Comics Beat Letter to the Editor From Peggy Burns

“Peggy Burns on Double-X in comics” / Comics Beat / Heidi MacDonald / December 30, 2008

Dear Heidi,

As a former employee of DC Comics and current Associate Publisher of Drawn & Quarterly, I read your recent editorial on women in comics with great interest and couldn’t agree more. But to examine the question of why there aren’t more women working in comics, we have to find new answers. And there are new answers, and there are old answers that have been there all along, but for some reason just have never been properly recognized.

I agree that it’s important to note that NYCC has few female special guests, but it’s hardly surprising. Until the organizers develop a deeper understanding of the medium (meaning NOT having a “Women Who kick Ass” panel with Jenna Jameson), and not just see the show as a revenue stream among their many trade shows, NYCC will always be inferior to the one show that everyone keeps pontificating that NYCC may overcome in numbers and influence–Comic-con International. And I think it should be noted, or perhaps more likely spelled out in fireworks in the sky, a few of the talented people who are behind Comic-con International: Fae Desmond, Jackie Estrada, Sue Lord, Janet Goggins, and those are just some of the people I deal with directly. I would go so far as to say that Fae Desmond is the one of the most powerful people in comics, a “noted industry figure” if you will. And yet, no mention of her ever comes up. She’s been with CCI since 1985.

What’s wrong in the year 2008 is to state that one can only be a noted industry figure if they work for Vertigo or Dark Horse and the titles that Shelly, Karen, and Diana edit are “mainstream” and the comics that Francoise edits are “not mainstream” especially in age when Persepolis is the bestselling original graphic novel of the decade. If the debate is whittled down to superhero comics or the big two then the argument of few women in comics makes more sense. Yes, there are shamefully few women writers and/or artists for DC Comics and Marvel, BUT there are far more than the one new “noted industry figure” you cited from the past five or ten years. If I may, editorially: Anjali Singh, Deanne Urmy, Shawna Ervin-Gore, business-wise Judith Hansen, Michelle Ollie, Jennifer de Guzman and those are the names that are on my radar (I’m sure there are plenty more in the genres I don’t follow as closely, especially in manga and superhero) or retailers like Mimi Cruz of Nightflight, Chloe Eudaly of Reading Frenzy and Mary Gibbons of Rocketship or journalists like yourself, Nisha Gopalan, and Hillary Chute.

Perhaps it is because the process in single-authored comics is more organic is why no one ever mentions cartoonists (of single authored comics) and their publishers, it’s too obvious. But for the week ending 12/14/08, Lynda Barry was holding her own on the Bookscan hardcover graphic novel bestseller list at #9 (# 42 on the overall hardcover and paperback list), behind Alan Moore and Tim Sale and ahead of Neil Gaiman and Stephen King, six months after her book came out. If we’re going to discuss women in comics, let’s do the research and be inclusive not exclusive. Let’s change the debate with facts.

The comics medium has changed a lot in the past decade thankfully, and, for the few segments of the industry that have not caught up on the issue of women in comics or doing comics, there are others who are quickly changing this, and therefore the definition of mainstream. I understood you were trying to say there are not many women doing comics at the big two companies, but in an industry that can a bit narrow-minded, we need our pundits to be think a little broader, so that everyone can learn.

Peggy Burns
Drawn & Quarterly
Associate Publisher

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