2014 marks the biggest year for New York Comicon yet as it out numbered the long running San Diego Comic Con, making it the biggest comic convention in the US. Thousands of female attendees painted the Jarvis Center in Manhattan with their unique costumes; Harley Quinn, Princess Leia, Wonder Woman, Bat Girl, various anime characters, Game of Thrones characters, and I spotted a few characters taken from HBO’s The Leftovers that were garbed in white, holding a clip board, and constant cigarette inhalation.
The usual nerd panels were in place; Comicbook Men, The Walking Dead, etc… But the only panels I felt compelled to get involved with were the variety of feminist panels at our disposal. This was a big year for the female attendees. Granted, there were only 32 female artists out of 327 comic guests but the amount of support and strong female presence was in high volume.
The best of the panels was undoubtedly the Women in Queer Comics, presented by PRISM Comics. Trans woman, activist, and creator of Dirtyheads, Tara Madison Avery, moderated the panel with artists Jennifer Camper (Bitch Magazine,) Elizabeth Fernandez (The Code Crimson,) Joan Hilty (Bitter Girl,) Ariel Schrag (Adam,) and P. Kristen Enos (Web of Lies) along for the ride. What separates this panel from the rest is the simple fact that all the others were staffed by males. The ladies opened up about how their sexual identities shaped their writing, some using their own experiences and translating them into their autobiographical work. It’s hard for society to take queer comics seriously but the comic book world has progressed significantly throughout the years with the pimply white male no longer dominating the industry. Jennifer Camper took my breath away as she amplified the issue of comics portraying lesbian sex poorly. Lesbian sex isn’t always sweet. Thank you for augmenting the comic book world’s education by showing them just how lesbians fuck. The panel ended with an adorable young female attendee having to shout out her question due to mic complications and the boisterous white boy panels next door which I found vexatious and disrespectful. It seems every time one of these ladies tried to speak, loud music and shouting coated their voice.
A Sunday panel discussed transgender themes in comics with a historical illustration of trans characters. In the past, cross dressing had been recycled for comedic objectives and plot points. Artist Kristen Enos pointed out, “One of the key things is that when it’s a male character dressing as a female character, not only is it a disguise but also the idea that he’s less threatening and he’s easy to take on as a target.” Alongside Enos were artists Gail Simone, Morgan Boecher, and moderator Charles Battersby. Boecher made an excellent point that if you’re not revealing who you truly are, what’s underneath your clothes, then you’re not an honest person. Then she commented further that trans persons shouldn’t be expected to divulge everything about what’s under their clothes when cisgenders do not have to do the same on a daily basis.
The “Mary, Do or Kill? What will it take to shatter female stereotypes in comics?” panel featured Enrica Jang, Jennie Wood, Erica Schultz, Dennis Calero, Andy Schmidt, Claire Connelley, Shaun Noel, A.K. Lovelace and Ellie Pyle. The panelist were direct and agreed that there was no right answer but that the writers needed to do away with lazy storytelling. The discussion opened with the F bomb being thrown around like confetti, “Are there any fucking kids in here?” Followed by a nod to the haters who are intent on calling these women ugly trolls which lead to a discussion of WiHM. I suggested that we do have our fair share of angry males who call us ugly trolls and feminizes and that topic lead to one of the artists telling me a story about how she wanted to cry and throw her laptop across the room after reading what a man had to say about her online. The best advice she could give is to stop reading what these types have to say, “Do not read the comments. What you’re doing is important and if it’s important to you then it’s important to other people. FUCK EM!” It’s a shame that society values physical beauty more than they should. When the artist draws the average body type, they’re seen as fat trolls. They’re not seen as PEOPLE and they’re criticized for having breasts that are either too big or too small. I felt that the panel got the best of both worlds as far as opinions go. One of the artists commented, “If I had super powers I would wear high heels all the time,” while acknowledging the fact that one of the other ladies disagreed with this sentiment.
The anti-bullying panel was a success along with the new anti-harassment policy that was well received with a zero tolerance draft by The Mary Sue. The signs read, “Cosplay is not consent. Please keep your hands to yourself. If you would like to take a picture with or of another NYCC fan, always ask first and respect that person’s right to say no. When at New York Comic Con, be respectful, be nice, be cool and be kind to each other.” On top of all these strong panels, “Women of Color in Comics: Race, Gender, and the Comic Book Medium,” took place with a large audience happy to attend the discussion. All of these panels had large groups with diversity and that’s something I least expected. However, “#WeNeedDiverse Comic Books” was less successful and the panel was missing one of their diverse members!
Female artists appear to be coming up in the Marvel world with their heads held high. Look forward to a Women’s History Month in March that will feature artists like Jill Thompson and Stephanie Hans among many others. Unfortunately, I missed out on the Women of Marvel panel. While I’m taking a moment to discuss important announcements that took place, Scott Allie of the Buffyverse comics is calling a quits after 16 years of dedication. You can find a video with the interview online. The Buffy comics and Dark Horse in general happen to be my favorites so this was distressing news. Amber Benson, who played a lesbian character on the show, happily autographed some of her books. The Witches of Echo Park will be available in January. She played a fun little multi-round game of Fuck/Marry/Kill and posted it on her Facebook. I was not present for the Buffy panel because I didn’t know it was actually happening. I would have loved to be involved with a discussion on the strong female characters in the series.
Now I’m not saying that there are no strong characters in comic books. That would be ludicrous. However, it’s not often we see strong female characters carrying a brain and a bodacious figure all in one. A great example of strong and sexy female characters is the roller derby comic “Roller Grrrls.” I received some free art work due to my past involvement with roller derby. This breastfeeding mother caught my eye. The majority of the girls involved with roller derby are mothers.
Overall, I have to say that I was very impressed with the panels and the anti-harassment memo. The attendees felt right at home with neighbors who are able to empathize. So there you go. Do not read the comics and enough of the lazy storytelling. Have a little diversity in your characters.
If you live in the New York area, do not miss out on the first ever university based LGBTQ comics conference taking place next May.