You could say the "Women of Marvel" panel at San Diego Comic-Con doesn't have the best time slot. It takes place on Sunday — the final day of the convention — at 11:15 a.m. PT. At this point, the overall number of attendees has dropped noticeably. Journalists I've met throughout the week have already left this morning to go home. But, they missed what was, for me, the best part of the entire week.
I've been going to a lot of panels about women since Comic-Con began on Thursday morning. Women aged 17-33 are the fastest growing demographic for the comic book audience. But, as vibrant and large as that group is, for the most part, female fans still exist in a world dominated by dudes.
So, I attended panels like "Nobody's Damsel," "The Most Dangerous Women At Comic-Con," and "Fangirls Lead The Way." But, after each one, I left feeling a bit helpless. These hour-long discussions were important, but they started to feel more like we were pointing at the problem without offering any solutions or actionable steps toward making the community a better place for women. And then, in a completely packed room, the "Women of Marvel" panelists announced a new character: female Blade.
The daughter of the vampire-hunting Blade we all know and love, Fallon Grey will make her debut in the Marvel universe in October. The panelists (including Marvel's content development editor Sana Amanat and producer Judy Stephens) then showed some initial art for Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel. The excitement in the room was the kind of girl power I was looking for all week.
Marvel panelists also included costume designer for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Ann Foley, writer Margaret Stohl, writer and showrunner for Agent Carter Michelle Fazekas, producer Megan Thomas Bradner, photographer Judy Stephens, social media manager Adri Cowan, writer Marguerite Bennett, and writer Lorraine Cink.
After their announcements, the panelists took some audience questions. The first in line at the microphone was a girl named Marley dressed as Kamala Khan. She's a nine-year-old girl from L.A. who's become so popular at Comic-Con she has her own hashtag. (Actually, she's nine and three quarters.) And, she wanted to know the funnest part of the panelists' jobs.
Another step: Little girls are starting to see career paths in comic book creation.
Then the panelists fielded a question about how they feel about the minor roles of female comic characters in male-lead blockbuster films. "The reality is: All that stuff takes time,” Amanat answered. “The reason Ms. Marvel is continuing is because people are buying the comics,” she said. “At the end of the day, we are still a business and we need to make money.” In other words, if you want to see a movie about a female character, you've gotta buy the comics.
Amanat added that she thinks we're in a new phase of seeing these characters on screen. “I do strongly believe a shift has happened," she said. "The fact that Captain Marvel is going to be a movie is a big deal.”
Amanat advised the room to have faith in Hollywood — something I hadn't heard all week (or maybe ever?). "It’s coming," she said. "We just have to be patient with it.”
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