THANKSREADING 2019: Bustin’ Up the Boys Club

It’s day four of Thanksreading. The halfway point. How have I gotten this far without talking about comic books? I’m off my game.

Let’s get to it.

The comic book industry has been a male-dominated field from the very beginning. So much so that by the time I started collecting them in the early 1990s, a female writer or artist on a book was an outright novelty. It’s gotten better, but it still has quite a ways to go.

There were a few women involved in comics early on, like Marie Severin, who started out in the ‘40s as a colorist at EC Comics and went to write, pencil, letter, ink, and color literally hundreds of comics over the next 60 or so years. 

And in the late ‘60s and ’70s, there were other pioneers like Trina Robbins, who put a feminist stamp on the growing Underground Comics movement, creating Wimmen’s Comix in ’72. That feminist anthology lasted for 20 years.

Today there’s Gail Simone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Colleen Doran, G. Willow Wilson, and many more. Unfortunately, women who write mainstream superheroes from a feminist perspective really rile up the fanboys, and in some cases, that’s made for pure ugliness on the fanboys’ part.

Louise “Weezie” Simonson

One female creator I’m particularly grateful for is Louise “Weezie” Simonson. She’s been around the comic book industry since 1974, and her fingerprints are all over some of the biggest mainstream characters out there, and her influence is still felt today. 

Superman. Steel. X-Men. Power Pack. Spider-Man.

These are all properties Simonson wrote, along with brief stints on several others.

Remember the Death of Superman storyline? She was one of the primary architects of it. And when Chris Claremont needed help with the powerhouse X-Men titles, Simonson was picked by Marvel to take over writing duties on X-Factor and New Mutants

She co-created characters including Cable (from Deadpool 2, for you non-comic book readers out there), Steel (one of the replacement Supermen following his temporary death), and Power Pack. 

And she did this at a time when the general sentiment was that women just didn’t belong in the comic book industry.

In a 2016 interview with Vulture, she said, “There were people who were appalled at the idea of me getting anywhere near the real Marvel books: the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, that stuff. I know of one or two people who just didn’t think women belonged anywhere near the core titles.”

Even as recently as the making of X-Men: Apocalypse, the dreary, loose adaptation of excellent comics written by Simonson, she was never consulted by director Bryan Singer. Nor was she recognized in the movie’s credits as co-creator of the titular villain, which she was with artist Butch Guice. Thanks to the deal she signed with Marvel Comics when she was writing for them, she did manage to receive a taste of royalties from the movie.

That Simonson held on and persevered through decades of such treatment is a testament to both her love of comics and the understanding that there is as much a place for women in the comics industry as there is for me.

A couple of fun bits of Simonson trivia: 

1) She was Bernie Wrightson’s model for the cover of DC’s House of Secrets #92, famous for being the first appearance of Swamp Thing. 

2) She wrote a one-shot comic to be given out at doctors’ offices, courtesy of Marvel Comics and pharmaceutical company Glaxo, Inc. It’s called Captain America Meets the Asthma Monster, and it’s way more fun than it has any right to be.

Many thanks to Simonson for not just wonderful comic books, but for being a pioneer and paving the way for more women in comics. Keep making’ those fanboys angry by being as good as (or better than) men.

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