The comics community saw a string of disheartening incidents in April — Janelle Asselin, a journalist, faced rape threats for gently questioning the female anatomy of a ‘Teen Titans’ cover; a WonderCon T-shirt was done in poor taste against ‘fan-girls’, who already often feel like they don’t belong.
In response, Rachel Edidin, Arturo Garcia, Elle Collins, Sigrid Ellis and Jen Vaughn decided to call on the comics community to show solidarity to its less-heard voices, and the result is We Are Comics: a beautiful, ongoing series of user-submitted photos showing the true diversity of comics, and the often surprising ways people found a home in the world of sequential art.
6. A video submission from BOOM! Studios:
7. Over email, we caught up with Rachel about the larger contexts that inform the project:
We are, I think — at least in my experience — a far more diverse community than people tend to see. The illusion that comics are only or overwhelmingly straight white dudes between 18 and 49 doesn’t just push everyone else to the margins — it encourages that core target audience to see us as something other, as outsiders and interlopers, when we in fact make up a huge part of the comics community and always have.
Even well-meaning calls for representation can reinforce that illusion: the subtext of every “Where are the women in comics? Where are the people of color in comics?” or “Oh, my god, a woman writing a comic book!” article is the erasure of a huge segment of the people making and reading comics.
Most directly, the title and idea come from a post I wrote about men in the comics community who don’t speak up about the unbelievable volume of harassment female comics professionals and journalists face—the persistence of a Somebody Else’s Problem field that stems from the idea that those things aren’t damaging to comics on a macro level because we are somehow less *real* within the community and industry than they are.
We are comics, too. We always have been. And—particularly given that comics are a visual medium—I wanted to represent that in a concrete, visual way.
9. Arturo Garcia of Racialicious says that none of these are just one fandom’s problem, but a reflection of the general culture’s:
Make no mistake: the threats against Janelle Asselin are a form of violence. These are people choosing to spend their time threatening a woman with rape because she critiqued a comic-book cover, because as recently as 2012, we’ve seen stories indicating that DC Comics, to name just one publisher, was still targeting males in the 18-34 age bracket in their advertising. And even the X-Men — comics’ great allegory for race and gender diversity — has focused its franchise on ideological conflicts between white men: First Xavier and Magneto, and later Cyclops and Wolverine. To borrow from author Junot Diaz’s point on this issue, it’s little wonder that communities so conditioned to the ideal of white male heroism are going to take anything different as “pandering” or illegitimate.