Being a comic hero has traditionally been the dominion of the male. This is about to be challenged through a new exhibition called Hero(ine)s featuring iconic comic heroes re-interpreted and reimagined in their female form.
The exhibition features more than twenty original artworks where comic artists have been challenged to reinvent their chosen male superhero in female form and contribute a narrative to explain their choice of heroine and their perceptions of how women are represented in the comic genre.
Hero(ine)s includes work by artists such as Steven Appleby, Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard, Finnish artist Kaisa Leka, Swiss artist Helene Becquelin and Belgian comic artist Brecht Vandenbroucke.
The exhibition will be open at the Vallum Gallery at the University of Cumbria campus, Carlisle from 7th – 21st May and will return again as part of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal, Cumbria from 12th – 14th October 2018.
Since the early days of the comic genre, female protagonists have been few and far between. Approximately one in four female comic characters are female, and even those characters often have passive or minor roles. The Hero(ine)s exhibition aims to challenge, question and subvert our perceptions of the comic hero.
The exhibition, on show for the first time in this form and in the UK, is the result of a French collaboration between Lyon BD Festival and the renowned creator JC Deveney.
Director of Lyon BD, Mathieu Diez, is delighted to see the project he co-created grow internationally: “With the help and talents of comic artists our project has already helped raise consciousness about gender issues in comics. Hero(ine)s plays on role reversal in order to highlight the underrepresentation of women in the medium. The results can make us smile but, more importantly, encourage much-needed reflection on stereotypes, cliches and gender roles.”
Julie Tait, Director, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival said: “Given the importance of fiction in shaping our identity and our relationships to each other and the world, the representation of women in comics is something we need to be conscious of and proactive in addressing.”
“Women and female figures are underrepresented and quite often bound to stereotypes: women are an adjunct to the hero, as the helpful second, as the character to be rescued or taught, or as the target for seduction. Women often become solely passive subjects. We hope this exhibition will challenge both the comic industry and the audience to think again about the representation of women in comics.”
One of the participating artists. Kaisa Leka of Finland, said: “The project really shows how in traditional comics men have all the adventures and fun while women clean the house or blink their eyes for the heroes.”
Leka is working on a female version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. “The Turtles have cool weapons and exciting adventures that always end with them stuffing their faces with pizza. They represent the carefree ‘boys will be boys’ attitude. I want to show that the same laid back mindset is allowed for everyone, despite the gender.”
Claudine Ripert-Landler, director of the French Institute in London says: “The hyperactive graphic novel scene in France tends to absorb and reflect major debates of our times. The debate over gender equality is an important one today and we are pleased to have helped this exhibition to come to the UK”.
Participating artist Steven Appleby said: “I’m a trans-person and grew up wanting to turn into a girl. Much later in life, when I first went out dressed as a woman, it was like stepping through a door into another world. I was struck by how differently people responded to me. Particularly men. I think we should all try to imagine ourselves in another person’s place, all the time, and see things from their point of view.”
Nick Dodds, Senior Lecturer at The University of Cumbria, said, “The opportunity to host Hero(ine)s is a fantastic coup for the university. The theme of the exhibition, exploring gender roles through the eye of the comic artist, appears timely and pertinent given recent news stories. The ‘alternate’ take on the typically male comic-hero by the artists featured in the exhibition is done with wit, humour and a certain knowingness – asking the viewer to question cultural attitudes to gender representation, myth and narrative.”
As part of the Hero(ine)s exhibition, there is an opportunity for students to take part in creator workshops led by international comic artists. An Instagram campaign #heroinesproject encourages comic enthusiasts to draw and share their own heroines. A selection of these drawings will be displayed at the Lakes International Comics Art Festival in October.
Hero(ine)s is a collaboration between the Finnish Institute in London, Institut Francais, Lyon BD Festival and JC Deveney, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and the General Representation of the Government of Flanders in the UK. The project is organised on behalf of the European Commission Representation in the UK to celebrate Europe Day.
For interview requests, to attend the launch in Carlisle on May 10th or to request imagery please contact Chris Dessent or John Freeman on behalf of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival firstname.lastname@example.org (