Representation Matters Comic books, the industry and building a better future
Hi, my name is Ellie. You don’t know me yet, but I am hoping after this article you will at least know what I stand for.
“We all wish we had super powers. We all wish we could do more than what we can do.” (Stan Lee, 2001).
The comic book industry and female representation
The comic book industry is a tapestry of characters and stories, weaved together by creators dating back to the Golden Age. The likes of Superman, Spider-Man and Wonder Woman are household names with symbols recognised across the globe. They promote hope for a better tomorrow by showing us how to be good and that’s not just in the face of an apocalypse. I think of Alice who King and Kubert saw Superman fight his way across the universe to save in ‘Up in the Sky’ (2019). Look at Amazing Spider-Man #36 (2001) which promotes unity in a time of crisis and spotlights the real-life heroes of 9/11. Then I think of my disappointment when I search for Wonder Woman and top results show her “sexiest moments” rather than her most heroic and iconic. This is why representation matters.
Changes in the industry
Right now, the whole world is facing a pandemic. In the UK, we are thirteen weeks into lockdown but still the world is changing. Since last week, Twitter has been used to report upon sexual assaults in the comic book industry, and I see and support all the victims involved. However, some of the responses to these reports have troubled me. I have seen the names and the published work of those accused promoted over those who have spoken out. I have seen trolls respond to a publisher spotlighting female talent with dismissive remarks like, “Hopefully she doesn’t bully any comic book writers into suicide with false allegations of sexual assault.” And so, for the first time in my twenty-four years of comic book collecting, reading and creating, I have reflected upon my personal experiences as a female fan.
To make this clear, I am lucky that the creators I have met and spoken to so far in comics are the ones who have supported me without any additional motive. Not that luck should be involved in it. However, there have been moments that I now look back on and wonder if they would have happened if I was a man. Shortly after the publication of my first graphic novel, Power Punch Boot Camp, I had an artist contact me as he had “read and enjoyed” my work. I was excited and worked on a pitch for a project that we could do but it quickly became uncomfortable when he asked me to dress-up and pose for his reference.
Another time, I volunteered as an editor for a small publisher but felt myself silenced when my slow replies to its WhatsApp chat had me labelled as “invisible” amongst my male peers. It was a joke, which then discredited the contributions I had made to the team.
I have had to prove myself as a “true” comic book fan countless times when some have only had to turn up in a Batman t-shirt to be believed.
It’s time to speak out, it’s time for better representation
At the start of this article, I included a quote from Stan Lee that I feel speaks for me now. I want to do more for fans and creators who have been marginalised because of their gender, sexuality and race. As an ally of women, LGBTQ+ and PoC, I am proud to be a new member of the Valkyries. I join their mission to promote new and different voices. The comic book industry is no place for prejudice, at least not in my world. Equality and diversity are both key in moving forward.
It is time to preach the teachings that great comic books have given and build a world that is inclusive for all.
Note from the editor
We are thrilled to welcome Ellie to the team! Find out more about her and read over 130 pages of her all-ages work over at www.elliemakescomics.com
As she states in her debut piece, we stand for inclusivety and representation especially in the comic book industry. We have and will continue to fight for equality and the championing of LGBTQ+, PoC, Women, GF, NB and any other minority sexualities’ voice’s to be heard. The Valkyries support creators and we believe comics are for all. We do not tolerate predatory behaviour, abuse or any kind of bullying. We are allies and we have your back. Representation Matters.
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