This morning, I hit the Friends of Lulu-sponsored panel on the representation of women in comics, moderated by writer Abby Denson.
Robin Furth, writer behind the Dark Tower Stephen King adaptations, Mariko Tamaki (writer of the Minx book Emiko Superstar, among others) and her cousin, artist Jillian Tamaki, editor Calista Brill of First Second books, and Chris Butzer of Rabid Rabbit.
The Tamakis agreed that there were lots of amazing, incredible, diverse voices of women in comics outside of the superhero world.
Mariko joked, “Cheers if you’re wearing a homemade catsuit here today,” and Robin Firth agreed. “It’s how you wear it.”
The problem, in other words, isn’t the outfits. “The frustrating thing is when you never see yourself in comics,” Mariko said. “The power of being in this position is that you can put yourself out there.”
Furth noted that the range of body types in comics is expanding.
Jillian noted that even when male writers write sympathetic female characters with a range of body types, the bodies end up being fetishized to some degree (for example, the Hernandez Brothers’ work).
“I got really good at being a boy,” Furth said, pointing out that she grew up on adventure stories and she was never in them. She said as well that when she appeared at a con in England, people expected a man and were surprised to see her show up.
The authors noted that women and men should all be able to write for women or men, and of all ages.
“What is pushing the boundaries in one time period then becomes the norm in another,” Jillian said, pointing out that there are lots of women in underground and indie comics. She compared it to cooking, an interesting metaphor, because many women are cooks but top chefs tend to be male.
Chris Butzer, the only man on the panel, noted, “Comics have always been an outsider’s art form.”
Butzer said that he wants to work on a historical comic about Harriet Tubman geared at an adult audience, rather than children, so he can properly deal with the real historical complexity of the character.
Furth noted that the culture is changing and the popular perception of women and what they can do is changing as well.
Mariko pointed out that the women at the indie shows are doing comics on their own, not being supported and making a living at it. “The question is, how do we filter these stories into the mainstream? Because it would be nice to see women making a living at comics,” she said.