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On display at LI Comic Con, another Wonder Woman’s superpowers

The emergence of female superheroes in films and comics resonates with women and girls.

On Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, ACE Comic Con was held at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where artists and cosplayers alike came to enjoy their favorites comic characters.  (Credit: Newsday / Megan Miller)

Sarah Reinhardt had never been to a comics convention until Saturday’s event at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. She didn’t even know what Comic Con was.

Then, a few months ago, the 22-year-old from Bayville saw the blockbuster film “Wonder Woman.” She became such a fan that on Saturday, she was walking down the corridors of the Coliseum in a red, blue and gold Wonder Woman costume.

“It was just seeing such a strong-willed woman, especially with everything going on” with sexual-harassment allegations, Reinhardt said at Saturday’s ACE Comic Con. “It inspired me to be a stronger woman, and made me feel that we really can do anything.”

This Long Island version of Comic Con, which began Friday and continues through Sunday, features panel discussions, booths with comics artists and creators, and a huge marketplace of posters, comic books, pins, T-shirts and cards. Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot and Superman’s Henry Cavill, both also among the stars of the recently released superhero film “Justice League,” will appear in a panel Sunday and were on hand Saturday for autograph-signing and photo ops.

Laney Feni, 28, traveled from Washington, D.C., in part to see Gadot. She’s been a fan of Batman and other superheroes for years. But seeing the Wonder Woman film was different, she said.

“Just watching it, I felt empowered,” said Feni, who was dressed in a Supergirl costume. “I cried. Just watching all these awesome women being strong and in power, it made me feel strong.”

Feni said she hoped the huge success of “Wonder Woman” will help lead to more movies with female main characters and creators. The film, directed by Patty Jenkins, has earned more than $821 million worldwide since its June release, according to Box Office Mojo.

Two of the Comic Con panels Saturday were set to focus on the growing number of female directors, artists and characters in comics and comics-based movies.

One was canceled, but in the other, Colleen Doran, an artist for Wonder Woman and other comic books, credited the internet with providing an easy, hassle-free way for women to access and buy comic books.

Doran recalled how when she went to comic book stores in the 1980s and 1990s, she was repeatedly sexually harassed.

“It was a closed circle,” she said. “It was middle-aged dudes with their middle-aged dude friends.”

There have long been female characters in superhero movies and comics, but, with a few exceptions such as Wonder Woman, they never were the principal characters, Reinhardt said.

“It’s always a male-based film, and if women were in it, they were the sidekick or the love interest,” she said. “Now they don’t need to be the sidekick. They save the day, and they don’t need a man to help them save the day.”

Stephanie Gallagher, 27, of Baldwin, said that for years, she didn’t like comics, even though many of her male friends had long been fans. She could never identify with comics because of the paucity of female main characters.

“Then my best friend introduced me to Wonder Woman and told me, ‘I think you’d like Wonder Woman,’ and he kept feeding me more and more titles,” she said.

That was four or five years ago, and since then Gallagher has been buoyed by the increasing prominence of women in comics.

“There have definitely been more creators who are taking center stage,” she said.

Komal Smruti was excited to discover the character Kamala Khan not only because the Marvel comics superheroine is a woman, but also because Khan, who debuted in 2013, is written as a Pakistani Muslim living in New Jersey.

Smruti is of Indian ancestry and is Hindu, but “she’s a character who looks like me, so I’m going to identify with her,” said Smruti, who donned a Kamala Khan costume on Saturday. “It made me feel proud.”

Smruti, 28, of Norwalk, Connecticut, said Kamala Khan, Wonder Woman and other leading female comic book and movie characters offer inspiration to children as well as adults.

Girls need role models as much as boys, she said.

“But women don’t have that many role models out there,” she said. “So it’s great to have these comics characters, so little girls as well as little boys can say, ‘I want to be like Wonder Woman’ or ‘I want to be like Supergirl or Kamala Khan.’ ”

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