Interview – Susie Rantz
– by Rachel Sanders
It’s not always easy being a geek. Especially when you’re a girl. With the buxom, spandex-clad superheroine as the comic industry standard, it can be hard for comic- and gaming-loving women to find a comfortable place in that world. But geek girls can take heart, for there’s community-building afoot.
Susie Rantz is the PR Manager for Geek Girl Con, a new convention that describes itself as “the celebration of the female geek.” I met up with Rantz in Artist’s Alley at the Emerald City Comicon last weekend to ask about the organization and their upcoming second con, scheduled for August 11 and 12 at the Conference Centre in Seattle.
Rantz says the idea for the con started at the San Diego Comicon in 2010.
“There was a panel called Geek Girls Exist,” she says, “and it was held at the same time as the Scott Pilgrim panel so people weren’t sure how well attended it would be. But it was standing room only, people were out the doors. And people started to realize that rather than having one token girl panel at a convention, there’s a desire to create a whole community where girls feel welcome.”
Rantz says the idea gathered steam throughout that year and, since many of the SDCC panel attendees were from Seattle, the idea for a local convention soon took shape. The inaugural Geek Girl Con was held in October of 2011 at the Seattle Centre.
“It was amazing,” says Rantz. “We sold out. We had dads bringing little Princess Leias, which was really cute. And the panels were great. But the vibe… we’ve heard a lot of people who said this convention felt the most welcoming and community-like.”
The community spirit that flourished at the con is what Rantz considers its greatest success. Above all, she emphasizes the inclusiveness of Geek Girl Con.
“Geek Girl Con is not just comics,” Rantz says. “It’s to celebrate the contributions of women in geek culture. So that can be science and technology, that can be gaming, that can be the comic book industry, that can be literature. We want to create a safe place for all girls and women and their supporters to come.”
Rantz believes that a supportive community can have a powerful effect.
“When DC released The New 52, they also cut a lot of female creators,” says the PR Manager, referring to the publisher’s unprecedented across-the-board re-launch of its superhero titles in 2011. “And somebody got up at San Diego Comicon last year and said ‘Why? Why did you do that?’ And it created a huge uproar, not just women but men saying there needs to be more female contributors. And they actually ended up hiring a lot more women because of that.”
Rantz hopes the Geek Girl Con community can have an impact on the industries they love.
“I think sometimes girls and women are a little afraid to speak up to say ‘We love comic books, we love graphic novels, but we don’t read those traditional ones. We love the alternative ones where there’s a really powerful female protagonist that doesn’t have to be in a bikini,’” she says. “One of the things we’re hoping to do is to build a community that says ‘This is what we love, give us more of it.’ I hope that the industry – not just comics, but TV creators, the movie industry – can see that there’s huge potential in marketing towards girls.”
The resounding success of the first con gave the organization momentum.
“We weren’t sure after the first one if we were going to hold a second one, this was kind of our trial. But so many people said ‘You have to do another!’ So we’re back for 2012.”
The second event will build on last year’s success in a number of ways.
“It’s going to be bigger,” says Rantz. “It’s at the Conference Centre, so it has room to hold about 4,000 people a day, and we’re going to have a whole floor for gaming. And we also want to build a convention that is based on what people want. Last year we heard that there wasn’t as much diversity as people would have liked, so we’re trying to hold some more panels that focus on women of colour. I think every year it’s going to be different because people get to submit their own panel ideas.”
From writers like Gail Simone, Jane Espenson, and Jen Van Meter, to local superhero Purple Reign, to Seattle meteorologist and “science geek” M.J. McDermott, the con promises something for every girl geek out there. But Rantz says Geek Girl Con aspires to be more than a once-a-year weekend event.
“We’re much more than a con,” she says. “We’ve held a hundred events since our inception, small and big. And in doing that we’re really just hoping to build a community, one that can support each other throughout the year. We’re hoping to engage people not just in Seattle but throughout the world.”