It’s many months late, but here’s the audio recording we were able to make of our “Exorcising the Spectre of the Fake Geek Girl” Wizard World Chicago Comic Con edition. Thanks go to panelist Kate Lansky for being able to catch everything on her phone. You may have to turn up the audio volume to better hear the audience questions portion, but it’s all here.
I had a great time at Chicago Comic Con. I was thrilled they got their harassment policy up and publicized before the convention started. Unlike previous years, I spent most of my time in Artist’s Alley and came back with more amazing art than I know what to do with (now I just have to spend money to frame that art before it goes up on the wall). I got to meet John Barrowman and his parents (and yes, he’s just as friendly and wonderful to talk to in person as you’d imagine). I got to meet one of my geek heroes, Wil Wheaton, who autographed my copy of Just a Geek and was touchingly supportive when I mentioned our panel to him.
The panel was the perfect end-cap to the 2013 Chicago con season. We were able to expand on the points made at our first panel incarnation at C2E2. While we missed C2E2 panelist Karlyn Meyer, Kate Lansky was a welcome addition. Despite being one of the last panels of the last day of the convention, we still drew a standing-room crowd and had a fantastic audience.
The best part of the panel, however, was actually saved for last and came as a complete and utter surprise for all of us. Just after our moderator, Carlye Frank, had taken what we figured was the our last question for the day, one of the room monitors quietly came up to the table and slipped her a note.* Since I was sitting next to her, we both got a look at it and promptly nearly fell right out of our chairs.
We had to ask the room monitor if we’d read that correctly. Scott Snyder, DC comics writer, one of the currently most celebrated comic book writers in the industry, was not only in the audience, he wanted to participate in the discussion, but rather than speaking out of turn (and let’s be honest, if he’d done so by going, “Hey, I know we’re out of time, but I’m Scott Snyder and there’s something I’d like to say,” I doubt anyone would have objected), he unobtrusively asked permission to be acknowledged first. I can’t emphasize how surprising and appreciated (not to mention, rare) that simple courtesy was, especially coming from someone who is an industry “name” and has a lot of social clout to back that up.
Snyder makes his appearance around the 49:14 mark. He doesn’t even start off by saying who he is, but when he got to saying his name and that he wrote Batman, pretty much every head in the room swiveled around to look so fast I’m surprised a few didn’t fly off (there were definitely some dropped jaws at our panelists’ table). Below is the full transcribed text of his comments:
“Thank you. I’m sorry, I just want to thank you guys so much for the panel in the first place. As a creator, it’s actually been really difficult. I, uh, sorry, I’m nervous! I work for DC. I’m Scott, I write Batman. I work with a woman who was a student of mine. I teach comic writing at Sarah Lawrence, their grad school. I’ve seen the class go from predominantly male to predominantly female. And as somebody who grew up in a culture where they were desperate to have more diversity, when I would go to those cons at the Roosevelt Hotel where it would be mostly dudes, older dudes, you know, it’s such a wonderful celebration to come to a con like this and see all those different people of different genders, different orientations and all that stuff.
The one time I experienced that negativity as a creator, and this is, I feel awkward saying this, because I don’t want this to be completely about me, but when I brought in Marguerite [Bennet] with me, a woman who was a student of mine, who I thought was great, to write the Batman back-ups, and write the annual, I got so many emails that were, like, “You’re just bringing her in because she’s a woman.” And it was shocking, it was shocking, because I’d already brought in a man, James, you know, who writes Batman with me, and it was very disturbing, I have to say, honestly.
And so what I would say is that there are some of us, you know, I’m not saying me, I’m saying that there are so many women out there who are writers and creators who actually want to take more of the means of control of geek culture, at least in terms of comics. And I would say that if you are a writer or an artist, the doors are more open than you think, but I would invite you to come try. Because I can only imagine how intimidating it must be in this culture that’s so incredibly male-dominated. But my class, literally 75% of it is women and it’s awesome. So the next generation I would hope will be more open. So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there as a writer or an artist, in terms of, not just at the big two, but indie comics and everywhere.
I was really looking forward to this panel and it was really nice to hear you guys.
The courtesy and thoughtfulness shown by Snyder at our panel remains one of my highlight moments from 2013. I personally remain impressed by the amount of care he took to not center his statement on what a good guy he is for supporting women; instead, he used the fact that he, as a male creator, is often given more credibility and shared his observations to support what our panel was trying to say about sexism in geek culture. He kindly stayed after the panel to talk a bit more with us, after taking pictures with fans. He even told us that he’d actually closed up his booth a bit early to make sure he made it to the panel.
Given the stories that are still coming out about problematic actions and casual sexism in the comics industry (most recently, see: Brian Wood and Scott Lobdell), I remain a bit less sanguine about how actually more open the comics world may be to women at the moment because there are still a lot of missing stairs to be fixed, much less acknowledged. But it’s important to note that part of the reason we’re hearing more about these problems is because the culture is being pressured to be more open to acknowledging and talking about them. As much as I hate how women’s voices are questioned when we speak up about sexism, it makes a significant difference when male creators like Snyder attend panels like this one, speak out in support and share their observations about how yes, there are inequalities in geek culture and they need to be addressed. So thank you, Scott Snyder, for coming and lending your voice in support of ours and geeky women everywhere who want to be included, create and enjoy comics, scifi/fantasy and fandom, just like everyone else.
Additional thanks go out to: My fellow panelists & friends, Kate Lansky, Laura Koroski, Dawn Xiana Moon and Erin Tipton, for being so amazing to work with; Carlye Frank, for once again keeping us on task and on time as our moderator; David Zoltan, CEO of Geek Bar Chicago, for introducing the panel and being such a great ally; my fellow board members & friends from the Chicago Nerd Social Club, for all their encouragement and support; Jonathan Jurczak from the Wizard World Chicago staff, for his vocal support of needing that harassment policy & more diversity-focused panels at the convention; and last but not least, my husband, Jesse Lex, who continues to come and support me at these sort of things even though he’s probably heard it all during my rants at home.
*As much as I wanted to keep that scrap of paper, Caryle won the coin toss because while I am a life-long comic book fan, she’s a life-long fan and the aspiring comic artist. Also, she’d probably have wrapped a chair around me and been halfway out the convention hall before I’d have realized what was happening if I’d fought her for it.