Girls on Film: Comic Con's Push for Geeks, Heroines, and Women-Driven Discussion

Girls on Film: Comic Con's Push for Geeks, Heroines, and Women-Driven Discussion

Jul 20, 2011


It’s time to cool off with Comic Con 2011. Yep, while many of us battle triple-digit heat this week, San Diego’s temperature is poised to stay well below 80 degrees Fahrenheit as media fiends descend upon the California city for everything glitz, glam, and geek. The oxymoronic weather works well with the oxymoronic event, which has morphed from a celebration of niche markets to a big-buzz, high-profile convention.

In the good ol’ days, Comic Con was a place for the comic nerds and geeks to come together. Now, those slivers still exist, but they’re shadowed by big-budget films, Gleeks, and everything that could be considered even remotely “niche.” Nevertheless geeks persevere, and this year the non-film panels are offering an impressive smorgasbord of female-centric discussion.

This being Girls on FILM and all, I’m obliged to tell you about the Hollywood-centric goings on. That Thursday, at 11:15, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part One will descend, stoking the maniac Meyer fandom as Bill Condon offers up the final bits of the lusty lycan/vampire world. You should know that Friday, at 12:15, Relativity Media will dish on Haywire, a new flick about a female covert ops specialist that will mark Gina Carano’s cinematic debut as stunt woman and star. Soon after, Kate Beckinsale will help fans dish into her latest tough-lead sequel, Underworld Awakening, before Buffy alum and scribe Marti Noxon joins the crowds descending for the Fright Night remake. On Saturday, Comic Con will bring more Hollywood goodness as Kristen Stewart faces crowds for the second time with Universal Pictures’ 3:30 panel for Snow White and the Huntsman.

Jo Chen, Buffy CoverBut the Comic Con’s cinematic content is still an oversaturated Boys’ Club, not leaving much for the female cinematic connoisseur who wants something other than Ms. Stewart and her fairy tale fantasies. So this week's column will be a bit of a cheat, ignoring the minimal femmes in film content for the rather impressive discourse that will run through this year’s festivities.

On top of the many women showcased in spotlights and special panels – including Buffy comic artist Jo Chen, who whipped up beautiful covers like the one to the left – Comic Con is hosting a ton of female-centric panels discussing the status of women in the industry as subjects and creators, most of which will take place on Thursday.

For those of you who must follow along at home and miss the fun, I’ll share what femme coverage I can in’s nightly Comic Con wrap-ups and the Girls on Film Twitter feed. If you happen to attend any of the below events, please share your thoughts and coverage in the comments below.





10:30-11:30 Spotlight on Joyce Brabner

Though her name never reached the masses quite like her late husband, Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner is coming back to Comic Con to discuss her current work, unfinished Pekar projects, and to quote the Con blurb, discuss if she’s “the glacial, humorless activist as portrayed in the film” (played by Hope Davis). The spotlight should provide an interesting look at the intermingling of creativity and romance, not to mention creative female forces shadowed by dominant male creators.

Tina Fey, Bust10:45-11:45 Oh, You Sexy Geek!

As geekdom becomes a strong force in popular culture, with gorgeous women wielding armor and battle axes to show off their “geek pride,” questions continue to rise about what makes a geek girl, and whether “geek” is now becoming a PR game rather than a lifestyle. This panel, including Star Wars nut and old-school Internet media maven Bonnie Burton and Buffy baddie Clare Kramer (Glory), will dig into questions such as: “Does displaying the sexiness of fangirls benefit or demean them? When geek girls show off, are they liberating themselves or pandering to men? Do some ‘fake fangirls’ blend sex appeal with nerdiness just to appeal to the growing geek/nerd market, or is that question itself unfair?”

12:00-1:00 Comics Arts Conference Session #2: Graphic Representations of Otherness

Digging into representations of race, gender, and sexuality, as well as metaphors of otherness including the animal, monstrous, and heroic, this panel will bring authors together to discuss “the ways in which representations of otherness in graphic narratives and other media can either solidify stereotypes or undermine cultural assumptions – or both.” Considering the rise of female heroines, the lack of superheroines on the big screen, and racial-bending casting choices like Idris Elba in Thor, this panel should instigate some great discussions.

4:00-5:00 No Damsels in Distress Here

With the help of writers like Kathy Reichs (Bones) and Marie Lu (Legend), female voices sci-fi and fantasy will discuss the changing world of the female heroine, and should provide a nice, positive counterpoint to earlier panels, issue-driven panels.

5:00-6:00 Buffy the Vampire Slayer and LGBT Comics Fandom

Joss Whedon made geek feminism popular, and the on-going discourse about Buffy the Vampire Slayer will continue with this panel, discussing both Tara and Willow’s television romance, and how LGBT themes have continued in the comics, making the franchise “one of the most queer-friendly properties in pop culture.” Added bonus: Alums Jane Espenson, Drew Greenberg, and Tom Lenk will be on the panel, plus a “special guest,” which is likely Amber Benson (Tara), who will be at Con this year for her writing work.

6:00-7:00 Her Universe: What Women Want in Their Female Sci-Fi Heroes

As an apt wrap-up from the earlier “No Damsels in Distress Here” panel, the final femme-centric production for Thursday will dig into the evolution of women in science fiction, including how they changed and what makes a modern heroine “truly interesting and unique.”


Jane Espenson




6:00-7:00 Girls Gone Genre

The lone femme feature of the day is definitely a good one. Journo geek girl Jenna Busch will moderate an awesome estrogen-heavy panel of “women who write, read, game, and perform in arenas that are statistically dominated by men,” asking “What happens when traditionally ‘male’ genres are reinvented by female writers and embraced by female fans?” This is a question that should become increasingly relevant as fandom morphs to become more female-friendly -- especiall as old Buffy alum like panelists Jane Espenson and Marti Noxon break out of Joss Whedon’s shadow and make their own solid geek contributions.





1:00-2:00 Comics Arts Conference Session #11: Psychology of the Dark Knight: How Trauma Formed Batman and Why He’s Got a Thing for “Bad Girls”

This panel might focus on Batman, but the discussion between psychologists and Batman collaborators like Grant Morrison (writer), Lee Meriwether (Catwoman), and Michael Uslan (producer) should reveal interesting insights not only into the Dark Knight, but how women are framed in male-centric superhero tales.

4:00-5:00 The Guild Season 5: Convention Timez!

Though The Guild is a web series, Felicia Day’s impressive work creating, writing, and starring in the series makes her one of the essential female creators in the world of geek fare, and a great blueprint for future female talent and success.



Ms. Marvel

11:15-12:15 Marvel: Women of Marvel

Superheroes may have gained an impressive amount of pop culture traction over the years, from Superman and Captain America to Spider-Man and Iron Man, but little has been done with the female superheroine, from failed attempts at Catwoman to a Joss Whedon’s Avengers without the likes of Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, or The Wasp. This panel aims to discuss “the creative process at Marvel to hear what it’s like working as a woman in comics today,” so hopefully they will cover the mostly forgotten female heroines in Marvel movies.

4:00-5:00 Buffy: Once More with Feeling

Okay, this might not be a femme-centric discussion, but considering the fact that Rocky Horror-esque reenactments were stopped by Warner Brothers in recent years, this might be your only chance to totally geek out with one of the pre-eminent female heroines and her singing Scooby Gang.

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