"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Year of Buying Comics Created by Women

I really like reading comics--and one of the things that has gotten me back into comics after a few years of not buying them has been the influx of women creators.  I have been buying comics on-and-off for about 20-25 years. I'd estimate that about 90% of those comics were written by, drawn, colored and lettered by men. This is a ballpark figure, of course, but I think it's probably pretty close to the real figure. There's nothing amazing about this--I am a product of Marvel/DC marketing in a lot of ways, I'm over 40 years old, and those comics have historically been overloaded with creators (and readers) who are male.

Given I've spent so many thousands of dollars on male-created comics, I thought I'd try an experiment: For a year I'm only going to buy comics that have at least one woman working on them.

I'm taking the idea that this is an experiment to heart--I'm not advocating that this can fix gender inequality in comics in any way, that everybody should do this, that it will even really make a dent in the problem. Instead, I want to check out my "stuff" around gender in comics: How important is it to me to support women in comics? What does it look like to support women in comics? How important is representation in the material (e.g. Captain Marvel has her own book!) , and how important is representation in the creation of that material (Lumberjanes was created by all women!)?

Here are, loosely, my rules:

  • I'm going to only buy comics that have a woman involved in the creation of the book at one of the following levels: writer, artist (drawing and/or coloring), letterer.
  • I'm going for "consistently has a woman involved", so if a guest-artist is a dude, but usually it's drawn by a woman, I won't skip the issue
  • I'm going to mostly read stuff I would have read anyway, but since I'll be missing out on some good books, I'll probably expand my reading choices, too
  • I'm going to try this for a year. I've been doing it informally for January and February so far, so I'll do it until January 2016.
  • I'll keep weekly lists of the comics that I *want* to read, but can't, because there are no women involved in them.
  • I'll probably also talk a bit about the books that I *can* read.
  • I'll do a weekly summation of how the experiement is turning out.

The first thing that comes up for me is that some of my absolutely favorite comics ever will now be off my pull list, at least for now. No Sex Criminals. No BPRD. No East of West. FUCK!

Also, some books with great female protagonists will be off-limits: Copperhead. Rat Queens. Lazarus. SPIDER-GWEN. FUCKITTY FUCK!

I also considered counting editors who are women as ok for the buy pile--but while editors are so often the unsung heroes of comic books, I think comics companies, especially the "big two", often fill their ranks of editors with women far before they hire more women as creators, in the same way that, say, tech companies fill their marketing departments with women, but not their coding departments. This is something I want to highlight for myself.

I'm also fascinated by just how many books I *can* still read--if I had tried this experiment 10-15 years ago, I would have not been reading many books (or I would have been reading a bunch of incredible books I haven't heard of yet?).

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