Embracing Diversity in the Comics World: An Interview With Eden Miller of Comicsgirl

A comics interview article by: Bonnie Walling

The topic of women in the comics industry – both as fans and as creators – has been a hot one in geekdom for a long time. One blogger who has tackled this topic from several angles is Eden Miller, who runs Comicsgirl, a site containing news, reviews and analysis of female-appeal graphic novels. In this interview, she talks about the genesis of the site, indie vs. mainstream comics and how female fans are treated by comics fandom in general.

Q. How did you get the idea to start this blog?

As a teenager in the late ’90s, I knew I loved comics but didn’t have much of a way to connect with other girls and women about them, nor was there much of a way to find out about comics that I thought I’d like. So I started a more traditional website that I ran for a few years focusing on those issues. After it was too time-consuming, I shut it down but my interest in that subject never quite left my mind. In 2003, I restarted Comicsgirl as a blog and while it’s grown and changed (and still is), I’m happy with where it’s going.

Q. Have you done any writing for other sites?

I’ve written for a few other sites over the years, but not necessarily about comics. I have contributed to sites like PopMatters, All Game Guide and Unseen Films.

Q. What sort of topics do you cover?

While it’s changed somewhat, my primary focus is on comics that appeal to women. I do tend to write quite a bit about works by female creators, especially ones that are from independent publishers or are self-published. But I will write about mainstream titles I think are worth noting. I also like highlighting or taking on older titles that tried to capture a female audience, which is something I’ve been doing with my Near Miss project.

Q. What are some lesser-known titles and/or publishers that you’ve come across that you wish the public knew more about?

There are so many! It’s hared to make a complete list, so this shouldn’t be considered definitive! It’s maybe not lesser-known, but Ulli Lust’s Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life (published by Fantagraphics) was my favorite book of last year. I was also really impressed with Nomi Kane‘s “Goodbye Ruby Soho” from last year and Megan Brennan’s Pencil Pup cracks me up.

Anything Koyama Press publishes is amazing, as is everything by Nobrow (along with their children’s imprint, Flying Eye), and I think micro-publishers like Oily Comics and Retrofit Comics are publishing a great group of up-and-coming artists. I also think more people need to check out kuš! komiksi out of Latvia, which always features a diverse group of international creators.

Q. Do you think the mainstream comics industry has been doing enough to support woman artists and female-friendly themes?

This is always a tough question for me just because I think focusing on mainstream comics doesn’t really grasp the big picture of women who are making comics today. While yes, I do think if a woman’s goal is to have a book published by DC or Marvel, those doors should be open to her, I don’t think that needs to be every creator’s ambition. After all, creators like Raina Telgemeier have little girls waiting in long lines to get their books signed. I find that to be more important and more inspiring.

But yes, I would like to see so much of the disheartening and gross stuff that comes out of the major publishers stop. At this point, I’d rather just laugh at it because it seems like such a relic from another era. That’s not where comics are anymore and I don’t know why so many people keep holding onto it.

Q. Why do you think there’s so much resistance to women both as comics creators and comics fans?

I think in a lot of ways, it’s just fear of change. I can understand that, but I’m also overjoyed about how much more welcoming comics has become in the past 10 years (even the past five years!).

I think there are some people — not just men, to be fair — that regard themselves as “gatekeepers” since they’ve loved comics for such a long time. So when these people they perceive as “interlopers” show up, it feels like a threat to who they are.

But to me, I want those people around. If you’re interested in comics, I want to share them with you. I want to make you feel like you get to be a part of this party I’m having. And I think more and more people are feeling that way.

The change is slow, but it’s still happening. Yes, there are still so many bad things going on, but I’m glad more people are vocal about them.

I would love to see mainstream publishers embrace diversity more. While I’m not a fan of “tokenism,” I am a fan of being inclusive. It’s great to say “well, we just hire people who are good” but diversity just doesn’t happen magically. If you don’t know where the female creators are, maybe you need to start looking for them.

Q. If an artist wanted to get started in comics, what would you recommend her first step be?

Get online and start posting them! Tumblr is great for that, but anywhere that’s easy works.

After that, start finding people who may be near you or who are doing similar things to you and connect with them. Most comics people are accepting and welcoming, even if you think they’re “famous.” Going to small press shows, even just as an attendee or a volunteer, can also be a great way to meet people.

Mostly, though, just making comics and putting them out there is all that’s necessary to get started. But probably develop a thick skin — not everyone is going to like your work, but enough people will.

Thanks for the fantastic interview, Eden, and best of luck with your blog! - Bonnie Walling

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