Womanthology Co-Editor Bonnie Burton: "We all love comics, whether we are men or women."
Womanthology is a comics phenomenon, having raised over $100,000 with their Kickstarter drive, and about 200 people came to the panel (after waiting in a line that doubled over itself five times) to hear what they were doing right.
The panel was moderated by Laura Morley and featured Womathology editors Renae de Liz, Bonnie Burton, Mariah Huehner, Nicole Falk, and Suzannah Rowntree. The project paired more experienced writers and artists with others who were new to the field to create a variety of comics stories.
The Womanthology panel. Left to right: Bonnie Burton, Mariah Huehner, Nicole Falk, Suzannah Rowntree, Renae de Liz. Not shown: Laura Morley.
“I take Joss Whedon’s approach: We all love comics, whether we are men or women, and we want to see stronger women characters,” said Burton. “There is a market for the superhero feminine character who keeps her costume up by defying gravity with the Force—maybe she made a deal with the devil to keep her tube top up, I don’t know—but there are characters who rely on their brains rather than cup size… You're going to see a lot more diversity, and that is what is missing in comics that have women characters. We want to see all the things they bring to the table.”
Huhner agreed. “I would really like it if the stories were good—that would be super,” she said. “I would really like it in a diverse amount of genres, because I really don’t like [just] one thing, and I would really like it if they wouldn’t insult me and my gender at the same time,” a line that drew applause from the crowd.
Rowntree pointed out that the project is a showcase for the many talented women who want to get into comics, and de Liz noted that while many of the creators would love to work on Swamp Thing, women are not well represented at Marvel and DC. “Part of it was a style choice for top two—they have a more technical, perfect anatomy type of artwork, whereas women tend to draw more emotional, more moody,” she said. “It would be nice if women would assert themselves a bit more and say ‘I am good enough and I’m going to apply to Swamp Thing,’ and it would be good if the industry would open itself up to different styles. I would like to see the Hulk drawn differently.”
Burton, who came up through the zine scene, thinks self-publishing is cooler than working with the big houses. “I keep bringing up Felicia Day—she was doing some great stuff, and she wanted to do more, so she did it herself,” she said. “Start your own webcomic on your own site and promote it and keep promoting it and people will listen…. If you wish there was a comic out there that you want to read, make it yourself—or find talented people and nag them to death until they do it.”
“There are two things I see changing in the industry,” said Rowntree. “In the past few years, there have been a lot of women who have self-published their books as e-readers through Amazon and become millionaires on their own. I see that as a possibility for people who make their own comics.”
The other thing, she said, is the popularity of My Little Pony. “What that did is prove that a show that has as its target a female audience can be not just successful but enjoyable for men as well. I think that has opened the door to a lot more material that is targeted specifically for women, so making it for women does not necessarily mean you are going to lose income.”
de Liz pointed out that aspiring comics writers often have trouble finding an artist to illustrate their stories, so their work in Womanthology gives new creators a finished story for their portfolios as well as the experience of working with editors in a collaborative setting.
All the panelists said they were impressed by the talent and enthusiasm of everyone participating.
“There has been a lot of press lately, especially this year, about cattiness in the geek girl community,” said Burton. “This project proved to me that women can work with each other and not kill each other. They can inspire each other to be better and be supportive.”