I had a fun time at NYCC, I got to meet some great artists, a bunch of creators I know from Twitter, meet some readers and hang with some fellow bloggers. Sure it was incredibly crowded, and the network sucked and the food is expensive but that’s just about any popular convention.
But still I left the show puzzled. And what I’m puzzled about is why there is such a dichotomy between who we hear is buying comics, and I mean monthly comics from the major publishers, and who is showing up at this convention, going to comics panels and spending money on comics.
We’re told it’s mostly men that women are the minority; a nice to have that is not a focus of sales.
Certainly a look at the comic creators who were “guests” at the show should have told me what I was in for. As I wrote before the show of the thirty-two “Spotlight Guests” not one was a woman. And less than 10% of the invited comics guests were woman (although since I wrote that post the total number rose from 10 to 14 guests).
But as I walked around the halls I saw so, so many women. The same on the convention floor. And I’m sure many were there for the entertainment panels like Park Avenue or for Anime and Manga. But I saw a lot of women cosplaying as comic characters from Marvel and DC. And, no, they were not all Catwoman and Black Widow from the movies. And flipping through long boxes. And getting comics signed by creators and artists.
And when I sat in the few DC panels I attended, I saw the same diversity in the those audiences. In fact when I went to the Grant Morrison panel (which was a Friday panel but was still crowded, I had women sitting on either side of me. On my left was a teenage girl who seemed so overwhelmed to be there she couldn’t speak; her mother, who clearly was there for her daughter, spoke for her. On the other side of me two women, one a women of color, who discussed with me what were their favorite Grant Morrison works.
And that wasn’t the only panel like that. I went to the new 52 panel on Saturday and I saw lots of women. The same with the panel that focused on bringing Wonder Woman issue from concept to page.
Of course, while I saw women in the hallways and on the show floor and in the audience at panels, I saw fewer on the dais of the comic publishers.
For some it made sense. While you could point to the irony of an all-male Wonder Woman panel it was easy to explain; Wonder Woman currently has an all-male team from editor to colorist.
That’s not to say there weren’t women on any panels. The new 52 panel had Christy Marx and editor Bobbie Chase. And Amanda Conner was on the Before Watchmen panel. And they had Karen Berger moderate the all male Vertigo panel.
But it was still a lot of male panelists. After a while of seeing that it got, well, tiresome. It’s not that I don’t like and enjoy the work of many of those male creators, but going to another DC panel with a dais of dudes … meh. So on Sunday I decided I would skip the DC panels and seek out alternatives where there was more representation. And, lucky me, both Image and Marvel had panels focusing on women in comics.
A lot of important things to think about.
I will say one thing, the company that puts on NYCC also puts on several other comics events and have routinely invited me to them, even as far away as Singapore. They have always treated me (I can only speak for myself) wonderfully, with the same respect they treat male creators. Most of the contact people I have with the organization are female, as well.
I don’t say this to validate an all-male featured guest list. But I’ve attended several of their cons in the last few years and it would SEEM that NYCC is an exception, as there was better female representation at the other conventions promoted by the exact same people. So, is it a case of circumstance and maybe a bit of missing awareness, or is it something more deliberate, I can’t say. But this event does seem to have been more of a fluke in terms of the company’s gender representation.
It being such a large, successful con, does make the absence of female guests more keenly felt, just the same. And of course, if an event is this successful, I’m sure some will dismiss any gender representation concerns as unimportant, because the con was successful as is.
I wish I could have seen the Marvel and Image panels. While many of us hope for a day when Women in Comics panels are completely unnecessary, I don’t think we are there yet. I was a bit sour on the concept for a while, I’d been on so many of them. But without fail, at every con, some female readers come up and say that these panels inspired them to try to make their own comics, and as long as that is the end result, I feel a bit of discomfort is still worth it.
If women are going to Women In Comics panels and are inspired by Mary Sue DeConnick, Fiona Staples, Alex DeCampi, Marjorie M. Liu, Nicola Scott, Amy Reeder, and Becky Cloonan, I personally feel the net result is worth a bit of groaning on our part. And I admit, for me, it’s still lovely to see a panel of fierce, brilliant women expressing their passion for the craft.
DC is doing better in this regard than we were immediately after the New52 was announced, where I was inexplicably the only female with a writer or artist ongoing assignment. And thank god. Having Ann Nocenti and Christy Marx aboard, as well as artists like Nicola Scott, is wonderful, but there’s still a ways to go. I don’t think anyone’s asking for parity at this point, but with the huge number of female readers and female creators out there, we need to do better. A DC women in comics panel could still be very interesting, as there are a good number in editorial. But putting together all of us that work on ongoing books as creators would still barely fill a dais, I think.
As for women-only events, I don’t see the problem. Some women (and by that I don’t mean only cis-women, obviously) feel that a safe space at cons is still a very good idea. You needn’t read very many convention reports of females, particularly cosplayers, to see why. Let them have that space, it takes nothing away from you or anyone else.
I’m sorry I missed NYCC the past two years, and I hope they keep in mind next year that things like guest lists and representation still do matter. I suspect they will, it’s actually a very good group of people, in my experience.