On -isms: SUPER-Ingrained

By | Thursday, May 26, 2016 Leave a Comment
Here's a short story from my youth...

I was 11, 12, 13 and just starting to really get into comics and noticing creator names. Between a lack of mobility and being a pre-internet age, I didn't know a lot about most of the creators beyond their names, though. I saw a few articles about the superstars of the era -- John Byrne, Frank Miller, Chris Claremont, etc. -- but most creators were largely an enigma.

At some point, I recall being surprised to learn that Julie Schwartz, whose name I saw on many DC comics, was a man. Julie was a girl's name, after all. I hadn't seen a photo of him, though, and I know I actively resisted the idea very briefly, thinking "Well, they obviously got the pronouns wrong!" But after re-reading that a time or two, sure, Julie Schwartz was a guy. It made sense since so, so many other creators I knew of were men. In fact, as I thought about it, I didn't know of ANY women creators back then.

So when I later came across Jenette Kahn's name, the name of publisher and president of DC comics, I assumed it was another man. Because the comics industry was JUST men. Because publishers and presidents were JUST men. I'd already discovered that this well-known editor with a girl's name was actually a guy, so it made sense that his boss could also be a guy with a girl's name. I think I was well into my 20s before I realized Kahn was, in fact, a woman.

Think about that. The notion of comics being exclusively the realm of men was so ingrained in me by the time I became a teenager that it usurped my previously ingrained notions of what was or wasn't a girl's name. We're taught, almost from infancy, that Jenette, Julie, Ann, Wendy, and Marie are girls' names. And despite that, I found the comics industry to be so patriarchal that in just a year or three of being immersed in it, I readily dropped any notions of women even being in the industry. Bobbie Chase clearly must be a guy, using a nickname for Robert. Dann Thomas? Totally a guy. I'd never heard the name "Weezie" before, but Weezie Simonson must be a guy too. Cat Yronwode? Guy. Ramona Fradon? Guy.

It wasn't until I saw ElfQuest, probably 7-8 years later, that I discovered women could do comics. I spent most of my teenage years, and my formative years in comics fandom, believing that women simply could not make comics. Not that I ever thought there was a law against it or anything like that, but it was just something they couldn't do. Men can't bear children, women can't make comics. I don't know how exactly I got past that notion with Pini, but it took me several years to reset my mental images of Kahn, Chase, Thomas, etc.

That's kind of fucked up.
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