The Women of Marvel came to Comic-Con International: San Diego 2014 on Sunday to talk about women in comics, both creators and characters, and promised one Spider-related announcement to boot.
And thanks to the magic of prepared announcements, we can show you art to your right, and we'll tell you when they officially say what that image is for.
A packed dais was led by Marvel photo maven and digital producer Judy Stephens.
Adri Cowan (Marvel Social Media), Lorraine Cink (Marvel.com host), Alexis Auditore (manager of all props for Marvel Studios), Victoria Alonso EVP of Visual Effects, Katie Cook (Writer/Artist - new story in Spider-Verse, Rachelle Rosenberg (Marvel exclusive colorist), Erica Schultz (writer, Revenge), Joanna Estep (Artist FF 100th Anniversary), and rising star Marguerite Bennett (co-writer Angela: Assassin of Asgard), and finally E-i-C Axel Alonso.
"Axel is an honorary woman," Cink joked.
A short video message from Jeanine Schaffer and Sana Amanat welcoming people to the panel was played to kick things off. "Usually we're at this panel, and bummed we couldn't be there, but thank you so much for attending and have a blast! See you at New York Comic-Con where we will be at the Women of Marvel panel."
Stephens, Cowan, Jeanine and Sana do a bi-weekly podcast called Women of Marvel that recently launched.
Kelly Sue DeConnick also sent a video message. "The Women of Marvel Panel is always my favorite panel! You have some spectacular panelists," the writer of Captain Marvel said. "But before I hand you over to the crew, I want to take a moment to address the women out there who want to work in this industry: You. Can. Do it! Take a moment, make a friend, maybe someone in this room, start collaborating and make some comics now. If you start today, next year I could be reading your comics. I need more women in the industry, so do this for me."
The "All-New Marvel NOW!" female-centric titles were spotlit, followed by Storm #1, which just launched this week. "This really explores some conflict and development in her character, pick it up," Cowan said.
The Thor announcement was next, and had a huge reaction from the crowd. Victoria mentioned Hemsworth's shout-out yesterday about the new female Thor. Angela: Assassin of Asgard was next, followed by the announcement: Spider-Woman by Dennis Hopeless and Greg Land is launching this fall - more on that directly after the panel exclusively on Newsarama. That brings the line-up to ten ongoing titles led by female characters at Marvel.
The panelists further introduced themselves. Cink talked about how she blogged and did videos on her own, and got hired at Marvel through that work. Victoria Alonso has been with Marvel Studios since the beginning with Iron Man. Cowan was simply a big fan who then started writing about and doing podcasts about comics, worked at a comic store, networked and was brought in by Ryan Penagos. Schultz has been working in comics for 5 years. "I was an animator on the Astonishing X-Men motion comic, and that's how I met Axel. I did a creator-owned series for awhile, met editors, networked, and got a phone call from an editor about this book about ABC's Revenge."
Estep is "billed in Marvel press releases as 'newcomer artist,' but I've been an artist since 2004!" She's surprised, pleasantly by having people fill a room to see her talk. She echoed what others said, that networking, going to conventions, and just "bullheadedly shoving my portfolio in the direction of whatever Editor would talk to me," was how she first got started.
Auditore is in charge of props, costumes, and sets for Marvel Studios. She "went to undergrad and grad school for film producing," and wanted to be in the background side of film production.
Katie Cook started with Marvel via trading card licensing. "I did a really awful comic strip making fun of the Hulk as a webcomic, and Marvel asked if I wanted to put it in the back of an issue!" She's done some little strips and covers, and is excited to be working on Spider-Verse. She is also the lead writer of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic. "Normally I'm not a writer, I never wanted to do anything but be a cartoonist, and now I get to write full issues about pastel horses! That's how my life has gone. So it's awesome, comics, yaaaay!" She got lots of laughs and cheers from the crowd.
Rosenberg wanted to be an oil painter or do advertising when she was in college. She found out about the job of coloring and got really excited about it. After working on a couple of series for Image and other publishers, Marvel started looking at her work when she sent it to them, and after six months of working for them she's now exclusive.
Bennett said she's "26, terrified, and losing my voice so I don't know why I'm up here!" After taking a class from Scott Snyder, he helped groom her into comic book writing. "In June of this year I crossed the aisle to Marvel (after starting at DC) and now I'm really intimidated, because that's Katie Cook!" (who threw her arms up again in response).
With that, it ws time for Fan Q&A.
Q: As women, do you prefer to write/draw about female characters? And how do you avoid comic book stereotypes?
Schultz: "I'm really enjoying writing Emily from Revenge because she's already a really strong character. With my creator-owned work, i wrote a character who just really kicks butt but has a good feminine side. It is a conscious decision you have to make."
Cook: "I have a similar issue that I write a licensed book so they're pretty established. I have an advantage that every main character in the series is female - there's only one male on the show and he only says one word: 'Yup.' So he's basically the perfect man."
Q: How involved are the creators in movie or TV adaptations of the comics?
Victoria Alonso: "We have conversations - we also have film writers who come in and define the script form. There are a lot of people who bring a character to life. 1 or 2 or 3 define it, but through the years and decades, you have big changes in the characters' lives. It's a collaboration - sometimes it's less and sometimes it's more.
"I will talk about women in film in general though, becasue some of our greatest characters - though very few and I ask you all to keep asking for more. We also have very few filmmakers that are female at Marvel.
"But the actresses that we hire are incredibly smart, sexy, and incredibly good performers. When you look at Pepper Potts, Black Widow, Gamora, Scarlet Witch, Nebula - they have to be sexy because our characters are sexy, but so are the guys! They take their shirts off and we say 'yeaaaah' (applause)."
Axel Alonso: "Speaking to the stereotypes, I think you'll still find them but you'll find them less and less. If you look at our last wave of new titles like Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk, they're definitely not defined by their looks. We live in a world of pretty people, but hopefully not defined by their boobs."
Bennett: "Speaking to your first question, I try to write from life, and I've never met a weak woman, in my life. So that's why I write strong women."
Q: More Marvel movies, comics, cartoons that are aimed at young girls? Costumes at the Disney store?
Cook: "I for one would like more kids titles. I have two kids, believe it or not they let me have kids, and I'd like to have more to give them than My Little Pony because I hear that book is terrible," she joked.
Cowan, Alonso, and Schultz said to make sure to ask for it all, and publicly, it's the only way to get it done. Cink added that Her Universe now has the Marvel license, and makes those close just for women and girls.
Q: Love the Black Widow comic - movie or focus for her in film in the future?
V. Alonso: "Scarlett is a little bit busy being very pregnant right now, but there's always possibility. People say that movies can't open well when they're led by women: Lucy made $20 million more than Hercules this weekend in their openings. So if you keep making that happen, you will get Captain Marvel, you will get Black Widow, and more."
A question about bringing in more female creators was fielded by Axel Alonso, and he said they are actively trying to do that. "This isn't affirmative action, it's good capitalism - we want our characters and stories to better reflect all the people who we want to read them."
Q: How do you revive a character that hasn't been used in awhile?
Axel and Shultz both said that you need to try to find the unique bit, "then do a storyline where the only way to save the day is use a specific skillset and she's the one that has it."
Q: What is the significance to you of keeping female indicators in titles like Ms. Marvel or She-Hulk - are there positive impacts of that, or good or bad marketing implications of those?
V. Alonso: "I can't speak too much to the comics. But in the movies, if we had a She-Hulk, it would be ahrd to follow-up what she would be in film. So I'm half-in, half-out on whether to have the "She" in front of the name"
A. Alonso: "With Thor, she is Thor, she holds the hammer and the title. Lady Thor or She-Thor was never on the table."
Cowan: "Seeing the behind the scenes stuff, yes, having the indicator is helpful or has been, but now we're seeing some without the indicator and it is starting to change things."
Estep: "When Captain Marvel started with a female lead and no indicator did make me feel really good, I liked that they were focusing on her being a Captain, not a woman."
Q: What can fans do to get more female-led (creatively or character wise) comics from Marvel?
A. Alonso: "Support the books. It was people dressing up as Captain Marvel at Emerald City Comic-Con that made us give that book a second wind. We saw that it was catching on. There is a challenge inherent in launching new titles. It's as hard to launch a Black Panther as it is to launch a Black Widow. This has changed recently, and we are making progress."
V. Alonso: "I want to tell you, we take you seriously. You don't understand the power that you have over what we do day in and day out. I work twenty hours a day to make sure that the imagery we bring to film is the best we can bring you. When we do see more Captain Marvels, more Gamoras, more Black Widows, we see that and it matters. The women and the men behind us care about what you love and what you want represented. Take that to heart because we take you to heart!"