Irish Comic Book Month

We’re mid-way through March, and I figured I should mention that this month has been designated Irish Comic Book Month.

You can keep up with what’s going on at Irish Comic News, which is the best web site for news/information/sneak peeks of the work of Irish comic book artists & writers.

Last night, to celebrate Irish Comic Book Month, Lightning Strike organised a talk discussing Irish Comic Book production. The guests included Declan Shalvey, Stephen Mooney, Robert Curley, Darrin O’Toole, Robert Carey, and Ciarán Marcantonio. The Lecture was held in Trinity College, Dublin, and from what I understand there was a great turn-out for it. (The audio from the event is available on The Pubcast web site.)

I’m delighted that there is interest and support for the burgeoning comic book community in Ireland. I’m disheartened and disappointed that last night’s panel did not feature any women.

As an Irish woman who writes comics and reads them, this hits me hard. It offers no representation for women producing work in the field. I would not expect this invisibling of women in my country in 2013.

Here’s just a small sample of women who could have appeared:

  • Maeve Clancey – best known for her web comic Flatmates, which she started in 2008, Maeve is also an illustrator, and recently has been been doing large pop-up art installations.
  • Leeann Hamiliton – has self-published four issues of her hilarious Finn & Fish comic – a manga-style story of Finn McChumaill’s relationship to his Fishy guide and their mad adventures. Issue 1 is available to read online until St. Patrick’s Day.
  • Anthea West – self-published her graphic novel The Earthbound God late last year. Anthea is currently running an Indigogo campaign for a modest sum to get more copies printed, as she’s sold out! The comic is also being put up online for free for Irish Comic Book month.
  • Naomi Bolger – draws her self-published comic The Helix Comic (written by Ryan O’Connor), which is about the fun adventures of a group of mutant superheroes. Naomi also won Best Indy Irish Artist at the Irish Comic News Awards last year.

I maintain a page on my web site listing women working in comics in the UK and Ireland, and have done so since March 2011, when I first got sick of hearing ‘where are the women in comics?’

Since then Laura Sneddon and I set up a Facebook group for Women in Comics, Europe, and there are well over 200 women subscribers.

I want the day to come when women-centred networks will seem archaic and unnecessary, but we are a long way from achieving parity in how our work is promoted, or even getting a look-in at a panel at an industry event.

Recently VIDA (women in literary arts) conducted its third audit of how much coverage is devoted to women authors in literary magazines, and how many women reviewers are working in these publications. The numbers are awful – we’ve seen no real increase since VIDA started pointing out how skewed it is against women.

This is an old problem, which persists despite women repeatedly highlighting the issue, and asking for better representation.

I want a day when I do not have to ask for equal representation.


  • James Bacon

    Such an excellent blog post, I like how you constructively point out the valid creators who could have been asked.

  • Richmond Clements

    Excellent post as always, Maura.

    Feels like you’ve been banging your head against this one for eons!

  • CarolC (@irishhatgirl)

    I was at the event. It was efficiently run, and really promoted the point that yes, it is possible – you can be a comic book creator without emigrating. There were about 65 people in the room (I’d say about a third were women), and there were 7 people jammed onto the stage (there actually wasn’t room on the stage for Rob – he was squooshed slightly behind the others!). There were a few comic book creators sitting in the audience who would pipe up occasionally with answers to questions or comments – there are 14 people involved with Lightning Strike, I believe, so there’s no way even everyone involved with just that project could be on stage. I can understand why the organisers could argue that there was no room on the panel for anyone else, and loads of men were excluded so what’s the problem….

    …. but the goal was to convince everyone in that audience that the only barrier to creating a comic was having the talent to do so. And when I looked at the 7 people on stage, what I saw was 7 men. I genuinely, as they spoke, stared at them and thought “great, another fucking sausage-fest”. And considering how ninety percent of the conversation revolved around how they all got their breaks through friends (which is good! Being kind to each other and creating a community is far better than backstabbing and isolation!), I can’t be the only one who thought “ah, the old boy’s club at work.” These are all real thoughts that passed through my head, EVEN THOUGH I KNOW THEY’RE NOT TRUE. I know about all of the women creators you listed above. I know everyone I’ve spoken to thinks Roisin Dubh and Jennifer Wilde are two of the best independent comics around. I know the number of times Rob name-checked you during the panel. And still, staring at those seven men in a row, men, men, men…the subtext started to get to me. And if I was effected that way, I doubt if the 20 other women in the room felt the inspiration the event was meant to instill in them.

    • Maura

      Thanks for your articulate summary of what it’s like for women to be in a audience where the panel is all men.

      I listened to the podcast of the event. In fact, I was mentioned by name once – only by my first name – and the only other woman name-checked was Jordie Bellaire, who was in the audience (and thank goodness for that, she does fine work).

      Women artists/writers were never named when the panel discussed their inspirations. Practicably no Irish woman was named – bar very brief name-drops, that were easy to miss. If you were new to the scene, and listened only to the podcast, you would think women didn’t make comics in Ireland.

      There might be more people given a shout-out after the podcast or in the bar, but during the main event they were not discussed.

      And herein lies the problem. Women were physically excluded from the panel, and omitted from the discussion.

      On Facebook, one of the panellists said: “No conscious effort was made to exclude anyone based on gender. The panel was basically a chance for mates to hang out and talk about comics.”

      I don’t doubt that. It’s rare that people set out to omit women. It just doesn’t cross their mind to include them.

      I said the following in response:

      “A final word: if you want to organise an event that’s just mates hanging out talking about comics, then call it “Male friends hanging out chatting about their experiences”. Fair enough. Don’t promote it as a panel discussion on Irish Comic Book Production if it’s not about discussing the full experiences across the board. And please, don’t compound the problem by giving out to women when they inform you that their justified expectations of inclusion were disappointed.”

  • Anna Cebrian

    I am dismayed there’s no FB page for Women in Comics, United States. Or is there?

    Anna Cebrian, Owner
    Illusive Comics & Games
    Santa Clara, California

    • Maura

      I’ve no idea if there is a FB page for American women comic book creators. You’re welcome to join our group if you are looking for a place to connect to European women creators. We have a number of non-Europeans on board as we’re loathe to turn anyone away. 🙂

      The link to connect is in the article.

      • David Huysmans

        Hi Maura,
        I am very hurt and offended by your accusations about the event.

        “Women were physically excluded from the event, and omitted from the discussion.” is a very dangerous comment to make about an event and about a group of people who just wanted to encourage people to get into comics.
        I asked you several times if you had contacted the organisers about your view and you did not answer my question. So instead of accusing people of “giving out to women”, why did you not at first try discussion and see why no women were included.
        I’m a firm believer in equality between all gender, sexual orientation and race and I’m offended that you have accused a bunch of people trying to do some good of sexism.

      • Maura


        Thanks for pointing that out, and I’ll amend that online because that was a mistake, and I meant to say panel, not event.

        It should read, “Women were physically excluded from the panel, and omitted from the discussion.” That was the case on the podcast at least. and I’ve made that clear.

        I was not aware of the lack of women in advance of the event, or I would have said something. I made the assumption there would be at least one woman on the panel. It never crossed my mind that none of them would be invited.

        Yet, no women were on the panel. I was shocked by the absence, and I wasn’t the only one. I think it’s correct to raise the point.

      • David Huysmans

        I agree with you that the point should have been raised. I don’t agree with the manner in which you have raised it though.

        Can you please answer my question though. Have you at any point contacted the organisers of the event to ask them why no women were included?

      • Maura

        David, I’m glad to hear you were disappointed at the lack of women at the event. Did you point this out to anyone before the event?

        Eoin and I are in engaged in a fruitful conversation about the matter.

      • David Huysmans

        I would like to state Maura, that I never said I was “disappointed by the lack of women at the event” as all I saw was people passionate about their work. I would never expect people to be picked for a panel based on gender, nor would I feel biased towards a panel composed entirely of men or women.

        I know that people we asked to attend the panel, both men and women. I know that people were asked to submit images and works in progress for the powerpoint presentation, both men and women. I also that Creators were invited to speak about their works, both men and women.

        Please do not try and twist what I say to further this as a gender issue.

        I hope in future we can all work together to further Irish Comics and Creators regardless of gender/creed etc without them being branded as Womens Comics or Mens Comics.

        As Eoin himself quoted “United we stand, Dived we fall”. We should all start to follow his lead and work together for a stronger community, should we not?

  • Andrew Luke

    Here via
    Speculate, speculate: If Maura published this before the event, likely invites would have been issued. OTOH, as a pro author Maura (as with everyone else on the stage) probably felt it preferable to be asked, rather than ask, and the same of anyone Maura recommended.

    Of course, one explanation is never another. As well as gender, we have issues of money. All of the men on stage and women proposed work in the dominant US/A4 forms, typically more expensive to produce. Extend the net to those who output in A5, or indeed anything considered ziney – and you have a much wider selection.

    Female zine-cartoonists in the South of Ireland – the wonderful Karen Browett (Astro Chimp), Sweet Olive Misprint by Natalie/Natalia, Amanda Spitzner (Exploding Comics webcomic) In the North if interested, there’s artists Debbie McCormack (Don’t Panic!) and Ann Harrison (NCMVC webcomic)

    And what about those myth legions of cartoonists who only make comics about their hellish life on benefits and crappy love life? Are there divisions here of income and content? Ah but now I’ve said too much.

    Thanks for linking to the podcast of the event Maura. The work you and the LSC chaps are doing is fantastic. I’ll check that out. The very best to all of you,

    As part of Irish Comic Month, be sure to check out my new comic “The Moods of Prime” on my website tomorrow. I’ve been told my work is no longer welcome at ICN, so the only coverage I’ll get is from readers like yourself.

    • Maura

      Andy you champion! Thanks for letting me know about those creators, they weren’t on my list, but they are now. 🙂

      The comix tradition of publishing cartoons/zines has a long and sturdy tradition, which is continuing despite the digital age. It’s great to see that it’s still going.

      Not being in Dublin means there are many events I miss, alas such as the Dublin Zine Fair.

      I’ll check out your comic today. Cheers!

      • Andrew Luke

        Phew! I’m glad to discover I didn’t post a regrettable late-night rant. I’d have sent the list on email but for the names referenced are more part-time practitioners. Debbie McCormack does an excellent ‘Nick Cave’ tribute sitcomic, Sweet Olive has an excellent output of international folk tale comics and Karen Browett’s does these weird jungle, stark weather, elaborate weaving pages that I could spend an hour just looking at. For anyone who can get to Dublin for the day, there’s a brilliant event called Independent’s Day on 23rd June, that’s three weeks after 2d.

      • Maura

        Thanks Andy,

        I’ve enjoyed looking about at the work by the women you mentioned. I always find it inspiring when I find a diversity of styles and voices.

        I doubt I can made the Independent’s Day, but I’ll mention it to people online closer to the time.


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