Something amazing happened on Saturday. It was international Read Comics in Public Day (something I’ll admit to doing every single day) and one very smart blogger over at tumblr decided to help show the world that we women do read comics. She started Women Read Comics in Public for photos of all of us gals out in public reading our books. Wow, was the response huge. There are hundreds of photos, including photos of prominent girl-geek bloggers, comic artists, comic writers, and women from all over the world out there reading these picto-books we love so much.
Here in Sydney I went to a pub with a good friend and we piled our comics out on a sunny courtyard table. We were joined by another friend, and managed to introduce the women next to us to Secret Six, meaning more converts! It was an exciting day for us.
I’ll admit we’re lucky here in Sydney. Kings Comics is very female friendly, with a number of girls on staff and never any attitude from the guys. But growing up I ran into the attitude many people talk about. The looks and the dismissiveness from the guys who ran the comic shops in Niagara Falls that made me even more determined but scared quite a few of my friends off. I worked in a computer and gaming store for two years and the whole time ran into the idea that people would rather be served by one of the male staff. I’ve never been one to take those attitudes and let them lie, but it can be frustrating to run into them over and over.
I’ve seen attitudes change over the years, and to see that day being celebrated by so many women all over the world proud and happy to be out there with their comics thrills me so much.
I live in a sometimes insular world. I am a geek, I cosplay and go to conventions. Many of my friends are geeks. I talk to comic creators online. I volunteer for one of the big pop-culture conventions here in Australia. I travel around Australia (and the world) going to conventions and meeting up with people that I’ve met through various geek-related online communities. Not all of my friends share my interests in comics, but they respect the love I have for them. I forget that not everyone has a Kings Comics and that there’s a world out there where people still assume that the people who go to conventions or read comics are loserish guys who live in their parent’s basement. The world has changed. The people reading comics have changed. In fact, it changed a long time ago, but it feels like public and industry perception is only now starting to catch up!
I wanted to close this something written about the day by Gail Simone. For those who haven’t been playing along, she’s just about my favourite writer in comics, and a brilliant person to boot.
Please go look and see…
That is part of your audience, comics industry. Please note that they are all colors and orientations and from many different faiths and countries.
And please note they are women. And they are reading comics.
Take a look at what comics they are NOT reading on this photo list, it may be the most important detail you take from the entire affair.
Women are embracing comics fandom with a vengeance, as they have already done with sf/fantasy and as they have done with many other media. Women were key to keeping Star Trek’s memory alive in the days when such a thing was unheard of. Women have made the careers of too many beloved film creators to mention.
They can do that for comics, too.
It would be better for everyone if you made that easy. But if you don’t, they’ll do it without you. They don’t NEED to support you. They can always find someone putting out stories that don’t alienate, infuriate, and insult them.
Take a good look because these women are a huge part of our shared future. If doing the right thing because it’s right isn’t enough motivation, then do it for purely selfish reasons, because the female audience is out there, and those publishers smart enough to realize that will benefit while others do not. People like Joss Whedon, Greg Rucka, Brian Bendis, Warren Ellis, Neil Gaiman, Stephanie Meyer, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, Brian Lee O’Malley, Terry Moore, Brian Vaughan, Allan Heinberg, and many more already know the buying and buzz-creating power of the female readership. It is no longer hypothetical. It requires no more proof than the repeated successes of these people.
Most of the women involved in Read Comics In Public Day were doing it for fun, just as a shared bit of love for the medium, and that’s wonderful. But sometimes fun is the best activism. Many of these women don’t just buy comics, they cosplay, they write fanfic and draw fanart, they write columns about their favorite books, they convert their friends and sisters and boyfriends and girlfriends to their favorite titles in droves. Time and again, when looking at the surprise hits of the industry, the game-changing titles that came out of nowhere (Sandman, Teen Titans, Swamp Thing, Scott Pilgrim, Strangers in Paradise, Batwoman, on and on), women were at the center of those tornadoes. No simpler lesson is out there than the decades-long support system for the X-titles that has always included huge numbers of female readers.
Don’t be afraid, industry people. You already know how to tell great stories. All you have to do is take a moment to realize, as many of the most successful people in comics and film and prose already have, that the audience is a lot more diverse than you have been told over and over. And they WANT to like your stories.
It doesn’t have to be threatening. It might even be a great deal of fun.
I do believe we’re on the cusp of some wonderful things. Let’s be the highway, and not the roadblock.
And thanks to all the awesome women who participated in this fun event. See you next year with an even louder response!
And again, thanks to the mighty, mighty http://dcwomenkickingass.tumblr.com/ for spearheading this idea. I don’t know who came up with it, but she definitely seemed to be the chef who baked this delightful cake, so please follow her and drop her a note of thanks!
A simple thing, and a fun thing, organised by one woman and celebrated by many. I say don’t make it just one day. Go out there and do this every day. Keep taking pictures, keep telling the world you love these books. Eventually, they’ll all get it.