Comics are for everyone.
It’s not a controversial statement. At least, it isn’t for the more rational members of the comics-consuming audience. Still, in these politically charged times, it’s easy to see how even-keeled fans could begin to worry about the stability of the medium they love so much.
To those with concerns, I say take a step away from the sensationalized headlines and toxic back-and-forths on social media and instead look to local events like LadiesCon. The 2018 edition of this celebration of women’s contributions to comics and related areas of interest was held September 23 in Somerville, Massachusetts, and like last year, the event’s message continued to be one of positivity and inclusivity.
“LadiesCon is for everyone, with a focus on creators who identify as women, non-binary, LGBTQ, and people of color, plus local artists,” LadiesCon’s website reads.The event, organized by The Ladies of Comicazi, didn’t disappoint, with attendees of all ages (some cosplaying as their favorite characters) packing Somerville’s Center for the Arts at the Armory to attend panels and interact with the local artists and vendors tabling. Attracting many eager fans were this year’s special guests: Ming Doyle (DC Comics: Anatomy of a Metahuman, The Kitchen), Erica Henderson (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Jughead), Kristen Gudsnuk (Henchgirl, Modern Fantasy), Jason Badower (Arrow, Krypton) and Marjorie Liu (Monstress, Astonishing X-Men).
Liu was among the creators impressed with just how fast LadiesCon has grown in three years and, of course, proud to be a part of it all.
“One of the wonderful things about LadiesCon is that it’s organized around promoting the creative work of women,” Liu said. “It’s just something that’s incredibly important to me, especially in an industry that’s still catching up–it’s beginning to catch up–but in certain areas still struggles with inclusivity. So this is such a beautiful environment where we can all come together and promote each other’s work.”
Although you wouldn’t have assumed as much based on the makeup of the LadiesCon crowd, as Liu mentioned, comics–like many industries–still struggles with inclusivity. It’s a fact that could make some aspiring creators doubt their place in the comics field, so I asked Liu and her fellow writers and artists what advice they may have for such individuals.
“You absolutely can do it and there is absolutely a place for you,” said Liu. “I mean, it sounds like a cliche at a certain point, but it’s true–never give up. There’s always a way in, no matter what anyone tells you, there is a place for your stories.”
Liu’s career path to comics, for instance, was anything but ordinary. Starting out as a lawyer, Liu then became a romance novelist before writing an X-Men novel that Marvel decision makers enjoyed. This led to writing gigs on such titles as Astonishing X-Men, X-23, Black Widow and Han Solo before she ultimately launched her creator-owned series Monstress, which has won multiple Eisner awards.
Doyle also advised aspiring creators to just hang in there and keep at it.
“Don’t let the naysayers get you down,” Doyle said. “They’re very loud but they’re vastly outnumbered by the amount of good people and diverse voices out there.”
Henderson, who just wrapped a 37-issue run as artist on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, pointed to the multitude of diverse comics already available to readers of all tastes and backgrounds.
“There are so many types of comics, there’s nothing that defines what ‘comics’ is,” Henderson explained. “There’s no way that someone can tell you what you’re doing isn’t right because there already exists proof that literally anything can be a comic–you can find people who are doing what you’re doing. If you’re in a community that isn’t helpful, know that’s not the only community.”
Surely, I’m not the only attendee to leave LadiesCon 2018 thinking that this event, its organizers, the creators it attracts and, of course, its fans comprise one of the more supportive and encouraging comics communities out there. Combined, all these factors should ensure that LadiesCon continues to be a successful force for good for many years to come. To learn more about the event, visit the LadiesCon website.