NYCC 2014: Women of Color in Comics
I was on a panel at New York Comic Con. I still can’t believe it happened. It has always been a secret dream of mine ever since I did my first panel about Women in Comics last year. Coincidentally enough, the same person who ran my first panel, Regine L. Sawyer, asked me to be on the NYCC panel. So everything has come full circle. I immediately said yes of course because it was the opportunity of a lifetime. But right after I said yes, the nerves hit me. I’m not used to a lot of irl attention because what I do (blog) lives on the Internet. So when I get asked to be on panels I’m always very excited and grateful and extremely nervous. NYCC was the most nervous I’ve ever been. I literally thought I was going to throw up. I tried to calm down by telling myself that it’s just my opinions, there’s no right or wrong answer. I’m not giving a dissertation on metaphysics. I’m talking about what I know, which is comics, women and race.
The panel was called Women of Color in Comics: Race, Gender and the Comic Book Medium. It was moderated by Regine L. Sawyer of Lockett Down Productions and the panelist included artist Alice Meichi Li, comic book artist Alitha Martinez, writer and cartoonist Barbara Brandon-Croft, cosplayer Geisha Vi, writer Juliana ‘Jewels’ Smith, writer and actor Vanessa Verduga and myself. I didn’t throw up so as far as that goes the panel was a success. But aside from the low bar I set for myself, the panel actually was a huge success. The room was almost filled to capacity, I heard there were over 700 people in attendance.
The description of the panel was, “Diversity. Women in Comics. Both subjects are hot button topics in the comic book industry. However, it isn’t often that both issues collide…” In all of my years attending NYCC, I’ve noticed a lack of people of color focused panels and PoC on panels in general. Despite the fact that NYC is probably the most culturally diverse city on the planet and the NYCC crowd reflects that. As the years went on there were more “The Women of ____” panels, but those panels often lacked women of color. So a panel like ‘Women of Color in Comics’ is something that’s not only necessary but should be regarded as essential.
The very existence of the panel showed two things, the growth of WoC comic fans and creators, but also the need for more representation and accurate representation in comics. Because we all know there’s a lot of misrepresentation of women in comics, but a majority of those women are white. So, we (WoC) are barely in comics to be apart of that misrepresentation. We have not only sexism to fight, but racism as well. This is especially important in regards to science fiction. Sci-fi often depicts worlds that are supposed to be our actual future, and if people of color are not there then they’re writing us out. They wrote us out of the past and now they’re writing us out of the future. I want women and men to understand that equality includes everybody. You can’t ignore the needs of women of color and call it feminism.
The importance of diversity in comics should be an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t understand its significance. When a person doesn’t see characters that look like them, they begin to feel like they don’t belong. Young girls of color may stop reading comics because they feel like it isn’t for them, which stops them from becoming creators in the future. It’s cyclical. I do believe it’s important for creators of all backgrounds, straight white men included, to be responsible and make sure their stories are as diverse as their readers and the world. However, I think it’s much more important for people of color to create the stories we want to see. We shouldn’t wait for change we should make it.
The most important takeaway was what we can do to make the comic book industry a more diverse one. Coming from a fan’s perspective there are two things that are essential to promoting change and that’s using your voice and your money. Support diverse mainstream creators and comics and diverse indie creators and comics. The fact that there are so many young women who are reading comics now proves that our voice is bigger. We can affect change in the industry because we’re becoming such a large percentage of it. Use your voice to promote these diverse stories, characters and creators whether it’s in person or online. If you’re a creator, don’t be discouraged by the current climate of the industry. It will be tough to break into mainstream comics as a woman of color, but one of the best ways to make sure change in mainstream comics is to be apart it.
Forty-five minutes flew by and it wasn’t nearly enough time to cover everything about women of color in comics, but it was a start. Although the panel was over, the conversation doesn’t have to end. Blog, tweet, post, talk about these issues to help promote diversity.