The Los Angeles Public Library's Vernon Branch hosted a "Women in Comics" panel, bringing on five female comics creators to examine the current state of gender equality and diversity in the comics industry. These creators included Christina Strain (Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane), Talya Perper (Steven Universe: Anti-Gravity), Sarah Kuhn (Heroine Complex), Cecil Castellucci (Star Wars: A Princess Leia Adventure), and Christina Rice (My Little Pony).
With the increase in female fans and professionals as well as younger readers, the need for diversity in comics has led to expanded story-telling and content from creators, new calls for submissions from publishers specifically seeking out diverse creators, and has driven programming at comics festivals and pop culture conventions nationwide.
The panel was organized by young adult librarian Corinda Humphrey and was inspired by Humphrey's recollections of her grandmother working in Disney animation in the 1930s when male and female creators were segregated. In a statement from Publishers Weekly, Humphrey explained that women "were not to be fraternizing with them men" and they were not allowed to write any of the stories. Today, these boundaries are no longer in place; however, the panelists examined the ways that other discriminatory measures have continued to oppress current professionals and future generations of female creators.
“I didn’t see a lot of Asian American women, especially mixed Asian American women, ever being main characters, if they were even there at all,” Sarah Kuhn, creator of Heroine Complex (a series about Asian American superheroes), explained. “Growing up, I didn’t know I could be a main character, because I never saw it. Subconsciously, I made myself a sidekick in my own life.” Christina Strain, a Korean-American colorist and writer for Marvel, expanded on this by recalling her time as a writer for the Syfy Network's adaptation of The Magicians. Strain pitched the creation of three Korean characters for the adaptation, a creative choice that she says "the show’s producers would never have considered" without her presence on the creative team.
While the panelists agreed that diversity in comics has made progress in the years, the creation of diverse characters is not the only important aspect of growing the comics industry. Tapping into the stories of diverse creators is also an intricate part of the equation that allows for a story to capture the interest of current and new readers. Panelist Talya Perper encouraged young creators to face the diversity head on stating, "If you notice there’s no character representing what you represent, you have to make it. You just have to do it."
Photo by Jason Boog/Posted to Publishers Weekly. Pictured on the Women in Comics panel at the L.A. Public Library (l. to r.) are Christina Strain, Talya Perper, Sarah Kuhn, and Cecil Castellucci. My Little Pony writer Christina Rice is not pictured.