The fact that the American comics industry is dominated by men has led to various forms of controversy and debate, but graphic novelist Renae de Liz has taken a unique way of evening the playing field. After noticing many talented women artists online who weren’t published, and after some prompting from artist Jessica Hickman that an all-female anthology was in order, de Liz took steps in creating Womanthology. What makes this project newsworthy isn’t just the fact that it’s done completely by women, but also that it has gotten such support, both vocally and financially. Within seventeen hours of accepting donations for printing the book, they’d earned $25,000—in a world of numerous Kickstarter projects this one was an unheard of success.
When speaking about how she got the project going, de Liz said, “I finally asked online if any women would be interested in doing an anthology and that day there were over 100 contributors! At that point I figured I should just take the leap and run with the idea.”
Talent came from across the board. “I'm trying to include women from every spectrum of experience,” de Liz said. “From girls, to women just starting, to those trying to break in, to women who are already in and have been very successful. I didn't want to make the book about just the professionals, as most comics usually are.”
IDW agreed to publish the project, and on July 7 de Liz went to the website Kickstarter to earn funds. Their goal was $25,000, and they had $27,000 within the first night. Now Womanthology has raised more than $56,000 and money continues to come in.
“As there's no way to recoup losses, most comics publishers would not be able to put out $25,000 to print a book like this,” de Liz said. “So the only way was to find funding elsewhere to get our project ‘kickstarted.’ I asked IDW to help publish us if we reached our goal, primarily so the women involved would be published by a big publisher. IDW was incredible, and was able to think outside the box to support our idea.”
The money earned will ensure a good-sized print run, but profits will also go to charity.
Some people online have speculated that this is a feminist book, and that it has political leanings, while others have said that’s not the case. De Liz was able to clear this up. “I started this project because I just wanted to gather a bunch of women and create something fun and positive together. For me it's not about the issues or what's wrong with comics concerning women . . . People probably label this a feminist book just because it's a bunch of women are gathering in one spot. I don't really mind if they do or not; feminism isn't a dirty word.”
Jessica Hickman is now an artist and editor for Womanthology, she admits that she’s heard a few people state concerns about the project, which has surprised her. However, most of the response has been positive. “I'd always thought an all female anthology was a great idea,” she said, “and when Renae mentioned knowing a lot of talented women, I thought, ‘What a perfect opportunity to see if we can do something with all these ladies!’ ”
Kelly Thompson, a columnist for Comic Book Resource’s “Comics Should Be Good” who also runs a comics podcast called “3 Chicks Review Comics,” has a four-page story in Womanthology, illustrated by Stephanie Hans.
“In addition to writing a piece for the anthology I backed the project early on via Kickstarter simply because I think it's an amazing and powerful project that's raising some great awareness of women and comics and perhaps inadvertently I think, raising some interesting questions,” Thompson said.
“That kind of audience and fund-raising in such short a time really does prove that there's an audience out there for more female focused projects,” she went on. “You see a surprising amount of negative feedback on a project like this when you try to talk about the larger industry with people claiming that this is a niche market and that the audience isn't there, and that these are ‘facts’ proven time and time again by more ‘female geared’ books not being able to find an audience and thrive. But to me that's not an issue of an audience existing, it's an issue of creating a product they're interested in and being able to get it in front of them.”
Thompson believes this will help get more women in comics. De Liz, meanwhile, wants to make more books like this one, including ones that have male contributors.
“My biggest goal is to fully fund creator-owned books for as many people as possible to get their work out there,” de Liz said.
Womanthology is scheduled to be released in December.