How to write comics: decent female character

// 22 July 2006

Over on Girls Read Comics (And They’re Pissed), Karen has knocked out an excellent post on how to write a real female lead character.

The post is a response to an email she got from an independent comics publisher, asking for advice on how not to be accidentally misogynistic.

And she comes out with a great guide to what’s wrong with many female characters in mainstream comics – especially in the superhero genre. There’s plenty of practical advice, like: does your character talk to other women? But this is the best advice of all:

8) If you’re a man, consider getting a female feminist pre-reader.

If you’re a guy, you have male privilege. This is not your fault. However, even if you’re a feminist, your privilege may well be blinding you to parts of your work that might be offensive or dumb. Why not ask a female feminist to read over your script? She isn’t every woman, or every feminist, but she might be able to spot something you missed.

If this sounds like a lot of effort to go to just to keep the feminists happy, remember it’s not about that. Presumably, you want to write the best damn comic you can. Realistic female characters = good characterisation. Good characterisation = good writing.

I’ve got a feeling that many superhero books go from drawing board to shelf without any women, let alone feminist women, having much creative input. Of course, this is changing slowly. It’s kind of an indictment of the whole industry when it seems like Marvel should be forced to hire a consultant feminist.

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