She Makes Comics (Sequart, NR)

She Makes Comics is the kind of film that can teach you a lot while also making you feel optimistic towards the future.



The world of comics can often seem like a boys’ club with a big sign on the wall saying “No girls allowed!” or, for those who have passed puberty, “Any girls who enter will be sexually harassed without mercy! Serves you right, we warned you!” Without downplaying the very serious barriers women face, from being ignored or dismissed to being harassed or threatened, it’s also true that many women have found a place for themselves writing, drawing, publishing, and enjoying comics. She Makes Comics, a new documentary from Sequart Organization and Respect! Films, emphasizes the positive contributions of women in comics while not ignoring the trials many have faced (and are still be facing) in order to get their own done and/or to just enjoy comics.
As She Makes Comics points out, women have been involved in the production of comics from the early days of newspaper strips, and in the 1950s, the reading audience for comics was over half female. A shift by publishers toward superhero comics, followed by the emergence of highly misogynist underground comics, both skewed the production and readership of comics toward men. Even so, a few women persisted in the field, whether by writing and drawing for mainstream publishers or going indie and producing their own work. With the growth of alternative comics and new means for dissemination including web comics, we’ve seen rapid growth recently in comics written by and for women and girls.
She Makes Comics is a celebration of these women creators and fans. It includes interviews with many women, some well-known (including Trina Robbins, Joyce Farmer, Wendi Pini, and Kelly Sue DeConnick) and many others you may not have heard of before. Director Marisa Stotter includes information about the foremothers, so to speak, of women comic creators, including Jackie Ormes, the first African American woman to create a comic strip (“Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem,” which ran in the Pittsburgh Courier in 1937-1938), and also includes interviews with many industry professionals  (Vertigo creator Karen Berger, DC publisher Jenette Kahn, journalist Heidi MacDonald, and Comic-Con International organizer Jackie Estrada among them).
There’s a tendency in some circles to put down cosplayers, particularly women in sexy costumes, but for many women cosplay is their first entrée into comics culture. Some take it further, a case in point being Elfquest creator Wendy Pini, who got her first break as a comics writer after winning a Red Sonja cosplay contest. It should hardly require stating that men seldom or never have to demonstrate how good they look in a metal bikini before getting hired to work in comics, but Pini took her opportunity and ran with it.
She Makes Comics is the kind of film that can teach you a lot while also making you feel optimistic towards the future. The breadth of coverage is impressive, but with such a large subject no single issues can be covered in much detail. On the bright side, this film may well serve as an inspiration to viewers to get out and explore some of the topics mentioned, as well as to check out some of the work of the women featured in it.
She Makes Comics is available on download from on DVD or digital download from Sequart. | Sarah Boslaugh

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