She Makes Comics Marissa Stotter
Published Jan 15, 2015It's hard out there for girl nerds. Whether the medium in question is comic books or video games, and the tension is centred on Women in Refrigerators in the recent past or #gamergate in the terrible present, the exclusion and harassment that women face in various spaces in the geek and tech shared universes has rarely been more palpable. On one hand, it's great that conversations around the challenges women face in these spaces is being discussed openly, which is the only way for real change to move forward; on the other hand, it's difficult, discouraging, and often exhausting (not to mention legitimately dangerous for many of the women involved) for women forced to have these same conversations over and over. She Makes Comics serves an antidote to the inequality women have historically faced and continue to face in the comics industry, offering both an honest portrayal of these issues while also highlighting and celebrating women's exceptional contributions to the genre.
At barely 80 minutes, She Makes Comics nonetheless has a startling amount of historical depth, including interviews with Silver Age pioneers (like Ramona Fradon and Marie Severin), powerful creative ship-steerers (such as Jenette Kahn and Karen Berger) and contemporary luminaries (including Gail Simone and Kelly Sue DeConnick). The range of these voices is impressive, but with the quick pace and lean style, the documentary often feels breathless. The audience barely gets a sense of each woman's contribution to the industry before things are forced to move on, rather than developing a relationship with any of the interview subjects. But, seeing the work of so many women discussed, and attempting to demonstrate just how many exceptional women have had an impact on the genre, is valuable and deeply inspiring.
A few technical issues, however, mar the experience of watching She Makes Comics. The interview footage varies quite widely in terms of quality, so much so that switching from one subject to another can be extremely visually jarring. Some of the cuts are quite clumsy, possibly also the result of poor footage quality. Also, while the interviews themselves are great, many of the "re-enactment" scenes, where subjects discuss encounters with boorish comic book sales clerks or being harassed while cosplaying, have a melodramatic and overdone quality that falls somewhat flat.
A love and passion for comics permeates every aspect of the film, from the women being interviewed to the crew making the film. There's a positive energy here that just can't be faked, and that adds to the delight of watching She Makes Comics immeasurably. Despite some quality issues and a bit of re-enactment scene overwrought-ness, it's an extremely enjoyable documentary. Because of the breadth of the material covered and the speed with which it moves, it's probably most enjoyable to comics fans who are already familiar with the work of many of the women discussed rather than a casual viewer, but if you're looking for a broad survey or even to simply get introduced to just how many incredible women have been a part of comics since the medium's inception, then She Makes Comics is a great place to start.