Kapow!, no women

I got an email from a regular commentator on my blog pointing me to the new comic book convention that Mark Millar is organising this coming April in the UK called Kapow! ComicCon. He hinted that I might discover something missing from the event.

Well, yes the omission is pretty glaring to me: not one woman among the forty guests.

This is strange. It’s not like there are no top-class women working in comics. Anyone who suggests otherwise is not paying attention.

For instance, I’d recommend reading the excellent ‘She Has No Head‘ column by Kelly Thompson on Comic Book Resources for plenty of examples of the fine work women are doing in comic books these days. At the end of 2010 Kelly offered a two-part article on ’20 Favourite Female Creators of 2010’ (part 1 and part 2). Here’s Kelly’s list:


This is just a list of Kelly’s favourites for 2010, there are many more women working in the field. Other great resources to check online that give a women’s perspective on the field is the 3 Chicks Review Comics podcast, also on CBR, which features Kelly, Sue from DC Women Kicking Ass, and Maddy from When Fangirls Attack!. And there’s the long-running, glorious Sequential Tart.

I’m not denying the talent of the guests at the Kapow! convention, in fact it’s an impressive line-up, and Millar deserves kudos for organising such an event in the UK.

Still, I’m surprised that no women rated high enough with the Kapow! team to earn a spot among the vaunted forty. Perhaps, this is a on-going issue with comic book conventions? Maybe those who attend comic-specific conventions could offer their insights?

Further blog posts on this issue:


  • Jenni Hill

    It’s Mark Millar – I’ve come to expect no less. Have you seen the all-male line up of the ‘CLiNT’ magazine he edits? And the rape jokes and the pin up girls?

    Ooh, by the way, I’ll put a vote in for Amanda Conner as favourite female artist!

    Tweeting this…

    • Maura

      Jenni – I had a look at the first issue of CLiNT. There was a blaze on the front page that said ‘For Boys Only’, and then I checked out the editorial and remember getting the distinct impression that not only was my readership not wanted it was being discouraged. Plus, there’s the ‘joke’ of the title itself. I don’t need to give money to a publication with those attitudes, so I didn’t buy it.

      I’ll certainly be voting in the Stan Lee Awards (well, depending on if it is open to all), and I’ll be voting for the best artist/writers in each category without a bias toward either gender. I expect at least one woman will get onto my ballot, however. 😉

      • Maura

        I always find it disheartening when people say they are unsurprised by such an omission, no matter who is involved in the matter. Perhaps because so many people say that to me when I bring up the issue.

        I long for the day when people are shocked and taken aback by a lack of women on a guest list of such a prestigious industry event, and consider it utterly surprising!

        And surely Mr. Millar is not the only person involved in running the event.

        I have no doubt that there isn’t an agenda to keep women from the guest list, but on the other hand either no one noticed the omission or they didn’t think it was an important enough issue for them to take the effort to correct.

      • Sam

        I’m unsurprised because it’s Mark Millar. While he may not be the sole organiser, the fact that people tend to surround themselves with those who share their outlook on life means that it is likely his co-organisers are of a similar mindset. I also doubt it’s deliberate, but in this instance it’s predictable.

        Predictable doesn’t make it right, or less worthy of disparagement.

  • Harmsden

    It’s worth pointing out that Kapow’s guests, like San Diego, are not limited to the comics industry. They’re a broad spectrum of personalities from TV, film and literature. That’s a broad spectrum limited to one gender, whereas around a third of guests at San Diego were women.

    It might not have been a conscious choice, but I’m not opening my wallet to support a boys’ club. There’s enough of them around thanks.

    • Maura

      Yes, the event has a wide agenda, but having a look through the guests invited I think most of them are comic book creators in some form. Many of them do work in other media too.

      Plus, there are loads of women in film/media/literature industries. (Not that I really need to say that to you!) 😀

      It’s a weird oversight. If there weren’t so many guests I might not be so obvious, but 0 out of 40 is pretty hard to ignore.

      I’ve seen this kind of unconscious bias before (since I’ve blogged about it), and it only perpetrates a popular delusion that there aren’t that many women working in the industry.

      Visibility is important. Women need to be part of the guest list on events like this, because that would make it an honest reflection of the state of the industry.

      This guest list, while impressive, is skewed. It’s not offering a full picture of a vital and exciting creative field.

  • Steve Green

    The British International Comics Show, on the other hand, has a smaller guestlist but not one confined to a single gender.

    Similar questions have been raised about the all-male guestlist for this year’s Eastercon.

    • Maura

      At least with Eastercon there is a short invited guest list (only 5 in this case this year), and everyone knows there will a lot of women writers/creators at the event as well, who will be appearing on programming. Roz Kaveney is the Poet Guest of Honour at Illustrious, so at least there’s some representation.

  • Charlie

    When someone else raised similar points to those in this blogpost, Millar had this to say on his twitter “Um, Kapow is owned by 5 women. The panels have 500-700 seats and we’re mainly UK. Which female UK pros do you suggest to fill?”

    I think he brings up a point worth noticing in that last line, Its mostly British Pros on the list of people attending, and it seems there’s a lot more visible comics female comics talent coming out from America than in the UK, I can’t think of many female UK Pros that could be added to the list of attendees, but perhaps that’s just ignorance on my part.

    If were a small press convention, or one of those conventions that has anime, manga and videogames content as well as straight up cape comics it might be a different case, I’m not sure

    • Maura

      I had quite a long discussion about this on my livejournal blog, as well as up on Facebook.

      I always find it interesting when this happens and the first reaction is ‘well, where are the women?’ Millar and his team of women organisers are part of the industry so I’m surprised that they are asking this question. Surely they should know?

      However, in the UK there’s a depressing dearth of writers/artists working in comics. Compared to the USA it’s surprising how small the number is, but they are not completely absent.

      The list I’ve come up with is: Carol Swain, Posy Simmonds, Leah Moore, Nana Li, Laura Watton, Kate Brown, Rebecca Burgess, Sonia Leong and Emma Vieceli.

      Posy Simmonds is interesting because she might be more well-known to the public than the likes of Frank Quietly (whose work I love, btw) because of her work in The Guardian.

      It seems like a great deal of the women emerging in the comic book industry in the UK are coming through the Manga style.

      I should also mention that Annie Parkhouse and Ellie de Ville have been lettering for 2000AD and other publications for ages.

      If Kapow was going to get some writers/artists from the USA (which they are doing) they could have chosen to add one or two women that way.

      If the guest list was shorter then I might not be so surprised by the omission, but it’s a staggering 0/40. Millar and his team should not act shocked when people point out the discrepancy. Better to explain what happened rather than turn the tables and look for suggestions.

      • Charlie

        The livejournal post is the same as the one I originally replied to. At any rate, I’ll endeavour to check out those names.

      • Maura

        Perhaps you missed the long debate in the comments at the end of the blog post? The post is the same as here, of course.

      • Charlie

        No, I hadn’t missed those comments either, I read them all, and the blog post, so I’m confused as to why you mentioned them…

  • Richmond Clements

    When someone else raised similar points to those in this blogpost, Millar had this to say on his twitter “Um, Kapow is owned by 5 women. The panels have 500-700 seats and we’re mainly UK. Which female UK pros do you suggest to fill?”

    I think he brings up a point worth noticing in that last line, Its mostly British Pros on the list of people attending, and it seems there’s a lot more visible comics female comics talent coming out from America than in the UK, I can’t think of many female UK Pros that could be added to the list of attendees, but perhaps that’s just ignorance on my part.

    To whcih I would ask- how many British pros have been nominated for the awards? Not many- and all of them working for the Big Two in the US.
    There are loads of British publishers- Rebellion being the most glaring omission from the shortlist, but there are also Self Made Hero, Com.X, Classical Comics and many many more, all doing brilliant work. The best publisher shortlist is astounding to me: MArvel, DC, Image (owned by MArvel) and Vertigo (owned by DC) – not exactly massive choice.

    I think the main problem is that they don’t seem to be aware of any comics outside the superhero genre.

    • Maura

      Hi Rich, thanks for commenting. I’ve a post a little further up discussing some more of the women comic book creators I tracked down. I’ve got a longer post detailing way more women on the boil.

      Fecking hell, I hadn’t seen they announced the short list for the Stan Lee Awards! Who put together that list? Actually, I just read who it was – no women gave any input of course (although the blanket Forbidden Planet label is gender neutral!).

      If Kapow! was listed as the ‘all men, all superhero’ comic book convention I wouldn’t mind so much, but it’s not.

      The Stan Lee Awards purport to be “a fantastic platform to reward the cream of comic book talent for all their creativity and imagination throughout 2010”. My arse!

      I have reservations about the short-list in several categories, but you know that would probably be true in any awards show.

      I just nominated for the Eagle Awards last night and it was far more egalitarian.

      They are nominating The Walking Dead, and that’s one of the few non-superhero titles (Scot Pilgrim probably qualifies as a superhero), so there is some sense of it going outside of the superhero titles (but Sweet Tooth got a nomination in best trade, WTF?).

      Best Publisher is objectionable in its favouritism, although Vertigo would be on my list. It’s shocking, really. Such a tiny reflection of a huge and diverse industry!

  • Simon

    So the lack of the 3 or 4 UK based female creators at the con has to mean it’s biased? Perhaps they were invited but either decided not to or just weren’t able to go? I’ve been out of touch with comics for a few years, but there’s only about a quarter of the guest-list there I don’t recognise and wouldn’t go out of my way to see if I lived in the right country (or hemisphere, come to that).

    The entire industry has an unbalanced gender ratio on virtually every level, partly due to the legacy of sexism through the ages and (particularly in comics) because of the higher than usual levels of stunted development the medium has a tendency to attract (but that’s a topic for another time). The fact that you there’s only 20 women on that list above compared to hundreds or thousands of men with work of a similar calibre supports that. It doesn’t mean that women aren’t as good as men at making comics by any stretch, it just reflects the fact that there are less women making comics.

    Would you honestly be happy if they’d invited some female guests just because they’re women? So-called positive discrimination doesn’t help anyone in the long run; it only keeps the idiotic borderlines visible. We should be aiming for a society where people are accepted as people, regardless of their genetic or cultural backgrounds.

    (As an aside, complaining about the shortlist for awards nominations just makes you come across as someone who thinks their opinion is somehow more “correct” than those of the people who were actually involved in the process. Just because you disagree, it doesn’t make their taste or opinions any less valid than yours.)

    • Maura

      Simon, thanks for your input.

      We should be aiming for a society where people are accepted as people, regardless of their genetic or cultural backgrounds.

      I agree wholeheartedly. I think a step in this direction is representing all the various people who contribute to an industry like comics in a fair manner.

      You’re correct that there is a legacy of sexism in the industry, and the contribution that women do make to comic books is equally as good as men’s. There are less women in the comic books industry than men – no one disputes that – but there are women in the industry.

      The reason why I don’t think the convention asked any women to the event is Mark Millar’s comment as I reported in this post. It’s pretty clear he doesn’t believe there are any professional female British comic book creators. However, as I pointed out in that post, he has asked non-British and non-comic book guests to the event, so he is applying a different criteria to women.

      I’m very familiar with the running of events – I’ve done it myself – and the issues that are involved with budgets, people dropping out, etc. It’s difficult for those who run events to be fair to everyone, but it helps if part of your ethos is trying to represent the interests of all your fans in a myriad of ways. I attend a number of genre events every year. I’m quite familiar with there being a ‘token’ amount of women on the invited guest lists, as this the norm, even when women work in the industry in much higher numbers. Yet, I would always prefer that women were at least given some visibility at an event, rather than being completely excluded. That just perpetuates the idea that ‘there are no women in comics/horror/sf/fantasy/whatever’.

      One thing I know is that saying nothing, and hoping the status quo will change on its own, will not result in change. All change occurs through action, and speaking up.

      My simple request is that the diversity I witness in these industries is represented properly.

      I never said my opinion about the Awards short-list is more correct than anyone else’s, but I’m entitled to state my opinion.