Kevin Smith is launching Comic Book Men, a show based on Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in Red Bank, New Jersey, on AMC on February 12. And of all the people I’ve seen in a week and a half at Television Critics Association press tour, he’s the biggest comic book nerd, the only person who would dream of saying something like comics are “one of the only pure american art forms. We invented the comic book. It’s one of the things that like jazz we can claim for our own. It didn’t come from any other place.” So of course I had to ask him what he thinks about the state of women in comics, and how to get more women into comic shops.
His answer was half flip: “I’ve seen Catwoman in her bra far too often. Now I just want to see her panties,” he joked, after I referenced the New 52. “All I hear single women talking about is how to find a good man. You will never find a better man than in a comic book store. Comic book dudes are all oral. My wife dropped her standards this much and she got me for life.”
But he was also very clear on the dynamics of the industry, and in thinking there should be more women represented both in the creative staffs making the books and in the stores selling them.
“It’s male-dominated media, and the readers are mostly dudes,” he acknowledged. “The growth of independent comics has been great for people who don’t want to tell stories about anyone in tights…more of that is what’s going to bring in more women.” And he praised Womanthology, the anthology collection of comics by women funded by Kickstarter and sold for charity. “It’s such a great idea…You could go page by page and say this person should be working in the industry. This is a show about these four dudes who work in this store. There are no women [in the store] yet…There should be a Comic Book Women, and good willing, there’ll be a spinoff Comic Book Women, and I’ll make shit ton of money.”
And really, that’s the way in. I wonder if Womanthology might be the key wedge here (I will admit to being impressed Smith had read it). I’d love to see spinoffs of the stories there, or by the artists who contributed. And whether those books are supported by sales or donations, they could be a means of demonstrating a market for something different. I doubt they’d reach the same scale as a mass-distributed book: it’s almost impossible to do that without marketing, distribution, and pure history and devotion. But if money is what matters, we need to find alternative ways to buying the same old stuff to demonstrate our market power. And we have to be very clear about communicating what makes us buy things (as well as what makes us not buy them).