By: Sharoll Jackson
San Diego, CA (The Hollywood Times) 07/21/2016 – The Women of Color in Comics panel opened a hearty conversation regarding their experiences and observations of the entertainment industry and the work that they have put forth to express diversity in comics.
Moderator, Ray Felix, chatted with panelists Regina Sawyer, Jay Justice, Leen Isabel, Venee Matsalla-Smith, and Vita Ayala, asking provocative questions which garnered answers reflective of the passion for comics from the participants.
Felix reflected on the comics and the roots of women in comics and asked, “What attracted you to the genre?” Ayala shared that “had a lot of exposure to comics” when she was young and that “the first thing she successfully read” was a comic book. Matsulla-Smith said that her profession is to “review comics” resulting in an appreciation for the dynamic stories that are told. Sawyer “always liked the comics” which sparked her interest in storytelling and “from there, started to write (her) own stories.” Justice chuckled, admitting that she has “always been a huge nerd.” Isabel recounted “when (she) was really little, she read her brother’s comics”, adding that she writes comics because she “wants to convey confidence and positivity. Justice commented that through comics, she feels that there is a global arena of acceptance in this genre and she “doesn’t want to see anyone turned away…no matter what.”
When Felix asked for a positive thought, panelist Sawyer said that it’s important to remember that “creativity is limitless” and if you can ask why, then you can certainly ask “why not?” Matsall-Smith said that in the past for women in general and women of color, it has been “sad that they don’t know how to reflect themselves” and how important it is to have diversification as writers to address that very point. Sawyer shared that she “never drew… never wrote a black woman” in comics until her mid twenties. She added that instead of using the word diversity, she prefers the word ‘normalify’.
Photo credit: Adam Andrews