Meet the Women Who Are Changing Marvel and Comics

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Kelly Sue DeConnick doesn't care about being liked. She doesn't care about making someone else uncomfortable. And she, for the most part, doesn't care about hurting feelings. She has to be tough as Captain Marvel, the heroine she writes, so her daughter and your daughter won't have to. "I am willing to make other people uncomfortable so my daughter won't have to," DeConnick said during the Women of Marvel panel at New York Comic Con on Sunday. "I appreciate and I am proud of the progress that’s being made and I don’t want to sweep it under the table. But this job ain’t done. Nobody sit down!" she said, after being asked about the criticism that minorities and women were making "too big a deal" of wanting to be represented in comics. 

"Having Kelly Sue be such an outspoken, unapologetic feminist is so wonderful. Those are the voices we need in industries like that so, like she said, our daughters (and our gay sons and our trans kids and any of our kids if we're not white) don't have to," writer Sam Einhorn told me. Einhorn blogs about feminism and the comics industry and attended Sunday's panel. "I'm glad Marvel not only has a voice saying 'we can do better' and 'our work isn't done' (and also occasionally 'shut up dude') but that they keep her around and give her books to write," Einhorn added. 

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DeConnick, with her cherry-soda tinted hair and spike-studded heels, is perhaps the most influential, recognized and vocal feminist in comics today. What she writes and her place in Marvel's boy's club (she was the only female at Marvel's Inhumanity panel on Saturday) inspires comic-reading men and women. And I only say 'perhaps' because the woman that she currently writes, Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel (and formerly known as Ms. Marvel), is giving DeConnick a run for her money.

Over the last year, DeConnick has taken Danvers and turned her into the one of the most powerful, complex, and unbreakable heroes in the Marvel universe. (In the first Captain Marvel comic, Danvers is quick to remind a villain, along with the audience, that she outranks Captain America.) And in doing that,  Danvers has become one of the most popular heroes among women (and men) and proved the "women don't read comics" and "men aren't interested in stories about female superheroes" tropes are wrong.

DeConnick has accomplished a lot in the past year. But neither she nor her nine Marvel colleagues (artists, editors, writers) who were a part of Sunday's panel—Sara Pichelli, Janet Lee, Stephanie Hans, Jeanine Schaeffer, Sana Amanat, Lauren Sankovitch, Emily Shaw, Ellie Pyle, and Judy Stephens — have any plans of resting on their work and Captain Marvel's cosmic laurels.

The women were there to show the beauty of working at Marvel, but also weren't shy about confirming that the comics industry is still a male-dominated field where sexism exists. It was just last month that Marvel godfather Stan Lee said there was no need for the company to "knock ourselves out" to create a female superhero movie because women paid to see The Avengers; and during a different panel on the topic of women in the comics industry this week, a female comics creator pointed out that that the gender gap was worse than Wall Street. 

"I think that the message is that no one is 'other,' that white males are not the 'default human being,'" DeConnick said on Comic Con's final day, crystallizing her credo. A glance around the room on Sunday proved that. The people that came to see these women speak came in all in all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages. "We’ve all felt like outsiders in our own way, and you can use that medium to address people who are outsiders and show that everyone actually is on the same playing field," said Sana Amanat, who edits Captain Marvel.  She said she feels lucky as a woman of color within the industry that she can "try to use the books to be inclusive."

The panel announced that She-Hulk (about time), and Black Widow would be getting solo books soon; also, the all-female X-Men book will continue and add Monet to the roster. So, yes, there are more stories and spotlights on women than there were yesterday; however, a majority of those stories are still being written by men. While a man (see: Claremont's Storm) can successfully write a strong female protagonist, DeConnick and her colleagues want to underscore women and minorities can — and should — tell those stories, too. 

"We need you to be ready," DeConnick said. "You will need each other. You will make stories that make you feel connected to others and the world and we will need that from you. Don’t be afraid. Start now." DeConnick has a new arc and book for Captain Marvel planned for March. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.