Many women were on hand at the recent New York Comic Con, a giant gathering of fans and creators of comics where people bring superheroes to life both on and off the page.
Among the throngs of people in Batman and Spiderman costumes, the number of women dressed as female characters was a reminder that not all superhero names end with “man.”
“Cat Woman, Poison Ivy, Power Girl, all these independent strong women,” said Kitty Brooker, who traveled from Britain and was dressed in an elaborate Sylvanas Windrunner costume, a female character from the video game series “World of Warcraft.”
Women in the comic book and video game industries are fighting their own real-life battles for acceptance in the male-dominated field, said some attendees.
“I’m not sure that sort of thing is going to change until general patriarchal attitudes of what women should do and what women should be change,” said Erica Henderson, an artist for Marvel Comics’ “Squirrel Girl.”
But any skepticism they may face didn’t stop women from showing up at New York ComicCon dressed as female comic characters.
Sophie Moskop came dressed as one of her favorite video game characters, Aldrich, from the video game “Dark Souls 3.” She was in black tulle ball gown and an elaborate handmade mask.
“'Dark Souls" as a series has gotten me through some dark times,” said Moskop, a law student and a self-described “geek.” “This character is a gender queer character in a place where you don’t see a lot of that, video games.”
Costumed friends Kristin Petrella and Colleen Wendt decided at the last minute to travel to ComicCon from upstate New York.
Petrella was dressed as Harley Quinn from the DC Comics-inspired movie “Suicide Squad.” Wendt was dressed as the Joker, a male character, from another DC Comics series, “Batman.”
“I didn’t really start dressing up until I saw 'Suicide Squad,’” said Petrella. “I got really excited about Harley Quinn because she’s a villain I can really get behind.”
"You get in costume and you feel so much more confident,” she said. “You feel more yourself than you are when you're being yourself."
Fellow female artist Corin Howell recounted experiencing sexism during a visit to a local comic book shop.
“I went up to the guy at the front desk of the comic book shop and I was like, ‘Hey do you have Transformers Armada?’ And he goes, ‘Do you even know who Optimus Prime is?’"
Howell has persisted in spite of the skeptics, working for comic book publishers like IDW, Oni Press and DC Comics. Her latest work is “Ghostbusters: Answer the Call.”
“Starting out was a little bit rough because nobody really took me seriously,” said Howell. “They’re like, ‘You’re just a fan girl. All you draw is like, kissy boys, right?’ I was like, ‘No, I draw giant robots, I can draw dudes, I can draw Batman.’"
Small indie publishers like Forward Comix are helping to turn the tide for women artists.
Jerome Howard, founder of the Brooklyn-based small press publisher, said it’s important to provide female artists “a safe space where they can tell stories that really reflect their background, their experiences, their challenges.”
The comic road isn’t easy, but women in the field are finding there is strength in numbers.
“We just have to be louder about each other,” said said Jen Vaughn, founder of Haunted Vault Studios. “Hiring each other to do the work and celebrating one another.”