(CBR) For the sixth year in a row, Comic-Con International in San Diego featured the Women of Marvel panel. Sunday morning, "X-Men" editor Jeanine Schaefer moderator Louise Simonson ("Power Pack"), Marvel project manager Jenny Yeats, colorist Christina Strain ("Runaways") and Marvel Augmented Reality manager Judy Stephens as they spoke on their entry into comic books and the future of women in the industry.
The panel began with a video message from writer Kelly Sue DeConnick ("Captain Marvel") who couldn't be in attendance, but expressed heartfelt support nonetheless.
"The Women of Marvel panel is one of my favorites," the writer began. "I want to send out a special message to those of you who want to work in our industry: you can do it. You can absolutely do this thing. However, making a living in any artistic endeavor is hard work, so -- you need to get started right now! Don't wait another day, don't wait for someone to hire you, start making comics right now. Find a friend, maybe someone in this room, introduce yourself and start collaborating. Get those first tries out of the way. They're not going to be very good, it's a big learning process, but you've gotta do it.
"You're gonna be fantastic. I look forward to reading your comics. We need more women in the industry; I personally need more women in the industry. So do it for me," she finished, as the audience erupted in applause. Voices began to murmur and attendees shifted in their seats, possibly looking for their future collaborators. Schaefer carried on a tradition inspired by DeConnick and asked all of the women in the room who aspired to work in the comics industry to stand up. "Don't be shy," she encouraged. Around forty attendees stood to cheers from the crowd and panelists. Schaefer thanked us for being brave.
The panel began with a discussion about how each woman had broken into the comics industry. Stephens, who is in her seventh year at Marvel, began as an intern and started a softball team to interact with others. After several temp jobs within the company, she settled in her current position. Simonson similarly joined the company volleyball team after coming to Marvel at the insistence of a friend. Yeats began as an intern as well and worked her way into the business development department. Strain came to Marvel after CrossGen Comics folded and took on some small coloring projects before being offered "Runaways." The common thread among all of the women was seeing what they wanted and pursuing it relentlessly.
Schaefer noted that a similarity she saw was how much each panelist had networked, and asked if they felt that putting their faces out there as a woman was a hindrance. Strain shared that she is currently in the processing of transitioning into writing and had forgotten how terrifying it can be to start a conversation with someone new, especially outside of geek culture. Yeats added that everyone should seek out creators they admire and start conversations without losing sight of the fact that "we're all just people."
Strain noted that not many women try to get into comics and that women should use the fact that being a minority can help people remember you. Schaefer suggested that responsible use of various social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr can help build a relationship without the anxiety of face-to-face contact. Simonson, who loves Tumblr, added that everyone should ask questions when they go to signings as a way to build relationships.
Schaefer asked the panelists to discuss their journey with deciding to be a woman in comics who speaks out about their gender in the industry, or if they felt that participation in those discussions marginalized them.
Stephens began by sharing her story of working as a photographer and choosing male-oriented careers. "I've never let anyone push me over," she said. "I've heard of people having issues, but part of the reason I love Marvel is because of my amazing team. We all stand for each other and they are willing to help me out." She added that making yourself strong is important.
Simonson used to hate the idea of women in comics panels because she felt like she was treated like a novelty, the freak woman working among men. But after meeting women who said they were willing to give comics a try because of her presence, she felt a responsibility to share the ways for other women to break into the industry. She made it clear that she hasn't ever felt discriminated against.
Yeats agreed that she had never felt marginalized in her career, but instead felt an overwhelming sense of acceptance. She feels that women in comics panels are important to remind people that they can do it. She used to read live stream blogs of previous panels and think that everyone participating was so cool. She stressed to the audience that even if they weren't editors, writers or artists, that there are places for them in the comics world. "There are jobs for you if you like accounting, if you're good at math and business. If you're a hard worker and you're dedicated to this business, we will find a place for you. We will put you to work."
Strain said she was on board with the women in comics panels because she felt like there was a misperception about how many women truly did work in the industry. She wanted to share her positive experiences in the industry with others, but she did admit to feeling slightly torn about the panels in a certain regard. "The last thing I want to be remembered as is a female colorist, the first thing I want to be remembered as is a friggin' great colorist."

Copyright © 2014 Comic Book Resources. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.