Boys own comics
Ten leading comic book artists, including Daniel Clowes, Joann Sfar and Riad Sattouf have recently withdrawn their names from the Grand Prix lifetime achievement award from The Angoulême Comics Festival. Why? Well it appears that Angoulême initially assumed that comic books are a boys only pursuit, with no women appearing on their 30 strong short list and a male only judging panel.
Thankfully The Women in Comics Collective Against Sexism and some of the nominees were on hand to challenge Angoulême and the festival is now reconsidering their shortlist.
This incident raises the issue of how comics can be perceived from a gendered perspective. Is there something about comics that are essentially male, or has the growth in graphic novels changed assumptions about who makes and enjoys this form of visual fiction?
Looking at the history of comic books it is clear there have been fewer female characters. For every Minnie the Minx, Catwoman or Batgirl there’s always more male counterparts taking centre stage. Perhaps this imbalance is beginning to shift with Marvel and DC comics’ 2015 launch of their Super Hero Girls – a range of all female super hero and villains – some of them new characters, some reworking of older ideas such as She-Hulk. Interestingly, market research from 2014 suggests that women make up 46.67% of the readership of comics, so it makes commercial sense to represent the audience of comics more equally.
Another issue is the profile of women cartoonists and artists. Seeing that Angoulême festival struggled to find any names to put on their list. Here are a few suggestions of my own, there were plenty of other names I could have added, so please feel free to add your own via the comments at the bottom of this post.
American cartoonist and illustrator who has published a number of books exploring her creative writing and comic book classes.
Iranian born graphic novelist and film director most famous for her Persepolis comics
British newspaper cartoonist and creator of Tamara Drewe (2005-06) and Gemma Bovery (2000)
Faith Erin Hicks
Canadian cartoonist, The Adventures of Superhero Girl (2013)
Russian / American graphic novelist
Canadian comic artist, Skim (2008) and This One Summer (2014)
Her Newbery honour-winning graphic novel El Deafo (2014) explored her own experiences of growing up with hearing problems
American comic artist, Marbles (2012)
American cartoonist, Calling Dr. Laura (2013)
British cartoonist and author, Fluffy (2007)
American comic artist, The Voyeurs (2015)
An Ignatz Awards nominated comic book artist based in America
American cartoonist, Dykes to Watch Out For and Fun Home (2006)
American comic artist
American illustrator who works on DC Comics’ Batgirl
And of course OCA’s very own Beth Dawson, runner up in the Observer/Cape/ Comica graphic short story prize in 2014 and 2015.
One thing I noticed while compiling the list, is the greater number of North American artists. Perhaps there the view of comics and graphic novels is different from here?
Thankfully progress is being made. In 2014 the Comics Industry Person of the Year was given to Raina Telgemeier. And it is only fair to mention that the Angoulême festival has awarded the Grand Prix to one woman in its 43 year history, Florence Cestac.
The next step is to enjoy the creative work of women cartoonists from around the globe and to stop viewing comics as a boys only pursuit.