What do you do? (Write, draw, edit, publish, promote etc.)
How did you get started doing that?
I’ve dabbled in all areas of comics production, though I primarily work as a colorist and artist.
What was your first comic? Why that one?
My first self-published comic was HEY, JANA J!, which I created in a panic after taking a self-publishing class and having no knowledge of how to even make comics (I was an Illustration major in school. and although I enjoyed reading comics, I had never created any of my own). HEY, JANA J! has been on-and-off in production for a few years – the story I’m trying to craft is a little dense, and I want to make sure I do it right.
The first comic I read was a Shazam!/Captain Marvel Giant-Size collector’s edition comic from 1973. My Dad’s cousin brought it over to our house because it was a book they had shared and both scribbled in when they were kids and he had recently found it while moving. I must have been 7 or 8 at the time. Despite the really ratty condition of the book, I thought it was super cool, and that initial familial tie got me interested in what the actual work underneath the…”bonus” content was.
Any current or upcoming projects we can find you on?
I’ve got some pans on some burners I can’t quite divulge yet, but there’s large-scale comic project among those pans.
Favorite inspiration, collaborators, other professionals you’ve worked with if any?
I’ve always been really inspired by music – for me, creating work that has a certain melody to it has helped in unifying the sort of message I want to convey. I think some of my more successful short comics have a song tied to them in some way that encapsulates the mood, even if it’s a silly comic.
Professionally, though, Spike Trotman
, Meredith Gran
, Kate Beaton
& Kate Leth
are my comics heroes. I adore everything they’ve done for the medium and I think it’s in large part due to their influence that comics have become more accessible for women. I work in comics production on two fronts: professionally and personally, and it’s harder finding allies than you’d think, but these peeps are all top-notch: brilliant & fantastic and always making really striking, welcoming work.
Anyone you’d like to collaborate with some day? Why?
I’ve already had the pleasure of working with Kate Leth, but there are so many other creators I’d like to collaborate with I can’t even name them. There’s something special about being on a creative team with a bunch of people who are super psyched about the same thing.
Favorite genre to read? To work in? Are there any you won’t work in?
Although I’ve got a huge soft spot for hard sci-fi, nothing draws me into a comic like a lush fantasy forest. A blend of the two is my ideal, really. I love weird self-aware characters who aren’t afraid to question the worlds they’re living in, no matter the genre.
Due to recent circumstances, I won’t work on any comics that involve guns in real-life settings. Space lasers are fine, and I’m down for a crossbow, but I don’t want to be part of the problem of America’s casual obsession and acceptance of guns.
Have you ever faced adversity/discouragement for being a woman in your field? How did you overcome it?
I think every woman in every industry has faced adversity & discouragement just simply for *being* there. It’s certainly not limited to comics, but our field has a different set of overlapping spiderwebs that makes avoiding problems trickier than it may be in other fields.
The biggest problem I’ve had to deal with is Sir Chief Rando Boys at shows – you know, the guys who see themselves as The Comics Police – which I know is a big problem for other women in the industry as well.
I’ve been told by men that my comics are too feminine, too masculine, too European, too genreless…I’ve been told my characters are too fat, too ugly. I’ve had to ask for help from a table neighbor because a man decided the Coppertone Baby was deserving of sexual slurs and wouldn’t leave (really). I had a man come up from behind me at a show this year, introduce himself, ask if I was used to doing comics shows, tell me that having my cashbox on my table behind my display was tacky, and then leave. He didn’t look at my comics for sale, he never came around to the front of my table (which was on a corner) – he approached me from behind my table with the sole intent of telling me I was doing something he didn’t approve of.
Are any of these things specific to me being a woman? No, but I am not sure many male cartoonists would receive similar unsolicited feedback if placed in the same situation.
Overcoming weird comments and weird critiques is, at a base level, as simple as ignoring them. That certainly doesn’t stop that seed of anxiety, though – but that’s where your peers and your friends come in. After the cashbox rando a couple of friends texted me expressing support and it meant so much more to me than any Sir Chief Rando Boy spew I’ve encountered so far.
How do you think the current comics industry is toward women? What can we do to improve it further and create a safe space?
The current comics industry’s attitude towards women is such a broad statement, I want to break it down a bit first and hopefully address what I personally feel is a misunderstanding of the different facets of comics and cartoonists. Bear in mind that I am an able-bodied white woman with privilege that skews my view on what each subcategory of comics entails, and I am only speaking from my own experience.
I think there is a misconception that “the comics community” is one united front, when in fact there are a bunch of smaller communities that make up what is essentially The Nation of Comics. We all have a love of comics in common, but the genres of comics and types of creators involved are so, so different it feels unfair to lump them all together. There’s webcomics, comix/zines, mainstream-leaning indie, queer comics, etc etc., and a lot of these subcommunities *do* overlap. It’s a bit of the “a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square” situation.
I think as a whole, however, the current comics industry aka The Nation of Comics is baseline-hand-wiggle JUST OK to women. Not good, not great, and definitely needs improvement. It is better than it was five years ago when I first started, but it’s still not good, especially to creators who are women of color.
I do think the indie comics community is fairer and more supportive towards its female participants than some other subcommunities are, though. The indie scene is where I’ve made my closest friends and have read the most personal, varied stories. On the show floor at somewhere like SPX or MoCCA, there are so, so many amazingly talented women telling their own stories – autobio, genre-specific, nonlinear, erotic, arty, whatever they feel like! Indie comics, which are for the most part self or small-published and self-directed, lend themselves more to a wide range of stories and artists from all walks of life. The majority of indie books I read and seek out come directly from the creator and go to the reader without any sort of political lines to tiptoe over, so the material is much more honest and raw.
The “mainstream” comics community (think NYCC/SDCC) needs help. I think most of us have heard about in-house harassment at large publishers, which is not only massively disappointing but dangerous as well. When people in positions of power abuse that power, it sends a message that not only are female readers and fans not valued as consumers, they are not valued as creators either. Similarly, readers *and* creators who act as gatekeepers for who is “allowed” to find material accessible are incredibly gross to me – that attitude does far more in the long-run to damage the IPs and brands that they claim to love so much than reaching out to female readers would. There’s still very much a “bro” mindset active in mainstream comics that I haven’t quite found an equal to in any other field – and that, coupled with the too-high counts of abuse and harassment, give the rest of comics a bad reputation.
Both of those communities could certainly do more to be more inclusive to our trans & NB creators as well in all respects, but especially as writers and editors. Having these perspectives act as the final say during the editorial process is invaluable and ensures readers have a broader perspective on what constitutes a story and the types of characters that can exist within them.
What do comics mean to you?
To me, comics are a medium that can combine the best of literary art with the best of visual art, so there’s really no limit to what can be done with them. There aren’t many other forms of storytelling that can be so personal and also lead to the creation of such cool handcrafted art objects. I love self-publishing because I love being involved with the comic from its inception to the final physical product, and I don’t really think there’s an equal anywhere else.
Advice to other female creators in the field?
Stay with it! There are a lot of times when it feels like you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle, but comics are a really uniquely fulfilling art form. People want to hear *your* stories through *your* voice.
Want to join the project yourself? Email email@example.com or hit me on twitter @Beebidon!