“Lots of people will read it and see themselves, and not feel alone.” — Jen Van Meter
Chicks Dig Comics : A Celebration of Comic Books by the Women Who Love Them debuted at Bridge City Comics on Friday, and appearing at the event were contributors Sara Ryan (Empress of the World), Rachel Edidin (editor, Dark Horse Comics), Erica McGillivray (president, GeekGirlCon), and Jen Van Meter (Hopeless Savages).
Chicks Dig Comics is a collection of essays by female writers, artists and fans of the four-color medium. The topics covered span the gamut of the comics world, from praising specific titles to describing the path to a career in the industry.
Each of the guests at Bridge City were united in their love of comics, but there the similarity ended. The Portland Comic Books Examiner asked the participants about their own contribution to the book.
“It was an honor to be asked to contribute,” said Ryan. “It was an opportunity to write about comics; to think about comics, and expres something I’ve thought about but not really said.”
Ryan’s essay was about her journey to the comics world, beginning with Cricket Magazine’s talkative insects.
“I can’t name all the X-Men,” she admits, “but that’s not the kind of comics that got me started.”
Ryan hangs that responsibility on the closer-to-life comics Lynda Barry and Alison Bechdel.
Although Edidin has done some writing for Girl Wonder, she is best known for improving the writing of others as a comics editor (Alabaster: Wolves).
“The majority of people in the book are writers, artists, and fans,” she notes, “so it’s good to represent editors.”
Though not typically called to create fully-formed works, Edidin does like the chance to stretch her wings when the cause is right.
“My involvement does tend to be a critical one,” she affirms, “but there is so much historically wrong and frustrating about women and comics that being a part of defining what made it meaningful to us was important.”
Unike Ryan, Edidin did have a good dose of the mainstream in her formative reading, including New Mutants’ Louise Simonson, The Invisibles artist Jill Thompson, and Finder writer/artist Carla Speed McNeil (whom she is now editing).
Though she doesn’t want to discount the value of comics criticism, she feels that it can begin to wear on a writer.
“It can be exhausting to do constantly,” she points out. “This is an opportunity to celebrate stuff we care about, but also talk about why we care about it.”
McGillivray, one of the fans Edidin mentioned, maintains a blog of comic reviews and commentary, but is primarily the President and Marketing Director of GeekGirlCon, a convention “dedicated to recognizing and celebrating the contribution of women in all aspects of geek culture.”
“I believe in community and how that happens in an organic manner,” she says.
McGillivray’s essay focuses on the community found in the world of cosplay, in which fellow fans work to help each other with their goals rather than clambering to the top of the heap.
She is very happy to be included with writers she admires, such as Jen Van Meter, Gail Simone, and Sigrid Ellis, who also co-edited the book.
Very much in keeping with the theme of the evening, GeekGirlCon banners were proudly displayed in Bridge City Comics. The second annual show will be August 11 and 12 in their new space at the Conference Center.
But McGillivray and staff have not been idle since last year, having put on over one hundred events in Seattle, and she hopes to have the exposure pay off.
“We had 2000 people a day last year,” she explains, “and hope to make that 3500 this year. 20% of our attendees were under ten, so we’re expecting 600 kids this year!”
Jen Van Meter
Avengers: Solo author Jen Van Meter marks Chicks Dig Comics as a debut of sorts.
“This is the first time in my career that somebody asked in a formal way about the connection between who I was as a kid to who I am today,” she says. “I’m not asked to articulate a lot.”
Though the task sounded like fun to the Portland author, she found it to be a more emotional journey.
“I was trying to say something honest, “ she explains. “I was afraid of being maudlin, but it amused me more. Writing about my childhood, I could remember the smell of the blankets I’d wrap myself in while reading comics.”
Although the essays did not necessarily need to be “womany,” as Van Meter puts it, “the title of the book makes you draw out some connection between how you see the comics world and how it sees you.”
She is also pleased to see the wide range of contributors included in Chicks Dig Comics.
“There are pros who have 40- or 50-years careers versus those with only four or five years,” she points out, “providing a range of what comics were historically.”
Van Meter places great value on the community she is a part of when it comes to comics fandom.
“It’s family,” she says. “We recognize connections with others. I knew that female fans were all over, but I didn’t know how many felt so similarly to me.
“When I was 20, I didn’t have the internet to realize that there were others.”
Van Meter points out that unlike pop music fandom, devotees of comics and pop culture tended to enjoy things on their own.
“In music, you could go to a show with other people,” she says, “and enjoy the same thing as one, but nerdy comics didn’t have that.”
Once the internet began to establish itself, Van Meter explains, women were able to establish a sense of communitas with each other through forums and fan-fiction. Their comics fandom was a later extension of the existing connections they had already made, according to the author.
Van Meter sees Chicks Dig Comics as another way to show and reinforce the connections between it readers.
“Lots of people will read it and see themselves, and not feel alone,” Van Meter predicts with a happy confidence.
Chicks Dig Comics: A Celebration of Comic Books by the Women Who Love Them, edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Sigrid Ellis, is published by Mad Norwegian Press.