Jonathan Rich writes for BleedingCool.com …
While the superhero stereotype is largely a man in tights, a costume and or a cape, there are plenty of engaging and super-powered characters with the XY chromosomes proliferating in the pages of current comic books, as was discussed at the "Dynamic Female Characters" panel at Dragon*Con Monday morning.
For me, a dynamic female character is one where her personality and traits are clearly defined," said current Harley Quinn artist and co-writer Amanda Conner. "I love a delineated personality."
In 90s comics, any character was just filled with rage," joked Red Sonja and Thor cover artist Joyce Chin, prompting Conner to add "Exactly. All the men had that Clint Eastwood 'grimaced stare' and all the women had the same 'model pout.' I'm so glad we've moved past all that."
Characters are as different as the people you know," said Black Panther World of Wakanda artist Afua Richardson. "There's a range. Good characters and good stories allow you to identify with them. All of the spectrum should be allowed from super strong to super sexy."
Chin said sometimes she doesn't quite relate to the costumes or mindset of the female comic book characters she is given to illustrate.
I'm a little confused by some of the iterations," she admitted. "Poison Ivy in a turtleneck doesn't work for me, but Vampirella doesn't seem like a big deal. Sometimes I get a script where I wonder if the writer has even ever met a woman. I don't think gender makes a writer any better, but they need to know what they are talking about."
Conner said she had experienced similar situations in her comics career.
There have been times when I have said, 'We're not going to have this character cry right here. There should be more tension for her to be seen trying not to cry.' Some inexperienced writers will try to put in too many emotions into one panel and some don't put things down in the script visually, so sometimes I feel I need to make a case for the character on the page to be honest and true to who they are. I like to know and what the character is thinking and feeling, and that isn't always breaking down to have a good cry."
Brenden Fletcher knows his stuff," specified Richardson. "The way he writes Batgirl feels authentic and real."
As the popularity of DC's Harley Quinn continues to rise with her big screen appearance in the Suicide Squad film, the issue of her abusive relationship with The Joker needed to be addressed and Conner was ready to talk about what is going on with the former Arkham Asylum psychiatrist now and in the future.
That was a challenge," Conner conceded. "Jimmy (Palmiotti) and I wanted to show she's loveably nuts, but in her head she's the hero and the Batman who is always snarling and beating up her boyfriend is the real villain. She's doing what she does for the right reasons in her head, but we took her out of Gotham so she can rethink her life. We wanted her to reflect on how hard it is emotionally when you go through a breakup, but we finally got Harley away from him. Though, that doesn't mean The Joker will stay away."
Jonathan Rich is a freelance journalist, high school educator, and self-professed comic book nerd working in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. He writes about entertainment and pop culture for various print and web publications, including bleedingcool.com.