Truth be told I was more than a little worried about taking on Wonder Woman. By that I mean writing about her with any semblance of knowledge, not to mention writing about Trina Robbins, Ramona Fradon and Mary Fleener, three amazing women comics writers/artists. I wrote an article for Women’s eNews on the panel and exhibit Wonder Women: On Paper and Off at the Women’s Museum of California in San Diego Thursday evening of Comic Con. There was a lively crowd and the conversation ranged far and wide over the contributions of women to the comics industry and Wonder Woman as an icon.
I have my niche of knowledge from researching the Major. Even though I’m a family member this is not personal reminiscence. There are tons of family members who can do that if they choose. I’m a writer and historian by profession and I love the Major’s creative work—the pulps and the comics. What’s interesting to me are the real facts of his adventurous life and how that affected his incredible output in vastly different genres. I’ve spent about 14 years on this path so it was with some trepidation that I jumped into the gender fray by holding Wonder Woman aloft.
The minute I came across an online mention of the panel, Wonder Women: On Paper and Off, I was determined to be there. With much thanks to Jackie Estrada and my pulpster writer pals, Laurie Powers and John Locke, I managed to do a racing tour of San Diego Comic Con 2013 with support in the pit to keep me on the road as it were. And yes, driving through L.A. is utter hell. Sartre had it wrong. Hell is being on the 405 inching along for hours thinking, why am I here? I’m guessing you L.A. people know that you have reached the point of no return in this regard. Needless to say, I will never do that again!
In spite of the crowds, noise and media hoopla, San Diego Comic Con is that moment when everybody who loves comics gets a chance to catch up with one another and talk shop. What could be more fun than talking shop about comics? I enjoyed seeing everyone brief as it was and meeting new friends.
J. C. Vaughn at Diamond always keeps me on the right track and I met Joe James who is a lovely and talented man. In one of those typical Comic Con woo woo moments, J. C. was telling me all about Grant Geissman, musician, writer and artist and lo and behold I met him an hour or so later when I was with David Armstrong, (he of the vast comics history film archives). IDW just published Grant’s absolutely gorgeous book, Feldstein: The Mad Life and Fantastic Art of Al Feldstein!. It’s a must have and besides being smart and talented, Grant’s a very witty guy.
I got a quick hug from Jackie in the midst of her massive campaign to keep Comic Con on track and running smoothly and it was great to talk with Batton Lash for a few moments as well. I managed to snag an autographed Archie from him for one of my favorite teenagers who was in ecstasy upon my arrival home with book in hand. There was the usual conversation with her about how difficult it is to buy a comic book. What is the deal with that? I simply don’t get it but that’s another conversation.
While roaming around looking for good Comic Con swag I found Arlen Schumer and Rand Hoppe of the Kirby Museum doing their version of cosplay. I also managed to pick up a Superman Comic and magazines of Alter Ego along with a moment to chat with John Morrow at the TwoMorrows booth. I missed Mike Catron but caught up with Gary Groth at Fantagraphics and of course Jim Salicrup at PaperCutz keeps me on the straight and narrow. I am listening Jim, I promise!
In the late afternoon I met up with my best pal, Brad Ricca and that gentleman scholar, Jeff Trexler, Esq. Brad was signing his book about Siegel and Shuster, Super Boys that everyone is talking about. I got two! If you’ve been in a cave somewhere for goodness sake’s check it out! You can tell from the photo, it was near the end of the day.
As if that wasn’t enough, I met Lillian Laserson, my favorite lady lawyer and we escaped the throngs and headed to the Wonder Woman panel. I was so pleased to meet Trina Robbins whom I have long admired. As far as I know she is one of the few historians of women in comics. She has a new book coming out soon called Pretty in Ink, her definitive look at the history of women in comics. That’s a must have as well. I didn’t know Mary Fleener’s work so it was great to meet her and hear her talk about how she became a comics artist. Her style, which she refers to, as cubismo, is colorful and dynamic. What a wonderful artist! Ramona Fradon is a grand dame of the comics world and her stories about working in the male dominated Super Hero world of DC and Marvel were every bit as fun and fascinating as the stories the guys tell. More lady panels, please!
I do love this community and I’ll say right up front that the gender flaps as far as I can tell are not about men vs. women. Most of the guys I know in the industry are really great, promote everyone and everything across the board and there are some guys writing and drawing fantastic main female characters so that’s not the deal here and please, let’s not go there. That was not the gist of the conversation at the panel either. Basically it’s about giving women more opportunity in the industry, because it’s a proven fact that women will gravitate towards comics by women. If you don’t believe me, here’s an article by friend and colleague Danica Davidson that spells it out very simply. The more women creating comics and characters, the more female readers and voila, a larger more diverse community from which the big guys can still make oodles of dough. I think it’s referred to as the win/win.
As for the topic of overly sexed and overly maimed and killed women in the Super Hero comics, or as Gail Simone coined, “Women in Refrigerators” syndrome, well, I don’t think anyone will win hearts and minds there so let’s start with some diversity.
What about Wonder Woman? Unfortunately DC seems unsure exactly what to do with Wonder Woman to update her, bring her forward (please not the sweat pants!) and remind us of her origin story. According to Trina Robbins, it shouldn’t be that difficult because she fits the classic hero myth.
For those of you who don’t know and don’t care about the ins and outs of the corporate world, I do not own even a spec of dust of DC. However, since it was my grandfather’s vision I do care what and how they’re doing with that vision. If the Super Heroes are the stuff of movies where’s our Wonder Woman movie? How about it? Woman up DC!