I really did not want to comment on this whole DC v. women fracas. To be honest, I cringe a little when I'm referred to as a "female artist", although I understand the source almost always means well, so the last thing I wanted was to get involved in a debate ABOUT that very prickly phrase. But today, I received an email notifying me that I'd been tagged on Google+ in a list of female creators, aimed to answer Didio's question "Who should we be hiring?". I don't know the author of the post well but he's always seemed like a very nice, thoughtful guy and I fully understand that his intentions were good. As were the intentions of the countless others who made similar lists upon hearing about Didio's comments. But getting the list in my inbox made something snap in me, and I finally had to say something. It made me feel like I (and possibly other creators on the lists) are being painted as victims of a conspiracy that I personally feel very strongly does not exist. So I made the following response:
I appreciate being added to the list, but I'd like to state for the record that I received several interesting offers from DC before I ultimately followed my Whedonite heart to Dark Horse. It's unfortunate that the percentage of female creators dropped so steeply, and I can't speak for everyone here obviously, but in my case it has more to do with timing and personal choice than any sort of gender discrimination. I can honestly say that I never felt anything but incredibly welcomed and valued by the editors I worked with at DC. I'll admit that I cringed at some of the answers that were given in the panel, though.
Edit: Had only read transcripts of the panel before, just listened to the actual clip. Dang, the tone WAS really aggressive and it disappoints me a lot. But I stand by my statement that there may be far more to the question itself than meets the eye.
The author followed up by acknowledging that he did not actually believe there was a conspiracy afoot, but had merely been surprised by the vitriol of Didio's response to a fairly simple question. And I 100% agree that the response was inappropriately handled and could have been dealt with in so many better ways. But the reason I felt compelled to say something is because there are HOARDS of people online reading these transcripts and posts and lists and only seeing one side of the story. I've seen countless comments of "DC hates women!" or "DC won't hire women". I've even seen female sequential art students lament that they'll never be able to work for DC because of what's being painted as an official embargo against female talent. Compound that with years of hearing that the comics industry in general discriminates against women, and I gotta finally say my piece:
THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME TO BE A WOMAN IN COMICS.
Yep, you read that right. Companies WANT to work with women. We offer a different perspective than the norm, a breath of fresh air, and let's face it, we stand out from the usual crowd. We pique the interest of that elusive female demographic. I know editors at both the Big Two who expressly seek out emerging female talent. Which brings us back to the topic at hand: Not surprisingly, Marvel and DC aren't the only companies who want to work with these creators! What many of the people who are up in arms over the 12-1% shift in female talent at DC aren't considering is that much of the talent they're looking for are gainfully employed elsewhere. It could be timing, it could be personal preference on the creator's part, or it could be that the titles remaining to be filled weren't quite right for the style of any of the female creators on these lists. I certainly wouldn't want to see any company fill a position with a token female just to fill a perceived quota if they weren't the best person for that project. How would that make that person feel, in turn? Pretty damned crappy, I'd suspect.
The fact of the matter is that there just aren't that many of us yet, and the odds of a certain number of us being available to work on a certain event with a certain company at the same time are not so good. I know the numbers will keep growing as it becomes more acceptable and celebrated for girls and women to enjoy comics. For that next generation, here's what I've learned:
- Don't be ashamed of who you are. Just because there are more boys than you doesn't mean you're in a boys' club. Be yourself and people will love you for it.
- At the same time, if you want to work in mainstream comics, style matters. I've reviewed hundreds of portfolios and I've been surprised to meet many women who draw in a very manga-influenced, storybook, or cartoon style, but have ambitions of breaking into Marvel and DC. While occasionally opportunities arise for non-mainstream artists to do work for the Big Two, it's rare and they usually go to well-established artists. Know your audience. There are tons of opportunities in indie comics and webcomics for artists who want to tell their own stories in unique styles. Marvel and DC have to run a business around a franchise of instantly-recognizable characters, so it makes sense that they mostly hire artists who draw in a "superhero" style for consistency. It's possible to change your style -- I did quite a lot in college -- but there's nothing more heartbreaking than seeing an artist change they unique personal vision just to try to get a job. If you find yourself having to do this to get closer to a "house style", then you might want to reconsider how passionate you'd really be about the job if you did get it.
-EVERYBODY struggles to get into or stay in the Big Two. Even dudes! Just because I got several offers from DC in a row doesn't mean they were always there when I was available for work. Though the mainstream industry seems large to fans, it's actually quite small and there are WAY more creators than there are projects. Luckily there are TONS of opportunities in comics outside that sphere. Dark Horse, IDW, Image, 12 Gauge Comics, Oni, Top Shelf just to name a few! And don't forget webcomics and other avenues of self-publishing!
Welp, that's my two cents. I'm sure it'll ruffle a few feathers, maybe I'll even be labeled a mainstream apologist. But maybe I'm just an artist who loves her job and loves the community around it and hates to see others perceive it as a frightening, hostile place. It's an exciting time to be working in this industry and there's a place for everyone who's willing to bust their ass at the drawing table to get their story out there.
EDIT: Please do not call out individual artists as an example of what you think sucks, or insult an artists' work here. That goes for both sides. I don't want to start hiding comments because the offending comments still contain some constructive input, but from now on you've had fair warning. Insult an individual and your comment will be hidden.