’t feel that the media should be forced to cover me or any woman, but the premiere companies outside of the Big Two are hotbed recruiting spots for new talent. If people want to get more women in the doors of DC they need to be looking at the companies who feed talent into DC. Look at Boom! Valiant, Dark Horse, Archaia, Oni, Dynamite, IDW. If you like their female creators, say so. If you don’t, say so. If they don’t have any, say so. But please please please don’t call yourself an advocate for women in comic books while rendering invisible most of the women who are already here.