By Joshua Stone
The panel was called "Strong Women and the Creators Who Empower Them". Sometimes the title of a panel does not convey to the attendee what they will be getting themselves into by attending. In this case, while already a long title, it would have been best if they added the following – "And How Kelly Sue DeConnick and Gail Simone Kick Bootie, Plus Three Impressive Male Artists." DeConnick and Simone were kicking bootie as part of the panel with Cliff Chiang, Rick Burchett, and Georges Jeanty as the male artists, impressive in both their skills and their integrity. The moderator was the equally impressive James Robinson.
Jeanty (currently Serenity: Leaves on the Wind, and previously the rest of the Whedonverse), began by discussing how when he started working on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, he had a real problem with the scripts because of how often Buffy would get hit because she is female. Joss Whedon told Jeanty to think of her like Spider-Man, because Buffy can hit back.
Simone then talked about how being a strong woman can mean different things. Sometimes a strong woman is She-Hulk crushing a tank and sometimes a strong woman is a little girl crying. The reason Simone decided to write more than one female led book (currently Red Sonja, Tomb Raider, and Batgirl) was to show that there can be more than one kind of female character and they can all exist and be different. Simone tied into this idea by saying when she creates a female character she tries to make her look like something that has never been seen before.
Chiang (Wonder Woman) said that he often finds that when covers are pitched to him that it is described as a "damsel in distress" type of situation. Chiang said that with Wonder Woman he has a responsibility to the character and its history, and that Wonder Woman should never be treated that way. While there may be a cover that shows her tied up, but by looking at Wonder Woman and seeing her eyes, you know she still has things under control.
DeConnick (Captain Marvel, Pretty Deadly, Ghost) said that when she got into the business she tried to stay away from writing female led books to avoid being pigeonholed, but now she is trying to put women forward to try and balance the scales. DeConnick discussed times when she wanted to see changes made to artwork, like when there was a page where you could see both butt cheeks and both breasts of a female character at the same time, but she was told it was already inked so too late and she didn't have the pull to force the change. However, when she did an arc on Avengers Assemble with Warren Ellis she saw what a little bit of pull could do. Ellis didn't feel Spider-Woman was being depicted realistically, and let the artist know it. Deconnick relayed that Ellis told the artist that they should fix it or he would come to their house, nail their feet to the floor, and set their house on fire. Somehow, that being said with Ellis' British accent got the changes made.
Deconnick said that she often hears as a response to complaints about the portrayal of women in comics, that the men are idealized as well. Her response to that is that men are idealized for their strength and the women are idealized for their sexual availability. She said she often is able find the cervix on the females the way they are drawn, and since she is not a doctor, she does not feel that it should be so easy.
An audience member asked the panel what their proudest moment was. Simone said when she did Birds of Prey she wanted to show that three female leads could function without being depicted as stereotypical women. She did not want to have them fighting over boyfriends, constantly be concerned about their hair and make-up, and only be shown eating salad or (if dumped by a man) ice cream. When Birds of Prey succeeded, it was Simone's proudest moment.
Jeanty said that with Buffy he has had more women say it was the first comic book they have ever read. He was very proud to have provided the gateway drug to comics for so many women.
Chiang said that he has mostly worked on female characters throughout the years, but he was most proud of Greendale with Joshua Dysart. The main character in the book, Sun Green, is able discover her voice and speak up against things that she feels are wrong.
DeConnick curates a line of women's shirts at WeLoveFine.com, and a portion of the money is used to send girls to the Girls' Leadership Institute, http://www.girlsleadershipinstitute.org/, to help girls become leaders and to make a difference. DeConnick was most proud that through this, a girl was able to go to the camp, and that as a result DeConnick may have changed a person's life.
Burchett (Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether) was proud that so many of the readers for Lady Sabre were female, and that they enjoy the stories.
Robinson shared that he was most proud that his run on Justice League had four of the seven members be female. He also answered another audience member that asked which female character they would like to see rebooted, and he said he would like to see a few pounds put back on Amanda Waller, a belief that many in the audience clearly shared by the applause that followed.
Overall, a very good panel that filled what was the second largest room at Wondercon. The fact that so many people came out in support of this panel shows that maybe we as the audience are smart enough to be able to handle our female characters being portrayed as real people and not just eye candy for the 14-year-old boy inside of us.
Follow Joshua Stone on Twitter @1NerdyOne