NYCC 2011: WOMEN of MARVEL Panel

Preview: X-23 #15 Guest-Starring The FF

There has certainly been a lot of discussion of the role of women in comics — including our own "Pro-Girls" series — as of late, and Sunday morning on the final day of New York Comic Con brought Marvel's "Women of Marvel" panel.

Moderated by editor Jeanine Schaefer, the panel consisted of creators Colleen Coover, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Sara Pichelli, Emma Rios, Marjorie Liu and editors Lauren Sankovitch, Sana Amanat and Ellie Pyle.

DeConnick started the panel by asking any female aspiring characters to stand up, and for the crowd to give them some applause — and then said the fact that those women are at a Marvel panel was evidence that females do indeed read superhero comics.

Schaefer went directly to audience Q&A after introductions, with the first fan asking if the panel truly perceives a "problem" for women in comics. Coover said she didn't really see a glass ceiling for women in comics, but DeConnick disagreed.

"I don't believe there are people going, 'Don't go Kelly Sue that job, she's a chick. She's going to try to write it with her vagina,'" DeConnick answered. "But I do think that sociologically and historically, this genre in particular has grown up in such a way that I can only count two women in the last 15 to 20 years who I would consider having made it to A-list writer status. I would have trouble finding women at A-list artist status. And I think that is beyond curious. We are 50 percent of the population. I don't think we have a shortage of talent.

"There is nothing inherently masculine about the pulp aesthetic," DeConnick continued. "There is nothing inherently masculine about heroism."

Coover countered that she feels the issue is fueled by a problem with diversity in the genre, and that superhero comics with more romance, horror or "funky humor" could attract more females.

Liu shared her thoughts that the perception that it's difficult to women to break into comics may cause a barrier in and of itself.

"It's intimidating to walk into a big room of guys," Amanat agreed.

Another lengthy topic of discussion was the "male gaze" — the notion that superhero comic books are presented from a male perspective, with female characters frequently drawn in a highly sexualized fashion. DeConnick dismissed the idea that impossibly buff male characters is an equal representation — "dudes, that's for you. it's not for us."

DeConnick then described a scene in one of her comics — which went unnamed — that featured a pose "so bad that we put a word balloon over her butt."

"I don't mean to suggest that it is not a fun thing to look at people who are sexually attractive, but what we decide is sexually attractive is a thing to think about," DeConnick said. "When we've got butts and boobs both facing front, something's wrong."

Other topics discussed included how the panelists first started reading comic books — the '90s X-Men cartoon was important for many of them — and Coover's advice to aspiring creators to seek a wide range of influence and that, "If you won't do it for free, then you don't have the discipline to do it for money."

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