Comic Con 2010: Day Four

There were only three main goals for the Con on Day 4 – the Women of Marvel Panel and to secure Robert Kirkman and Peter David’s signature (and nerdily gush to them about how much I love their work).

We arose at a reasonable Comic Con hour of 8am, stuffed our crap into bags, checked out and grabbed our last poorly organized shuttle to the Convention Center (screw you National City Holiday Inn, screw you!).

The aftermath of a week at Comic Con

We lugged our bags immediately to Bag Check, marveling at the eerily empty Hall H line. Once checked, we scuttled over to a 2/3s empty room for the Women of Marvel panel. I wanted this to be one of the highlights of the convention.

Unfortunately, it just wasn’t.

THE WOMEN OF MARVEL PANEL

It started out on a pretty good note, and the questions were mostly all supportive, engaging and informative. The featured guests (from left to right in the photo below) are Kathryn Immonen, Judy Stephens, Marjorie Liu, Laura Martin and Christina Strain.

The Women of Marvel panel

However, it started to unravel towards the end when Strain (who up to that point had been my favorite panelist) uttered the fateful words “primarily men read superhero comics.” It was in the last five or so minutes of the panel, and I desperately wanted to know why the panelists (aka MARVEL) think that is the case. These are women in the superhero industry, working inside of the major publishing companies. They have an opportunity to explore that assumption, turn it on it’s head and invite more women back into the superhero world.

Yes, I say BACK. I think there was a time when superhero books were for women, but I think we’ve been shoved out in the last decade by publishing companies that fail (like so many other entertainment venues) to recognize the female audience as existing.

It’s fucking offensive to purchase a Comic Con ticket, spend four days walking around with an equal mix of male and female nerds and then be told by a woman who works for Marvel that as far as their concerned, I am not a relevant factor in their mainstream books. WTF!?!?

Perhaps it was my exhaustion, frustration with the Avengers movie cast and general disposition towards the unfair and untrue assumption that superhero books are for boys, but I found myself seething in anger by the end of the panel. Especially since the last two questions were essentially “why does there need to be a woman of marvel panel?”

It’s a totally valid question, which none of the women addressed. They were simply shilling how “good times” and “equal opportunity” the Marvel world is…when that’s absolutely not the perception by the fanbase. The studs that get trotted out of the stable and posted all over the Top 10 Famous Comic Book Creators are primarily men.

OK, so maybe they weren’t there to address the under-representation of female characters in comic books. I can understand that. I was completely fine with learning more about them as artists and perhaps finding myself compelled to pick up some of their work.

But the can of worms was opened (interestingly enough, by two male questioners) and it was not handled well or honestly.

The Women of Marvel panel exists because there are very few women artists in the spotlight in the comic book industry, and there are lots of women reading comic books who want to know more about women creating comic books.

It doesn’t matter at this point. I feel quite defeated. By the time I had worked up the nerve and frustration – I didn’t get to ask my question and the panel ended 10 minutes early and tons of families and children were entering for the Hot Wheels panel immediately following.

Basically, the last 10 minutes erased a lot of the progress and interesting points being raised by the women (especially about how creepy some comic book shops can be). There was even an awesome moment where a comic book shop proprietor asked how he could be more inclusive of women. I thought the panelists did a great job of answering that question.

But fuck. I mean…I spent a lot of money, time and energy to attend this event and make myself known as a fan (and a Marvel fan) to the industry, but it’s clear to me at this point that women (minorities as well) are still so back of the bus in mainstream comic books it’s enough to make me want to give up on mainstream books completely.

So yeah…that kinda put a damper on the next 20 minutes or so, but then things turned around when I spotted Jo Chen and Andy Owens signing at the Dark Horse booth. We got Andy Owens signature on our Buffy #1 (it’s my goal to get the signatures of everyone featured on that issue) and Jo Chen signed our Dark Horse autograph book. I wanted to chat with her a bit, but the line was long and we needed to rush over to Peter David.

But Dan had been stopped by a dude with a video camera, and Erin informed me he was being video-taped for a documentary about Joss Whedon (he was sporting his Jayne shirt at the time). We stood off to the side until he was done, and then the dude noticed the Buffy #1 comic, so we started chatting about Joss and he videotaped me waxing effusive about the Whedonverse. So potentially Dan and I could be in a Joss-umentary. Hmph.

Joss Whedon Documentary filming

We didn’t have much time to ponder because the Peter David signing was calling our name. Ugh. Could major booths like Marvel and WB be any less informative about where and when lines are forming? We got into a line with some other PAD enthusiasts…only to realize that the signing was happening on the other side of the booth. And the Marvel booth is freaking huge!

The line was ugly and jutted out into one of the main thoroughfares and at some point we were standing right in front of the Captain America shield (one of the movie props) so I thought fangirls and boys were going to murder me if I didn’t get out of the way of their cameras. But the line eventually started moving and it was a pleasure to chat with the dude in line ahead of us who was also wanting to get his MadroX book signed. He even handed off his Futurama Fulfillment ticket to us (ah, the joys of the fulfillment room).

Right before the PAD signing, the lady behind me in line introduced herself to one of the artists as STORM from FREAKING AMERICAN GLADIATORS (1990-95). I almost peed myself with surprise and excitement. I used to LOVE that show as a kid, and couldn’t believe I was in line front of her. Well yeah, got to shake her hand. Awesome.

It didn't happen if there's not a photo, right? It's Storm from American Gladiators!

Then it was Peter David time. I made sure to be calm and semi-coherent in thanking him for bringing me back into the superhero comic fold and writing one of my favorite X-Series. He was cool enough to let me snap a pic with him and then it was over like that.

Peter David. Another entry in the "Awkward Pictures with Comic Book Writers and Artists Gallery"

Hmmm. I wish we could have met under a different circumstance. And that I had asked him about the potential for more Fallen Angel stories. Perhaps another time, another con? Comic Con is so massive, there doesn’t seem to be much opportunity for the kind of connection I’ve experienced with artists at other events. Boo to that.

Then – we hightailed it over to the Image booth for the Robert Kirkman signing. Earlier we’d snagged a ticket with a # and the idea was to return to the booth to check in on what number they were servicing…therefore eliminating a need for a line. Well, people were so used to queuing by Day 4 that a line formed anyway, and I sort of felt like a heathen when we cut in front of it (because we had the appropriate number!!)…and we would have been cutting in front of a little boy. We let him go first, and Kirkman was super cool to the kid, even giving him a free comic book.

Then it was my turn. Dan was there this time, so we both ended up chatting with Kirkman. He signed our Marvels Zombies #1, the Walking Dead TPB #1 and a Walking Dead T-Shirt I hurriedly purchased.

I thanked him for writing one of my favorite series, congratulated him on the success and asked if he was planning on writing any future episodes…he responded with “there’s the potential.” Charlie Adlard, the artist, joked that he should stop writing the comic book for TV and of course we said he definitely could not do that. Another pic was snapped…and that was the tail end of my Comic Con wish-list being fulfilled.

Crazy faces - more awkwardness!

It was around 2pm by the time we checked off the last items on our agenda. So the final business was all logistics, such as getting our swag at the fulfillment room (Captain America, Thor and Cowboys & Aliens T-Shirts), unchecking our bags, flagging a Taxi and getting to the airport.

Goodbye Comic Con 2010!

The madness didn’t stop there…our flight on Alaska from San Diego to Portland had been changed to a commuter plane with a lay-over at LAX. If you’ve never ridden a commuter plane before…it’s incredibly tiny, about half the size of a regular Boeing 737. You actually go out onto the tarmac and climb up a flight of stairs to board.

We finally departed LAX around 9:15pm, and ended up seated next to a comic book artist who lives in Portland and works for BOOM Studios! (which is a Disney property). She draws Muppet comics. We chatted about the convention (she drunkenly met Joss Whedon at 2am in an elevator). She’s originally from England (but spent time in Australia) so she had a delightful accent.

We chatted until about 15 minutes after the plane took off, then I passed out on Dan’s sun-burned shoulder and didn’t wake up until 15 minutes before the final descent.

It’s always such a pleasure to fly back into Portland. I never know how much I love and miss this city (and everyone in it, including my furry bastard children) until I’m hovering above it, preparing to land.

Comic Con – you were a wild, strange, frustrating, exciting,  joyful, sometimes scary, oftentimes exhilirating, enormous moment in my life. Thanks for taking my mind off of everything that’s been happening lately. Even though I didn’t get to lounge by a pool or play in the ocean…you gave me perspective. You were a decided break from the real world, just when I needed it.

Stay tuned tomorrow for more pictures and videos that didn’t make the blog yet – including amazing costumes, The Walking Dead panel and more!

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About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 29 year old woman with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Minor in Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson and two pugs, Sunny and Jabba. She spends her free time devouring books, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

10 responses to “Comic Con 2010: Day Four”

  1. Michael says :

    Man, I’m really bummed to hear about your experience with the Women of Marvel panel, but I think that’s something we can dig into in much greater detail later – and something that we’ve kind of chatted about before.

    On the positive side, though, big ups for the possibility of the Whedon film, and getting to meet and talk to Krikman. PAD’s an interesting writer, I’m glad you got all three of your huge goals accomplished.

    Looking forward to more.

  2. Addie says :

    Preach, sister, about the Women of Marvel panel.

    I think there’s another issue here that they were failing to recognize. Part of the perception of comic books as a medium being unfriendly to women has to do with the content of the books itself. When you look at the source of the content and see that it’s all men, you make a correlation. Female creators are needed to make a change, and it’s good to see that they exist, but when they themselves aren’t addressing that correlation between the problematic content and the negative perception they’re trying to dispel, we have a problem.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the male marketing flack who was there to calm anything over if the discussion did get heated.

  3. Erica McGillivray says :

    That definitely was a downer note to end the Women in Marvel panel on. Seriously, freaking sad. I’m tired of being told that women don’t read comic books, especially superhero comic books. Like we’re not people with varied interests in different things or something.

    • tinyheroes says :

      It was especially frustrating because the mix of people at the Con clearly shows that men and women are equally as into superheroes and geek culture as dudes. But still, no love from the women panel.

      I understand that they were speaking from their limited perspectives, and to some extent job security makes them silent or leery about speaking up regarding the clear gender issues with many comic books, but it was frustrating as hell to hear these women gush about how much they love comic books, and then continue selling the tired story that they’re mostly for boys. Ugh. UGH!

      So turned off by mainstream publishers at the moment. I really need something dramatic and dazzling to suck me back in. :\

  4. Christina Strain says :

    Hey! Sorry the last part of the panel was a downer for you. :( If you’d like to email me and talk to me about some stuff, I’m totally open to it. I wish we had longer at the panel cause I also felt like there wasn’t enough time to address the “why is there a women of marvel panel” question fully.

    This is the third year I’ve been on this panel and every year we seem to cover different topics. The first year we went more in depth into the “boys read comics more than girls” thing and all of us were really candid about it. A lot of it boils down to demographic and while I know people hate to hear it, it really is true, “more dudes read more superhero comics than girls.”

    I think the biggest frustration for me when it comes to gender issues in comics is that I don’t like people telling me things I know are not true or how quick people are to keep up the perception that comics are an all boys club.

    I know girls read mainstream marvel and dc superheroes.
    I know girls want to work on mainstream marvel and dc superhero comics.
    I know that there are substantially less women who work in mainstream dc and marvel comics than men. I know ALL of these things.

    The other thing I know is that more men read my comics than women. It really is a simple fact. Runaways, Fathom, and MJ aside, I sign more comics I’ve worked on for men than women by a staggering number.

    And here’s where it gets tricky and debatable, what does Marvel do about this? Do they continue to cater to men seeing as it’s mostly men (and I mean men, cause it’s not even boys now) who buy their products, or do they take risks and create books for women as a means to draw them in? I’ve worked on both types of books and it’s not really an easy answer.

    About 7 years ago Marvel did Runaways, MJ, Power Pack, Jubilee, and and other books I’m sure I don’t know about or can’t remember right now. How many of those are still around? I mean, you’re talking to someone who literally cried talking on the panel like a moron, (YOU SAW ME!!!) and I can’t tell you how crushed I was AS A FAN when Runaways ended. But even then, I had to be grateful cause our numbers had ALWAYS put us on the edge of being cancelled, (even in the beginning of the series) so it’s amazing that we lasted as long as we did. Marvel just can’t continue to produce series that don’t make them money, it wouldn’t make sense for them to do that business wise.

    I seriously worked on the book that is generally considered at Marvel to be the Marvel superhero book that people who don’t read superhero books read.. and it was cancelled due to poor sales numbers.

    But then I’ve also colored World War Hulk and Marvel and I’ve both made a TON of money on that book. And out of the insane number of copies of it I’ve signed, I can maybe remember… less than 10 girls asking me to sign it. And realistically, it’s books like these that keep the company rolling and makes it possible for Marvel to take the risks in making a book like Runaways.

    So while people argue that there are several women who read comics, and I don’t doubt it at all, I can tell you first hand that the number of women who read superhero comics are no where close to the number of guys. And this all goes back to what I was saying on the panel, the only way you’re going to change the demographic and the way Marvel makes comics is to change who buys the comics.

    So there’s the conundrum. Some girls like superhero comics, but not as many as guys who like superhero comics, so Marvel addresses their tastes more than girls because they’re a business and need to stay in business, and you want them to stay in business, cause you want to keep reading their superhero comics… and the cycle starts over.

    And then this ALL ties into why there aren’t a lot of women working in mainstream comics… cause not nearly as many women trying to get in as men. Seriously. In Europe it’s a totally different story, but in the US the number of women applying to Marvel is CRAZY LOWER than dudes.

    Lastly, addressing your comment, “it was frustrating as hell to hear these women gush about how much they love comic books, and then continue selling the tired story that they’re mostly for boys.” you have to understand that we are telling Marvel stories and we are Marvel employees. Hell, I’m not even a writer, I’m a colorist, so it’s not like I even have the power to direct the story, I’m just hanging on for dear life and making the prettiest color art possible. Marvel is fantastic in the freedom that they give us to make awesome sauce comics, but at the same time, they are hiring us to do books that will sell to their audience, and if their audience is mostly men… you see where this is going.

    I really participate on these panels cause I want to express to people that it’s not a scary place to work, so I want more women to want to work in comics, but first I WANT them to read comics. It’s realistically the only way anything is going to change and while I look forward to the day where a panel about being a woman in comics is pretty silly, right now I just want to spread as much love as possible so that more people WANT to read comics and participate in them.

    I really DO love story telling and comic books. I’m sorry we were disappointing to you at the end of the panel. :( Please feel free to come talk to us after panels if you’d like (if you ever want to risk coming to another one of these again) I feel really bad that you walked away frustrated, it totally is the opposite of what I wanted you to feel. :(

    -Christina

    • tinyheroes says :

      So – a total dick move by me is responding a week later to your honest and heartfelt comment. I am sorry for that. I typed up a response last Wednesday but it was accidentally erased (true story), and last week in general was rife with all sorts of personal bullshit.

      Yes – my response is a long time in coming (at least on the internets, where time speeds up) but I wanted to address things you said rationally and reasonably.

      Here it goes: I don’t believe that you – Christina Strain – are directly responsible for all the shitty things in the world that make it male-dominated and oft-times misogynistic. But as a representative of Marvel, there is some ownership that can be taken for how Marvel represents it’s female characters and caters to it’s smallish female fanbase.

      Since ladies are voracious readers (more so than men), and we also purchase movie tickets, it never fails to frustrate me that we are continuously overlooked as being a demographic at all. Maybe if comic books were made for girls and women, there would be more girls and women reading them. I never personally felt a social stigma at 12 years old about being a girl reading comic books. In fact, two of my best friends and I haunted our local comic shop and watched the X-Men Animated Series with wild abandon. We were much more slavishly devoted than my brother. And in the tag-team relationship with my husband – I am much more comic book inclined than he is.

      But superhero comic books have pretty much lost me as a fan. It’s based on a wide variety of things, but many of which resonate as being particularly female. Like Rogue’s ridiculous side-boob outfit, which has inspired me to stop collecting the X-Series until someone fixes that shit. The upskirts. The side characters. The women in refrigerator type manuevers.

      I’ve started reading TPBs of superhero books only. It’s a sad fact, but something I feel driven to, rather than compelled by. And that is if I can muster the fortitude for that – if I’m not turned off by the ridiculous over-sexualization of the females to their discredit and to distraction.

      Perhaps if Marvel really believed that primarily men (20s-40s) were reading their books, they wouldn’t feel the need for such sexosity. Because dudes have the whole internetz devoted to porn. Can comic books just be a space where the ladies and mens are dressed appropriately. Like you would probably want to dress if you were out fighting crime or saving the world.

      It’s a relief to hear that Marvel is a safe and comfortable place for women to work. That is certainly very heartening. And it seems that Marvel is attempting to take steps towards building up a female fanbase…but I’m not quite sure where the disconnect is.

      From an outside perspective, it seems like the easiest thing in the world. As may be evidenced by Twilight and the Millenium Trilogy and a thousand other movies and books – women want to buy fantastical and awesome (and sometimes just mediocre) products featuring fantastical and awesome (and sometimes mediocre) women. Women nerds and geeks of all ages and sizes are salivating for something that resonates with them in the comic book world. Role models. People they can aspire to be.

      Don’t get me wrong. I don’t always need women in my books, movies or video games. I can appreciate a well-rounded character as much as the next person. It just doesn’t seem so difficult to make great characters, illustrate them well – and make them an equal number of men and women.

      As a publishing company struggling with the decline of comic book readership world-wide, it’s to Marvel’s benefit to cater to women. We can carry large franchises with our palms gripping sweaty fists of cash JUST AS WELL or MORE SO than men. Again – I refer to Twilight and True Blood as exhibits A and B.

      I don’t think this is anytime for either Marvel or DC to overlook the awesome purchasing power of the female gender. And figure out how to bring us back to the books.

      I remember a time in the 90s where Emma Frost was a bad guy, Rogue was decently costumed, and Jubilee wasn’t a bad word whispered by top Marvel writers and artists. (Yes, this is a pointed comment about Matt Fraction, who dissed Jubilee in our local Portland Mercury paper). But this decade has felt the opposite of inclusive. There’s been a lot of back-pedal in regards to inclusiveness in our popular culture – with women and minorities taking the brunt of it.

      Marvel is just following suit. I get that. I wish it wouldn’t though. I wish when I went to my comic book store and spotted the shelves full of top comic book writers…there was more than just one woman (Gail Simone).

      Marvel’s current campaign to be more inclusive is inspiring, and I’ve started purchasing more books because of it (please pass that word along to them). But there’s still some underlying bullshit that needs to fade out before I can embrace superheroes once more. Being burned recently by the cancellation of Spider Woman and Bat Woman has made me somewhat distrustful of investing time, money and energy into female-centric superhero books at the moment.

      If Marvel wants females to treat comic books as serious forms of entertainment, we need Marvel to treat women consumers and fans seriously.

      Thanks again for opening up the dialogue and taking the time to comment on the blog – despite the week long hiatus, it really does mean a lot to me as a fan, a woman, and a person! Runaways was a fantastic series, and my hope is that one day it will be able to return to the fold.

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