Women In Comics Month: Interview With Pancha Diaz
Feb 23, 2016
In honor of Women in Comics this March, PREVIEWSworld talks with editor Pancha Diaz!
PREVIEWSworld: Tell us a little bit about yourself! What are you currently working on?
Pancha Diaz: I’m an editor at VIZ Media by day, where I work on multiple titles such as Goodnight Punpun, Skip*Beat!, Kamisama Kiss, So Cute It Hurts!!, Behind the Scenes, Ooku and Natsume’s Book of Friends. By night I’m the colorist and book designer for Skin Horse (skin-horse.com), a daily webcomic by Shaenon K. Garrity and Jeffrey C. Wells. I’m also a member of the Couscous Collective, and we put out a yearly comic anthology that I design and contribute to.
PREVIEWSworld: How long have you been working with sequential art? What titles, companies, and creators have you worked with over your time in comics?
Pancha Diaz: I started in sequential art in 2003 with Perchance to Dream, a webcomic I co-created with my sister. I started working in comics professionally in 2005 when I became an editor at VIZ and over the years, I’ve worked on some amazing titles like NANA, Death Note, solanin, Naruto, Bleach, Honey and Clover, Rurouni Kenshin, Black Bird, Midnight Secretary and Millennium Snow. I also colored a story by Shaenon K. Garrity that appeared in Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Shultz from BOOM! Studios.
PREVIEWSworld: Did you have a mentor or hero in the industry that inspired you to pursue a career in comics?
Pancha Diaz: All the webcomic artists who put themselves out there really inspired me to do the same. Prior to that movement, I had the idea that comics was something of a closed club. But seeing people of all skill levels posting their comics was enlightening. And Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa was foundational to my imagination, my concept of heroism, and my understanding of how excellent a comic narrative can be.
PREVIEWSworld: In your opinion, how has the comic book industry evolved in terms of gender?
Pancha Diaz: The fact that Lumberjanes even exists, and that it’s an award-winning title, shows that the industry is moving in a more inclusive direction. Raina Telgemeier’s YA girl-centric books are at the top of the best-seller lists right now. There are some fantastic female-led and female-created comics out there and it’s an exciting time to be a reader. But sites like Escher Girls have lots of example of how things can still be better. And women are still getting attacked on the internet when they point out areas where titles or companies can improve their treatment of women, real and fictional. So we’re on the right track, but there’s a way to go yet.
PREVIEWSworld: What stereotypes do you see surrounding women in comics? How could people of all genders go about breaking those stereotypes?
Pancha Diaz: Probably the most pervasive, pernicious stereotype is that women and girls don’t truly belong in comics. The idea that comics are for boys is well-entrenched in this country, and I’m really looking forward to the day when comics in the US are seen more like bande dessinée in France or manga in Japan--a medium to tell a story, not a genre or a single market segment. I actually think the recent increase in comic movies and TV shows is going to help erode that notion, especially with series like Jessica Jones and Agent Carter. Even The Force Awakens is going to have a positive effect, even though it’s not strictly a comic book movie. And that’s the best way to take down the archaic idea that comics should be a club with limited membership--tell more stories with more diverse protagonists!
PREVIEWSworld: How do you want to see women represented in comic books 10 years from now?
Pancha Diaz: I like the momentum I’m seeing now, and I hope it continues to grow. We’re starting to see more women and more diverse women, and I’d like 2026 to have such a bounty of female characters that every kind of woman can find a comic book hero like herself to look up to.
PREVIEWSworld: If you could give advice to any aspiring editors, executives, writers, or artists, what would you tell them?
Pancha Diaz: Comics are a joy. They are a way to share our dreams, our fears, our greatest flights of imagination. They bring pleasure and comfort, excitement and passion to readers. Everyone should have the chance to find a comic that speaks to them, and the only way we can do that is to continue to expand the stories that we’re telling
PREVIEWSworld: And lastly, are there any up-and-coming women creators who you would recommend readers check out?
Pancha Diaz: This is just a small list: Noelle Stevenson, Kath Lethe, Sophie Campbell, Fiona Staples, Myisha Haynes, Minna Sundberg, Annie Szabla, Der-shing Helmer, Chloé C.