Iconic comic heroes get female updates – Finnish artist Kaisa Leka draws female Turtles for the UK exhibition
Being a comic hero has traditionally been a man’s job. Now this is about to change. Renowned comic artists will draw female versions of iconic comic heroes for an exhibition that will open in the UK in May. The international Hero(in)es project creates alternatives for the male heroes and raises discussion on gender roles.
One of the participating artists is Finnish Kaisa Leka.“The project really shows how in the traditional comics the men have all the adventures and fun while women clean the house or blink their eyes for the heroes,” she says. 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.”
Throughout the 180 years of history of comics, women have been underrepresented. Just about one in four characters in female, and even those characters often have passive or decorative roles. Similarly the whole comics industry is male-dominated.
Hero(ine)s will also feature new work from Belgian comic artist Brecht Vandenbroucke as the British Charlie Adlard, Steve McGarry, Steve Appleby and various French artists including Hélène Becquelin, Nicolas Bannister and Yan Le Pon. The exhibition will be open at Vallum Gallery at University of Cumbria campus on May 7–21. On 10th of May Leka, Vanderbroucke and Appleby will run comic workshops for the students. In October, an extended version of the project will be exhibited at the UK’s biggest comics festival, Lakes International Comic Arts Festival in Kendal.
Instagram campaign #heroinesproject encourages comic enthusiasts to draw and share their own heroines. A selection of these drawings will be displayed at Lakes International Comics Arts Festival.
The first version of Hero(in)es was seen at Lyon BD comics festival in 2016, when curator JC Deveney invited French artists like to draw female versions of iconic French comic heroes like Asterix and Tintin. These works will also be shown at the exhibition in May. The Director of Lyon BD, Mathieu Diez in happy to see the project grow international.
“With the help and talents of comic artists our project helped raise consciousness about gender issues in comics. This led to many successful events and talks across literary events.”
Hero(in)es is executed by the Finnish Institute in London, Institut français, Lyon BD Association, Lakes International Comic Arts Festival and the General Representation of the Government of Flanders in Britain. The project is organised on behalf of the EU Commission Representation in the UK to celebrate Europe Day.
“Finland is known for its gender equality. We´re so proud to bring Kaisa Leka to represent us in the otherwise very male dominated world of comic art”, says the Pauliina Stahlberg, the director of the Finnish Institute in London.