Forget DC & Marvel, Female-Founded Emet Comics Is Focusing On Female Characters Like No Other

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When you think of comic books, you think of DC or Marvel, and mostly male characters like Batman, Superman, Ironman and the rest. It has traditionally been a male-dominated industry both in terms of creators, writers, editors and illustrators, as well as the fans. But with the increased amount of women joining men in the geek culture (nearly half of all video game players globally are women, and 50% of comic book readers today are female), there is a massive market for targeting a previously untapped audience of female fans.

We’ve seen and reported on the way Marvel and DC are honing in on the female empowerment movement on the big and small screens with the news of the ‘Wonder Woman’ movie to be released in 2017 (as well as her first appearance in the ‘Batman v Superman” Dawn of Justice’ movie out in 2016), the CBS series ‘Supergirl’, Marvel’s ‘Jessica Jones’ on Netflix and ABC’s ‘Agent Carter’, just to name the most obvious female characters infiltrating mainstream pop culture. In comic books themselves, the popularity of the new ‘Ms. Marvel’, the re-imagined ‘Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur’ and the female ‘Thor’ story line speak directly to the changing market which big brands would do well to pay attention to.

In fact, Marvel have just announced March 2016 will be their ‘Women of Power Variants’ month, of course coinciding nicely with International Women’s Day, where they will release 25 comics featuring female lead characters. This is of course incredibly awesome, but as March fades away, does that mean there will be no more female focus?

Instead of waiting around to find the answer to that question, you should turn your attention to a new comic book company based out of Los Angeles whose focus is female characters, writers, and illustrators, all day, every day. Emet Comics was founded by a former film industry executive, Maytal Gilboa, who left her job to create a platform that celebrates female artists, and also infiltrates the non-fiction comic book world with incredible diverse stories that are often hard to come by. When we found out about Emet Comics, we fangirl-ed out so hard, then decided we needed to share what they are doing with our readers.

Check out our exclusive interviews with Maytal, and 3 writers from the Emet Comics roster whose comics we would recommend as compulsory reading.

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(Wonder Woman/Maytal Gilboa illustration by Tumblr user and artist Buttercup89)

Maytal Gilboa (Founder) Emet ComicsWhat is Emet Comics and how was it created?

Emet Comics is a packager and financier of comic books and graphic novels focused on empowering female creators from different media backgrounds. My personal background is in film and television development and I recognized the lack of opportunities for women in these fields. My hope was that we could create a unique space for women to tell their stories without the obstacles we often face in the mainstream media.

What makes it different from other Comic book companies currently on the market?

Most of us come from film backgrounds and we aren’t considered traditional comic book fans. We read indie comics and graphic novels but we don’t necessarily rush to the comic book store every week to buy the latest releases. We have a longer development process. We explore new ideas and styles. We are not afraid to take risks and experiment with the medium.

How did you background working in animation and effects lead you to create your own company?

I was lucky in that I worked for many corporate types that were entrepreneurs at their core. I saw a lot of people try and fail and pick themselves up to try again. I think this is a more common trait amongst men. Women are more fearful of failure. Seeing the men I worked for fail so often without it affecting their belief system or their work ethic really inspired me. I also worked at a big animation studio where the bets were really big – $50mm big – you need a ridiculous amount of courage and confidence to make bets that big – and I really admired that.

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There is still a perception that women don’t read comics, or aren’t interested in them. What are some facts you can give us to counter that myth?

The statistics say that women are 50% of the audience. While comic book store sales are only growing by 4-5% each year, there has been a huge increase in digital downloads and a 16% increase in book markets. We all read The Long Tail. Diversity, women, and kids are driving these trends. Barnes and Noble doubled their graphic novel section over the past few years. This is no longer a myth, almost everyone admits it to be a fact.

Series like ‘Jessica Jones’ and ‘Supergirl’ are giving female comic book characters a mainstream platform like never before, how do you hope this will help more women gravitate toward comics?

Powerful role models change how we think about ourselves and our abilities. I consider the creators of these shows just as influential to the empowerment movement as the characters themselves. Women need to be able to see themselves as creators/directors/showrunners in the same way that women and girls need to see themselves as Supergirl. My hope is that as more women break out in these fields, more women will want to work in them, and as a result there will be more interesting content and more role models behind and in front of the scenes.

How do you find the female writers and illustrators?

I live in LA. I basically stand on my porch blindfolded and throw rocks and wait for someone to say “ow.”

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Melissa Jane Osborne (Author) ‘The Wendy Project’ – Tell us about your journey to becoming a comic book writer.

I’m an actor and a playwright/screenwriter by trade, so it’s been a very unexpected journey. I never thought I’d write a comic.  I met with Maytal pitched her an idea and she suggested it would make a good comic.  I thought “Well I’ve never done that. Why not?” So suddenly I was writing a comic. Coming from a theater background my way in was to treat the book like an artifact (her diary) and wrote in character, my background in film allowed me to think about the frame. I learned so much from my illustrator and I’m still learning about the world of comics. It’s been a really interested new way for me to think about storytelling and I have respect for comic writers after this experience.

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The Wendy Project is a twist on a very popular children’s story. Can you tell us about and why you chose to focus on Wendy’s POV?

The original J.M. Barrie story is called ‘Peter & Wendy’, not Peter Pan, but somehow along the line she got pushed to a side character, and an extension of him. Really if you look at the story Peter couldn’t exist without a Wendy to believe in him. I wanted to reframe that and ask how she could believe in herself. She was always the most interesting part of the story to me. She was a complex girl who was caught in between these two worlds, who was relegated to mothering this selfish man-boy. I have a teenage sister and write a lot for young women. It struck me that a modern teen girl now would be a little more discerning and freaked out by this guy in tights. Kids are growing up and are a little more reluctant to buy magic, and I wanted to explore that too.

What are some of the barriers you have faced as a female writer?

I think as a woman in this industry whether you’re an actor, writer, or director it can be challenging. My first agent out of college told me not to speak after auditions, because my ‘intellect didn’t match my aesthetic.’   I’m a blonde girl who loves wearing a good dress, and I think people have a stereotype of a female writer that I don’t match. I’ve been in auditions with actors reading my work who didn’t realize I wrote the material.  As a woman it’s challenging to own and be empowered by your feminine, and all the while stay open.

If you voice your opinions you can be considered aggressive or bossy, but a guy is just direct. So it’s hard to voice your concerns because you’re somethings set up to feel like you’re being difficult. For me that’s something I have to reconcile, and I’m still working on it. I also think people pigeon hole you into female driven content, and thinking that that’s a certain thing. I want to create stories with inspiring, complex, messy people of both genders. Sure the women I want to focus on will contemplate love, relationships, and motherhood but it’s not the totality of who they are.

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If you could change one major thing about the comic book world what would it be?

I don’t know that I know enough about the world of comics to know what’s normal, or what to change. I sort of went into this blind not really knowing what was normal. I just asked my collaborators along the way “Can we do this?” I just know what I want to see as a storyteller and an audience member from any medium.  My hope would be comics continue to inspire everyone regardless of their gender, sexuality, ethnicity or age, and give people real heroes that they can relate to. Young women are beautiful, messy and complicated and I they need stories that tell them that that’s okay.

What advice would you give girls who want to become writers but don’t know where to start?

Write. Just write. One day it’s going to suck, and then you’re going to think you’re a genius, and the next day it’s going to suck again, but if you keep doing it something has to happen.  Also be gentle with yourself. Don’t be precious with creating, but make sure you only share that early work to people you really trust. There’s nothing that can crush a great idea better than sharing it with the wrong person before it has a chance to grow.

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Cindy Tobisman (Author) ‘Inside the Loop’ – Tell us about the futuristic setting and story of ‘Inside the Loop’.

Inside the Loop tells the story of two strange cities and a damaged hero that must save both. The outer ring, the Collective, is a regimented world run by an all-powerful Administrator. The inner ring, the Loop, is a thug-capitalist tenement divided among seven Bosses. These cities have nothing in common except for the Plague, a virulent disease that regularly decimates each city’s population.

Tora Welborne is a survivor of the Plague. Once a badass detective in the Collective, she returns from Quarantine to investigate whether the Loop’s crime bosses are using the Plague virus to destabilize the Collective. But survivors of the Plague are pariahs and Tora’s homecoming is rough. When she’s forced to sneak into the Loop to find the technology necessary to cure herself, Tora must kick butt, solve the mystery of the Plague and stop a war. Piece of cake.

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There are parallels with your story to that of a breast cancer survivor’s story. Why did you choose to do this?

No one can truly be badass unless they’ve faced some serious obstacles. You don’t find out what you’re made of until you deal with some shit. Then you see if you can rise after you’ve been knocked down. I wanted a hero who is human, who has seen her world crumble, and who must reinvent herself and find her badassery in the wake of what’s happened to her.

The survivors of breast cancer come through a harrowing experience and find ways to live with the awareness of mortality, hopefully in ways that are deeper and fuller because of it. I wanted to write a comic about someone with that journey and that depth. If she could be clever and resourceful and strong, all the better.

What do you think are some of the main things missing in pop culture when it comes to female characters and how do you hope to change this?

Pop culture is improving, but it’s still got a long way to go in depicting female characters that are as nuanced and complex as male characters. Much has been written about the theory that women are often portrayed through the lens of how men see them. I think that’s often true. For instance, in “Lost Girl,” the female protagonist goes off to fight demons wearing her three-inch heels. Give me a break!

The best way to change the depiction of female characters is to get out there and create the content you want to see. That’s what I’m doing with this comic. Tora is someone whose story should be told. So I’m telling it!

What made you want to be a comic book writer?

The comic book world is brave and experimental and bold in a way many other media are not. It’s a wonderful place to tell stories. Also, seeing a story rendered in images is powerful. I love the collaborative process of writing a story and watching the talented Lynne Yoshi turn my words into something beautiful and visual. Images and words, coming together to create mood and tell a story, is unbelievably cool.

Also, I’m a novelist (in summer 2016, Thomas & Mercer is publishing a thriller I wrote), so I’m used to having tons of space to tell a story. Writing a comic book forces me to focus on what matters. You can’t spend a lot of time telling a story when you’ve only got 20-30 pages, 5-7 panels per page. Learning to tell the essential story is a really useful discipline for anyone who likes telling stories.

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What barriers (if any) have you faced in the industry simple because of your gender?

Thankfully, none so far. In Maytal Gilboa, the powerhouse producer behind Emet Comics, I’ve found someone who’s committed to empowering female storytelling. She’s created a warm, supportive, incredibly creative and exciting community of female artists and writers. She takes a rising-tide-lifts-all-boats perspective, so the culture at Emet really isn’t harsh or competitive. I’ve been super lucky that my experience with writing INSIDE THE LOOP has been paved by Maytal and the other amazing women at Emet.

Also, remember that a huge percentage of comic book readers are women. Exactly as in the rest of the entertainment industry, there’s an audience out there and a thirst for female-driven content.

How important is it for female creatives to find support groups or organizations that will help them find opportunities or give them advice in their careers?

I cannot overstate how important it is to find support for your creative endeavors. When you find people who believe in you – be they male or female, both or neither – hold onto that person. Belief and support is gold. Having people you can call to brainstorm ideas, show drafts or just weather long dark nights of the soul is absolutely essential. The good news is that there are folks out there who have wonderful ideas and good hearts. Find them and cherish them.

As for career advice, I take the view that I can learn from anyone. You get bits and pieces of knowledge from a great many people as you go along on your journey. Be open to learning. Ask questions. Be brave in meetings and be a participant in your own career. The people who will help you on your way will welcome your involvement.

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Jean Barker (Author) ‘Zana’ – How did you become a writer for Emet Comics?

Maytal approached me via an online network of women I belong to. She knew I was a filmmaker but suggested that I might have a feel for this, too.

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You grew up in South Africa during the apartheid. How did this shape your view on gender, race and identity as you grew up and moved to the US?

My parents hid apartheid from me as a young child. But you could feel it in the air, and by the time I was 10, I knew. I think it taught me a lack of faith in any authority, or any system. I’ll never accept the idea that it’s right “just because it’s the law”, or “because it’s traditional”, having grown up to see that it’s often very wrong.

Your comic book tells a re-imagining of the Apartheid story but with a difference. What did you change from the original setting?

It’s set in the future – a future in which Apartheid wasn’t defeated by an ANC-led revolution leading to the first free elections in 1994, because Mandela was executed instead of imprisoned. Instead, it’s taken over all of Africa and it’s now 2084.

What are some barriers you have faced as a woman in a male-dominated industry?

They’re subtle in most ways. Being ignored, not being first to mind perhaps, being expected to be meek and mild when success in film and any media industry requires that you lead. I think it’s always hard to tell when it’s a barrier due to my gender, and when I’m living up to the stereotype I’ve been trained to accept, and asking less of myself.

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There is such a dearth of diverse characters in comic books and even mainstream entertainment. How do you hope to change that starting with choosing to write Zana with a predominantly diverse cast of characters?

South Africa is diverse, and so is Zana, and the two characters at the center are black or one is mixed, depending how you define that. In the context of the story, Zana being bi-racial is definitely important. It was less a deliberate choice than it was the story that sprang to mind.  I guess I was hoping to represent the world as I see it, a world in which “white” is not the default. That’s not what I see around me anywhere in the world. But turn on the TV and it’s tokenism at best, although that’s beginning to change.

With so much focus on racial tensions in the US right now, how do you hope your twist on an important story in history will empower people to look at the race issue from a different perspective?

The decision to set in a different world was made to try to avoid the suppositions and prejudices of today and to let both South Africans and Americans and people elsewhere look at the issues and the way that racism is constructed without all their existing baggage and assumptions in play. That’s the power that futurism has, and it’s a kind of magic.

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