More than anything, She Makes Comics displays the fact that women have always loved comics and have always had an impact on the industry as a whole. This documentary provides a parallel storyline to the comics history that many are familiar with by placing its focus on the women who are regularly overlooked in an industry that is often wrongly seen as inherently masculine. The insights provided by the many contributors make it clear that this is a story that should have been included in the larger narrative all along. She Makes Comics is the documentary many women were waiting for.
Taking on over a hundred years worth of comic book history in just over an hour means that many things had to be cut or abbreviated. That is understandable; however, it would have been nice if they had included more about the Golden and Silver Ages as well as the mainstream Bronze Age because there were some later absolutes that could be seen as misleading. For example, when Chris Claremont states: “Every team had a female character who was the girl” while the image being shown depicts Wonder Woman standing at the center of the Justice League of America as the only female. While this was, and still is, common, it is not always true! The very popular Justice Society of America (the Golden Age version of the Justice League of America) included Wonder Woman and Black Canary along with multiple female guest stars such as Hawkgirl. There have indeed been fewer women in comics, but it is important to not gloss over the ones who were there. That said, some of the topics that were included in this documentary are wonderful additions that I hope to see more of in other comics based documentaries. Their handling of cosplay especially was well done as they highlight the freedom and empowerment a large number women feel as a result of this passion. Similarly, it was nice to see the attention on the way that women use the internet as a safe space for things like exposing the “women in refrigerators” trope and as a network of supportive communities such as the ones built around fan fic and fan art.
A major highlight is the sheer number of interviews with key figures from all sides of comics including notables such as: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Ramona Fradon, Trina Robbins, Gail Simone, Karen Berger, G Willow Wilson, Jenette Kahn, Karen Berger, Heidi MacDonald, Wendy Pini and many more. Unfortunately, the production quality of these interviews often varies, which can distract from is being said. Still, this is an amazing wealth of material and this alone will keep it from disappearing into the negative zone.
Personally, I want to say that this was something I didn’t realize I needed. I knew that women read more comics than men in the 50’s and 60’s not because they mentioned it multiple times, but because my grandmother was one of them. She was the one who got me into comics in the first place. I was also one of those girls in the 90’s who felt uncomfortable because comic shops were small stores with questionable guys and posters all over the windows that diminished the ability for people outside to see what might be happening inside. Places like that practically scream that they are not safe for a young girl. Additionally, I internalized these moments of feeling like I didn’t belong to the point that I donated most of the comics I had collected to the local library before I moved out of the house at 18. The stories the women share in She Makes Comics are the same as my stories because many women share these experiences. Unfortunately, these experiences have been diminished, ignored, or simply unheard by far too many people. Seeing so many stories that run parallel to mine in one place was extremely validating and I imagine any other girl who loves comics will feel this resonance as well.
In the end, Marisa Stotter et al passionately took on a huge project and very nearly succeeded in every way. If you are even remotely interested in watching it, do so. She Makes Comics is one of those rare documentaries that has the potential to truly change the way that both our history and our present is seen. Furthermore, it concludes on a very optimistic note that I hope to see come to fruition in our future. It really is about time we see every little girl fly. 4.5 Stars!
Director: Marisa Stotter
Stars: Janelle Asselin, Karen Berger, Christina Blanch & More!