Sausage-Fest Kapow! is no San Diego Comic-Con
Organiser Mark Millar
In an interview with Comic Book Resources in November last year, writer Mark Millar promised to “bring the San Diego Comic Con experience to Central London,” with his convention Kapow! Comic Con.
Having attended my third SDCC that summer I was pleased to hear this. After all I’d enjoyed a magnificent panel by the eminent artist and writer Moto Hagio, been excited by the artwork of 19 year old Anna Wieszczyk on Archaia’s title ‘Lucid’ and even had a long conversation with Blood Ties creator Tanya Huff. But if Mark Millar thinks that he can manage to recreate this with Kapow! he might need to look at his lineup…
Where are the women?
Of the forty announced guests, all are male. Now sure, there are fewer women in comics and gaming than men. Maybe you could also argue that there are fewer women in genre TV and film. However, you couldn’t argue that very well. You also couldn’t really use it as an excuse to keep women from your lineup. There are other, bigger, more established comic conventions, and also some smaller, less established conventions than Kapow! Which seem to have included women as guests without going bankrupt.
When asked on twitter why there were no women invited to Kapow!, organiser Mark Millar insisted “You realise this is being put together by 5 women, don’t you? The reason the comic guests are mostly male is because the biggest names in UK comics are male. Who is the big British female pro they’re missing here?”
So the reason for there being no women at Kapow! is due to there being no big name females in UK comics. This suggests a few things; that all of the attendees have to be UK based, and in comics, and that they also have to be ‘big names’ in that field. Unfortunately for Millar, this isn’t borne out by the lineup as it stands.
If it’s the lack of British credentials that Millar is worried about, then how can he explain the presence of C.B. Cebulski, Nick Lowe, Stephen Wacker, John Romita Jr (American), Leinil Yu (Filipino), Oliver Coipel (French), Adi Granov (Bosnian) and David Lafuente (Spanish)?
Why is comedian, Stewart Lee, involved? If it’s his credentials in TV writing and standup which have qualified him then why couldn’t female TV writers and comedians have been invited? We also have Frankie Boyle, another comedian. The only contribution he seems to make to comics is a strip in Millar’s magazine ‘Clint’. Jonathan Ross, similarly, is not a ‘big name in comics’. He is first and foremost a television presenter who has released a five issue comic in the last year. However he is a ‘big name’ in Mark Millar’s address book, so is this just about nepotism? The vast majority of the big names in British comics as Millar sees it, all worked on 2000AD like he did. There are very few guests, in fact, who didn’t.
Further investigation shows that no women have voted in the Stan Lee awards, nor are any nominated. The category ‘Man or Woman of the Year’ only has male nominees. Sadly, it would seem that the lineup for Kapow! features only friends of Mark Millar, so his dearth of female pals has caused women to be invisible at the event. Millar suggests that there are no British female professionals in comics, but the quite excellent Maura McHugh makes a nonsense of this in this post on her blog Splinster.
Obviously there are many female actors, directors, writers and producers in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres. The reason they don’t appear at Kapow! seems to be that they are not friends or colleagues of Mark Millar. So what does message does this send to female attendees, and to the industry and fans in general? How depressing must it be for female artists and writers in comics to see people invited to represent their industry who have barely begun to contribute to it, simply because they’re friends with the organiser? Maybe the team behind Kapow! should take a lesson from London Comic Expo which manages to boast a lineup of artists and writers, 50% of whom are female.
San Diego Comic-Con is not just huge, it’s much loved. To make a comparison to this event with Kapow! suggests that Mark Millar just doesn’t understand why this is. There’s a sense of community in the gathering of geeks from all over the world, a genuine attempt to represent minorities and a ratio of male to female guests and contributors which demonstrates the diversity and breadth of experience in the industry. Kapow! has a very long way to go before its boys’ club full of Millar’s mates can hope to compare.