Damsels in Distress No More: Women Can Be Heroes in Comics

Graphic novels have long been known as the domain of boys who read about male heroes, but that's changing.

(Photo: Facebook)

Feb 27, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Melissa Rayworth is a regular contributor to TakePart. She has also written for the Associated Press, Salon and Babble.

Rather than hoping to be saved by a team of cape-wearing, superpowered heroes, the folks behind a new documentary called She Makes Comics are relying on the strong and vocal community of female comic book makers and fans to help save the day.

Coproduced by Respect! Films and Sequart, the movie will explore the history of women in comics and put a spotlight on female graphic artists and writers in the genre. The film's director and coproducer, Marisa Stotter, is raising money through Kickstarter to make it.

"There is this sort of really weird backward notion that girls don't like comics and don't have an interest in creating comics," Stotter says. But as she and her team do research and interviews for their documentary, "every single day we're proving that that's not the case."

In the meantime, the stereotype of comic books being made only by and for boys persists. While superhero movies are drawing huge co-ed crowds to the box office and The Big Bang Theory has brought a comic book shop and its geeky regulars to prime-time television, none of that has done much to inform the world about the role women play in the comics landscape.

But the popularity of those productions has made it easier to be a nerd.

"Now that being a geek is cool, there are more women than ever involved in comics," Stotter says. "There were women involved in creating comics for decades," but their ranks have grown as women in comics have begun getting some of the attention they deserve.

Stotter remembers being a high schooler who saw comic books as a solitary pursuit.

"None of my female friends were really into this sort of thing, so it was usually something I did on my own or with my brother," she says. "I did get a sense that this was sort of a guy's space, but I didn't really let that stop me."

Last fall, longtime comics creator Trina Robbins published a comprehensive history of women in comics called Pretty in Ink: North American Women Cartoonists 18962013.

Online, women have also been able to voice their frustration about being ignored as creators and fans of comics. Blogs like Girls Read Comics Too offer insightful reviews of current comics, info on upcoming releases, and—perhaps most important—a platform for female comics creators and fans to talk about the work.

"The Internet has been wonderful for women who want to read or create comics because it's so easy to access comics," Stotter says. "And it's so easy to self-publish on the Internet."