At New York Comic Con, Women Rule the Main Stage
by Adina Anand
New York Comic Con is a place like no other. Amongst the throngs of cosplayers, young and old, there is a pulsating excitement as people from all fandoms join forces to experience what’s new and upcoming in the comic universe.
When I entered the Javits Center in Manhattan for my first-ever Comic Con experience, I was hit with a sensory overload. I didn’t know where to look -- the fabulous costumes, the expansive banners overhead marketing new movies and TV shows, the hundreds of booths flaunting the best of the best in comic art. For a little while, I stood back from the crowds and simply observed the passerby, each cosplayer as creative and passionate as the next. It was easy to see that this is a place where gender, age, and race didn't matter. When you put on your costume and embody your favorite character, you join a diverse community of like-minded individuals fueled by pride. In cosplay, you are simultaneously someone else and your most authentic self.
I was most looking forward to attending the screening and panel for The CW’s upcoming show, Nancy Drew. In the never-ending queue to enter the screening room, I began chatting with my line-neighbors, Tina and Allison. All three of us had grown up reading the Nancy Drew books, and identified with the character’s determination and sassiness.
Our conversation turned to the state of the comic industry for female creators. I asked them how they felt the major players, DC and Marvel, were enacting change. “They’re doing better, but they could still do better. [Comics are] still such a boys’ club,” said Allison. I agree -- the main cast of Marvel’s most popular film franchise, Avengers, featured only one female superhero (Black Widow). Allison enlightened me, explaining that Marvel comic books feature a growing number of women characters, nearly all of which have yet to make an appearance on-screen. Allison’s favorite comic book artist is Marvel’s Jen Bartel, co-creator of Blackbird. Bartel’s illustrations are nothing short of empowering for women. Her characters are strong, own the page, and “make you feel fierce as f**k!”
The pilot of Nancy Drew was everything I’d hoped a modern adaptation would be, and more. At the show’s core is a trio of badass girls, each with their own nuanced backstories (I’d expect nothing less from a show executive produced by three women). And of course, there’s Kennedy McMann, born to play the role of Nancy. In the post-screening panel, McMann said, “this is the Nancy I’ve always been pretending to be. She’s got this incredible tenacity and wit...she’s sharp and snarky and brave.” When McMann’s agents approached her with the script for the show, she had only one thing to say: “mark my words. I will be Nancy Drew.”
At a convention full of superheroes, perhaps the most iconic of them all came in the form of a teenage detective who never takes “no” for an answer.