This is more of an “off the cuff” post…
You know, about eleven years ago I started hanging out with a bunch of people who were comic book creators and editors. They all worked on a webcomics imprint for DC Comics. My husband was the “fulcrum” of that group, having not only a top webcomic on the platform but tirelessly promoting not only his work but the work of all his friends.
Even though I had worked in Editorial at two different comic publishers & was currently writing for Marvel, I never felt “included” in that group. I mean, my husband included me in the group, but I didn’t feel organically included by them. Part of that, I think, was because I was female; I was the girlfriend and later wife of their friend. I wasn’t a creator myself (though actually I WAS) or anyone important. I was just like an “appendage” of my husband’s. I belonged at the “girl’s side of the table.”
(There was one notable exception and he knows who he is; maybe our mutual rough experiences with discrimination in the biz gave us something to bond over.)
I have found over the last 25 years that many people in the comic book industry are the following combination: Entitled + Immature + Secretly Conservative.
Entitled: They loved these comics and characters since they were kids, and they are “owed” a career just for that fact. There is a near-religious quality to their insistence on comics stardom. I do not exaggerate.
Immature: Peter Pan syndrome.
Secretly Conservative: They sneer at the “squares” and think they’re so woke & punk, but at the end of the day most of them hew to the same conservative values as included in the comics they grew up on.
If you’re a woman in the comics industry and you’re not going to make it your speciality to write mostly “women centered” comics…you’re kind of worthless. You have no “purpose.” They don’t understand how to “place” you.
I created a comic book with one of those artists in the group. I wrote that comic & shaped those characters on my own terms, not to satisfy preconceived notions or expectations of what a comic created by a woman would be like. I wrote it to appeal to a broad range of readers.
I spearheaded, ran, promoted, and fulfilled a successful Kickstarter campaign—which was a lot of work. I fell and had a concussion halfway through the campaign, and with my husband’s help I still successfully completed it. My very first priority was to make sure that the artist was paid immediately for his work. As soon as I received the funds through Kickstarter, I cut a check for him and OVERNIGHTED it to his house.
And so that was the first volume of the comic. We planned a sequel. I wrote a script & sent it to him; never heard back from him & it sort of faded out. A few years later, we reconnect and a send him another copy of the script. He’s like “yes, yes, let’s do this!” Never hear from him again. He posts this passive-aggressive thing on his Facebook about how he only wants to work on sort of “happy, nostalgic” type projects. But never gets in touch with me, just ghosts me on the entire thing. To this day.
A couple of years before this, I remember attending one of those “get-togethers” with this crew at a bar, without my husband. I felt like such a complete non-entity. It was so clear to me that I just didn’t “fit in” with them & they felt uncomfortable around me without my husband as “context.” I literally went home and cried. And I feel that my attempts over the last several years to be more open about every facet of who I am only made things worse. And probably made things more worse than I realized.
Maybe part of it was: I wasn’t accepted as an “equal” with them because of my gender, but then I didn’t fit in with the “girl’s side of the table” either. So I was essentially a non-entity.
I was nobody. I had worked in the comics industry for almost 25 years. And yet wherever I look, it’s like I was never really there at all. Nobody can tell me that if I had been male, things would have ended up exactly the same. And nobody can tell me that if I had been an “acceptable” woman who knew the ins and outs of the “girl’s side of the table” (and/or was able to give them paid work at a publisher) things would have ended up exactly the same.
What a waste of my time. All those years. On the periphery.