MoCCA Fest is happening at the 69th Regiment Armory this weekend, and the School of Visual Arts and the Society of Illustrators gave a taste of things to come on Tuesday night with a panel discussion entitled “Strong Female Protagonists,” a conversation about—you guessed it—women in comics.
The panel featured Vertigo Executive Editor Shelly Bond, pencil and inker Alitha Martinez, creator of DiDi Glitz and editor of the Twisted Sister anthologies of women cartoonists Diane Noomin, and creator of Smile and Drama Raina Telgemeier. It was skillfully moderated by Keith Mayerson, BFA Cartooning Coordinator at SVA.
The four women on the panel gave a wide perspective on the world of comics—from mainstream to underground, from artistic to editorial—and shared decades of experience in their various areas with the packed amphitheater. Because the panelists’ working careers have differed so much, at times they were actually surprised to find themselves in agreement. One thing they all believed, however, was that the past decade or so has brought about a sea change in how women and comics interact. Several of them traced this trend back to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman bringing women into comic stores and into comic jobs. As a result of this shift, Shelly Bond feels that now is the best time to read and make comics, because they’re part of the mainstream culture but are still able to push boundaries. Alitha Martinez responded by saying that comics still have far to go, as she has never seen herself (a Latina first generation American immigrant) in them. “Where’s my reflection?” she asked. “There is none.”
Many more topics were addressed over the course of the evening, including feminism, body image, and career advice for an audience that was largely made up of SVA students, but that moment of honesty stuck with me the most, as did Martinez’s certainty that she did not want to be the one to tell her own story, despite the encouragement she received from the women around her. Until Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel and fully clothed non-sexualized women characters become the norm instead of the exception, I think Alitha is right—we do still have a long way to go. But the other panelists were right too, because we’re getting there, and it’s an awesome time to be a comic reader.
And don’t forget to check in with SVA and see what other interesting events the have planned! SVA Calendar of Events