Ed. note: Starting this week and continuing until I run out of people to bug, WWAC will be running short pieces on some of the women working in comics now who are doing innovative or inspiring work. And not just women creators, but women working in comics retail, merchandising, marketing, editorial, journalism, and more. If you would like to contribute to the series you can get in touch with me at email@example.com.
Gail Simone — Gail on Twitter
When I first started talking about comics on the internet in the early ’00s, it was a time before identity politics and the language of contemporary social justice activism was readily available or widely understood, and so it was a real uphill battle for someone like me to sort out their feelings about objectification, rape, and representation and then present them as coherent arguments that would stick in the forums I frequented. Women in the Refrigerator was the single most powerful tool available at the time and having “fridging” as a neologism was absolutely vital to be able to assert yourself in those spaces. That was the genesis of the feminist critique of superhero comics for a lot of people, and I don’t think I can honestly talk about inspiring women or feminism in the industry without foregrounding that fact. Simone and WiR are a part of the bedrock of the industry now, as Ta-Nehisi Coates recently tipped his hat to, and her presence has really evolved remarkably since then. From that manifesto to putting it in practice on the page through Birds of Prey, Secret Six, and Red Sonja, to now doing it behind the page by getting the keys to the Dynamite castle to define the direction of their key female characters along with Nicola Scott. Simone is a force of nature.
Julie Maroh — JulieMaroh.com
The scope and scale of Maroh’s presence and activism within BD is a really hard thing to communicate effectively to an anglophone American audience. What made it into the discourse around the Angouleme disaster is the tip of an iceberg that I’m still wrapping my head around. The sequence of events that lead to the formation of BDegalite, the feminist collective that lead the charge against the Grand Prix nominations, reads like an improbable power fantasy. It’s awe inspiring. The full manifesto calls for a complete overhaul of the culture around comics that goes beyond gender parity to include race, class, and sexuality as part of a comprehensive vision of a medium that drives the wider culture forward. Her writing at the time of the Angouleme controversy is particularly notable for her dogged insistence in not letting the media fireworks distract from the wider issues with the festival and the battle she’s been fighting for years to reform the pension program that creators have to pay into in France.
The story of a female artist prosecuted for distributing the plans for a 3D model of her vagina couldn’t be any more timely given Frank Cho’s campaign to make his boner the center of attention, but Igarashi’s comic memoir presents a much bigger opportunity than a discussion of the double standards for sex in art. She’s a vital and transformative figure in Japan, but “What is Obscenity?” ought to be seen as an opportunity to shatter the retrograde, orientalist viewpoint that most Western observers have regarding Japanese pop culture. There’s a kind of sickness at work, I think, when the likes of Alison Rapp devote the time and effort necessary to pen an honors thesis calling for a cessation of international pressure on Japan to strengthen anti-obscenity laws against child pornography while the environment for adult women depicting their own bodies in art is far more repressive. Fighting for freedom of expression is a very important pursuit, but Igarashi’s case is a call to examine the biases of whose expression is championed and to what end.
Sophie Campbell — Mooncalfe
Words fail at the impact of Sophie’s coming out has had on me. Her work has had a deeply formative influence on me since The Abandoned, so it was even a lot bigger to me than having a notable current trans woman in comics. She’s an artist whose work shaped my engagement with comics and my identity as an artist before I began questioning my own gender. I don’t know that there’s anything more profound than discovering—after the fact—that someone whose work guided you through the toughest parts of your journey to understand yourself shared many of those same struggles.
Janelle Asselin — Rosy Press
The best way to describe her, I think, is a warrior. She had a tremendous impact on the industry last year, but what defines her as an inspiration to me is the smaller things that aren’t as visible as the creation of Rosy Press or her reporting on Scott Allie. I remember one time receiving my review copy of an issue of Fresh Romance and got another a few minutes later explaining there had been some revisions to one of the prose pieces to reflect more inclusive language. When I compared the two, it came down to two or three words to make an article on masturbation less cisnormative. It’s a testament to how much she strives to think outside her own experiences. I got tapped to write the foreword to the collected edition of School Spirit and have a pull quote on the upcoming print collection over people with far more clout than me. To be told that your opinion is valued that much when it frequently feels impossible to exist in this industry is a huge gesture.