Sunday, July 31, 2011

SDCC: I had fun!

So. SDCC. 

I've been trying to write up a recap for a week now, but I've either been working, falling into sleep coma's, or busily reminding people they met me. I lucked out and didn't get Con Crud, which I'm extremely grateful for. Usually I'm still recovering a week later, but this year, I'm feeling pretty good and haven't had nearly the same amount of post convention blahs.

This might have something to do with the fact that I had real fun at SDCC, took it at my own pace, and met some really fantastic people. This is the first year I felt like I was part of things, not separate, not awkward, not overwhelmed.

Now, of course, the convention is still enormous and crazypants. But I took my time, I didn't try to see everything (I didn't even go near the 2nd floor), I did some signings, and I talked to a lot of fellow professionals and creators. It was creatively stimulating, professionally gratifying, and just kind of...lovely.

I think this feeling is, in no small part, due to being a published writer. Now, I was last year, too. But it was new and felt odd and I wasn't really comfortable with saying that's what I was (as well as being an editor). I didn't really believe I'd earned it (and I kinda still don't). I doubt I'll really feel like a "real" writer until I do something that's entirely my own. But I don't feel like I don't have the right to call myself a writer anymore, and I feel more confident about my work...even though I know I still need lots of improvement as a storyteller. I'm just hoping I can get more opportunities to tell stories and grow.

One of the best things about con's is meeting people and catching up with creators in person. This year I got to meet George R. R. Martin AND Anne Rice. Whaaat? The reality that I've worked/am working with both of them kind of sunk in when I got an awesome hug from George, and chatted with Anne about writing. I never want to be the kind of person who's all name-droppy obnoxious...but I'd like to think it's okay to celebrate working with such wonderful storytellers and people. It's an amazing opportunity and one I'm extremely grateful for. I met so many cool industry folks, editors, writers, artists...some I've known for years, some are now new friends. It's one of the things I like most, how comics can really unite the people who work on them.

Then there was Womanthology, which I got asked about a TON at the show. I met some of the creators, which was fantastic, and I got to hear from many professionals how excited they are for the project and how happy they were to be able to support it and see it get such a tremendous response so quickly. I can be pretty cynical about this industry sometimes, and it was gratifying to be able to have something to be so positive about. 

I was sorry to leave the show really early on Sunday, but I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. I hope the rest of the conventions I go to this year turn out even half so well.




Friday, July 8, 2011

Heroic: A Womanthology - Oh. Wow.

So, not that long ago, artist Renae DeLiz sent me an email about an idea she'd had along with fellow artist Jessica Hickman. It was for an anthology featuring women creators, known and unknown, young and established, big names and unpublished newcomers. The idea was really simple: showcase the breadth of female talent that loves comics and is making amazing work in the medium right now. Give them a platform and a published book, let them tell their stories, be supportive of each other, and celebrate female creativity.

In other words: It was exactly the kind of project I wanted to be a part of. But how to do it? The email chains were epic. Anthology's are huge undertakings on their own, not to mention printing is not cheap. IDW graciously agreed to be the publisher, but we still needed funds to make it all happen. Enter Kickstarter and a lot of enthusiastic folks willing to help and...you have a phenomenon. That's taken maybe two months to put together. That's what love and enthusiasm can accomplish.

I say this because the Womanthology Kickstarter began yesterday and, in less than 20 hours, not only met, but exceeded, it's goal of 25K. It's well on its way to 40K at this point.

Check it out: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/renaedeliz/womanthology-massive-all-female-comic-anthology

I think I can safely say this was a huge shock to everyone involved. I don't think any of us doubted we'd make the goal...but eventually. Not in less than 20 hours of the first day it was up out of 30. How did this happen? Well, social networking played a huge part. Twitter, Facebook...it was viral in only a few hours. People like Neil Gaiman suddenly tweeted about it. Incentives for donations went like hotcakes. It seems to have struck a nerve at just the right time in just the right environment with just the right people.

And it's incredible. For all the creators involved it's a wonderful testament to the amount of work that's already gone into this project, and that a book like this is clearly wanted. It's even more of a testament to Renae DeLiz, who is without a doubt one of the most talented artists working today. Seriously. Check out her work on The Last Unicorn GN and tell me that's not stunning, every page. She's also kind, dedicated, and just an all around lovely person. The fact that she's been able to accomplish a goal like this in record time gives me hope for the world, and our little industry.

Why? Well, comics are a wonderful medium. It's unlike any other storytelling format, no matter what people tell you about the similarities between it and film. But as much as I love it, it has an issue with diversity, just like our culture in general. At this point I think its troubles with sexism are so well documented they're largely a cliche.

I always see the same sorts of questions, with the same answers, most of which are, in my opinion, erroneous or misguided. Mostly in regards to whether there really is a female audience for comics, what kinds of books they want, and sometimes most discouragingly...whether women actually exist in the industry or not. It's as frustrating to deal with the reality of sexism within as it is to deal with the ignorance from without, where most progress is ignored in favor of boob windows and CEO's who say "penis". It's not that these things don't exist or don't matter, but there's so much more to what women in this industry are doing, every day, on every level. Every time an article comes out and basically says "OMG, women make comics! And read them!" I want to bash my head against something. Yes, we do. And we have been for awhile. This is not new. And treating it like it is marginalizes all of us who work so hard here every day.

So something like Womanthology taking off like a shot in its first 24hours is gratifying both personally and professionally. It's vindicating. We're here, we have stories to tell...and what's more...People. Want. To. Read. Them. For me, this little juggernaut is proof positive that there is a demand for stories by women. That they can be and are for everyone.

Our audience has spoken, and we are thrilled to have you on our side.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What I think about when I think about SDCC

SDCC is rapidly approaching, and amidst the stress of figuring out my flight, hotel, booth duty, and what the hell I'm going to wear so I don't feel uncomfortable but also don't look crappy for 4 days...I'm thinking about two incidents that happened at my first SDCC (which is about 5 years ago now, maybe even 6) that have forever colored the way I view it and every other convention I attend, and likely will attend, for the foreseeable future.

In short: during the 2nd night, at the Hyatt, I experienced two separate physically and sexually threatening situations. The first was a groping that I was too shocked to register until the next day. The other was being cornered, touched, and made uncomfortable by two drunk men.

Both left me feeling shaken, upset, and like I had done something wrong. I kept thinking: how did I get in that situation? What did I do to provoke it? What mistakes had I made? How did I allow this to happen? Why didn't I make a huge scene? Basically, I immediately started blaming myself for being a woman who did not prevent someone else from making me an object. Something that I had absolutely no control over, did not deserve, and yet still feel responsible for in some way, to this day.

First, the groping. I was standing with a group of fellow professionals I had worked with for years. Most of them I knew quite well, one not very well. They were all drinking, I was not. I suddenly felt a hand trail down my back and cup my right...er...posterior. My stomach immediately flip flopped and I turned to the guy, shocked. He was talking to someone else and then stumbled away. He did not look at me once. I said nothing, because I had already started telling myself it hadn't really happened, I must have imagined it, who does that, no way.

The second happened about an hour later. I had drifted away from the group I had been talking to, to write an idea down in my sketchbook. I was against one of the large windows. There were many groups of people around, as there usually are. I did not notice the two men until they were towering over me. I was stuck and felt very small and uncomfortable. I looked around to see if anyone I knew was close by, but they weren't, and in any case, couldn't see me because these two men had neatly blocked me from view. I didn't know them at all and, the clearest thought I can remember when I realized I was cornered, is that I wished I was wearing my boots. I had left them at home because they're a pain to deal with at the airport. I was wearing flats after a day of standing on my feet, and I suddenly felt about two feet tall (I'm actually a little over five feet tall). They started asking me what I was so intent about, why was I so serious, what was I doing at SDCC, was I a friend of someone there. I said, no, I'm an editor. This was a mistake as they were then curious about why a girl worked in comics. They moved closer. I backed up, but there wasn't anywhere to go. I could tell they had been drinking, likely a lot, and for some reason I felt compelled to be...nice. I was scared to be mean or just get away, afraid they'd get mad or rough. I felt like I was stuck to the sidewalk. One of them men reached out and touched the front of my jacket, telling me I looked like a Tim Burton character. He tried to run his hand down the stripes and that's when I unfroze. All I could think of to do, because for whatever reason I just couldn't yell, I said...oh, I see some people I know, bye. And I quickly moved away. I had to squeeze myself against the window and duck. I practically ran to open the door and went up to my hotel room where I proceeded to have a very hard time sleeping.

My mind raced. I had every cliche thought you can think of. Had I been wearing something "wrong"? Not unless you think being covered from neck to ankles in baggy black, with a striped jacket is "revealing". Had I somehow suggested I wanted attention? Not unless being shy and a little freaked out at my first SDCC indicates that. Had I acted inappropriately? Other than a bit awestruck and not drinking (which might be considered weird at a convention), no. Had I, in short, done something to deserve what happened?

Although I am rationally aware I did not, and that you can't "deserve" being objectified in any case...emotionally, I was convinced I had done something wrong. Namely: that I had moved away from people for a brief moment, thereby allowing myself to be in an unpleasant situation. I had not been vigilant. I had not been "smart". The groping I felt less responsible for, because it had just...happened. And I was sort of convincing myself it hadn't, like somehow someone's hand would trail down your back and cup your ass by accident. I just couldn't process it. And it didn't occur to me at the time that experiencing both in one night was perhaps a lot to deal with and that I was having a panic attack. I felt sick, I remember that.

The rest of the convention I didn't really go out at night. I avoided the bar. I was at my industry's largest event, with all kinds of people I admired right downstairs...and I was scared to leave my room. I felt wrong, that's the only way I can describe it. I spent the rest of the convention nervous, on edge, and not because of how big it is or the fact that it was the first time I'd been there. That was overwhelming enough. I had wanted to be this strong, independent professional...and instead I felt like a groped, disrespected, thing. 

I didn't feel like I could talk about it because I'd be confirming all the stereotypes about women being harassed at conventions...and I was worried people would blame me. That they'd say I should have done something different, not been alone, yelled...or worse...that it was something I would just have to get used to.

In the years since, I haven't had a single experience like it at SDCC or any other convention. And yet, it colors the way I view every nighttime event. I don't always have the option to go to something with a group, and professionally, going to the bars or hotels to interact with creators and publishers is important. It keeps you visible, lets people get to know you a bit in a more casual setting, and can lead to opportunities. And it can also be cool to run into the various other people who go to cons, you never know who you might get to chat with. It's supposed to be, you know, fun.

But for me, it rarely is. I can't not think about what happened that night. I still blame myself, if I'm being really honest. It's a big reason why I don't drink, although it's not the only one. I might have a beer I'll nurse all night, but that's it. There are plenty of reasons that's not a bad thing, and I don't wish I could get smashed. But I do wish I didn't have to spend every second being vigilant and on guard. That I didn't have to feel scared, way down, most of the time.

Women tend to get criticized for bringing up scenarios like this, because most people want to believe we did do something to "make" it happen. And I'm sure someone reading this will think, well, you SHOULD have been more vigilant. Honestly, it's exhausting. And no one can keep that up 24/7. Then there are the people who will say it was either complimentary, or I took it too seriously, or they were drunk so what did I expect? Well, I'll tell you what I didn't expect. To have my personal space invaded, to be touched without permission. No one should be assuming, no matter how drunk they are, that other people's bodies are a free for all. The fact that they did shows a profound lack of respect for me personally, and women in general. It's not a compliment, I can tell you that. As for taking it to seriously...no. Other people don't get to define what is threatening to me, and cornering a young woman in the dark is, by definition, threatening. Every man on the planet should know better.

And anyway...shouldn't the men, who acted like that, be responsible for NOT putting me in that position? Being a woman is not a reason to harass me or any other woman. Drinking isn't an excuse. Just...don't do that, okay? It's awful. And I won't be forgetting it any time soon.