Girl Comics Issue #1, a collection of comics written, stenciled, and illustrated completely by women, hit stores yesterday. It's one of three anthologies to be released this year by Marvel Comics. It's actually part of a year-long project of "Marvel Women," celebrating female characters and creators alike of one of the top comics publishers. Other projects will include publishing one-shots (single issues with a complete story line) of lesser-known but well-deserving female superheroes, and Marvel's Young Guns and Write Stuff programs, which throughout the year externally promote up-and-coming young illustrators and writers, respectively, will feature all women this time around.
The initial announcement of Girl Comics last December inspired waves of discussion across the ocean of interwebs. Message boards from The Beat to personal LiveJournal accounts were abuzz with cries that ranged from celebration to ghettoization. The link aggregator When Fangirls Attack devoted entire days to wrangling responses.
Outcry was understandable. Comics have traditionally, and most erroneously, been thought of as strictly for the boys. To some, "Marvel Women" seemed like a drastic cop-out: Why not just incorporate women artists and writers in regular Marvel work? Doesn't this further marginalize their work from the mainstream? And that name! Even though it's a throwback to the weepy comics of the fifties, it comes off as pretty patronizing, and seems to reinforce the idea that any comics made by women automatically make them for women only, as if male buyers couldn't appreciate the artwork of Amanda Conner (who inked the cover above), or that special comics had to be made for the fairer sex.
But many fans were excited for such a quality collection. The estimable Laura Hudson, editor-in-chief of the blog Comics Alliance, in an earlier discussion of Girl Comics, expressed enthusiasm, rather than hesitation over the project. "Some of the women on that list are actually my favorite creators ever, not because they're women but because they are awesome, and I am thrilled to see them getting more exposure." Similar sentiments were echoed from Annie Harrigan, former host of the award-winning KJHK comics talk show "The Panel": "I think that it's fantastic that women creators are getting a chance to really own a book, start to finish, and [the one-shots] are a cool idea, because the ladies are often the decoration in X-Men stories. But I hope that what the writers deem important for these issues is telling a good story, not excessive shots of the ladies undressing or traipsing around in a tank top and underwear. It'd be great to see these specials invite women readers into the canon, not repel them."
Interviews with series creators and contributors also helped illuminate the motivations behind the series. Artist Laura Martin, whose work appears in Girl Comics #1 shed some light on gender relations in the major comics industry with The Beat (emphasis mine):
I'm wracking my brain for when I last colored something drawn by a female penciler, and I think it might have been in the late '90s when Joyce Chin and I paired up on a portrait of Seven of Nine from Star Trek Voyager for a gaming magazine. And that wasn't even comics. I have colored a few things inked by Rachel Dodson, and I've worked with several female writers (most notably Jen Van Meter on Black Lightning), but that's pretty much it. Why? Because I am in the superhero clubhouse. Not just the superhero clubhouse, but the big-numbers, hot-selling, VERY male-centric super-superhero clubhouse. Women creators do not often cross trajectories with this particular clubhouse, either by choice or circumstance — so hell yeah, I'm *thrilled* to color Amanda Conner. I hope I get to do it again. I hope I get to participate in this project more than just this one cover, because I'd be working with new-to-me artists, and that's ALWAYS awesome to me.
Earlier this week Laura Hudson hashed out the controversy--hopefully once and for all--of Girl Comics in a recent interview with its editors--Marvel's Jeanine Schaefer, Lauren Sankovitch, Sana Amanat, and Rachel Pinnelas. The editors respond to the series' name (Jeanine Schaefer: Yes, let's call it "Women Being Proper and Making Comics Professionally as a Business Comics." Or "Businesswomen Publications"), the sexualization of female characters (Sana Amanat: I've noticed that when women draw – you don't see that ridiculousness, but you do see sexiness), and the marketing "girl comics" to the masses (Laura Hudson: That's funny, I'm pretty sure I've been buying mainstream comics for the last 15 years that weren't marketed towards me). Comics Alliance is actually having its own "Girl Week" (discuss amongst yourself) featuring an interview with Kathryn Immonen, creator of the new superheroine series Heralds, and top ten lists of "The Best and Worst Super-Heriones in Comics" (debatable) and the "Worst Female Action Figures Ever" (way less debatable).
Personally, I'm excited to pick up a copy of Girl Comics, the first of which features contributions from Trina Robbins, Laura Martin, Amanda Conner, Colleen Coover, Mind Doyle, Lucy Knisley, and more. How Marvel ends up promoting its female contributors and characters and diversifying its publications after this year remains to be seen.
Exclusive: Marvel Announces Girl Comics [The Beat]
Girl Comics: Will we ever, ever learn? [The Beat]
Girl Comics #2 Cover Debut - EXCLUSIVE [Comics Alliance]
The Lady Editors of Marvel Talk 'Girl Comics' [Comics Alliance]