Attention fanboys, lady nerds are here in force.
When more than 130,000 fans, geeks, comic book aficionados and superhero savants begin their stampede this week at San Diego’s Comic-Con, the four-day event will have an unprecedented 12 different panels focused on femmes.
Of course, men still outnumber women at the Con, though not by as much as some might think — attendance is typically around 60% male to 40% female. The programming tends to reflect those numbers. But with female interest growing both in comicbooks and superhero films — Marvel recently announced a female Thor and it’s no secret that Disney has talked about giving Black Widow her own film after her expanded role in the most recent “Captain America” — Comic-Con too is changing.
The box office success of the “Twilight” and “Hunger Games” franchises as well as “Frozen” and “The Fault in Our Stars” emphasizes the importance of entertainment driven by girls and women.
“Girl power is coming out in force,” said Anastasia Hunter, chair of steampunk convention Gaslight Gathering and one of the women on the board of Comic-Con Intl. “It’s not always been that way,” she added, noting that it’s also her first time hosting a panel. Hunter, who will moderate “When steampunk and pop culture collide,” has been attending Comic-Con since 1991 and volunteering since 1998.
Comic-Con does not solicit panels — instead, interested parties submit ideas, with festival organizers curating the schedule from that selection. Some panels like “The Most Dangerous Women at Comic-Con” have become mainstays at the conference, but others like “The Business of Geek Fashion” and “Female Heroes, Then and Now” for example, will be first-time events.
Studios and television networks are trying to cash in on female participation too. Marvel is hosting a “Marvel: Women of Marvel” panel, offering up in-house producers and artists to fans, while premium cable channel Starz is queuing up various activities around its new series, “Outlander,” based on the books by Diana Gabaldon that have a female heavy following.
“A lot of stuff brought to Comic-Con feels masculine, the superhero franchises and such,” said Alison Hoffman, Starz Sr. VP of original programming marketing. “But what about all the women? We’re looking to connect with them too.”
The sheer number of panels, covering everything from female heroes to gender issues in comicbooks and women who work in below-the-line jobs, suggests a shift in a traditionally male-heavy arena.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Dina Kampmeyer, a community organizer for Steampunk Los Angeles and co-founder of the League of Extraordinary Ladies, noting that there weren’t even a handful of women-centric panels last year. “The female geek community is becoming more full and I think companies are finally starting to listen to us.”
Women are by no means center stage at the event, although model and frequent panelist Adrianne Curry notes that their roles are, at least, expanding.
“I’ve got no problem with the scantily-clad booth babes, but they should at least know something about what they’re promoting. It can’t just be about their (bodies),” she said, adding that the only way for women to truly make a difference in the comicbook community is to increase their involvement, whether by writing, sketching or designing, to name a few.
She adds that she plans to address some of the problems women face in the comicbook industry on her two panels, “The Most Dangerous Women at Comic-Con” and “Wonder Women of the 21st Century.”
(Pictured: Danai Gurira, Tatiana Maslany and Katee Sackhoff at Comic-Con’s 2013 “Women Who Kick Ass” panel.)