“Good morning, Dragon Con,” said Kelly Sue Deconnick, bright and bubbly to start the panel. “We’ve asked you here today to join us in our destruction of the patriarchy.”
It certainly felt like the type of crowd to be devoted to destruction of the patriarchy in the room. It was 11 a.m. on a Monday at Dragon Con, where everything feels exhausting and hungover, so you certainly have to be committed to be here. Not to mention it’s a Women In Comics panel.
At least so we thought.
As the panel began with Deconnick, Babs Tarr, Megan Hutchinson, and moderator Jami Jones, they revealed to us that after several discussions over the double edged sword of Women In Comics panels and a few last minute decisions, this was not going to be the rote but necessary Women in Comics panel. Instead, it was going to be a panel of all women talking about Men in Comics.
What then ensued was 60 minutes of sarcastic brilliance on a Labor Day morning.
Presented in the way of all-white or all-men panels on diversity or women in comics, the panelists took it to the next level, briefly transporting to a world where all the dense questions and bad takes about diversity in comics were applied to white men.
“People are understandably guarded about fake male fans,” Deconnick said during the Q&A when asked how to reach male readers, followed by a suggestion about testing the cred of said fake male fans a little bit.
Another attendee asked for advice as a queer woman about how to mentor straight men getting into comics. Tips about critiquing their art at their table or meeting up at “BarCon” after the show abound at that point. So did the laughter.
It certainly helped that the audience was all in on the joke, especially the men in attendance who were great sports about the way the panelists talked to them condescendingly in the way some male professionals speak about women. Deconnick even asked one male attendee a twirl for the room. It really all did feel too familiar, which made it even more ridiculous.
There was even two new character tests created during the panel! The first being “The Bendis Test,” which is to see if two named male characters talk about anything besides a woman. The other is “The Sexy Hammer Test,” which is if a man in a story can be replaced by a sexy hammer and still tell the same story. Still, the representation of men in comics shouldn’t just boil down to that, as Deconnick said. “Try to make men that men like, but women… also sort of like.”
Between all the jokes and Tarr sarcastically going “Who?” the first time Bendis was mentioned, the most telling moment of the panel was when Jones asked if they were going to talk about favorite male creators in terms of looks or their books. Deconnick paused and told of a Bleeding Cool message board thread that was FMK over women creators. She advised not to go that route, but concluded with, “I’m not bitter, but I have a long memory.”
While the rest of the panel continued from there, with the panelists commenting on how Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher were handsome in different ways along with being good writers and Deconnick making jokes about how Bendis has a big imagination for writing Spider-Woman when he is neither a woman nor a spider, the “I’m not bitter, but I have a long memory” comment stuck with me the most. I feel like that is something that could have easily been said by any of the women on the panel or in attendance. For all the jokes cracked and sarcastic comments made, it was all rooted in the reality of a community that still treats women as a sideshow attraction instead of as serious creators and characters.
Still, for a Monday morning at the end of a five day long convention, it felt good to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
For more quotes from the panel, my livetweet thread can be read here as well as in the #MenInComics hashtag.