COMIC PUBLISHERS WITHOUT WOMEN

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AMBER LOVE 05-AUG-2015 [UPDATED 07-SEPT-2015] This year, I’ve been paying far better attention to the diversity of companies that I promote in terms of comics and convention reviews. I’ve mentioned within other posts about the disparity of male to female featured guests at conventions and a lack of female staff or female fictional characters in their products. We’ve now witnessed several sexist blunders this year such as all-male “Women in Comics” panels and the accompanying mansplaining about “we hire who’s best” or “they work in editorial.” Hmmm, do they really?

Some days, I feel far less shy than others and I have directly asked two comic publishers why they don’t appear to have any women on staff. I say “appear” because very often companies let their websites get stale and don’t update non-monetized pages like “About/Contact” when they are focused on delivering weekly products.

FIRST CASE: SMALL CREATOR-OWNED PUBLISHER

CASE UPDATED: The one publisher I looked into is small press. I have all the forgiveness in the world for an independent, creator-owned company like this. I don’t know any of the people personally, but since I do know other small press companies, it’s very likely to be a gaggle of friends who didn’t go through any hiring processes. I’m not sure, but that is my speculation. That comics publisher is the small indie organization, Black Mask Studios.

BLACK MASK STUDIOS "MAYDAY"
BLACK MASK STUDIOS “MAYDAY”

Only about a month or two ago, I asked to be included in the Black Mask Studios’ press list. Two of their titles are probably going to be in my “pile to binge when the trades come out” reading: TRANSFERENCE and WE CAN NEVER GO HOME. I read the first issue of MAYDAY and it was a great action story which some days I really want. It was like reading through a star-studded gun-shooting action movie if they ever actually included female characters with agency. MAYDAY has one and it’s a nice change of pace for that genre.

When I got one of the promotional emails about a couple of upcoming comic titles, I felt the urge to be blunt because I haven’t seen any female creators in their announcements. I desperately hope it came across casual and not confrontational. On July 31, 2015, I hit reply to the email:

“Hi, [REDACTED],
Does your company have any female creators or staff? I’m not seeing any.
Amber
AmberUnmasked.com”

As I said, sometimes staff pages on websites aren’t painting a full picture. After the extreme bloodboiling debacle of the Marvel hip-hop variants, companies should be aware that fans are inspecting their diversity hires in the employee and talent ranks. Marvel defended itself (via Axel Alonso) that a lot of people of color worked on their hip-hop variants and the musicians they parodied loved them. I reminded myself that perhaps, Black Mask Studios has women and I’m just missing the announcements.

Five days have passed, but Black Mask Studios has not replied to my query. I can’t say I was expecting one, but they could’ve answered something polite, like perhaps, “Not right now, but hopefully with success, we can expand and hire more people.” But so far, nothing was received.

While I await a reply from Black Mask offices, I got a text from a creator friend who told me about some of the female creators he knows have worked on BMS books:

20150805_080958 black mask female creators

 

In the spirit of promoting the women I wasn’t familiar with, though Del Rey was someone I at least had heard of and followed on Twitter, here are some links to keep posted on their happenings:

Vanessa Del Rey art website

Vita Ayala on twitter

Yasmin Liang art

Anna Wieszczyk comic portfolio

I got a lovely reply from Black Mask Studios on September 6, 2015 (a Sunday!) with details about the women in their creative teams:

For creators on our new slate of books-
Anna Wieszczyk who co-created and draws Godkiller.
Tamra Bonvillain who colors Transference.
Amanda Scurti who colors We Can Never Go Home.
Vita Ayala who write Our Work Fills The Pews.
Yasmin Liang who draws Our Work Fills The Pews.
Lauren Affee who colors Our Work Fills The Pews.
Holly Interlandi who writes Last Song.
Zoe Chevat who draws Last Song.
Vanesa Del Rey who draws Sinatoro.
So of 12 books in this years wave of titles, 7 have female creators on them. Obviously we would like the ratio to be better in terms of male to female creators, but it is something we always strive to improve on all the time. 

SECOND CASE: MIDSIZE PUBLISHER

Days before I contacted Black Mask Studios, I sent a tweet to Valiant Entertainment. Valiant got under my skin months ago when I noticed that they were making a lot of comics, yet the only female creator I could identify was Jen Van Meter. There may be others, but I’m trying to go by names and hopefully, searches that return headshots not only pictures of art.

Back tracking to January 19th of this year, I wrote an open letter which I’m sure was never brought to the attention of hiring managers. I penned the piece after looking up Valiant Entertainment’s employee list. On Valiant Entertainment’s staff list of 19 people, I could not find a single woman listed.

Not. One. Woman.

This is why I tweeted at them directly within the last couple weeks to draw their attention to it.

On April 24th, I posted another “sexism in comics” blog because the subject seems to crop up more than herpes. Sexism is not being resolved. It’s not going to magically resolve itself in case that’s what you were hoping. People who are hiring need to look at their corporate and team structures and purposefully bring in diverse staff. I wasn’t choosing Valiant Entertainment to dissect without cause. They had issued a press release in January about three new hires and none of them were women. So it is not for the famous excuse, “we have a small staff and maybe when we expand, we’ll get to it.” No, ma’am. They had a chance at the beginning of this year and still hired three more men. Needless to say, Valiant has not replied to my tweet either.

THIRD CASE: AWARD WINNING PUBLISHER

July 31st, I tweeted a screenshot to Boom! Studios because their About Us page will tell visitors about Hollywood celebrities who have starred in movies based on their comics, but there isn’t a single mention of the all-female team behind LUMBERJANES nor any of the awards they’ve won (two Eisners this year for Best New Series and Best Publication for Teens). Needless to say, I have still not gotten a response directly from Boom! nor have they updated their page to mention LUMBERJANES. boom-about By the way, I don’t know the staff size of Boom! but their About page only lists the top four executives… which are all men. I’m just saying, if you start a hashtag campaign like “Push Comics Forward” and then don’t tend to your own house, you’re vapid.

Boom! bought Archaia Studios which has maintained their own website. Archaia’s staff page only shows the top six executives… which are also all men.

archaiastaff

EXCUSES WE ARE TIRED OF HEARING

What’s so ironic is that some companies say their female/minority staff are invisible because fans are looking at the credits pages of comics when the women/minorities are actually in the editorial offices. Yet, other companies have no problem saying they don’t have women/minorities in editorial but, proclaim to have a list of female/minority creators who have worked on their books (still a grossly unequal number).

After all this has been said, don’t misunderstand me; I enjoy the products of all three of these companies mentioned. It’s why I noticed their announcements. I have since begun ignoring Valiant announcements since they have substantial staff size and the most potential, but haven’t made any progress in 25 years. I have far more forgiveness for smaller operations.

Like the comic shop retailers, LCS Valkyries, there’s a bigger broader organization called Comic Book Women where con organizers, publishers, and other creators can find women working in comics.

There are many women who openly discuss the system of expecting women to work for less or for free. Everything that is obvious from childcare to using expertise to assist people who do get paid (like the copyeditors, illustrators, writers, marketing/blogging for barter, etc.). These people brave enough to speak out publicly – who risk being blackballed by the companies they criticize – are not merely a loud vocal minority. They are people. People looking for work. People hoping to make a difference.

From yesterday’s Comics Alliance by J.A. Micheline:

“I’ve been loudly trotting out the fact that Marvel has never hired a black woman to write an ongoing in 75 years because I am waiting for the blessed day for when some fanboy can “well, actually” me with a single example. I won’t stop complaining, but at least there’ll have been one.” Read More: “Why I’m Boycotting Marvel Comics” | http://comicsalliance.com/marvel-boycott-axel-alonso/?trackback=tsmclip”

I didn’t even know about Dwayne MacDuffie’s Rule of Three that Micheline referenced. Please go read her entire piece on boycotting Marvel, because it’s honestly something that could be about numerous comic publishers.

Six of the ten New York Times Best Selling Paperback Graphic Novels have female creators in the top credits (week of Aug 2). I’ve said all of this before in my open letter: Are you in a position to hire? Are you networking with people who aren’t just like you? Do you do your absolute best to get the creators of those titles to conventions in order to speak at panels and make new fans? Do you try to connect those creators with bloggers and podcasters for interviews? Women aren’t going to solve the glass ceiling problem for the industry. The industry needs to solve it.