The Colors Behind The Pictures You See

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Published on August 4th, 2013 | by Christina Strain

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Comic-Con Minority Panel Breakdown

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By Christina Strain

After 10 years of working in comics, I’ve noticed that the only types of panels I’m ever asked to be
on anymore, are panels that somehow relate to my minority status as an Asian-American woman in a
mostly Caucasian male dominated industry.

It’s not that I find these requests offensive or annoying, it’s just that I don’t like feeling like
my gender or my race defines my work. I don’t really want to be remembered as a
“female Asian-American colorist,” I just want to be remembered as a “good colorist.” That being said,
I also think it’s important to tell people that while sexism and bigotry may exist, it’s totally
possible to break into comics, thrive, and have a positive experience as a minority creator. There’s
this perpetuated belief that the comic industry is a minefield that only straight white guys know how
to navigate but it’s not and I know that because I lived it. I love what I’ve done, where I’ve worked,
and who I’ve worked with and I feel like letting people know that they could have the same thing is my
responsibility as a female person of color.

So I do the panels and I tell people that am proud of the work I’ve done, proud of the people I’ve
worked with, and I can honestly say that I don’t think there’s ever been an instance where my gender,
race, or sexual orientation mattered—it usually boiled down to the quality of work and whether or not I
could hit a deadline. These are the things that matter when you work in comics.

I also tell them that the reality is that most comic creators live very solitary lives. I’d say about 99% of
my career has been conducted over emails and phones which limits the sort of interactions I have with
fellow creators and editors. I’ve never been harassed sexually or treated differently because I’m Asian. I
don’t even know if everyone I’ve worked with knows I’m half Korean; you definitely can’t tell I am by
my name alone.

If I’m being 100% honest, the relative anonymity of it all is one the perks. Most comic fans generally
don’t pay much attention to the actual creators behind their favorite books so when a fan tells me that
they loved the colors enough to look who who did them, I’m proud. If an editor I’ve never met calls me
because he’s interest in hiring me for a job, I know it’s based on the quality of my work. It really is the
most level playing field I’ve ever played on.

So while I struggle with it internally, I do the panels. I do them because I want to tell people if they
want to work in comics, they can work in comics. I don’t care what their impressions of what the
industry is like or what statistics tell them, it’s possible. I’ve been in comics for 10 years now and while
the landscape and portfolio reviews have changed, the requirements haven’t. If you have the
persistence, skill, work ethic, professionalism, and crazy passion for comics, you can do this.

I promise.

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