The pervasive idea of comic book stores is a “boys club,” where women can walk in, but must quickly walk out before the leers, jeers, and condescension sets in. ‘She Makes Comics’ is a bold attempt to dispel the myth that women are not interested in comics, though it may be preaching to the choir.
‘She Makes Comics’ tells the history of comics, but from the point of view of women, which automatically makes it one of the more fascinating documentaries made on the subject. We know about Superman, and Marvel creations, and we all know about the vaunted Stan Lee, but what about the women who were involved from comics from the start? Or the women who were ousted when a paradigm shift happened? What happened to the women who dared to try to break back into an industry that they were no long welcome to? It’s a completely different side of the history of comics, and it’s worth every minute to watch if you are a fan of comics in any way.
The entire journey was a strangely personal one for me. I watched my life unfold in little moments through the course of the documentary, never realizing until I saw this movie how important they were. It’s funny how the myth of “only boys read comics” can make you feel isolated even from your own community. One such moment the documentary brought up was Chris Claremont’s run of ‘The X-Men.’ This, more than anything, is what started a life long love of science-fiction and comic books for me. What I didn’t know was that other women were also drawn into comics because of Claremont’s run of ‘The X-Men’ which the documentary attributes to his editors, Anne Nocenti and Louise Simonson.
“They provided a perspective that was rarely available,” Claremont stated in the documentary, hitting home to me just why I had loved ‘The X-Men’ so much. Not only did it appeal to my sense of loneliness and isolation, it was written and edited by people who truly tried to make a complete comic that appealed to both genders.
The film also talks about the next stage of women getting interested in comics, which was manga. My love of manga in high school (which is my kind way of describing my annoying weeaboo phase) also opened the world of comic books to the idea that maybe women also read. And yet, even as it seems blindingly obvious now, it had never once occurred to me that I wasn’t alone. Certainly, in my school, I was the only girl talking about my love for Jubilee, or what was happening in the next episode of ‘Dragon Ball Z.’ When another girl was involved in, say, my love for ‘Sailor Moon,’ it had to be a secret. We were allowed to talk about it in the privacy of our homes, but never in public. It is sad to me to now recognize that there were whole swathes of fangirls who also loved the same things I loved. The “no girls allowed” stereotype of comics saw to it that I would never really know at a time when I needed the community.
Every day, I’m surprised by the amount of love for comics, and this documentary really hit home a lot of my internalized issues that I hadn’t even realized I even had. Of course other women like comic books. That should have not been a surprise. The industry starting with women comic book writers, again, should not have been a surprise. But still, it was.
The documentary, in short, is bittersweet in as much as it is inspiring. It is wonderful to hear famous writers like Gail Simone and Kelly Sue DeConnnick talk about their desire to write, and the barriers they have to go against even today as people are pretending there is equality in the industry, or that the lack of representation is not a problem.
However, as amazing and eye-opening as this documentary is, I fear that it will fall only on the ears of people who already know there is a problem with women being represented in comics. The audience that needs to truly understand that women had made up more than half of the readership in the early days of comics, and do so even now, will probably have no interest in seeing it. And that is a real shame.
Still, it was a good film, and well worth the time watching it. I highly suggest you check it out as soon as you can, if only to see a different side of how the history of comics.
A screening of the film will be at the Denver Film Society’s Women + Film Festival at 8:45 on March 20th, 2015. Please click here for more information.