Close your eyes and picture a con devoted to women creators and innovators in the comic book industry set inside a gorgeous museum. Now open your eyes. This is going to be a real thing. It’s called Comique Con, it’s being held at the Arab American National Museum in a collaborative effort with the excellent Green Brain Comics, and it’s going to be awesome.
I had a ton of questions about the event, and Comique Con organizer Chelsea Liddy sat down to answer them.
What can you tell me about yourself?
Chelsea: I have long been interested in social issues, and I pride myself as a social justice warrior despite the disparaging connotation that the term has acquired of late. Thanks to my full-time gig, I have a lot of experience in fundraising, event planning, and communications. I love studying various cultures and languages, and have graduate level education in anthropology and international development. I’ve studied art and love to make collages out of old movie ticket stubs (my friends know who to give their movie stubs to!).
I’m fortunate to be a nerd who has always had a strong support network of nerdy friends. I mean, for chrissakes I took a cardboard standup of Legolas to my senior homecoming dance in high school and barely anyone batted an eyelash—in fact more people were dancing with him than half of the actual human guys!
The more people I meet, the more I realize that I’m lucky in this way. There are A LOT of isolated nerds out there who don’t feel they can be themselves, and I am fortunate to be someone who happens to love Tolkien and reading and comics (and has a weird fascination with Iceland?), and all my close friends and family do as well. I think that it’s so important for (nerd) girls to feel like they can be themselves and explore their passions. Nerds unite?!
What first got you into comics?
Chelsea: I got into comics in my late teens and early twenties. Comics are great for college students, because they’re quick pleasure reads in between studying, and I worked at Barnes and Noble—the discount helped. For me the three most influential comics were Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis.
I was blown away by Marjane’s writing, honesty, and humor, and I couldn’t believe I could learn so much about Iranian history and have so many of my preconceptions turned upside-down from a damn comic book.
The Sandman is obviously seminal, and I just connected instantly with Neil’s writing and the artwork featured in the volumes. I didn’t know what I was reading at first, but I knew I loved it. I’ve always loved mythology, and I am still shocked that something so beautiful and heart-wrenching as Neil’s modern myth about the Endless exists.
And Stephen Pastis is just hilarious. My brothers and I would read Pearls Before Swine together in the Sunday paper. Hello Zeeba neyba.
What was your original inspiration to create an event celebrating female creators?
Chelsea: A few things. I was tired of seeing the contributions of women to the comic arts being relegated to a “women in comics” panel at conventions.
Also, Gamergate happened and I couldn’t believe the blatant display of misogyny that happened there. I just couldn’t believe it. I knew I wanted to do something to combat the negative effects of that whole shitshow—pardon my cussing! Yeah, so gaming and comics are extremely interrelated, and I think that for me Gamergate was the culmination of various notes of sexism in geek culture I’ve been keeping tabs on over the past several years. Notable examples are the “fake geek girl,” the “why’d you hire a woman, I’m going to lose my job,” the “yes all the women will be posed in spine twisting contortions and ineffectual armor on the covers of comics, and the stories inside will feature hapless token female sidekicks instead of real women I can actually relate to.”
On the positive side, I was really excited that an event like this hadn’t happened anywhere else, a festival that’s sole purpose is to spotlight female comic creators. Green Brain Comics has been such a great partner—they’ve been all in from the beginning and we’re super grateful. Also, it’s such a good time in comics right now, and it’s a great time for feminism. Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls at the Party and He for She are two great examples of the changing discourse. We’re really excited to change the way comic creators who happen to be women are featured and appreciated.
And, we’re looking forward to having a “token male comic creator” panel. Haha, j/k. Probably.
What types of panel discussions are you planning to offer? What other events are in the works? Will there be any cosplay contests?
Chelsea: We are looking at panels that feature activism and comics, Arab American/diversity in comics, a panel on the Swords of Sorrow series, workshops on comic book making, a mentorship type panel for those looking to break into comics, and many more! We will also be featuring a screening of She Makes Comics, a new documentary film. We will also have a VIP meet and greet the night before ComiqueCon at Green Brain Comics. And yes, there will be a cosplay contest.
Can you describe your partnership with the Arab American National Museum?
Chelsea: I work fulltime for ACCESS, the Arab American National Museum’s umbrella organization. The AANM is a beautiful event space in Dearborn, MI that can accommodate all kinds of events. Additionally, the AANM is helping to sponsor ComiqueCon by bringing in several female Arab American comic creators, including Marguerite Dabaie and Leila Abdelrazaq. One of the many great functions of ComiqueCon 2015 is to highlight the positive contributions of Arab Americans.
The ComiqueCon website indicates that you’re currently looking for sponsors. Have you considered utilizing any crowdfunding services?
Chelsea: Yes! This is in the works. We are planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign in the summer. We think that even if people can’t attend, we will have crowdfunding support from all over the country, because people want to support the idea of the event.
What do you picture as the future for ComiqueCon? Will this be an annual event? Will it remain at the same location?
Chelsea: I would love to make ComiqueCon an annual event, and be involved as long as I am able. I do think, however, that we will outgrow our event space pretty fast if this thing gets any bigger!
What comic book series are you currently reading?
Chelsea: I am catching up on Ms. Marvel, Batgirl, and Lumberjanes. I’m working my way through a bunch of graphic novels as well: I just read Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol, This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, and I absolutely loved Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole Georges. My goal this year is to read AT LEAST one title by all of our panelists at ComiqueCon!
I think it’s a great time to get involved in the world of comics, and we’re super grateful for all the support we’ve gotten so far—including from Women Write About Comics!