Why aren’t there more women in comics?

Before you tag this post as that fashionable F-word, hear me out. I’ve been working in comics since a few years now. Much more than their western counterparts, the Indian comic industry is welcoming to both genders, across board. They’re open to story ideas which go beyond fanboy or superhero fiction. I’ve worked on two graphic novels (Krishna, The Skull Rosary), pitched a lot of work and worked on smaller comics and am yet to encounter misogyny or bad behavior of any kind in publishers or artists or other writers. Yes, I do tend to meet a lot of guys who’re into comics than girls, but they’re not necessarily looking out for superhero fiction. They’re looking out for good stories. Still, the industry, the artists, publishers, editors, and writers are mostly men.

Then I’ve been part of the children book industry (my first novel Ghost Hunters of Kurseong is for tweens), which again is teeming with talented writers and artists. This industry, catering to kids of both genders, is mostly female. The editors, writers, artists, are all women.

There are very few overlapping creators (either writers or artists) who do both kinds of work – children books and comics. Now I’m the curious sort and frankly this just doesn’t make sense to me. I mean writers are writers and should be able to write for any medium, right? And illustrators and artists should be able to draw for any medium. So why don’t they? This question irritated me enough to push Comic Con to do a panel on it in Bangalore this year. With me there was Reena Puri,  a well-respected editor with ACK Media and Devaki Neogi, who is one of those rare illustrators who draws for international comics. We took the idea apart, thought on it, brainstormed over email about the panel as well as on stage, but couldn’t find any concrete answers on why there is such a gender bias in comics.

The panel even made a journalist write an article on portrayal of women in comics in Deccan Herald:

Deccan Herald on women in comics
Deccan Herald on women in comics

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Except, it didn’t answer my question. Some of the sort-of answers that I’ve collated from various people (and not necessarily my opinions) are listed below. Poll on them and tell me what you think:

Why aren’t there more women in comics?
  1. It’s easier for women to get into children’s books
  2. Comics are misogynist, made for men by men and women don’t feel welcome.
  3. Women aren’t comic readers so they don’t create comics
  4. Superheroes and sexy women is just not a woman’s thing.
  5. There’s tight deadlines and not enough money in making comics.
  6. Why are you bothered about this question? Go write your books, will you?

Agree with one of them or have a  different answer? Add to the comment section below. (Till I figure out how to put a poll here that is.)

  • Remember the days when women were expected only to be homemakers? Glad that has changed a lot. Now, women are encouraged to have an education and a career. But the encouragement or support will be directed towards women finding a career/job which gives them a reasonable steady income that enables them to be independent. This is good too.

    But when it comes to creative/artistic careers, that monetary security is not there. Not until you succeed and make it big. How many women can continue their pursuits while remaining ‘starving artists’? Women should either contribute time and effort towards ‘taking care’ of the family or… contribute time and effort towards ‘earning’ for the family. Also, creating Comics costs a lot of money. If you are an artist, you can draw your own comic book… but if you are a writer?

    Before starting ‘Sivappu Kal Mookuthi / Girl with a Red Nose Ring’, I couldn’t find artists who were interested in partnership/collaboration. Unlike me, who was wide-eyed with excitement about writing my new graphic novel, almost all of the artists I spoke to saw the project just as a job with payment. It’s fair, of course, they have families and responsibilities too. So I hired a couple of illustrators and finished the book. Took one and a half years and I’m in debt 🙂 So, I guess it’s all about the money.

    • Thanks for writing in Nandhini! Yes, money is a huge problem when it comes to creative careers, but I feel it’s an equally big hurdle for any gender (and not only women). Artists spend a lot more time than writers in working on comics and it’s only fair for them to expect payment. It’s very rare to find a collaboration where an artist and writer are equally excited about the same project.

  • G

    I am a man, I have a 3 year old daughter. I grew up reading Enid Blyton and all great early teachers where ladies whereas all my great hard science teachers in 10th/12 were men. I started reading at 4/5 with a Hindi Indrajal. Maybe girls aren’t so visual?

    • Girish, I am a girl and pretty visual! Yes, I didn’t read Indrajal when I was growing up, for I just didn’t read comics. Don’t think that makes me un-visual. And a lot of women are illustrators/artists, and fabulously visual. People (and not men or women) are either creative/visual or not. There’s no gender issue there, last I checked. Try the logic again?

      • G

        Until now, the themes have ALWAYS been boys themes? 🙂