Women in Comics Edition

For the past two weeks, Ive been deep in the final research stages of my major research paper, which is a feminist analysis of comic books and comic book adaptations. Once this is done (hopefully by next week *fingers crossed!*) and provided all goes well mark-wise, I¹ll have my MA in comic books.

So, tonight, when I was reading up on women and comic books, I came across this little quote by Douglas Wolk  (from his book Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What they Mean): For a few decades, mainstream comics were so overwhelmingly male-dominated that the industry had not the faintest idea of how to connect with potential women customers. Now that got me to thinking. Its kind of like the chicken and the egg and which one came first. I mean, in the past, have comic books always thought to be a masculine medium and so the producers never thought to produce comics for women? Or, were the majority of women just not interested in comics and so publishers and producers never bothered to publish books for what few female audience members there were?

Well, I believe it’s a little of both. Part of the reason why I stopped reading comics when I was younger was because they were for boys and I felt
alienated from my beloved superheroes. Tales of their adventures ceased to speak to me. Don¹t get me wrong, I was never really a girly-girl (I know, you’re all shocked!) but I felt like those stories (as awesome as they are to read now) were apart of a club where I wasn’t welcomed.

When I got back into comics ­ by this point, I had fully embraced my sci-fi/fantasy geekery as well as a healthy dose of feminism (it does a body
good!) ­ I still felt like an outsider but that was more because I had been away for so long and had yet to get acquainted with what I missed over those years. (As much research as I¹ve done and no matter how many hours I spent working at a comic book store, I still feel that way sometimes and am in awe of those comic book geeks who can quote issue and verse on any bit of random trivia.

I’m glad to see that there are so many more (superhero) comic book geekettes than in the past ­ internet fandom had a lot to do with it. There are a lot more female comic book (and graphic novel) fans period. Most were attracted by the increasing popularity of manga as well as the success of a number of non-superhero texts across a number of genres.

The DC/Minx imprint hoped to cash into the increasing number of (teenage) girls and women and released a number of excellent alternative-comic texts that failed to not only attract but also sustain this burgeoning market. There wasn’t enough interest and the project was canceled. This was a profound blow on two fronts: it reinforced the notion that, even if comics/graphic novels were created for and marketed to women, they still weren’t interested in them; and, consequently, why should mainstream comics producers like DC and Marvel both producing content for them when the resources could be better allocated elsewhere?

So, it all goes back to what came first, the chicken or the egg?

Shelley Smarz is a life long comic book fan. She’s currently attending the presdigious Ryerson University. Her Master’s thesis is on Jean Grey.


Fan Expo 2009 Edition

Greetings Comic Book Fans!

This past weekend was Fan Expo down in Toronto. Every year, my buddies and I make a weekend of it. We get a hotel, we go out for food and drinks, and we spend way too much money. This year was probably the best one in recent memory. My one complaint: it was INSANELY BUSY.

Usually, I’ll hit the con Friday to commission some sketches from the artists there. Sadly, I was a little later than I’d planned (and a lot later than I should have been) and most of the artists were already booked for the weekend. At 5:30 the first day of the con. However, I managed to score a commission from one of my favourite artists so I was quite pleased.  So, the lesson here is to – especially when you’re looking to get art from a big name artist – get there when the con opens and you might get lucky. We took our leave fairly early that night and met up with Pete for dinner and drinks to belatedly celebrate his birthday.

Saturday was insane. Utterly and totally insane. It took most con-goers about two hours to get into the con (it was slightly less for people who had pre-purchased their tickets online). We were packed into the Metro Toronto Convention Centre like sardines. Navigating the aisles was an adventure to say the least. Which brings me to my next con lesson: if you can, get your passes first thing on the first day of con.

Sunday was still busy but not quite as insane as Saturday. We got to the Convention Centre about 10:30am and the line to get in was already quite large. My one buddy wanted to get Bruce Campbell to sign his copy of Shatnerquake and was disappointed when there were no more tickets. I was kicking myself because I could have picked him up one on Friday – I didn’t even think about it. I mean, the last time I got anything signed it was Roman Dirge (Lenore, The Monsters in my Tummy, Something at the Window is Scratching) and he was signing at a booth so no tickets were necessary. I just had to get in line about 2 hours before he showed up to sign anything. Luckily, organizers released a couple of additional blocks of tickets so my friend did end up getting a Bruce Campbell sig. We spent the day walking around the con and just having a raucous time.

One of the best parts about cons is looking at the cosplayers. Often I’ll just take a break outside the dealers’ room and just sit by one of the columns in the hallway and just people watch. This time, however, I got a lot of strange looks myself. (I was crocheting a gift while I people watched – hey someone’s got to keep the old lady arts alive.)

PS> On September 13th, the Hamilton/Burlington SPCA is hosting its 20th annual Wiggle Waggle Walk-a-Thon at Bayfront Park. Registration starts at 9am but the official start time is 10am. I encourage y’all to join me there and help to support an awesome cause. For more information visit their website at http://www.hbspca.com/page/20th-annual-wigglw-waggle-walkathon or  contact the SPCA directly at: 905-574-7722, ext. 427.

Shelley Smarz is a life long comic book fan. Expect many more columns.