A woman who writes scripts smashes stereotypes
by Mike Antonucci, Mercury News

Comic-book writer Devin Grayson is an easy target for being labeled, pigeonholed and even trivialized.  She knows it, and guards against it.

A San Leandro resident, Grayson is one of the few women scripting mainstream superhero comics, so her gender often gets more attention than her work.  And when she is asked about he development of her stories and characters, the context frequently involves writing for the male audience that dominates comicís readership.

This weekend will try to shatter stereotypes about herself and comics as one of the celebrity guests at WonderCon, an annual pop-culture and collectibles convention in Oakland.

The event, which runs from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening, is heavily identified with adolescent and 20-something males despite a sprawling range of themes that includes the graphic arts, television, film, toys and Pacific Rim culture.  "The message I give is to follow your heart and pursue whatever you're passionate about, as a  writer or an artist or a fan," says Grayson, 31.  Grayson, for example, sees nothing about the
Batman family of characters that is inherently off-putting for females.

After a run of more than two years on "Batman: Gotham Knights," she has taken over the high-profile series "Nightwing," which coincidentally features Dick Grayson, the character who was the first Robin. Her first issue, No. 71, is scheduled to reach stores in July.  The complicated Batman universe, says the real life Grayson, is rich in character histories that allow for stories that are largely personality- and relationship-driven.               

"But also with plenty of action," she adds. Grayson ó who says on her Web site ( that she's bisexual, Buddhism-practicing, vegetarian and botany-obsessed ó believes "it's a female sensibility to be more interested in relationship dynamics."

The problem, she says, is that people some titles jump to two assumptions: that there's only a token place in the industry for writers like her and that the average comics reader will be less interested in her kind of material.

Even talking about those issues, she notes, can "just call attention to marginalizing your own status.".    .
Over time, she has gotten more comfortable with the standard questions, and quicker with answers.
"Whatís it like to be a female in a male-dominated industry?" says Grayson. "My answer is, What industry isn't that true of?"

As Grayson's comic-book credits have expanded, she has become more difficult to stereotype. In a miniseries titled "User," published as part of the adult-oriented Vertigo brand from DC Comics, Grayson was able to reflect her bisexuality in a story about two women projecting themselves as male characters having an affair in an online role-playing game.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has made "User" a nominee for its annual media awards in the "outstanding comic" category, Grayson's competition includes the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" adaptation from Dark Horse Comics and DC's "Green Lantern" series, written by Judd Winick, the former "Real World III" participant on MTV.

Other work by Grayson includes Marvel's "X-Men: Evolution" comics, based on the TV cartoon series. Matador," a new comic about Latina cop in Miami pursuing a contract killer, is scheduled to be published later this year by DC-owned WildStorm Productions.     

At WonderCon, Grayson will discuss her career and work on four panels. The first, which focuses on projects from. WildStorm, is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday; the second is a writers panel that includes Geoff Johns ("Hawkman") and Greg Rucka ("Detective Comics") at 6 p.m.

At noon Saturday, Grayson and other industry insiders will discuss how they explain what they do for a living to people who don't read comics. At 1:30 p.m., she will appear on a large panel about upcoming developments in the world of DC characters.  

Contact Mike Antonucci at [email protected] or (408) 920-5690.

What:   A pop-culture convention focused on comic books, but including toys, anime, television, movies and graphic arts.   

When:  Friday afternoon through Sunday evening. Dealersí room hours are noon to 7 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and lla.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Activities and screenings continue until midnight Friday and Saturday.

Where: Oakland Convention Center/Oakland Marriott, 10th and Broadway. near the 12th Street BART station.

Tickets: Advance tickets (available at some comic shops) are $12 per day. Three-day passes are $30. At the door, tickets are $15 per day; three-day passes are $35. Children 12 and under are free when accompanied by an adult There are no online ticket sales this year. 
Celebrity guests:  The list includes MAD magazine cartoonist Sergio Aragones, "Avengers" writer Kurt Busiek, former "X-Men" artist Jim Lee, "Silver Age" DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz and actors Erin Gray ("Buck Rogers") and Richard Hatch ("Battlestar Galactica").

Panels (subject to change): Topics include "Creature Features: Bob Wilkins and John Stanley." about their years on KTVU (Ch. 2) as hosts of "grade-Z horror films" (12:30 p.m. Saturday); "Funny Books - Do Comics Still Have a Sense of Humor?" with Aragones and Carolyn Kelly, daughter of 'Pogo" creator Walt Kelly (5 p.m. Saturday); "Spider-Man Movie Preview" with Marvel artists John Romita Sr. and John Romita Jr. (530 p.m. Saturday), and "The World of Independent Comics." including a discussion of self-publishing (1:30 p.m. Sunday).
"Trailer Park": This might be the convention's most popular session - trailers and "making of" clips from upcoming movies, including "Spider-Man," "Men In Black 2," . "Minority Report," "Scooby-Doo," "The Powerpuff Girls," "Eight Legged Freaks," "Scorpion King," "Insomnia" and "Pluto Nash." Get in line early. Friday at 5:30 p.m., Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Screenings: Material includes "The Best of Pixar's Short Films (8 p.m. Friday), "Kung-Fu Theatre: The Assassin" (10 p.m. Saturday), "Chronotrip," a documentary about time travel and the "Doctor Who" TV series (8:45 p.m. Saturday) and ongoing
anime presentations.

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