Women of Emerald City Comic-Con: Body Issues & Unsung Heroes

Shanna and I went to the Emerald City Comic-Con this past weekend.  For us, it’s mostly a personal excursion, as we met there in 2012.  Usually for me it’s about meeting celebrities and comic creators, getting pictures with them and possibly getting a comic or DVD signed.  This time it was all about the panels and cosplayers.

Along with all the celebrity Q&A’s we watched there were a couple panels that educated, captivated, and even moved us.  I thought I’d share these experiences with you since empowering women and body imagery is important to us at Shanna Paxton Photography and that’s exactly what these panels were about.

Ani-Mae, Ivy Doomkitty, Emerald City Comic-Con

Ani-Mae & Ivy Doomkitty lead panel. Photo by Jeff.

Body Confidence and Positivity in Cosplay

First up, a panel called Body Confidence and Positivity in Cosplay, hosted by professional cosplayers Ivy Doomkitty and Ani-Mia.  Now, cosplaying always seemed to me to be a fun way to share your passion for geek culture.  People cosplay, or dress up, as characters from comic books, video games, movies, cartoons, and TV shows.  It always seemed a bit like Halloween, only with some incredibly expensive DIY costumes.

But Doomkitty and Ani-Mia told of incredibly personal stories of growing up bullied due to weight issues, which lead to a low self-esteem.  Doomkitty loved the idea of dressing up as her favorite characters, but was terrified of being ridiculed for how she looked.  Ani-Mia thought getting popular friends would make her feel good about herself.  For both Ivy and Ani-Mia, it was cosplay that helped wash away all of that negativity and love themselves for who they are.  “Whenever I wore that Supergirl costume, I actually felt super!” says Ani-Mia.

These two women’s stories showed that cosplay is much more than carefree fun.  It can be a means for someone to embrace who they are, to love their body and feel sexy for the first time.  Also, there are no limitations to cosplaying, as it transcends all ages, body types, races, and genders.  “I like the challenge of making a male costume fit the female form,” Ivy Doomkitty says of her occasional gender-bending costumes.  “It doesn’t matter how old you are. What characters do you enjoy? You can show your love no matter how old you are,” says of Ani-Mia, citing Retired Wonder Woman as a wonderful example.

Body Confidence and Positivity in Cosplay turned out to be a weekend highlight that we were so fortunate to attend.

She Makes Comics documentary

She Makes Comics, a Celebration of Women in the Comic Book Industry

While the documentary was a somewhat cursory run-through of the history of women behind the creative and publishing process of comic books, it managed to be quite informative and chock-full of names worth seeking out and, ultimately, an important contribution.

I won’t waste time on many of the details within the documentary, as you should make every effort to see it for yourself.  However, I’ll highlight a few surprising facts the film points out.

  • Comic books have generally been regarded as a boys’ hobby, yet girls have made up of 55% of the readership since the 1940s.
  • In fact, women have even contributed to the field since the days of newspaper strips in the late 1800s.
  • Nell Brinkley, Jackie Orms, Ramona Fradon, Marie Severin, and Brenda Berkeley are all major contributors from the turn of the 20th century to the 1970s.
  • Cosplayers have Wendy Pini to thank for pioneering the activity.  Her Red Sonja made quite an impression back in the day and eventually led to her creating a comic called ElfQuest.
  • Jenette Kahn helped DC Comics grow up in the ‘80s, overseeing Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen.
  • Karen Berger was given her own imprint at DC called Vertigo, which is credited with developing 90% of the top talent in the past 25 years.

One can go on and on.  Here’s a list of other women in the industry to look into:

Afterward, we had a lovely Q&A with the film’s producer, Patrick Meaney, and Vita A., a comic book writer and former comic shop employee.  I asked what women-centered comics they would love to see adapted into film to bring more awareness of the material.  They seemed to crave adaptations of Promethea by Alan Moore, Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and the superhero books Heroes for Hire and The Question.  I also asked if they felt The Big Bang Theory, a sitcom that’s helped popularize geek culture, with its ‘stranger in a strange land’ treatment of women and comic geeks was harmful towards what She Makes Comics represents.  The panelists seemed to agree that it doesn’t help, however it’s hard to begrudge a mainstream TV show that ultimately popularizes comic book shops and geek culture.

We got to hang out with them for about 20 minutes afterward, which was a great way to cap off an awesome day at the Emerald City Comic-Con.

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