‘How I found female role models in comics’

Comics and SciFi Fair at the Workstation: Sumyra Ihsan of Lucky Target Comics

Comics and SciFi Fair at the Workstation: Sumyra Ihsan of Lucky Target Comics

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AT the age of four, Sumyra Ihsan had her comics baptism of fire thanks to her older sister. “I couldn’t even read then and she showed me a picture of Ghost Rider, where his head bursts into flames. I remember thinking ‘Wow’!”

It was another four years before Sumyra had the chance to re-enter the world of the motorcycling hero with the flaming head but when her sister handed over her small comic collection, Sumyra was hooked for life.

“I read them over and over and then started looking for superhero comics at the newsagents. I was a big reader anyway but I think the main attraction of comics was the escapism and at an early age they appeal to you because they’re so visual, so full of colour and fantasy.”

As a 35-year-old woman with a degree in cultural studies and literature, Sumyra is not the typical comics trader. There are a lot more women reading comics now, she says, partly because of the larger range of subject matter in modern comics.

“But I’m still the only female comic dealer I’ve ever met. It would be nice to see some others so I could have a chat with them.”

Sumyra became a comic trader after working in bars or shops and deciding she’d much rather have her own business based on something she loved. Based in Nether Edge, her company Lucky Target Comics trades online and at comic fairs at present but in time she might even open a shop.

For the uninitiated, reading comic strips about costumed crime fighters might seem impossibly juvenile. Sumyra disagrees: “A lot of people say comics are childish but many of them have been to the cinema and watched a superhero film. So how is sitting down and reading something more childish than having the same kind of story fed to you on a screen?”

Although superhero films have helped generate new readers, Sumyra is not overwhelmingly supportive of the genre. “All the Superman films are terrible,” she says. “Iron Man was OK and the two new Batman films are excellent. Kick Ass was fine, because it’s a stupid comic and a stupid film. It’s awful for me when they do a half-assed job of it, particularly when it’s a female character.”

As a child comics were much more than escapism for Sumyra. “They were a kind of morality. My mum died when I was young, so I didn’t really have anyone telling me what was right or wrong. I got that out of comics: how it’s important to help people, to do what’s right, to be brave and strong. And for me I was always looking for female role models and in the 1970s I found that in comics.

“They may all have been wearing bikinis but that wasn’t a problem. It didn’t matter what they wore because they were kicking ass and doing what’s right and as strong as a man.”

Sumyra still has a great affection for her childhood superhero favourites Black Canary and Powergirl but admits that the growing number of female comic readers tend to favour the horror or crime genres.

“The art in superhero comics still looks a bit sexist,” she concedes. “But to be honest the men don’t look that great with their tights on, do they?”

lSee www.luckytargetcomics.com. The next Comic Fair at the Workstation is on March 19.