Celebrating Women in Comics – We Need You Now More Than Ever
Over at Comic Years, we believe that hardworking women in every industry deserve a round of applause, especially when it’s a male-dominated one. The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is “Choose to Challenge.” As we continue to see across almost all entertainment genres, the voices of women aren’t being told. So, today, we give kudos to the women who challenge the notion that our voices don’t matter: the women in comics. We’ll be looking at how the numbers have changed over the years while discussing how important it is to keep growing them. Additionally, we’ll be shining the spotlight on some of the most revolutionary female comic creators and showing you how we can all get a little more involved.
Women In Comics – Why It Has Taken So Damn Long
(Image: Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #1, DC Comics)
The Golden Age of Comic Books, when this form of literature took off, began in the 1930s. These modern comics created the superhero archetype and birthed the ones that we still celebrate today, including Superman, Batman, Captain America, and Wonder Woman. These first few years saw a fairly even number of men and women reading them. Why shouldn’t they be loved by all? Unfortunately, the number of women readers began to dwindle as time went on, and it’s likely because of one very telling reason: men dominated their creation.
Reading and writing comic books became a boys club. And once you let something become a boys club, it’s pretty hard to break out of it. Women weren’t being portrayed authentically in the comics. Far too often, they were being given the role of helpless damsels in distress or oversexualized love interests. And while there were a few badass female characters, their personalities were written from men’s false point of view. How can you tell the story of a strong woman without a handful of even stronger women behind the scenes?
One study from 2018 found that 17.2% of all creators in DC Comics were women. Marvel Comics had 16.3% of their comic creators who identify as women. This included story writers, colorists, letterers, editors, and all other categories that make up the hard work that goes into comic creation. These numbers are pretty on par with the number of women leading other sections of the entertainment industry. In comparison to a different field, a study on female filmmaking found 16% of all directors on the top 100 grossing films in the past year were women.
The amount of women working in historically male-dominated fields, like filmmaking and comic creation, is going up. And of course, we know that it’s a good thing. Yet this increase has created a whole other issue: we think that enough is being done.
Women In Comics Are Being Falsely Represented
Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot. Image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr.
When a woman makes a big move, earns a rightful promotion, or sits at the front of a successful piece, we hear about it. This is fantastic – it encourages other women to keep working hard and proves that there is a space for all of us. Yet, the way the media publicizes these wins leads to a false belief that enough change is being made.
There has been a recent influx of female directors behind comic book movies. With Patty Jenkins, Cathy Yan, Cate Shortland, and Chloé Zhao, among others, making big movies, headlines are all pointing towards improvement in how often women are allowed to succeed. But if we aren’t careful, headlines about how much women are thriving let readers think that the change we need is already done being made.
Yeah, women have had a lot of wins in the past few years. But they still make up less than a quarter of the number of people working on comics, directing movies, creating characters, and more. We’re moving in the right direction, but we can’t let ourselves stop for even a second.
Women Putting In The Work
There are ever-growing numbers of women succeeding in the comic book industry. It’s a wonderful thing that there are too many to name. Though, we will put a few in the spotlight as we celebrate International Women’s Day.
Sana Amanat, an American comics creator, is responsible for co-creating Ms. Marvel. This comic features a Muslim female superhero, the first solo series to do so. Amanat joined Marvel Comics in 2009 and has worked her way up to being the Director of Content and Character Development. She uses her position to continue to encourage the representation of minorities and reminding readers how important staying true to your “authentic self” is.
Image via Marvel Comics
There are few creators more successful in their field than Alitha Martinez. This artist has worked for all major publishers, including Marvel, DC Comics, and more. Starting as a background assistant and inker, she worked her way up to creating her own comics and characters. One of her most recent works is Omni, a series that Martinez released alongside writer Devin K. Grayson for Humanoids Publishing. Her biggest piece of advice? “Draw every day.”
Sawyer is not only a comics writer and editor, but she is also the founder of Women in Comics NYC Collective International. She has written a variety of series, including The Rippers and Ice Witch, among others. Her comics industry experience led to her creating Lockett Down Productions, a press company with an all-female comic book artist staff. Not only is she an esteemed creator, but she continues to put in the work to ensure that all women have a fair shot at success in the industry.
We Need To Keep Reading The Works of Female Comics Creators
Image via Marvel Studios.
The reason behind the slow increase of women in comics has never been about who writers better, men or women. Just as the need for more women in comics doesn’t mean we need fewer men. It’s not about flipping the switch and kicking out one gender, but rather about ensuring that no industry can remain a boys club for the rest of time.
We need to encourage the continuation of women in comics because their voices make comics better. Full stop. If we want to continue reading about female heroes and villains’ fantastic adventures, we need authors and artists who can accurately portray them. Misrepresentation doesn’t just lead to boring stories. It leads to real-world harm, including stereotyping, prejudice, and more.
So, how do we help push towards more women in comics? For most of us, we’ll never be on the hiring teams of comic companies or be able to provide grants to female creators. But we can do our best to ensure that we’re actively seeking out comics written and worked on by women. We can continue to pay the creators that we believe in to support their work. And finally, we can give them more visibility by promoting it the best we can. We can put our money where our mouth is and support the stories that we want to read, and not just the ones that have historically been given to us.
Celebrating International Women’s Day With The Many Women In Comics
March 8th, 2021, is International Women’s Day. We take this as an opportunity to celebrate the women around us and the ones that create our beloved entertainment, from comics to television shows. But most importantly, we consider it a day to reflect on how we can better support women every other day of the year – not just today.
Readers, what women in comics have you been reading lately? Please share your favorite female content creator with us in the comments!
Featured Image: Wonder Woman #750, DC Comics
Meghan Hale is a graduate student living right outside of Toronto, Canada. She has always been the go-to gal for talking about anything film related and has a frustratingly long list of movie trivia up her sleeve. She is currently working on her first screenplay, as well as a horror novel, with the goal of publishing it while Stephen King is still around to read it.