Comic shop owner talks feminism at Menlo Park Comic Con


While it stormed outside, the Menlo Park Library was bustling with activity at its first Comic Con event on Oct. 15. At least 375 visitors passed through the library's doors to hear live music, watch animation screenings, participate in crafts, draw manga, show off costumes at a photo booth and trade comic books.

Library Director Susan Holmer said the event had a wide mix of attendees, with families and adults without kids in tow appearing to enjoy themselves.

Some attendees sat in on one of two seminars presented by Anna Cebrian, who talked about the status of women in the comic industry. Ms. Cebrian, a 1993 graduate of Menlo-Atherton High School, is founder and CEO of Illusive Comics & Games, Isle of Gamers, and Illogical Associates Publishing in Santa Clara.

So what is the state of women in the comic industry? In an interview with the Almanac, Ms. Cebrian said there's a dearth of female retailers, creators, publishers and CEOs in the industry, which affects what kinds of material get published.

It's important to encourage diversity in the industry, she said, especially in the currently booming climate for comics, which is due thanks to renewed interest in printed works linked to web comics and superhero movies, she said.

Fans can write creators of diverse comics and their publishers, and buy work from creators whose perspectives are underrepresented in the industry.

As a retailer, she said, she works to make her store feel like "the living room we all need." She talks with her staff about how to make the space comfortable for people who are LGBTQ and female, curbing any one group from dominating or making unwanted advances.

When asked which comic or graphic novel authors she'd recommend, Ms. Cebrian mentioned Gail Simone and Kelly Sue DeConnick.

Ms. Deconnick, according to Ms. Cebrian, has an interesting litmus test for detecting gender bias in media. She calls it the "Sexy Lamp Test." To pass the test, a female character cannot be able to be replaced in the story with a "sexy lamp" and have the plot remain intact.

"It goes beyond the Bechdel test," Ms. Cebrian explained. (The Bechdel test, established by graphic novelist Alison Bechdel, requires that two female characters in a work must talk to each other about something other than a man.)

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