NYCC: Sana Amanat, Judy Stephens Bring the Women of Marvel to the Center Stage

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Sana Amanat and Judy Stephens, hosts of the popular Women of Marvel podcast, took to the stage Sunday at New York Comic Con to discuss what it's like to work in the comic book industry from a female perspective, as well as what's in store for the future of Marvel.

To kick things off, Stephens and Amanat introduced themselves to the crowd before introducing assistant editor Kathleen Wisneski, writer Margaret Stohl, writer Leah Williams, colorist Rachelle Rosenberg and artist Jen Bartel to the stage.

"It's amazing to look at all these covers," Amanat said as a collage of cover art featuring female heroes appeared on-screen. "We had one female-led title nine years ago."

Stephens then announced Black Widow, by Jen and Sylvia Soska and Flaviano, on sale in January.

"Black Widow is finally coming back!" Amanat said. "You heard she was dead, right?"

Speaking about Runaways, Wisneski said, "It's really one of the best titles at Marvel," before showing off some interior art from Issue #14.

Next up, Stohl spoke about The Life of Captain Marvel and what it means to her.

"It's been a labor of love," she said. "It's been a big group effort. It was a lot of earnest sharing of family stories and the real origins of people because Marvel's really good about the human side of superhuman. It's been a remarkable journey and a really personal one. It's just been, it's a story that's bigger than me. It's a story that's for all of you. It's a hero's journey we're all on together. This has been one of the great joys of my career."

"I'm so happy to hand that baton off to Kelly [Thomspon]," Stohl added.

Williams then briefly discussed What If: Magik, saying, "In What If: Magik, the question is, what if Magik didn't join the New Mutants when she got out of limbo."

Amanat then steered the discussion to Marvel Rising, calling it a "fantastic film."

"It features all these awesome characters," she continued. "It's all-ages, family-friendly. Please share it, because it reminds women and girls that superheroes are for them, too."

Amanat transitioned over to Rosenberg, asking her to discuss her career in comics.

"It was incredibly important for me, I started with a BFA in Illustration," she said. "As an artist, you're just trying to make money. I came across comics and at the time, I was trained as an oil painter and I transitioned to digital painting. Publishing companies preferred that you picked something and I knew that coloring was where my passion was, so I went and found comic artist's work that I loved and ask for their line art. That's how I would practice. I would send them my finished work, and if they loved it, they would tell their comics friends."

"We all love to help each other out," she added. "I got advice on what I could work on and what I could improve on. Having these allies is how you succeed."

"If any of you out there want to be an artist, definitely consider being a colorist," Amanat said. Stephens added how much the digital age has changed comic book coloring.

Next, Amanat asked Williams how she's utilized the fan community to support her as a creator.

"It gives me a sense a security," she said. "I feel like I'm a part of something larger than myself, as a part of the fandom. It's thrilling, for me, to come from the fandom, to come from writing X-Men fan fiction to actually writing X-Men fan fiction, but getting paid for it. It does feel like I'm getting away with something. It doesn't feel real."

"You have to be the first person to take yourself seriously," Stohl added. "You just start doing the thing you love and the rest does start to follow. You've got to believe in yourself first. For women, in particular, we hold the bar higher. I'm telling you to take that opportunity before you think you're good enough."

"We are all our own best advocates," Bartel said. "We all have to believe in ourselves."

"Help each other out," Stohl added. "If you see someone doing awesome work out there, tell them," Amanat continued. "It will make them feel better, but it will also make you feel better."

"Female creators, we get a lot of death threats," Stohl said. "I unlocked my DMs, we released a pivotal issue of Captain Marvel, and it was amazing, for two days, I got love letters. Then I turned my DMs back off because I was nervous."

During the Q&A, a fan asked if it was better to work for a corporation like Marvel or branch out.

"Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to be my own boss," Stephens said. "I think the beauty is that the two aren't mutually exclusive," Bartel added. "You get to touch these characters that are important to people, but you also get to work on your own characters."

Another fan asked what trends lead to decreases in female titles.

"Honestly, I don't know if it's a decrease," Amanat said. "I look at it as an increase. There are fluctuations in the market, though. The way we look at it, success isn't measured by how many monthly titles are out there. There's also trade collections, and things like Marvel Rising."

Next, a fan asked what the panelists would like to see more of from their male allies.

"I love day-one support," Stohl said. "When men come out and support female creators and female characters, it's like a troll vaccine."

"When they make an active effort to listen," Bartel added. "If you have a chance to amplify the voices that are not as listened to, that helps."

A fan then asked if the panelists think the dip in Marvel's sales are due to forced diversity and hiring people without experience.

"No, absolutely no," Amanat said.

"There are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that factor in," Williams said. "People try to conflate things at times, and that's not necessarily the case."

Bartel then asked the fan if she would ask male creators the same question. The fan, a young girl, said she would ask anyone.

"We do look at what people do," Amanat continued. "You do have to have experience, and if you're talented, we will hire you."

Another fan asked what motivates the artists on the panel.

"Well, I'm not an arist, but you guys motivate me," Stephens said.

"When you're passionate about something, there's this temptation to always work," Bartel said. "What you need to do is consume the stuff you love because it's fun, all of that stuff fills your creative tank and keeps you going."


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