Dear Readers, someone asked me recently:
“Why is inkt|art necessary? Does it say something about the state of comics that female creators need their own journal? Or are you just partial to the art of women?”
I laughed, as I usually do, when the answer is obvious or when it’s complicated. We’re two years and four issues into inkt|art, but magazines devoted to women’s comics are not a new idea. Wommin’s Comix, It Ain’t Me, Babe Comix, and Twisted Sisters started in the 70’s, and published for decades. Feminism needed them, certainly, and the male-dominated comics world did, too. Haven’t we come a long way, though? Baby? Shouldn’t our modern aim be the creation of a comics journal which features great comics regardless of gender? By publishing only women (in the free market of the internet), aren’t we being terribly old-fashioned? Sexist, even? Maybe.
Three days ago, Vulture.com (a NY Magazine affiliate which “devours culture”) announced that 2014 is the year that “feminism conquered comics culture.” Here’s their rationalization:
Every month brought more comics series starring women, be they superpower-possessing, broadsword-wielding, mystery-solving, or merely life-living. We learned that comics readership is now roughly 50 percent female. The Big Two, Marvel and DC, made some glaring missteps in their depictions of gender — but more memorable than the missteps were the backlashes, led by intelligent and progressive voices in an ever-stronger online and real-life community. We’re still a long way from gender parity in industry hiring, and other marginalized communities have yet to experience the same kind of boom in representation, but the trend toward inclusivity is unmistakable.
Wow. A trend toward inclusivity. Nothing says “conquering” like an inclusive trend! Never mind the missteps in depictions of gender by the leading comics publishers. The fact that readers responded intelligently proves feminism has won the day, doesn’t it? So let’s stop whining about disparity, and celebrate already! Except–the “conquering feminism” is an evaluation of the number of women depicted in comics. We’re not talking about women as comics creators. Vulture reminds us that we’re nowhere near “gender parity in industry hiring.” Where are our conquering heroines, then? Do they exist only as drawings, done by men?
For my birthday every year, a friend sends me the annual edition of The Best American Comics. And each year, without fail, I scan the index for female contributors and sigh at the dearth. This year (the conquering feminism year) was no exception. Of single writer/artist contributors represented in The Best American Comics 2014, 23 are male, and 7 are female. That’s over three times as many men as women. There are five mixed writer/artist teams, and within those teams, there are 6 men and 4 women. All told then, The Best American Comics 2014 features 29 men and 11 women, which is still nearly three times as many male contributors.
But let’s be fair. I can anticipate two explanations for this discrepancy: First, the 2014 edition features work published in print or online in the prior year (in order to go to print press in 2014, it would be difficult to do otherwise). Second, the publication relies on creators and magazine editors to send work in for review, although the series editor, Bill Kartalopoulos, acknowledges that he actively seeks out new work at conventions, and includes independent mini-comics as well as more supported work. With these caveats in mind, one might conclude that:
A) 2014’s edition is not representative of the conquering feminism, but 2015’s might be, and
B) maybe women and their editors aren’t sending their work in for review or
C) women don’t stand out at comics conventions. It’s possible, sure. It’s possible.
Ask me again why ink|art is necessary, and when I’m done laughing I’ll say:
“Because. There are female comics creators doing great work that isn’t supported or viewed by a dedicated audience. Even now. Yes, even now.”
We’re still building our readership at inkt|art, but one day we’ll turn the journal over to an academic institution with a large staff of students who are immersed in comics culture, who are internet savvy, gender sensitive, and poised to actually conquer the comics market. Until then, it’s just us. You and me, together.
Thank you, everyone, for a great year! Keep reading, keep working, keep conquering. All my best,
Ingenious…shows very strong instincts and sharp insights as a critic.