Moving from Halloween fun into a socially-conscious November, our retrospective of New York Comic Con (NYCC) 2018 continues with a glimpse into perspectives from women and LGBTQ comics writers and artists, and the new creative minds shaping the Star Wars Extended Universe.
By Shani R. Friedman
Another New York Comic-Con has come and gone. Collectibles and costumes were bought and displayed, all now hidden away, perhaps to be shown again next year.
The expo was its usual whirlwind extravaganza, which took place October 4th-7th at the Jacob Javits Center. But this year, in particular, it was heartening to see so many panels focusing on women and the LGBTQ community.
One of the most outstanding I attended, on the second day, was #METOO to #TIMES UP, An Action Summit for Comics. The panel featured Amy Chu (author of Poison Ivy), Sarah Gaydos (editorial director of Oni Press), Lilah Sturges (co-author of Jack of Fables), Alitha Martinez (illustrator of World of Wakanda), and Joan Hilty (Comics and Magazine Editor for Nickelodeon). The focus was on underrepresentation and harassment. Chu noted that “We’re now seeing anti-harassment policies here and in other places. It’s a big change.” However, the artists also stressed a desperate need to have more male allies. Sturges addressed the accountability of publishers and called on them to “take care of writers.”
The panel ended on a hopeful note when Sturges shared an email she had received from DC Comics. “Underneath all the tech lingo the message was basically ‘if someone’s bothering you, talk to us’”. Sturges did stress that DC Comics only sent the email as a response to the large number of people who had contacted them.
Later in the day, I checked out Outspoken: Queer Cartoonists Represent. This panel was incredibly diverse across gender, race, and nationality. Moderated by artist Jennifer Camper (The Well-Mannered Dyke), it was packed with talent from the LGBTQ community. Camper kicked things off by declaring, “It’s a strange time to be a queer comic book writer. There’s more opportunity but also a lot of backlash.” The showcase included Blue Delliquanti (Meal), Jay Fuller (The Boy In Pink Earmuffs), Katie Fricas (Checked Out), Ivan Velez (Tales of the Closet), Annie Mok (Astro Boy of Asbury Park), Phil Jimenez (Wonder Woman), Beldan Sezen (Butch It Up) and Carlo Quispe (Hairy Tales and Uranus). From Delliquanti’s “YA restaurant romance” to Velez’s using “cartooning for social change” to Quispe’s challenge to everyone to get away from “having so many issues with enjoying our butts,” there was an incredible range of comic book subject matter presented by the creators. To the panelists, crafting comics from a queer perspective means that today’s readers will see work and points of view that didn’t exist for many of them growing up. Jimenez, who has worked on the Spiderman and Wonder Woman comics, said that “It was Lynda Carter’s take on what I consider an essentially queer character that made me know I was gay and made me want to become a cartoonist. I’m a queer artist with a queer sensibility working on superheroes.”
A panel called Disney-Lucasfilm Presents: A Celebration Of Female Writers In a Galaxy Far Far Away proved to be very popular. Moderated by MAZ from Disney-Lucasfilm, it featured Mur Lafferty (Solo: A Star Wars Story), Katie Cook (Star Wars: Search Your Feelings), Justina Ireland (Star Wars: Lando’s Luck), Amy Ratcliffe (Star Wars: Women of The Galaxy), and Delilah Dawson (Star Wars: Phasma). Fun and light-hearted, it demonstrated how much love these women have for the Star Wars universe and that although there was a lot to laugh at, it was clear how invested they are in continuing this world for new and long-time readers.
When MAZ asked what compelled them to want to work in this world, Delilah Dawson gave a surprising response: “Ewoks. There’s a girl protected by cute murder bears.” For Mur Lafferty, it was having “a crush on Luke. I wanted to be Leia.” The audience then had a good laugh when she alluded to the almost incest between the two siblings. Justina Ireland was moved by Darth Vader. For her, it was his “finger wag. “It makes him human. Instead of choking someone, he’s a disappointed father.” For Katie Cook, “It was the first glimpse into a whole built world.” Amy Ratcliffe didn’t see the films until they were re-released in the late 1990s. Having had a different exposure to the saga through The Clone Wars, she said, “Everything about the series grabbed my heart.”
Just for kicks, MAZ asked what would be their favorite weapon to use in battle. For Cook, it’s the item mightier than the sword: the pen. “I’m not in the fight, am I?” she asked, laughing. Lafferty would choose the lightsaber. “But I’d be the person who accidentally cuts off my own arm. So I’ll say, blaster.”
MAZ pointed out that the panelists are “literally writing and redesigning Star Wars with new characters” and then asked the panelists what the experience has been for them. Cook explained that “I get a chance to draw Star Wars in my style and make it accessible to two or three-year-olds. I don’t want the books to look so stylized that kids would say, ‘That’s not Yoda!” I take it very seriously. For lots of parents, the books are their children’s’ introduction before the movies.” Ireland wants kids to know “it’s a big universe: bigger than Luke, Leia, and Tatooine. It’s about dreams. We should be excited about places in the universe we haven’t been yet.”
Stay tuned for more of Honeysuckle’s NYCC 2018 retrospective and other culture features!