Some of the best comics that have come out in the past few years have had a female lead. Lady Killer, I Hate Fairyland, Spider-Woman, and many other titles have carved out a place in the world of comics for female characters that are empowering. While it’s not yet perfect, if you’re looking for fictional females, you can find them. What’s harder to find are the real women behind comics.
Oftentimes when I talk comics with friends, many of them sing the praises of people like John Romita Jr., Neil Gaiman, Kurt Busiek, and Jim Shooter. While all are incredibly talented and knock almost any comic they take on out of the park, none of them are women. Comics aren’t just a world where male superheroes outweigh females, it’s also a world where real women are pushed to the sidelines as males get most of the glory.
However, despite the lack of dozens of identifiable female contributors, I think immediately sticking female writers and artists on just any comic that spotlights a female superhero is a cheap fix. When Tony wrote that one of the Spider-Woman titles needs a female writer, I didn’t necessarily disagree, but I didn’t find that his solution was the thing I had been searching for as a female who longs for some weighty shake ups.
What Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez have done with Spider-Woman in two years has given her more agency than any duo before them. As a woman, I want them to stay on the book for years to come as they inherently get Jess and manage to make her a superhero and a relatable woman. I cheer for her, I feel for her, and right now, I couldn’t care less that it was two guys who wrote her pregnancy arc. I believed she was pregnant, and now I believe she is a struggling new mom who fights crime. Isn’t that why we read comics? To escape for a little while and fall into these worlds that will never really be. Frankly, I thought Ann Nocenti’s run with the character was when Jess was at her worst. That’s when I didn’t know who Jessica Drew was and found her forgettable.
So, the solution isn’t to have more female writers tackle more female characters, it’s to place more female talent on books that they can make shine. The easy thing to do is to place a female writer on a female book and market it to females. What medium hasn’t tried that? What would be more progressive than a female taking over a B-title like Silk would be one taking over Amazing Spider-Man, a book that has never featured a run from a female creator as either a writer or artist. That’s a book to which both female and male readers flock; that’s a book with history that everyone knows about. Who outside of us Spider-lovers knows about Silk or Spider-Gwen? A female writer might bring great things to those books, but they inherently have a smaller following than any title that includes Mr. Parker. Its bigger moves like this which will result in real, lasting change.
The mark of a good comic writer is the ability to write an alien invasion as convincingly as Peter Parker’s day job snapping photos for J. Jonah Jameson, and a good female writer should be able to do that as any of the big male names out there. Stan Lee gave us “If This Be My Destiny…”, which introduced us to Gwen Stacy, included an intriguing plot by Doc Ock, and highlighted Peter’s love for his Aunt May. J.M. DeMatteis gifted readers with one of the darkest Spider-Man stories ever with a phenomenal character study of a classic villain when he wrote “Kraven’s Last Hunt.” Jeph Loeb crafted Spider-Man: Blue, the book that I go to when I want to feel like someone just punched me in the heart. Each of these male writers has contributed to the way in which I view Peter Parker, but I always want more. Who knows what kind of action, romance, and family drama a female writer could bring to Spider-Man lore? It’s not just about getting a female writer on a big title like Amazing Spider-Man, it’s about the new depth a fresh pair of eyes could bring to a comic that has had its share of ups and downs over the years.
At the end of the day, I want an exhilarating comic; it would just be nice for more of those comics to be written by women. Young girls don’t just need female superheroes to look up to, but also females with real careers that interest them, and that’s not going to happen unless significant change comes about. So, keep giving me stories by Neil Gaiman and Dan Slott, but let the girls get some of the A-list glory, too.