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Comic-Con 2022: Women in Comics Collective marks 10 years working for better representation

Ten years ago, Regine L. Sawyer moderated a panel on women in comics at the Bronx Heroes Comic Con, and she came away from the event motivated to stay focused on the issues the panel had highlighted.

“We realized that this isn’t something we see at comic conventions,” Sawyer said about acknowledging the lack of representation of women – and especially women of color – in the comics industry.

So Sawyer, who lives in Queens, New York, founded an organization called the Women In Comics Collective, which has grown into a group that discusses these issues in many different forums.

At Comic-Con in San Diego this year, she was in the organization’s booth between moderating panels such as Race, Gender and the Comic Book Medium and The Creator Symposium.

Her story is representative: A fan of the comic book art form since childhood, she initially saw no place for someone like herself in it. So she endeavored to create opportunities to make her own place within it.

“I started collecting comics at a young age, 8 years old, 9 years old,” Sawyer said. “My family was into geeky stuff, and my mother was an artist.

“I was always really into writing,” she said. “So when I saw comics, it was a combination of everything I liked.”

In college, she majored in hospitality management, aiming for a career as a chef. But 15 years ago, she changed career tracks, taking a job as the managing editor of an independent comics publisher, and a year later, launching her own comics company, Lockett Down Productions.

That put her on stage with the Women in Comics panel in the Bronx in 2012, and the Women in Comics Collective, or WinC, grew out of her experience that day.

The group is open to all genders, Sawyer said, though its primary focus is on women and non-binary people of color. Its work includes hosting panels like those this year at Comic-Con, art shows, and workshops on how to teach and create comics.

Often it hosts events at libraries and looks for ways to bring programs into underserved communities where residents might not be able to afford or access a large event like Comic-Con, she said.

The history of women in comics is a rich one though much less known than that of the male creators in the field, Sawyer said. In the early days, many women worked on comic books though they often used male pseudonyms.

In the ’50s and ’60s, the industry shifted to a more male-dominated world, she said. Fewer women had work as writers and artists, and women characters in comic books became much less significant. The rise of underground comix in the ’60s led to such groundbreaking female-led publications as Trina Robbins’ “Wimmen’s Comix” anthology.

“We’ve been here for a long time, but our presence has been subversive,” said Sawyer, who in addition to her own comics such as “The Rippers” and “Eating Vampires,” has collaborated with rapper Chuck D on his “Apocalypse 91: Revolution Never Sleeps” book. “And women have been fans, though I think we’ve been undercounted.”

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