Kapow ignores women again

Women in Comics at Thought Bubble
A Thought Bubble panel chock-full of women comic book creators: Nov, 2011

Tickets for the 2012 Kapow! comic book convention went on sale today, with the first version of the guest-list announced.

After the controversy from last year over the lack of representation of women guests at the convention I expected it would lead off with a better showing on its subsequent line-up.

How wrong I was.

There are twenty-three ‘star guests’ listed so far, all of them men.

If you dig into the programming you’ll find there are a few actresses mentioned, but in the ‘hot’ film writers/directors section there are no women listed either.

Not surprisingly, I tweeted about this as soon as I noticed and several people retweeted it and asked Mark Millar directly why there were no women on the line-up. Here was his response over two tweets:

@mrmarkmillar: @Anna00Chronism @sarawestrop Lucy and Sarah run the show. Drop them a line. Marvel, DC and 2000AD biggest focus so it’s up to them who they have on their panels as their big name guests. Like 2011, panels will be creators with biggest selling comics.

This was the excuse given by Mr. Millar via twitter last year:

You realise this is being put together by 5 women, don’t you? The reason the comic guests are mostly male is because the biggest names in UK comics are male. Who is the big british female pro they’re missing here?

Notice in both cases Mr. Millar places responsibility for his guest list on other people. First, is his team of women. He also implies that we should ask for women on the line-up despite the fact this very matter was flagged last year.

He also states that Marvel, DC and 2000AD are responsible for choosing the consituents of their panels at the convention: if their ‘biggest selling’ comic book artists/writers happen to be male then Kapow is not to blame, right? Yet, each of those three companies employ very few women – approximately 5% – 10% women artists/writers at any time.

For instance, thanks to Tim Hanely at Bleeding Cool, here are the statistics for the employment of women at DCnU from February – September 2011 (note the drop across the board with the re-launch of the DC Universe).

Women in DCnU 2011

Things are not much better at Marvel, here is the breakdown for October thanks to Tim Hanely again on his blog Straitened Circumstances:

Marvel employment Oct 2011

I’ve not seen anyone do a similar gendercrunching exercise on 2000AD, but I suspect the numbers would be lower again.

So, Kapow! tries to get out of any responsibility towards its fanbase (a significant porportion of whom are women) by implying it’s not its fault for this situation – it’s the fault of the companies Kapow! chooses to spotlight at its convention.

Thus the circle perpetuates itself: companies that employ mostly men are given the focus at a convention that gives men all the top spots.

And you wonder why people continue to ask: where are the women working in the comic book industry? It’s because of this kind of mutual back-scratching, and a constant attitude of blaming women for their lack of participation in a section of the industry that doesn’t employ them.

In the face of this I see that my decision to maintain and update the list of women working in the UK/Irish comic book scene was correct (I’ve moved it to a page which is permanently linked on my side bar). It’s now up to 113 names. There are greater numbers working in the USA. None of them are being featured at Kapow!, however.

Organisers of conventions set the tone for their convention with their guest-list. They are responsible for this. Kapow! was criticised last year for ignoring women, and added a few token respresentatives very late to pacify the critics. This year, it launched its convention with an all-male line-up and the same blasé attitude.

What’s truly disappointing is when you watch the video trailer on its web site you can see how many women are attending the event, and how much they love the scene. Yet, they get nothing in return from the convention: Kapow! is happy to take the money of the women attending the event but it doesn’t feel any duty to represent women who are working in the industry (and there are plenty outside of the big companies).

Even if Kapow! adds women to the guest-list – it’s promising a bigger list in 2012 – its message is that women are an after-thought: to be added in later under pressure from critics, but never given any early, serious consideration.


  • Jenni Scott

    I am astounded that Kapow are going down this road a second year running, and that they are making such rubbish excuses. It’s such an abject contrast to Thought Bubble – I must say Women in Comics panels are generally something I avoid because they tend to go over the same grounds year after year, but it sounds like this one was different. In addition, although I don’t favour specific Women in Comics panels per se, that’s because I feel very strongly that one ought to make sure to include women in the event generally, across the board – prefereably in all panels and certainly in most sections of the event.

    • Maura

      Jenni: I completely agree that women should be represented on panels throughout the schedule of a convention or festival. We had a discussion on this very issue at another event I attended this year. From the con-running point of view sometimes they find it difficult to get women to volunteer to be on panels, and often women tend to be rather self-effacing about their abilities and qualifications to be on a panel.

      Since they are often (not always) in a minority at such events this can lead to situations where they are a preponderance of panels that are all-male.

      A lot of festivals/cons make a concerted effort for diversity. On the other hand, others don’t even seem to think about it. Or, the women are put on panels about fantasy, vampires and ‘women’s topics’, while men are selected for stuff about science fiction, computer games, etc. Most of this is so engrained that many people fall into this trap without realising it.

      I’d love to see the day when the “Women in X” panels are not needed. We’re nowhere near that situation yet, I’m afraid. And if nothing else those panels provide inspiration for those who need women role models.

      It’s all right for the old hands on the scene, but we need the remember the value of a panel aimed at the new generation so they can witness that women are an active part of the industry, and it is possible for women carve out a successful career.

  • James

    I am a bit surprised, its not good for PR, and I enjoyed this con, and would have thought some women on the tiket would have been a no-brainer, although I expect that with time to go, some names will appear.
    There is an incredible http://ladiesmakingcomics.tumblr.com/post/11867692009/some-badass-princess-leia-pages-by-amanda-conner
    and NIKE for goodness sake…

    • Maura

      It’s disappointing James. You can almost understand it happening once, but this just seems like the con is taking a stubborn position.

      Of course they’ll probably add some women later, but it would have been smarter – and correct – for them to include women for the start. It’s not as if there aren’t enough around!