There’s an old argument that says women aren’t as interested in comics as men, and therefore they don’t make them. Less than 20 percent of the people who work for Marvel and DC are women, according to Tim Hanley’s December Gendercrunch. However, when we explore the gender ratios of smaller companies the numbers change.
In November of last year, 40 percent of Boom! Studios’ creators were women. This goes for a lot of small publishers, though the ratio deviates heavily from month to month as titles are dropped and picked up again. Many women do find independent publishing more welcoming than traditional labels. Often, these creators can publish their book with their own vision, and also keep the rights.
Noelle Stevenson wrote bestselling Nimona, which started out as a web comic and was later published by HarperCollins. She recently sold the film rights to Fox Animation.
I was one of the lucky ones.
I almost sold my soul in exchange for peanuts when I was right out of art school
I was warned
— Noelle Stevenson (@Gingerhazing) May 17, 2016
Like she says, Stevenson is a rare example of a woman who created and retained her own character. This wouldn’t have been possible with a company like Marvel or DC, who owns anything created under their label. G. Willow Wilson might have revitalized Ms. Marvel in creating Kamala Khan, but she doesn’t own this character. It belongs to Disney, just like America Chavez or Squirrel Girl. When the writers and artists who influence these characters drop the title, they lose all credit and royalties to the series they’ve often help popularize.
Alex de Campi, a writer who is probably most famous for her blistering commentary on DC Comics, said to Fangirl in an email, “We have seen such a change in the past decade of comics embracing voices that have always been there, but have never really received the publisher support they needed (because of perceived lack of audience, I guess).”
“I mean, there are still some publishers just closing their eyes and driving by a whole bunch of open wallets while they try to sell yet more books to 40-year-old cishet white males, but hey, you have fun over there on the wrong side of history. Comics are for everybody. Comics are made by everybody.”
Image is probably the biggest name in indie publishers, and has in the past sponsored much edgier feminist comics, most notably Bitch Planet, Sex Criminals and Saga, that could never run under a DC or Marvel banner. It’s open-door policy to submissions have enabled it to take risks on undiscovered talent and push products to niche audiences. This has obviously paid off. The publisher is a staple for any comic enthusiast’s artier bookshelf.
This weekend, the 15th Emerald City Comicon was held in Seattle. Smaller publishers like Boom! Studios and Image Comics set up booths and sold their books alongside industry giants and announced summer line-ups for new titles. In the spirit of getting readers out of their comfort zones and into a buy-local-buy-female attitude, we have lined up three series for readers to start this summer. Each series is written and drawn by women, published by Image, and owned by their creators.
Grace Ellis (Lumberjanes) and Shae Beagle have teamed up to create a comic of wholesome hijinks, love, coffee shops and… werewolves? The creator who proved to us that the power of friendship is real in Lumberjanes is changing the scene and heading to the big city. The premise on Image’s website reads, “Fantasy creatures are living typical, unremarkable lives alongside humans, and barista Julie strives to be the most unremarkable of all.” But of course, anyone who’s ever read a fantasy adventure knows this won’t remain true for long. We can be sure to see plenty of social commentary in pastel colors, weirdly familiar girl-problems laid out on the page and hopefully a little bit of humor to balance out inevitable heartache. Moonstruck should be on anyone’s pull-list with a penchant for both the silly and the serious.
Leila del Duca (Shutter, Afar) and writer Sarah Vaughn (Alex+Ada) will be joined by editor Alissa Sallah to create a new historical fiction romance that looks to hit that sweet spot between Game of Thrones and Pride and Prejudice. Image says, “…an enchanted knight who never sleeps falls in love with the noblewoman he is sworn to protect as they navigate the treacherous court of a newly crowned king.”
Jordie Bellaire and Vanesa R. del Rey have teamed up to create the bastard child of Southern Bastards and Harrow County. The synopsis reads: “three witches move to Redlands, Florida and take over as law enforcement.” Bellaire has been a colorist for most of her career, and has worked on comics like Moon Knight and Pretty Deadly in the past. She reported to Entertainment Weekly that this idea was born out of anger towards the female archetype of the witch: “And as the world has changed so much since November 2016, I find myself getting even darker with the material, and in a horrible way it makes even more sense now. The idea of corruption and monsters in places of power seems more believable than ever…”
This is not an endorsement of Image Comics, who have their own set of issues. However, any art worth doing is risky, and supporting women creators is something Fangirl stands for. If there is a female-owned comic you’re looking forward to this summer, tweet us @fangirlthemag!