The Arab American Museum and the city of Dearborn, Michigan hosted ComiqueCon, the first ever comic convention dedicated to the work of women creators, on Nov. 7, 2015.

Comiquecon was a small convention, but fans and creators filled every nook and cranny of the museum.

Rachel Dukes, a freelance illustrator and the creator of Frankie Comics said she thought keeping the event small brought out the exact right people.

“This room is packed right now,” Dukes said of the exhibitor space. “And it’s all people that are enthusiastic about comics and all ages comics and self-published work…There’s a level of interest and enthusiasm at a show like this that you don’t get at a larger show.”

There were skeptics who said a small show focused on women’s work wouldn’t attract fans or media, said Dan Merritt, co-owner of Green Brain Comics, one of the convention sponsors and organizers.

“The audience has been super receptive toward the entire event,” Merritt said, “I think it’s more than a novelty.”

The women at Comiquecon also said it “felt” different from other conventions. Panels discussed how the culture at most cons is hostile or even unsafe for women.

Illustrator and comic artist Samantha Kyle said she thinks this is one of the most important issues in the industry.

“There are a few people in the industry right now — I think from the old school, mostly — that are “handsy,” if you get my meaning,” Kyle said.

She said it’s time that those people were held accountable for their behavior and the industry as a whole created safe spaces for women without making them feel exploited or excluded.

Women in the industry are quick to point out that female fans and artists are not new. What’s new is the idea that the work of female creators can sell.

Comic and fiction writer Mikki Kendall said the industry is learning to value not only its women creators, but many of the voices it ignored in the past.

“I would love to tell you that the industry is changing because everyone suddenly woke up and realized that diversity is important,” Kendall said. “Money, though, is really the answer.”

“They looked around and they realized that all of these outsider, indie projects that are making money are making money from an audience that [they’re] not speaking to.”

But it’s not enough to have women telling the same stories straight white men have been telling said Kendall.

“The gaps that we’re bridging is about making sure we see complex humans everywhere,” Kendall said. “We should be able to step outside of ourselves — just a little bit — to know that that “other” is a whole person in the center of their own story.”

Many of the women creators spoke about the kinds of characters they were expected or felt obligated to create.

Chicago-based creator Leila Abdelrazaq said she’s been criticized for writing about her father instead of her mother. Comic writer Kim Eggleston said her critics focus on sex in her comics.

“A lot of people will say that’s not supportive or empowering of women,” Eggleston said. “I guess I don’t see it that way. I guess for me the point is women should just go and make whatever kind of comics they want to across whatever genre they want to.”

Dukes also offered some advice for young and novice comic creators.

“Start drawing now. Draw everyday. Don’t feel that you have to wait until you’re good enough or you’re ready because you’re good enough and you’re ready now,” Dukes said. “So draw the thing.”

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