Drawn Together

Most folks have read comic books at some point in their lives, but doing so is often regarded as an act of childhood, a phase one grows out of. There are countless movies based on comics, of course, and even some ill-fated Broadway shows, but the idea of reading a comic just doesn’t occur to many adults.

Northeast Florida is known as a hub for the Comic-Con set, one of the few places where one actually sees women and comic books in the same place. Despite a proliferation of female characters in comics, the Multiverse is hardly a feminist paradise. Indeed, the prevailing stereotypes of women proliferate in the comics, just as in all aspects of mass media. These dynamics are changing — and that’s a good thing. The process picked up speed with a sweet new anthology that stands to effect a sea change in how the industry is perceived by fans, as well as how the realm perceives itself.

The pending release of “Womanthology: Heroic” is the first all-female comic anthology ever published. The 140 artists and writers showcased range from rank amateurs to ranking masters of the craft, and the book includes a number of written features designed to help close the achievement gap across that range. A special section will be devoted to work from kids and teenagers, while another features work from female artists of a previous era, like the legendary Nell Brinkley.

The project was formally announced online last June via Kickstarter, a crowdsourced financing website that has helped pay for other local projects, including albums by Robin Rütenberg and the band Sunbears! After raising more than $100,000, “Womanthology” is the website’s most successful comic project to date. A digital preview, “Womanthology: Holiday,” offered as a bonus for donors, has helped whet audiences’ appetites, and the PDF copy sent for review definitely raises expectations.

“Womanthology” (womanthology.blogspot.com) features contributors from across America as well as England, Greece and Canada. Three locals are involved in the project: Rachel Pandich and Heather Royster from Orange Park, and Jennifer Doudney from Lake Mary.

Pandich, a writer who’s also the project’s public events coordinator, got involved at random, after reading Renae De Liz’ solicitation on Twitter. “I think it’s great,” she says of the new collection. “The diversity of the women and their skill levels make sure that there is something for everybody in this book.” Pandich is indifferent in regard to gender-disparities in the comic scene. “It doesn’t matter if you have uterus or testicles, are as pale as snow or dark as the night sky. Talent and hard work are what make a comic great.” Pandich cites Amanda Conner as the greatest female comic artist today; it’s another curious local connection — Conner also once lived in Jacksonville.

Priced at $50, the book is being published by IDW Publishing under the supervision of artist Renae De Liz, who has worked on titles ranging from The Silver Surfer, She-Hulk and The X-Men. De Liz also designed the covers and bookplate for “Womanthology.” The project has been a massive undertaking, involving the talents and input of approximately 170 artists. “We have every level in the [comics] industry in this book,” assures Pandich, “from teens wanting to become writers and artists when they grow up to fan favorites like Gail Simone.” The book’s release date was slated for February, but delays in printing the 300-page anthology have pushed that forward to early March — which is, appropriately enough, Women’s History Month.

Proceeds from sales of Womanthology will be donated to Global Giving (globalgiving.org), which is one of the more interesting charitable concepts active today. The site features dozens of nonprofit organizations working across the spectrum of social activism, allowing patrons to narrow their focus and pick specific locations and issues to which they can direct their money. It’s a great site for people who want to do something, but maybe aren’t quite sure exactly what. The combination of great comics and a noble cause draws a real a win-win for everyone — except maybe super-villains.

Shelton H

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