Opinion: Women in Comics (Again)

Sugar Glider by Sarah Dunkerton
Sugar Glider by Sarah Dunkerton

Comics writer and editor Richmond Clements is fed up with people saying there aren’t enough women working in comics. Here’s why…

Yet again, at this year’s Thought Bubble comic festival, we had another Women in Comics panel.

I don’t know how to feel about this, to tell the truth. I may well upset some of my female friends with this.

But… come on!

And I hope Lisa and the amazing people behind Thought Bubble will not take this as a personal slight – because I’ll happily go on record and say they run the best convention in the UK – but how many times do we need to have this same panel?

Here’s a better idea, and one that was enacted at the last Hi-Ex! Convention I co-ran in Inverness. This was how we did it. We didn’t have a woman’s panel, we have a woman on every panel.

And this does not take too much imagination. We had a variety of panels on many different subjects, but, even in the relatively small convention we organise, we managed to find a female guest who could speak on whatever subject.

Imagine that! It’s almost like women are, oh I dunno, people.

Revolutionary, I know, but bear with me if you can. I know it’s an amazing concept to the comic writer – and when I say that I of course mean Tony Harris – that women can be more than a pair of ridiculously tight pants who know next to nothing about the X-Men.

(And if I may digress for a second..? I’m constantly amazed that Princess Leia from the Star Wars films is always cited as a ‘strong’ female character. I presume this is by people who have never seen the movies. Look at the evidence: Episode 4: only function is to be rescued. Episode 5: Rescued twice and falls in love. Episode 6: Yes, almost rescues man, while disguised as man, captured, then rescued by man, later gets lost in forest and is rescued twice by her future husband.

Leia is not a strong female character. Any supposed strength comes from the massive charisma of Carrie Fisher.)

And you’re back in the room…

My main problem with the women in comics argument is this: the people who say that there are no women in comics have obviously never took a walk around an exhibitors hall at a comic convention. In the two dealers rooms at Thought Bubble, there were literally hundreds of amazing women creating some of the best, funniest, scariest and most moving comics around. They are producing Art that is important, vital and exciting.

It would be tempting here to list a number of them, but that’s silly. I will say though, that the last time I came close to becoming star-struck was when I met Sugar Glider artist Sarah Dunkerton at a convention. Not some ‘big name’ American artist, but someone who draws a very good comic and draws it very well. I would even go as far as to say it is incidental to me that Sarah happens to be a woman.

No, to me the real problem is this: when we say that there are not enough women working in comics, what we’re really saying is that there are not enough women working for Marvel or DC.

And my point is, if I ever manage to get to it, is this: we have many brilliant women working in comics. How about we celebrate the brilliant things they are producing at the minute, and not worry about how they’re not writing and drawing Spider-Man, Ghost Rider or some other silly superhero nonsense?

(This Opinion piece was cross-posted with the Forbidden Planet Blog)

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