Women in comics has been one of the most talked about topics in the last year. Whether it is the characters starring in the books or the creators making them, women are a part of every facet of comic books. At the Marvel: Women of Marvel panel at Comic-Con some of the most influential women working for Marvel Comics discussed the ins and outs of comic books and their love of the medium.
The panel was led by Marvel Editor Jeanine Schaefer with fellow editor Sana Amanat. They were joined by writers Kelly Sue DeConnick and Marjorie Liu, artist Janet K. Lee and Marvel Jr. Product Manager and photographer Judy Stephens.
The first thing the panel wanted to do was dispel the myth that women don’t read comics and don’t work in comics. A quick survey of the audience in attendance showed that women not only read comics but aspire to work in comics.
Stephens said that now is a great time to work for Marvel if you are a woman and there are lots of jobs not just on the creative side of making comics.
Amanat said this panel is great because it shines the light on women in comics and keeps that conversation going.
Schaefer tossed out the first question to the panel and it had to do with how the panelists got into comics.
Amanat said she had no business in comics. She started with comic characters by watching the cartoons. When she started working in comics she was daunted by the visual medium. Her boss gave her the motivation to work her way up.
DeConnick grew up on a military base where comics were plentiful.
Liu said she watched the ‘X-Men’ cartoons when she was younger, but did not discover comics until she was in college. She went into a dusty old store with a great owner who showed her around and she was hooked.
Lee said there was a creepy old neighbor that allowed her to read all sorts of comics. She read lots of Archie and then when a boyfriend she was dating read the X-Men she started reading them and was captivated.
Stephens said she started by watching the Saturday morning cartoons and Sunday news strips. In college she got into anime and manga. When she discovered the Ultimates she was hooked and has now read the entirety of Marvel’s online library.
Schaefer used this to illustrate that all of these women found comics and no one was targeting them. She said imagine if comics were marketed to girls.
The topic of the sexuality in comics came up. Amanat said she had no problem with it in the comics themselves, but when that is all there is she hates it. She is against powerful characters being reduced to that level the way Catwoman and Starfire were last year.
DeConnick said that what she liked about DC Comics was that they had carved out a particular niche with their Batwoman and Batgirl comics. It is a devoted audience that really gets behind the strong female characters. DeConnick said she wants to cultivate that same level of loyalty from her new Captain Marvel series.
Amanat asked DeConnick about the new series and the impetus for the change to Ms. Marvel’s costume.
DeConnick said with the costume redesign they were not trying to take away the sexy costume. When she pitched her ideas for the Captain Marvel series she said she was trying to pitch Ms. Marvel in the costume. Editor Steve Wacker wanted a hero he could show his daughter. She said Captain Marvel is not a book just for women it is just more inclusive than others.
The Captain Marvel costume had to fit the character. Ms. Marvel had to go to a funeral in the first issue but DeConnick thought the black leotard and thigh high boots were not appropriate for the occasion. Jamie McKelvie designed the flight suit that works for her character. It looks like the military uniform for the super hero branch of the armed forces.
DeConnick said she is not trying to take anything away from the character. She is trying to tell stories that meet her test. The test is if you can replace a woman with a sexy lamp and the story still works you failed the test.
Read the Hollywood Comic Books Examiner’s review of Captain Marvel #1
Stephens then pointed out that the first issue of Captain Marvel will make use of the Marvel AR app. There are two segments with interviews with DeConnick talking about the character and the story.
It was then time for the question and answer portion of the panel. The first question was why there aren’t more Marvel comics with female leads?
DeConnick said that we tend to forget that Marvel puts out non-super books with female leads like Jane Austen’s Emma and Anita Blake.
Marvel does not want to put out books just to put out books. For whatever reason female led books don’t sell, but there are plenty of books that are female driven. The Ultimate X-Men comic features Kitty Pryde as the leader of the X-Men, X-Men Legacy has for years been focused on Rogue. The new X-Treme X-Men features the Dazzler in the lead roll and Brian Wood’s X-Men book is a primarily female team with Colossus thrown in there.
Stephens said last year’s Mystic mini-series, which she describes as Harry Potter for girls, was nominated for an Eisner (the comic equivalent of the Oscars).
In the previous Ms. Marvel series, Ms. Marvel had a sidekick in Anya Corazon, Spider-Girl. Would she be a part of the new Captain Marvel series? DeConnick says it all depends on how long the series runs. DeConnick was excited to say the Monica Rambeau, a former Captain Marvel, would be appearing in the comics with more guests down the line.
How do you get women to read comics? What books are good for women?
DeConnick said women should not be plot points of rewards.
Liu said there is not one book you can give to a woman.
Lee echoed Liu’s statement saying that sequential story is just like prose and everyone likes their own tastes. You need to tell a story that is true.
DeConnick said that distribution could make it easier to find a new audience.
Amanat said that visibility is a problem for comics. Comic shops can be overwhelming to the uninitiated. So Marvel is making strides to market comics in new ways not just to women.