Friday, August 29, 2014

Women Get The Vote!

Recently, IDW Publishing did a mini-series where a female writer (Mairghread Scott) and a female artist (Sarah Stone) produced a comic about the newly created female Transformer character called Windblade.
    The story was highly hyped for the fact it was the first ever TF comic written and drawn by female artists. On a related note, the forthcoming G.I.JOE comic will be written by Karen Traviss and the story will focus on prominently on both the Baroness and Scarlett (conveniently the Joe’s new Commander). I haven’t read the Joe series yet (it’s out next month) but the spin on it also appears to be a female writer prominently spotlighting the female characters, just because, well, they’re the girls!
    I also attended the annual Transformers convention–BotCon--back in June and was surprised to hear a couple of male fans talking about how only recently women seemed to be getting into Transformers in large amounts. I found this comment odd as I’ve been aware of female TF fans since at least as far back as the early nineties.
    I have nothing against women writing or drawing comics, of course, but I am surprised that in the early twenty first century that people are still concerned by who’s writing/drawing what. I grew up in the eighties and was exposed to women comic writers at an early age. The greats like Louise Simonson, Ann Nocenti, Jo Duffy, Wendy Pini, Colleen Doran, etc. More recently, Samm Barnes, Fiona Avery, Gail Simone, Nicola Scott, etc. Women artists may be a minority compared to the men in the field but they certainly are present.
    That’s why IDW’s advertising ploy baffles me so much. A good writer is a good writer. A good artist is a good artist. Who cares what gender they are so long as they give us the goods?
    Similarly, why should a female artist constrain themselves to writing/drawing only their own gender? I understand that a woman is likely writing from her own perspective (just as a man would likewise do) but certainly it helps stretch one’s talents as a writer to try writing characters of the opposite gender. Indeed, none of us are all the characters we write (psychos, evil people, etc.) so it only makes sense to try and get in the head of something we are not and put it down on the page.
    Were IDW so worried no one would care about Windblade if they didn’t have some kind of hook to sell it? It certainly seems so... (although in my case, I still don’t really care. Female TFs go back to the second season of the cartoon in 1985...nothing new to see here. Move along).
    People constantly talk about how sexist comics are toward women–and I agree. There’s far too much pandering to adolescents with skin-tight costumes and women-as-objects rather then someone bothering to portray them as actual, honest-to-goodness characters. But it can be done. Read some of Chuck Dixon’s run on Birds of Prey, for example, or his Batgirl: Year One (which was excellent).

   Women don’t have to be damsels in distress or militant lesbian warriors. There are other options out there if the writer takes their time and the audience is open-minded enough to accept it.
    I guess what I’m saying is this: support good storytelling in comics, regardless of the writer’s gender. If a woman writes/draws it and you like her skills, great. If she doesn’t have a clue, don’t. The same as if it were a man. Ultimately, judging talent, not gender or any other factor, should be the deciding factor in supporting art.