We take a look back at Somerville’s LadiesCon 2017, a celebration of women in comics, diversity and inclusiveness.
The Greater Boston region is rich with history. It’s where you can find the oldest U.S. institution of higher education, Harvard University. Beautiful Boston Common has the honor of being the nation’s oldest public park. And, of course, this area is home to everybody’s favorite pop culture website, AiPT!
But let’s set all that history aside and talk about something else Greater Boston can be proud of–its vibrant comic book scene–part of which was on display Saturday, September 16 in Boston’s neighboring city of Somerville. There, at the Center for Arts at the Armory, creators and fans gathered for LadiesCon 2017.Now, don’t let the name fool you. While LadiesCon, organized by The Ladies of Comicazi, was certainly a celebration of the work women of all kinds are doing in comics, cosplay, science fiction and the wider pop culture universe, the event was truly about all-inclusiveness.
“Women, people of color, queer and non-binary folks have always been part of the comics community–creating them and consuming them,” said Erin McGrath, one of the ladies behind LadiesCon. “However, at large, traditional cons, the focus tends to be on cis white men. We wanted to create a con where the ratios were reversed – there are still some wonderful cis white men at LadiesCon–but the focus is on these folks who are usually underrepresented. It’s important because people need to see themselves in the stories they consume, and in the people who are creating them.”
Although LadiesCon’s focus may have been different than that of an event like Boston Comic Con, its format was similar (just on a much smaller scale). The attendees (more than 600 this year, according to McGrath) had a chance to sit in on a variety of panels on topics such as women in comics retail, women’s growing role in the gaming industry and the summer movie season’s breakout star, Wonder Woman.
Just as every comic convention has an artists’ alley, LadiesCon welcomed multiple vendors. Attendees could stop, chat and purchase work from the likes of Metrokitty, Cambrasine, Turtle Comics, Hellcat Press and many others.
Then, there were LadiesCon’s guests of honor, including local creator Ming Doyle. A freelance artist and comic book illustrator, Doyle’s work has appeared in such titles as Popgun, Girl Comics and Fantastic Four. Doyle praised The Ladies of Comicazi for the continuous support they heap on local creators in the budding Boston comics scene, and was equally pleased with the diverse turnout–of all ages.
“There are lots of kids, which you actually don’t get a lot of at larger shows like Boston Comic Con or New York because they’re so expensive to get into,” Doyle said. “So it’s nice to see kids here.”
Seated next to Doyle was her recent collaborator on the Cirque American series Girl Over Paris, young adult and children’s book author Gwenda Bond. Known for her Lois Lane young adult novels, Bond also sees LadiesCon’s appeal for current and potential readers who may not find it as easy to enter comics fandom as other groups.
“I think a lot of teens are interested in comics but don’t necessarily know how to find them,” Bond said. “So events like this are a really great place for them to come and get a feel for what’s out there, because there’s so much and comics can be intimidating to commit to as an outsider, especially if you’re not the core demographic.”
But of course, LadiesCon wasn’t just for women creators. In addition to Doyle, Bond, Kristen Gudsnuk and Mildred Louis, Raul the Third and Joe Quinones were also in attendance. Quinones, the former penciler for the recently wrapped Howard the Duck and the current artist for America, was happy to be a part of the event and all it stands for.
“It’s great,” Quinones said. “It’s unfortunate that it needs to be highlighted at all, but it’s great to have it confirm that comics are for everyone.”
The major comics publishers seem to be catching on. Marvel Legacy, the House of Ideas’ latest initiative, which America will tie into with October’s #8, also seems to reflect some of the values at the core of LadiesCon.
“It’s sort of comics with an eye toward the next generation of new readers, and tying that to the long history of Marvel,” Quinones said of Marvel Legacy. “I think it’s really important to acknoweldge where we’ve been and keep an eye ahead of us.”
As for what’s ahead for Quinones, himself, I asked about the possibility of one day joining his Howard the Duck collaborator Chip Zdarsky on Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man.
“I would love to, I love working with Chip,” Quinones said.
The mission statement that drives an event like LadiesCon is an important one, and what I found in my conversations with the convention’s guests is that the Greater Boston comic book community has already fully embraced the ideals of inclusiveness and support.
“It’s just a really nice, tightly knit community where everyone supports each other,” Doyle said of the Boston comic scene. “It’s not about tearing people down–it’s helping them, and I really love that.”
“We’ve been to comic shops all over the U.S., and firmly believe that Greater Boston has one of the best communities in America,” McGrath said. “The shops are incredibly collaborative, and each have a special focus that make them stand out. As the Ladies of Comicazi, clearly that’s our homebase, but we’ve been building relationships with Hub and Comicopia as well. These and many of the other stores in the area do an amazing job of making folks of all identities feel welcome and able to find the fandoms that they love.”While this year’s LadiesCon has wrapped, those who feel they missed out on the fun should know the Ladies of Comicazi hold regular events at the shop, which won the Will Eisner Spirit of Retailer Award at Comic-Con International: San Diego, located in Somerville’s Davis Square.
And while the world of comics can sometimes seem confusing, what with titles from major publishers seemingly relaunching every other month, potential readers should follow LadiesCon’s lead and dive right into their search for their new favorite series. Comics have never been more diverse–there’s room for everyone!