This past weekend, I attended New York Comic Con. I’ve been attending NYCC since it started in 2006 – in fact, it was my first and so far only comic con – and over the years I’ve noticed some changes. Now, bear in mind this is all anecdotal – I don’t have official attendance stats or anything like that.
But the line for the ladies’ room was definitely longer this year.
Back in 2006 I was relatively new to comics. I’d certainly never been to anything like NYCC before (which, itself, was a smallish con, sharing the convention center with two other very confused conferences). I don’t remember seeing a lot of women there, but I do remember at least one: a really fantastic Phoenix cosplayer, who looked like she’d stepped out of the pages of the comics. And I remember seeing guys following her around – not with her, not talking to her, just…staring. Creepily. And thinking to myself, “I will never cosplay.”
This was my fifth NYCC (there was none in 2009), and a lot has changed. The con has expanded, taking up the whole of the Javits Center for four days (well, along with New York Anime Festival, which partners with NYCC). I buy my tickets in advance now because they usually sell out, and I go for the whole weekend instead of just one day. I say hi to creators who recognize me from previous years or from Twitter. Instead of feeling shy and alone and out of my depth, I feel like I’m with my people. (One of the highlights of the con for me was getting into an increasingly-loud conversation with a complete stranger about our mutual outrage over the fate of Wally West. Where else can you find someone to shriek, “BUT BARRY’S DEATH WAS PERFECT!” with you?)
And I see women everywhere: Behind tables in Artist’s Alley. Selling comics-themed jewelry and shirts. Waiting in line to meet the biggest and/or grittiest names in the industry. Wrangling passels of kids dressed as Spider-Man and Supergirl. And yes, cosplaying everything from Phoenix to Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl to Stephanie Brown’s Batgirl to gender-bent Dr. Who and Static Shock to Rainbow Brite. Heck, I even saw one woman dressed as the famous “Clean all the things!” panel from Hyperbole and a Half, complete with scrub brush and word balloon. And yeah, I’ve cosplayed myself the past couple of years, and it’s been much more awesome and less creepy than my initial impressions led me to believe. I’m sure there are still creepers out there, but everyone who asked me for a picture was polite and respectful. (It might have helped that I was dressed as Guy Gardner this year. You don’t want to piss off Guy Gardner.)
Look, every time someone points out sexism in a comic book or in the industry, there’s at least one naysayer arguing that women don’t read/get/love/want/deserve superhero comics, so why bother? But big public events show that things are changing. I wasn’t at the Batman panel where DC “didn’t have room” for one of their few female creators, but I was at the Womanthology panel, where the line doubled over five times and not everyone got in. I was at the Disney/Marvel Kids panel, and when I asked why Disney and Marvel hadn’t put out any books about female superheroes yet, because I was pretty sure the young girls in the room with me wanted heroes too, the rest of the audience applauded: mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. I talked to a man whose six-year-old girl loves comics so much she’s already bagging and boarding and organizing them. I rode the bus back home with six girls in matching costumes who didn’t care about the strange looks they were getting, because they were having an awesome con.
We won’t have the gender breakdown for NYCC for a few weeks, but we do know that women made up 40% of this year’s San Diego Comic Con attendance, and I’m eager to see how NYCC compares. I’ve always said that the only events I go to where the line for the ladies’ room is shorter than the line for the men’s room are baseball games and comic cons. It looks like I’m going to have to stop saying that, and frankly I couldn’t be happier. If it means women are publicly showing their love of comics – and having a damn good time doing it – I’m willing to hold it for an extra five minutes.
Just – no one talk about Aquaman until I’m done, okay?