Uh-oh! Denver Comic Con Features an All-Male Panel on Women in Comics

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This past weekend I was fortunate to be a media guest of the Denver Comic Con. With over 300 hours of panels and events, there was no way I could be a part of everything, so I was keeping an eye on Twitter to see what I may have been missing elsewhere. This tweet in particular caught my attention:

My initial reaction was one of disappointment. I had no idea whose fault it was, or what the full details were, but in the court of public opinion, it didn’t really matter. The deed was done, and they got called out for it.

The sad part is, this one instance of poor planning and oversight has completely overshadowed the otherwise exceptional diversity of the Denver Comic Con. There were a dozen panels with titles such as “Overcoming Objectification in Science Fiction and Comics,” “Native Women in Comics and Pop Culture,” and “Beyond Bechdel: Queer Femmes and Women in Comics,” many of which were completely female-led. In fact, the DCC’s Diversity Mission Statement is very clear on their stance regarding diversity:

Denver Comic Con promotes education and community, educating children and the general public through pop culture, comics and bringing together the diverse people and interests of our community regardless of age, race, gender or background. By focusing on education and providing guests, programming and events that encourage diversity, we strive to promote tolerance and empower the members of our community.

Still, there’s no denying that holding an all-male panel about the history of women in comics was a mistake. Even if you agree with the justification from the convention organizers, which, as information continues to comes out, is sounding more and more like a polite way of condemning the main presenter without completely throwing him under the bus, common sense would suggest that this is still likely something that’s going to bite you in the ass politically.

Thankfully, Crystal Skillman, an award-winning playwright and guest of the convention, recognized the ridiculous nature of the situation and stepped up in a big way. She contacted the DCC organizers and was able to secure a room on Monday, then gathered together an entertaining and eclectic group of women from the convention to organize an impromptu panel entitled “Women in Comics NOW!” From the other writers I’ve heard from who attended, it was fantastic and everything that the other panel should have been. Kudos to Crystal and the other panelists who were willing to take the time from their own schedules to help recover from Saturday’s disaster and bring the Denver Comic Con back in line with their continuing mission of creating an educated and diverse community, and to the Denver Comic Con for helping Crystal put together the panel on such short notice. How you respond when you make a mistake says a lot about an organization, and while based on what I read about the presenter of Saturday’s panel I would prefer a more apologetic message, and one more critical of the presenter, I appreciate their efforts in trying to make things right.

You can listen to Monday’s “Women in Comics NOW!” panel at Beyond the Trope and read Christy Black’s less polite takedown of Saturday’s presenter, Kevin Robinette, at Comics Alliance.

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