“You can’t be what you can’t see.” Marie Wilson's famous words ring through all industries and careers, even those of artists. There has been great discussion lately in regard to women’s portrayal in the media both on the screen and from behind the screen. Now, women within comics and illustration are coming together to address their presence in the industry and how female protagonists are portrayed. Strong Female Protagonists is a panel discussion featuring women in comics, and it will take place Tuesday, April 1st at 7:00pm in the SVA Amphitheatre. This event brings together a diverse group of internationally recognized creators and editors for a discussion of the history and dynamics of women working as both creators and behind the scenes in American comics.
It is clear to see how female protagonists are often senselessly sexualized and reduced to sidekicks or temporary characters. Web comic Strong Female Protagonist, created by Brennan Lee Mulligan, aims to change this trend by focusing on Alison Green, a “former superhero and current college student.” The comic follows the life and times of a SFP who is emotionally and physically complex. Green is “not content with just punching bad guys, leading to an entire reevaluation of what makes one powerful, and, especially, what makes one a hero.” Green also proves two crucial points about comic book heroines: one, you can wear more than spandex, and two, you can achieve more than senseless violence.
Female characters are subject to degrading costumes, cliché roles and characteristics, and they are subject to sexual violence. This violence against super heroines such as Black Cat, Captain Marvel (previously Ms. Marvel) and Rogue is too commonplace. Their roles can be so much more than that, and the sexual violence portrayed against them shouldn’t define their characters. Diversifying characters allows for the plot to expand, exploring new realms and topics. A gender divide shouldn’t interfere with the quality of comics. Blatant sexism is abound within the comic book industry and can only be cured by awareness and new artists who foster change.
Semi-optimistically, Kick-Ass’ Hit Girl was born out of creator Mark Millar’s need to “create something for my daughter,” yet he sadly denies interest in introducing more and more female protagonists. Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn believes “comic books aren’t the right platform for female-centric stories” as they’re a “high-testosterone sort of story-telling." This could not be less historically accurate, beginning with Wonder Woman back in the 70s, Batgirl, Raven, and the Runaway Girls (not based on musicians, but equally full of teen angst and rebellion).
The panel will feature women creators and editors of different generations, including Raina Telgemeier, creator of Smile and Drama, Diane Noomin, creator of Glitz-2-Go and editor of the seminal Twisted Sisters anthologies, Shelly Bond, Executive Editor of Vertigo comics, and more. "The potential of comics is limitless and exciting" leading comics theorist Scott McCloud wrote. These leading ladies are here to prove that to the public once and for all, and hopefully inspire a few minds to contribute to the industry while they are at it.
Panelists will discuss the role of women in comic narratives, career advice, and personal history, followed by audience Q&A. The event is presented in conjunction with the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art and is organized by SVA Career Development and Keith Mayerson, Cartooning Coordinator.
This event is free and open to the public, so please register here to attend.