The Women of Marvel panel on Sunday was at a "normal, reasonable hour" this year, began moderator Jeanine Schaefer, and not at "ass o'clock in the morning like it normally is." Featuring Kelly Sue DeConnick (Captain Marvel), Sarah Pichelli (Ultimate Spider-Man), Janet Lee (Northanger Abbey), Emily Shaw, Stephanie Hans, Laura Sankovitch, Ellie Pyle, Sana Amanat, and Judy Stephens, this discussion was packed to the gills with talented comics professionals.
The first thing tackled was a recap of some relevant announcements Marvel had made over the weekend like the newly re-designed She-Hulk by Charles Soule and Javier Pulido, and the upcoming Black Widow by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto. In addition, the continuation of titles like X-Men, Captain Marvel (the news of the relaunch actually came a few hours later during the Spider-Man and Friends panel), and Avengers Assemble (with Warren Ellis) were mentioned.
Before the Q&A started, DeConnick said, "How many ladies we have in the room? Okay, so any notion that anyone has about ladies not reading comics or ladies not reading superhero comics… We're setting that aside and we're not addressing that anymore. It's over."
She then asked all the ladies in the audience with an interest in working in the industry to stand up, look around, and make friends. "Because you are going to need each other. We need you, we want you, you all have unique voices and gifts. So I need you to start making comics. Start now. Every creative endeavor is difficult and and frightening. Get your shitty comics out of the way now, it's part of the process. It doesn't make you a bad artist. Make your mistakes now. Don't be afraid of them." The Women of Marvel panel has been doing this since DeConnick began it in 2009.
The first question from the audience begat a quick aside about the importance of pre-ordering your comics. "Comic sales are not by sales in the shop, but by units shipped. So if you want to support a book, pre-order."
When asked what character the women would like to see get her own title, the immediate answer from the panel and audience was Jessica Drew. Amanat mentioned that Rogue would be a good option, and DeConnick stated "I would read a Mystique book and I would read a Storm book."
Another audience member began her question by saying that her friend thinks that she makes too big a deal out of the issue of female representation. "She's wrong," said DeConnick immediately. "It matters, it matters. It's a big deal. I'm willing to be disliked, I'm willing to be called names, I'm willing to make people uncomfortable so that my daughter doesn't have to."
"I was Smurfette on the Avengers panel yesterday," she added. "Like, no! I believe Axel was the only person of color on stage. It's not good enough. I appreciate and I am proud of the progress that is being made, and I don't want to sweep it under the table. But this job ain't done, no one sit down."
The next question was what the ladies wanted the main takeaway for readers to be in regards to female representation.
"I think that it's very similar to the comics industry itself," said Amanat. "We all kind of felt like outsiders in our own way, and I feel like you can use that medium to reach marginalized readers. It really doesn't matter, you've just gotta get out of your own head and onto a flying motorcycle. I feel very lucky as a minority, I try to use the books that I do to try and be inclusive, and try and have different types of messages."
"I think the message is that we are all human beings," said DeConnick. "There is no 'other.' White males are human beings, but they're aren't the default human being."
One audience member asked what readers could do to spread the knowledge about these great female characters like Sif and Captain Marvel.
"Cosplaying!" said Stephens. "It's like a word of mouth without speaking. Walking around this convention you see cosplayers and you're like 'Maybe I'll pick that book up.' And you might be doing it without even realizing it."
"We do our best to create content that is going to represent the world in all its forms," noted Amanat. "We need you to go into your comic shop and buy two copies of these comics and give one to someone who doesn't know anything about comics. We physically need you to pay the three extra dollars."
A request for anecdotes about dealing with sexism was next. Amanat began with, "My first job in comics I dealt with a male boss. He made me feel really bad about the fact that I knew nothing about comics. I just read Archie and watched the X-Men show. It made me feel really crappy… and then that company went under and I got a job at Marvel!"
"I was sketching at my table in the artist's alley," said Pichelli "At one point he said,'You're really talented for being a lady. But my response was a big smile. I let my work do the talking. This is going to happen very often, I know that. So I am ready with a smile."
"Sometimes spite is the only reason I get out of bed in the morning," said DeConnick. "I use it as fuel. I was talking with someone who had a problem about my promotional image photo because I wasn't smiling. But I was trying to be generous and set my boundary. Most people have the best intentions, but are just blowing it. Defend your boundaries."
The panel wrapped up after that, stating that next year they are clearly going to need a bigger room.