by Rachel Monroe
The comics industry has a (mostly deserved) reputation for being unfriendly to women. Women make up a teensy percentage of mainstream comics readership, while comics creators are (surprise surprise) overwhelmingly male. But old-school attitudes are beginning to change, thanks to awesome work being done both inside and outside the mainstream comics world. Here are five awesome initiatives that point out (or poke fun at) the comics industry’s sexism – and promote the work of awesome female artists, too.
1. Fully-Dressed Superheroines
Artist Michael Lee Lunsford has been re-drawing comic book heroines so that they are – shocking! – wearing clothes. Over their entire bodies. And not skintight bodysuits, either. Lunsford takes pains to deny that he’s making any kind of statement, and that this is just a “character design” exercise “showing what can be done with a costume breaking outside the barrier of the norm.” But one look at his drawings makes a point so clear he doesn’t even need to come out and say it: superhero women can look totally badass, even if they’re wearing pants.
2. This Is What Women in Superhero Comics Should Be
While plenty of sites out there do the hard (and important) work of pointing out the lamely sexist elements of contemporary comic books, we appreciate this Tumblr for showing empowered heroines done right. With examples spanning the past few decades, this is a site that proves that showing women in a positive light won’t destroy comics – instead, it’ll make them a lot better.
In 2011, a young woman from Canada had an idea: What if she put together a massive anthology to showcase all the amazing work that women had done (and were doing) in comics? After drumming up support from more than 140 artists, writers, and creators, the project went up on Kickstarter with the goal of raising $25,000 to print 1,500 copies of the book. By the time the donation phase had ended one month later, supporters had given more than four times that much, and Womanthology had raised $109,301. Clearly, there was some interest in the project. Ultimately, 5,500 copies were printed and distributed nationwide(you can buy a copy here; proceeds go to charity). The creator is now hard at work on Womanthology, vol. 2.
4. The Hawkeye Initiative
This one started with a simple premise – taking pictures of female characters in comics and re-drawing the frame with a male character – specifically, Hawkeye from the Avengers – in the woman’s place. More often than not, this exercise reveals how female characters are drawn in “deformed, hyper-sexualized, and impossibly contorted” ways. This is a perfect critique of the way the industry too often seems to create “strong female characters” whose dominant characteristics are their giant breasts and insatiable sexual appetites. So obvious it’s completely brilliant.
5. New York Women in Comics Show
Running now through the end of the month, NYWiCS highlights more than a dozen comic book artists, writers, filmmakers, animators, and self-publishers, most of them drawn from the indie comics world. Co-curator Regine Sawyer sees this exhibit as a way to promote female artists already working in the industry, and to create a sense of camaraderie. “There have been times in this business when you just want to do your work in a closet,” she explains. “But now that there are more and more of us – and we’re more and more visible – in an industry that’s so male-dominated, it feels a lot safer. You’re like, Oh, there’s a woman there! And a woman there!” Each weekend in July, the curators are hosting events (like panels, portfolio reviews, and art exercises) to help encourage budding female comic artists.
opening Image: Regine Sawyer/Lockett Down Productions.