Women in Comics and The LA Times!

Screenshot from the LA Times website featuring Lora Innes

Slide from Hero Complex, the LA Times pop culture site that first ran the article.

If you’re stopping by The Dreamer today because you read about me in the Sunday LA Times article on Women in Comics, welcome!

I had the pleasure of talking to Noelene Clark, the reporter who wrote the article, several weeks ago. She wanted to do an article on women in comics since, at least once a year, everyone is abuzz about the comics industry thanks to San Diego Comic Con.

Through our conversation I got the impression that after talking to a number of female comic creators she was surprised to be hearing the same thing from all of us: Women are making comics? Old news!

The issue of gender in comics draws a lot of attention because mainstream superhero comics are—there’s no reason to pretend otherwise—written and drawn for men. Sure, some girls love them (I grew up reading Marvel comics) but women comprise the minority of Marvel and DC’s readerships.

I once had a conversation with a defensive man, upset that I had brought up the touchy subject of overly exaggerated, sexualized female superheroes—even the demure, nerdy ones. He protested, “Comic men are just as idealized and unrealistic.”

Of course they are, I assured him. But they are a male ideal.

drawing of the x-men's wolverine and hugh jackson.

(L) Most women do not want to snuggle up on date night with this guy... ...But we might take that one. (R)

I don’t work for Marvel or DC so I don’t want to speculate on their business practices. I will say this: it’s obviously working for them.

Do I expect mainstream superheroes books to change? No.

Do I want them to? Not really.

Let superhero books be what superhero books will be. If DC and Marvel want to start hiring more women to work on their titles, I am in full support. If they continue on their current paths, I really am indifferent.


Because here is the exciting part: Women already are making comics.

And not just any comics. We’re making the comics we want to make.

We don’t need Marvel or DC. Surprise! There are more than two comic publishers out there. (The Dreamer is published by one of them.) And we’re finding there is a world of people who want to read the stories that we want to tell, whether that story is getting out by IDW, Oni Press, First Second, Scholastic, or self-published by the creator herself.

I travel the country attending Comic Conventions and Anime Shows and I can tell you this: girls love comic books. Conventions are packed with women, both as attendees and as creators. And at the Anime Shows I attend, women easily outnumber the men.

(Freebee to guys: If you are looking for a cute, geektastic girl, skip the comic cons—gals usually come with their man. Instead, consider an Anime Show. Cosplay as a beloved, glompable character, or at the very least disguise yourself as a brony, and you’ll have the pick of the litter.)

(Disclaimer to girls: If a skeezy guy tries to hit on you at an Anime Show, I did not send him.)

Through webcomics and self publishing, women have just as much chance at success as men.

Though my list of “industry print comic colleagues” is heavily male, my list of “webcomic colleagues” includes more women than men.

Why? Maybe there still aren’t as many doors open yet in the print world of comics to women as men. But I think this has less to do with women’s ability to write and draw, and more to do with the kinds of stories most comic publishers are making and the kinds of things that most women want to write and draw.

I have heard the stories of twenty and thirty years ago. The comic industry has come a long way. But luckily not only are attitudes changing, we live in a digital era where you no longer need a publisher to make and sell books.

This has given women equal footing with men when it comes to the internet. It is the great leveler.

All that matters is this: Are you telling a story that people want to read?
-Tweet This Quote

When I started writing The Dreamer I never thought about making a “girls comic.” I thought only about writing a story that I would want to read. A movie I would go back to the theater to watch twice, and then still buy the DVD.

And I bet that nine out of ten female creators you ask would say the same thing.

Tell great stories and people will want to read them. Period.

Men love my comic. Women love my comic. Not every man loves it and not every woman loves it. Any story is a matter of personal taste, just like the “Big Two” superhero stories.

And I won’t tell them they need to stop, since they haven’t told me yet that I need to.

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20 Responses to Women in Comics and The LA Times!

  1. Albone says:

    I…love this. All of this. Well said, Lora.

  2. Brent says:

    Thanks, Mastermind. Once again you show how flipping awesome you (and by extension the comic) really are. Here, have a….i mean some….look just take this banana and call it even.

  3. Tigershark06 says:

    Lovely words Lora! One day there will be a greater amount of equality and representation! But it takes creators like you to lead the way for the rest of us!

  4. Tamesin says:

    Hear, Hear!, Huzzah!, and other colonial words or phrases that express agreement and general happiness.

  5. YES! You are the best! Most of the story-led webcomics I love are written by women – I didn’t seek them out for that reason, it just turned out that way, and I’m so glad we have the internet to enable them to publish and for me to read :)

  6. Sam1775 says:

    Well done, Ms. Innes.

  7. Lora says:

    Melissa Zayas on Facebook left this comment in regards to the LA Times article, “Not sure if I agree with the article’s conclusion that over-sexualized comic heroines are just “loving their sexuality”…but it is cool that more ladies are doing comic stuff and people are reading it.”

    My response:

    “I had mixed feelings about that point, Melissa. And the notion that really, Marvel & DC are only going to hire women who like what they are doing and will continue to do that without rocking the boat. (As apparent by the comments about Powergirl’s boobs and Catwoman’s libido.) If that is the case, they will continue to have male dominated readership, even if they have female creators on board. Men can create content that women love (most rom coms are written by men) it’s that Marvel/DC are not doing that.

    Why do I think women love the Marvel movies that have been coming out over the last 10 years? Because those movies a.) are a return to the heroic (as opposed to all the anti-heroes our heroes have become in their stories these days) and b.) the female characters are strong, without being slutty. Even Black Widow kept her catsuit zipped up in the new Avengers film and I think that is no small thing as to why women are loving those movies.”

    • Jaclyn says:

      Quick note — the LAT article/writer didn’t conclude that the super-sexy lady-heroes are “loving their sexuality” — that was a quote from the DC comics writer.

  8. Amen! I share your not being much bothered by what the big two do or don’t do – I want to write and draw a good story, regardless of what any publisher does on their own or with/out me, really.

  9. Jules Rivera says:

    I couldn’t have put this better myself. While I wish the Big 2 weren’t so stalwart in alienating not just female readers, but younger readers (Seriously, how many current Big 2 titles could you give a ten year old?) I’ve found the best way to address the problem is just to get out there and make my own frakkin’ comics. Hand-wringing gets nobody anywhere.

    More than trying to reach the disenfranchised audiences, I want to be recognized for putting out good work. I want to be recognized for writing a good story, or drawing a good cover, or drawing a really great scene. I want to be recognized for doing something more than just making comics in absence of a Y chromosome because if anyone only remembers me when they’re trying to think of great female comickers, I’ve failed.

    • Lora says:

      I agree about the young readers alienation, 100%.

      Comics were great when I was a kid. They even dealt with heavy issues. (Remember when the Legacy Virus, aka the Mutant form of AIDS, wrecked the Marvel Universe? The death of Illyana was the first comic issue I ever read.) But they weren’t nearly as dark or fully adult as they are now.

      I have friends ask me all the time (since I’m their ‘comic friend’) “What [Spider-man, X-Men, Avengers, take your pick] title can I give my [niece, nephew, son, daughter].” I always draw a blank to that question.

      • Julie says:

        The answer is “one of the old ones from a couple of decades ago (or more).” Unfortunately it’s sometimes hard to find older comics that aren’t stupidly expensive.

  10. Julie says:

    I have to say that I was super-stoked that you got a mention in the LA Times like that. :) I saw you post it on Facebook and (over the course of a couple of days since my time has been sketchy) I read the article. As a long time fan of the Marvel & DC worlds, I honestly can say that I’ve never been upset by the overly masculine idealization of their female characters. To me, it just fit the genre. Even as a kid who didn’t know the word “genre” it didn’t bother me…after all, I owned a couple of Barbie dolls, and they looked pretty similar to the superhero comic females. *shrugs*

    As an adult, though, I’ve often found myself yearning for more interesting (or just plain different) stories than what the Big Two typically put out (and let’s be really honest…there are only so many re-vamps of a series or parallel universes that I can stand before I get burned out). That’s when I turned to webcomics and found stories that appeal to me even more than my old favorites (I’ll always love X-Men, but it’s not my number one anymore…just don’t tell Gambit!). Of the few comics I follow (or followed for those that have finished) religiously, I can only say definitively that I’ve read the work(s) of 4 female writers/artists…3 definitively male writers/artists…one husband/wife team…and two comics that are created by people whose genders I don’t know (and don’t honestly care).

    I think that the world of comics is much bigger than most non-fans realize, and even if you aren’t looking at the gender question, many folks would be shocked to learn that there are LOADS of comics that don’t involve superheroes at all. It’s just because the general perception of the medium is limited to the Big Two (with the occasional Calvin & Hobbes fan thrown in) that people don’t know about female writers and artists or the stories that other people tell. I think that if more people could be exposed to what’s out there, comics would have a much larger fan-base…though the idea of comic-cons getting bigger slightly terrifies me. ;)

    In any event, yay for free press! :) Yay Lora! :) Yay The Dreamer!!! :) Yay everything else too! :)

  11. shirley k says:

    Dont listen to them lora youre doing an excellent job keep up the good work i look forward to reading the webpages and all the otherstuff too makes life more interesting.

  12. Rose says:

    Don’t stop, Lora!!

  13. Half Moon says:

    THIS IS TOO AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. HenrikeD says:

    That`s so awesome that they mentioned you in the LA Times Lora!

    It`s an interesting read. And something I`ve wondered about myself. For the comics here in Europe it`s kind of the same thing. Almost all of the comics I see in the comic shops are made by men. And I still have a hard time finding comics I like there. (I only have a few series I read) I always thought that was me being picky, but it`s not. A lot of the comics made for adults have a certain kind of story genres that I don`t like and no female characters that I can identify with. Most still are idealized versions of woman by men`s standards. Funny thing is, a lot of male characters are underdogs, nerds, young boys, very cartoony or just plain old.
    A lot of older comics don`t even feature women at all! I read there was a period of crazy censorship in the `40 – `60 in France and Belgium. Especially in Belgium comics were censored a lot. Not even a ballerina on the cover was allowed. That`s why in the Tintin comics there are practically no women.
    European comics (especially from France) appeal to me more, art wise, than Marvel or DC (never finished even one of their comics *gasp* because it`s just not my thing, nothing against men/women who like them though, I`m very ok with that. I like the movies though, for reasons described in the article (real men and women instead of over muscular people)) but as a woman liking certain kinds of stories most European comics, too, are not for me. I`m completely in love with webcomics though. There are so many stories out there with great art that have a story that fits perfectly with what I`m looking for in comics.
    When I was young I talked to a comic publisher once, the person I was talking to who was thrilled I wanted to be a comic artist, because “the comics world is a men`s world” But now I wouldn`t know if my work would fit with any of the publishers around here. And since I discovered webcomics it doesn`t need to. :)
    I just wish more women knew about (web)comics though, because the stereotype of comics being for children and nerds still stands firm here. (same for animation)

  15. Derek Beck says:

    Congrats on the great publicity in the LA Times! You deserve it!