San Diego Comic Con is more than toys, comics, movie releases and cosplay. There are a bunch of introspective panels that start some very necessary discussions.

We are all seeking a role model, someone to look up to and hopefully someone who looks like us. Unfortunately, many young women are still struggling to find that person. The Be Your Own Superhero: Intersectional Feminism in Comics panel wants to “normalize feminism” and “include everyone” by creating new stories with protagonists of mixed races, trans characters and disabled persons.

Each of the panelists echoed a common theme: represent races, genders and disabilities accurately. Google, interview people and do your research. Research will not restrict you it will open you up to more ideas. “Writers Google weird shit all the time,” explained Cait Brennan.

Let’s meet a few of our panelists and hear their thoughts.

Cait Brennan (“Debutante“) grew up as a trans woman in a “redneck” area and to her feminism was a natural thing. When she moved to California she ran up against trans exclusionary feminism and thought “am I not welcome in this space?” As time went on Cait found feminists who were all inclusive and the mindset about trans people changed. Cait went on to say that she believes feminism needs to include everybody. “I am disabled with a diverse family background. We are all in it together.”

“To see myself on screen I still have to squint. I want to get to a place where I no longer have to do that.”

Rosie Knight (Women Write About Comics) first identified with the comic Love & Rockets–this was the first time she experienced a queer, “big,” punk woman character. “It was the first slice of life I read and could relate to.” Rosie strives to educate audiences about women, disabilities or people of color. “Even when I am writing a list I try to include snippets of knowledge.”

There were not a lot of Asian girls in mainstream media when Sarah Kuhn (Heroine Complex) was growing up. Her first role model was a friend of Strawberry Shortcake, Almond Tea. Almond Tea donned the stereotypical bowl cut and had a sidekick, Marzipanda. Not ideal, but a start. Sarah Kuhn was further exposed to diversity through Sassy teen magazine. “It tried to push the envelope for teen girls. Their staff is mostly white but they use diverse models.” Sarah wanted to relate to females such as Lois Lane. “If I squint maybe Lois is Asian.” Sarah now writes the Heroine Complex series, which features two Asian main characters. “We have to be really aware of not leaving anyone behind. To see myself on screen I still have to squint. I want to get to a place where I no longer have to do that.”

Looking for some great reads with strong messages and diverse characters? Check these out:

  • Superb, written by David F. Walker and Sheena C. Howard, features Jonah, a superhero with Down syndrome.
  • M.F.K., a webcomic written by Nilah Magruder, is an epic dystopian fantasy that follows the adventures of 14 year-old Abbie.
  • Kim & Kim, written by Magdalene Visaggio, has been described as “Blade Runner meets Jem and the Holograms” by Steve Orlando. This LGBTQ-positive comic features a diverse cast of characters.
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, written by Becky Chambers, is a science fiction book where humans are a small part of a vast universe of races. This book displays emotion and tremendous character work.