My favorite thing about superhero comic books is that they have been around for what feels like forever. But, they never go out of style thanks to generational resurgences in pop culture: movies, TV shows and new comic book series that bring classic characters back to life. However, female superhero characters have just starting to step into their greatness in the last decade, especially in recent years.
Captain Marvel, a flying, female superhero named Carol Danvers who saves an alien race from a group of villains, exploded onto the silver screen and captivated audiences of all ages and genders, last year. What you may not know is for much of its existence in comic books, the Captain Marvel character was male. That is, until 2012 when comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick reinvented Captain Marvel in her published series, which drove the storyline for the 2019 film. She also served as a consultant for the character on the set of the movie.
Even if you’ve never read a comic book in your life, Kelly Sue’s view and impact on pop culture, as a woman, are relatable to women working in any industry.
While Kelly Sue DeConnick is best known for her work on Captain Marvel, she’s also written Aquaman comics and her own original series, “Pretty Deadly” and “Bitch Planet.” When people think of comic book writers, their minds likely go to Stan Lee, Neil Gaimen, Frank Miller and other men. However, DeConnick hates being asked what it’s like working in a seemingly male-dominated industry. “I’ve never not been a woman in the comic book industry. So, I can’t really compare.” She says it’s no different than working in anything else because, “EVERY industry is male-dominated! You can decide that’s an issue, or you can do what you love.” For DeConnick, a self-proclaimed feminist, gender equality means not writing every female character as a strong, likable hero. It means “seeing women as varied as our numbers.”
“I think that’s one of the problems with the way women are portrayed in popular culture,” DeConnick says.
“We like to put women in four or five different boxes. Whereas we’ll have this idea that men can vary wildly. No man carries the weight of his gender.”
She refers to Ryan Reynolds who starred in the box-office flop, “Green Lantern”, and then went on to star in the mega-hit movie “Dead Pool.”
“No one said, ‘Well, dudes clearly can’t open superhero movies based on how Green Lantern bombed.’ They even let Ryan Reynolds do another superhero movie! But, one woman opens a superhero movie in a lead, and the movie doesn’t do very well, and it’s like, ‘Well, women clearly cannot handle superhero movies.’”
DeConnick combats this stigma by writing as many female characters as she can into her comics, and no two are alike: vulnerable, vindictive, brave, cowardly – women who don’t depend on a love story or a catty relationship with another woman to carry the storyline. “I want to see the world around me reflected, because I know all those women,” she says.
“I want the little girls who go see these movies, who go see these TV shows, who read these books to say, ‘There I am.’”
In 2016, DeConnick started the #VisibleWomen movement on social media to show publishing companies and other agencies that women are present in the industry. Through her work and her advocacy, DeConnick says she is finally seeing a difference. When she attended her first Women of Marvel panel at NYC Comic-Con earlier in the decade, DeConnick was disappointed to find she was the only female creative on the panel. Flash forward to last year during the same panel, the stage was packed with female writers, illustrators and so many more creatives. Not to mention, they were moved to a much larger venue with standing room only.
One part of my interview with Kelly Sue DeConnick stood out to me more than anything. I asked DeConnick what character she would love to write a comic book about. Before she responded, she paused to think. With a genuine confidence she said, “I have so many ahead of me.”
I wish I could write a blog ten pages long about my interview with Kelly Sue DeConnick, but attendees of our Women Of The Channel: Next Generation Leaders Summit will get to hear about her career, life and challenges straight from her! She will be a featured keynote speaker at the event in Nashville, Tenn., which has been rescheduled from April to October 29th, 2020 due to the recent Coronavirus outbreak. Click the link for details. We hope to see you there!