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(White Gloves)

Where are we, ladies? Why don't we write comics? Not the kind that come with manties on the outside, I mean, and not OEL either--they're both comics, but one is a badly beaten dead horse, and the other is just not the kind I'm talking about right now. And not webcomics either, just because pinning down a list of webcomics is nearly impossible and thus useless for now.

How come we're not writing American-style indie comics?

And I don't want to receive a list of all the women who ARE making comics. I know there are women that do. The problem is, there aren't enough of them. The vast majority of comics by the major indie publishers are written and drawn by men. By my count (done by perusing their websites, although I may have miscounted a bit here or there), PlanetLAR/AiT, of their 35 comic series (i.e. True Story, Swear To God counts as one thing, rather than a set of volumes) has published 2 things by female writers (one which was cowritten with a guy), and I think Becky Cloonan is their only artist; Top Shelf has 5 female creators of their 68, and Fantagraphics lists 6 of 49 (I didn't count the Eros or Classic/Ignatz stuff, just mainstream Fanta); Slave Labor has about a dozen (hard to tell with some of the names, but let's be generous and guess 12) out of 92, and Oni, which does not present a handy list of creators, seems to have a decent number of women, but the majority of their series are done by men. Dark Horse doesn't seem to have any American women in their list, and while Image offers lots of pictures of women, I don't see any current series of theirs with a woman on the creative team. Granted, that's just a half-dozen publishers, but they're some of the bigger ones, and it seems unlikely there's a publisher out there that publishes nothing but women to even things out.

So are we getting blocked out everywhere, or are we just not trying?

If you consider anthologies, which are often proving grounds for people who haven't published full books yet, the same pattern holds. The Flight anthologies list 54 creators on their blog, and 10 appear to be women; Image has two anthologies listed with one woman in the solicitation apiece (24seven and Afterworks 2), and their monthly anthology intended to spotlight up-and-coming talent hasn't got a single woman in its solicitations. Even their Belle and Sebastian anthology isn't half done by women, though it's a far higher percentage than the rest of these examples.

The situation online is very similar; if women are aspiring to make comics, they're generally being pretty quiet about it. On the Engine, it seems like the most prominent women on there are the Enforcers (who may want to make comics, actually); most of the wannabes are male, with only four of the 83 posts on this thread for writers seeking artists coming from women. Other writing boards are very similar--Scryptic Studios is a sausagefest if I ever saw one, and as far as I can tell Penciljack and Digital Webbing are filled with dudes as well. Sequential Tart, on the other hand, has a creator's forum that hasn't had new posts in over a month, and their main boards don't get nearly the traffic that the other places get. (And there are lots of men there too. On the first page of the comics forum, four of the thirty threads are started by women, with the rest either men or in a couple of cases androgynously-named.) If everyone who reads comics wants to make them, it seems that the number of women who read comics is down in the double digits.

It seems that the pool of women who want to create is very small, but in a world where almost every female geek writes fanfiction of a sort, how can that really be? Are we trying and just being quiet about it, or we not trying at all? If we're not, why not? It's not like there aren't female hipsters out there, people!

I want to make comics. I think I'd be pretty good at it. Plus, I have a manifesto. (Pointy the first: Crush them.)

Comments

( 35 comments — Leave a comment )
jarodrussell
Apr. 29th, 2006 09:37 pm (UTC)
It seems that the pool of women who want to create is very small, but in a world where almost every female geek writes fanfiction of a sort, how can that really be?

I'm not an expert on comics by any stretch of the imagination, but from the few experiments I've done -- commissioning someone to draw a page from a script of mine or piecing together shoties from video game screen shots -- creating comics is quite a different process from writing prose. Fanfic can almost be a communal process, where one person writes and others help them refine it as they go. I've both seen this and been a part of this process.

Comics, though, are medium that pretty much require a complete product before they can be appreciated or used. Comics -- especially Indie comics -- are a medium that almost require a lone obsession from a multi-talented person. You need someone who can write, who can draw, and who can write specifically to fit into/with the drawings. Unless you've got an almost psychic connection with someone, splitting that kind of work between people is hard.

Personally, I don't think it's a matter of "women who want to create," rather it's a question of "women who want to create in a vacuum."

On a wholly seperate note, have you ever scanned through DeviantArt? I've seem (and commissioned) many female artists there.
heykidzcomix
Apr. 29th, 2006 10:04 pm (UTC)
I disagree with that to some extent; writing has always been a lonely profession with a long lead time, and while there are relatively few women in the historical canon, they're certainly writing books in the present day, and many of them don't even steal from other, somewhat less crappy books :D. (9 of this week's top 15 NY Times bestsellers in hardcover fiction are written at least in part by women, and 6/15 of the paperbacks. Right down the middle if you combine the lists.) It seems that there are plenty of women willing to create prose in a vacuum--and besides, wouldn't a collaborator go a long way in assuaging the nagging sensation that you're all alone?

I know there are plenty of female artists out there, but if you're going to them and commissioning them to do comics, they're not doing comics because they want to do comics, but because you're paying them to do it. Perhaps women are just too smart to labor in the salt mines without compensation :D.
lilrivkah
Apr. 29th, 2006 10:12 pm (UTC)
Perhaps women are just too smart to labor in the salt mines without compensation

LOL! Indeed we are! The only time I work for free is when I know I'm going to be getting something out of it in return, even if it's years down the road or an intangible. We ARE social creatures by nature and economic politics also falls into that range. ^_~
jarodrussell
Apr. 29th, 2006 10:25 pm (UTC)
...writing has always been a lonely profession with a long lead time...

Sure, but does fanfic work the same way as writing novels?


It seems that there are plenty of women willing to create prose in a vacuum...

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think writing novels is the same vacuum as making comics. With prose, once you get a chapter finished, you can give it to your editor or a friend to look over -- and if it's fanfic, then a finished chapter can be as good (to readers) as a finished novel. With a comic script, once you get it written, you still have to draw the art before someone (beside a a comic writer, I guess) can appreciate it.

Comics strike me as being closer to writing software than they do to writing prose. Like a comic script, your program can have the best flowchart imaginable, it still won't really impress people until you get it all programmed in and have it running.


I know there are plenty of female artists out there...

Oh, sorry! I thought you were trying to find them. :)
heykidzcomix
Apr. 29th, 2006 10:40 pm (UTC)
Well, ideally your editor would look over your script before allowing the artist to start work on it, and I have several people who don't write comics but who are willing to read my scripts for me, so I don't think that the vacuum for comics has to be different if you don't want it to be.
lilrivkah
Apr. 29th, 2006 10:13 pm (UTC)
Speaking from my perspective only, I've never really liked the look of most Indy comics! A couple stand out such as "Blankets," "Why I Like Saturn," and "Strangers In Paradise," but even though, I'm not a huge fan of the heavy-handed inking and almost simplistic art of the rest of 'em. Is it not posthaste then to exclude the women in comics working working under the supposed label of "OEL?" It IS just a label, and when you boil it down, the majority of them are created, written, and drawn by a single female creator, from her own idea, not the company's. Is that not in the very spirit of Indy, to have creator-driven characters, art, and ideas?

If not, then what exactly is American Indy? It can't be something self-published, because then that excludes the majority of people and titles you've listed. Is it then the size of the company? Because then a superhero comic published by a small press would then fit into the category. Is it a stylistic difference in art in writing? Because then doesn't that attempt to fit artists and writers into a certain mold, the very antithesis of the meaning of Indy?

The number of women in comics continues to grow, but I think that comics in general still holds such a masculine connotation, that it remains limited in scope. Every media pulls in what it puts out, and currently, the majority of what's being put out in comics is directed at men. That's only been changing recently (and you really have to give the credit to a lot of manga titles which have introduced a LOT of girls to broader themes in comics), but I think that change is something that will continue to be gradual. I see a lot of girls who LIKE comics, but don't have the abilities yet to create their own, generally because they're still only fifteen and figuring out what they want to do with their lives. It just requires a little encouragement on our part--other female creators--to inspire these young women to pursue their like for comics so that it turns into love and passion. In fact, I consider it my obligation to do so. How else am I going to get more comics I actually enjoy in the future? ^_~
littledarkvoice
Apr. 29th, 2006 10:41 pm (UTC)
I think I'd like to add a big "word!" to what you said here. Change is always gradual.

I see a lot of girls who LIKE comics, but don't have the abilities yet to create their own, generally because they're still only fifteen and figuring out what they want to do with their lives.

Hell, I'm twenty and I still don't know exactly what I want to do with my life yet, but I do know that I'd like it to involve comics in some way. I've even gotten around to pestering the writer/artist who came into my Graphic Novel class about the industry. He said that even if I thought I'd be better at writing, I should draw, too, if I could at all. So I started keeping a sketchbook again. (And will take more classes as soon as possible.) I'm gradually working on scripts, and various plots, and as soon as I can I'm going to try and get copies of Eisner's books on graphic novel writing.

The difficult part is that I'm equally passionate about comics and the Classics (particularly mythology), and I don't want to choose between them. On the otherhand, it's not like they don't overlap. Whether I end up doing comics based on classical themes, or end up doing graduate studies on myth and folklore and how superhero comics are the natural extension of that, I think I can be happy.

So I can't be sure what the future holds for me, but I'm trying.

...also, if by some miracle I do get published someday, I don't know how I feel about falling under the label of "indy" whether I'd be working under a bigger publisher or a smaller one. But this is mostly because I had the misfortune of associating with wangsting, whiney kids in high school who called themselves "indie" because they didn't want to admit to being "emo" when it had gotten to popular. I know that's not what indie means in comics or in music, but thanks to those kids the term kind of rubs me the wrong way.
heykidzcomix
Apr. 29th, 2006 10:49 pm (UTC)
American Indie means anything that's not published by the two major corporate comic publishers, so yes, superhero books put out by, say, Boom Studios would count as Indy in my book. Likewise the self-publishers, who I excluded just because I have no idea where you'd find a list of all the comics being put out right now short of tracking down a Previews (which I am not going to do). There is no monolithic "Indie Style" or "Code d'Indie".

I'm not including the OEL people just because I don't want to talk about them right now--you guys are a different phenomenon altogether. I'm talking about women who read and like American comics already, but who don't seem to want to make their own. In a world where every fanboy has his own Super Action Plan for becoming head of Marvel (Step 1: Write pastiche of Bruckheimer movie; Step 2: Sexy photos; Step 3: Beast marries Wolverine), the fact that women don't appear to have those ambitions is odd. It's even odder when you consider that the girls who are growing up reading manga want to make them--surely the girls who ate up Ghost World should be working on something similar, no?
melannen
Apr. 29th, 2006 11:17 pm (UTC)
I would hate to think this is true, but the first thing that came to my mind is almost along the lines of jarodrussel's comment.

Not that women don't want to, that is, or that women have a problem working in collaboration in small groups, or whatever.

But that making a comic is much more *labor-intensive* than writing a story. And indie-comics aren't going to make you rich. So it becomes a (second, or third) job. Even writing a comic is more work-intensive than writing a story, because you have to put in a lot of time communicating with your artist in order to make it roll. Unfortunately, most women in our society already have a second or third job that men don't: taking care of the house, the kids, the men, etc. They don't have *time* for making comics: they're busy doing the work that doesn't get credited on the cover.

Or, to put it another way: Behind almost every male indie-comics creator that I know much about, there's a woman (or, sometimes, a boyfriend/heterosexual life partner) who gets thanked in interviews for giving them the chance to work.

Behind almost every female indie-comics creator that I know much about, there's a man (except a few lucky ones with girlfriends) - an amazing, wonderful man who also does indie comics, and understands, and is willing to share the other work equally.

Women in general just don't seem as likely as men to find a mate who'll do the housework and pay the mortgage just so that their girl has time to draw. Fanfic, on the other hand, you can do on the bus or between crises with the kids, and still have a more-or-less publishable result.

(In the early days of webcomics, when 'drawing ability' was something only a very small proportion of artists even *aspired* to, and many webcomics *were* just dashed out on the kitchen table before breakfast, the male/female creator gap was much smaller there than it is now that 'quality' is beginning to be more expected.)
badninja
Apr. 30th, 2006 12:31 am (UTC)
I actually want to make comics. I feel it fits what I want to tell much better than writing a story. The problem is two things - A) finding an artist that one would trust or B) getting into a company.

Of course, these should only be blocks in the road.

It's too bad there's not some company around just for girls who want to write comics. Might be rather interesting.
vange
Apr. 30th, 2006 01:44 am (UTC)
I don't know if you're familiar with the Pants Press gang, they're a group of artists, five female of the six, and several were in the Flight Anthology. A couple have running series on Girlamatic I believe. That's a all female paid webcomic site. They could probably offer you more clear knowledge than me.

They really epitomize what I've seen with female comic artists I know, that they're more likely to work in other fields as well to pay the bills. Several of the Pants Press gang I know work in animation, and they mostly publish in anthologies with backing, or through selling stand alone comics at conventions where they know there's an audience.

Yeah, women are more quiet about making comics. If you look at the sequential art department here, it's more than half girls. But the girls are also more likely to have minors and be able to work in say, illustration, or conceptual art for films, or animation. Of course, there are also more girls working on the manga side of the field rather than western style comics, which may be part of why they aren't showing up in the places you list.

Maybe I'm in a different social circle than you, but I see a lot of girls working to make comics. But again, it's more from an art view than a writer view. Artists, at least in my experience, are horrible about message boards. Our school has one and it is desolate. Most organized projects get done through posted job listings and private e-mail applications. Again, the girls are signing on to a project that's already established, or working with a group to start out. These projects I see in the works aren't readily available through a random web search.

I don't know how helpful I'm being but just tell me if you need clarification. Me, art school girl. Sequential art major. Can find you other sequential art majors to ask.
tarpit05
Apr. 30th, 2006 03:02 am (UTC)
As an artist working in animation here in Los Angeles, I can tell you that there's still an unequal ratio of men to women here. So the women who aren't going into making comics aren't coming to animation either, at least not in numbers equal to men.
heykidzcomix
May. 1st, 2006 01:40 am (UTC)
Yeah, I'm very familiar with the Pants Press people--I'm glad to see they're getting wider recognition. I know there are people working that I've never heard of, and these things do take time :D. I guess my point is that it's surprising that even in 2006 there haven't been a lot of girls who are successful at getting published yet (with the exception of the OEL people).
vange
May. 1st, 2006 04:33 pm (UTC)
Manga is a huge influence, especially among college age comic artists. Most of the girls I know who do comics are into it to varying degrees. There's of course the people who do purely manga style, both because they prefer it and because Tokyo Pop is the company publishing the most work by young women and money is nice. And even among girls who do read and draw Western indie comics and even superhero books, a lot of them got into them through manga. Probably because it's so easily available at book stores, which have a much higher traffic of teenaged girls than comic shops.
sombermusic
May. 1st, 2006 09:33 pm (UTC)
I second the notion of girls being more into manga and illustration/animation than traditional mainstream comics.

Most of the female sequential majors (yes, fellow SCADdie) I know are double-majors or minors in either animation or illustration. I'm one of the few not doing anything in either field (I'm minoring in drawing), and even I am a transplant from illo. I'll probably end up working in that field anyway to pay the bills and support my comic habit. I've considered working in mainstream comics, but only in a coloring or lettering capacity.

Male sequential majors have a tendency to do illustration or animation as well, though not to quite the same extent, but there's a strong crossover with game design that's not present with the girls. I think that's more of the nerd-boy culture, though, that in female terms is the animation connection.

I'd question the notion that the hordes of Norris are more than half female, though; it's close to half-and-half, but I'd say it's nearer to 60% male and 40% female in my experience.
tarpit05
Apr. 30th, 2006 02:42 am (UTC)
You know, maybe it is purely a numbers game. Are there as many women and girls as there are men and boys who are into American comics? Maybe the ratio of women to men working in the industry is an accurate reflection of the reading audience?

Don't know if you can draw a direct comparison between women comickers and fanfic writers, because the pool of women in the fanbases that generate fanfic is far, far larger than the numbers who are in comics fandom. Even a cable show like Battlestar Galactica has a fanbase that's thousands of times larger than that of the most successful mainstream comic.

Also, women and girls who are into American comics (indy or mainstream) who catch the bug to produce said comics have to deal with decades of institutional hostility by the gatekeepers of the industry. So, seeing that they're not welcome there, they've gone into the more gender-neutral venues that are now available like webcomics. There seem to be larger numbers of women doing webcomics compared to the non-digital stuff among your generation--that's where the revolution is happening. If anything, change will bubble up from the bottom, instead of trickle down from the top.

Also, webcomics have a true DIY component to it that naturally makes it more appealing to indy creators, I would think. I mean, really--given a choice of getting the work out there, online, NOW, or begging to Julius Schwartz for a chance to break into the biz eventually--which would most sensible creators choose?

Keep in mind that I'm completely talking out of my ass here.
heykidzcomix
May. 1st, 2006 01:46 am (UTC)
Well, going by my friendslist, every girl who picks up a comic book writes fanfic of varying erotic degrees, so it's not like the pool's not there :D. I suspect (dread?) that the ratio is somehow reflective, but it gets much worse when you consider the noisy unpublished wannabes are almost exclusively male.

Also, begging Julie Schwartz is a bad tactic, unless he's going to go to bat for my Zombie JLI story. (C'MON GUYS MARVEL ZOMBIES WENT REALLY WELL LEMME DO IT LEMME DO IT)
tarpit05
May. 1st, 2006 09:38 am (UTC)
Hell, Zombie Julie Schwartz should edit Zombie JLI.

Us guys do make a lot of flatulence noise, don't we? It's funny--I was just listening to a radio show today where they were interviewing a couple of LA's accomplished-but-you-never-heard-of-them female conductors/arrangers for film scores. (The reason they're not terribly known except maybe to industry insiders is because most of their work involves conducting or arranging for scores that were written by established male composers who don't have the time to do it themselves, so they're brought in to do the grunt work.) One of them said that she often runs into male scorers breaking into the biz who talk a good game selling themselves, but whose work never seems to live up to the hype--and I thought of this discussion. So it's not just comics. Personally, I freely admit to having an overdeveloped bullshit gene in relation to my actual talent gene--it comes with the penis, apparently.
covenhouse_cat
May. 1st, 2006 11:29 pm (UTC)
You should rent out your penis to do the talking for women creators with gobs of talent and zero cajones.
magnumt
Apr. 30th, 2006 06:58 am (UTC)
You ladies are too busy complaining and blogging about how the mainstream publishers are sexist or that someone touched your boobs at some party (omg sexual harassment) to be bothered to actually write or draw comics.

Sorry!

(psst I am writing this with tongue strictly in cheek, don't hurt me)
heykidzcomix
Apr. 30th, 2006 04:21 pm (UTC)
ZING

(The thought had crossed my mind. Hence part of the reason why I asked--it's not really any use complaining if we're not trying to fix things ourselves.)
gwalla
Apr. 30th, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC)
On that note, when's your comic coming out?

(Gotta walk the walk, you know)
heykidzcomix
Apr. 30th, 2006 08:01 pm (UTC)
Soon?

Maybe?

(I'm at the need-publisher stage right now. Haven't heard anything concrete on any of my proposals yet. Still, I'm working on it.)
gwalla
May. 2nd, 2006 05:16 am (UTC)
Who all have you contacted?
heykidzcomix
May. 3rd, 2006 08:02 pm (UTC)
I have a proposal in at Oni and I submitted a story to the postcard anthology that made it through to the one-page idea round without getting rejected outright. The other projects I'm working on aren't quite ready for submission yet.
ficbyzee
Apr. 30th, 2006 08:02 pm (UTC)
Well, speaking personally, after several years of writing mainly fanfic, I find it's harder for me to come up with original ideas. Original characters in fanfiction universes, yes, but not original ideas that I could turn into a comic. I do have an idea that I'm nursing right now; I just have to either get better at sequential art or find a collaborator.

Also I tend to think the whole hipster/indie scene tends to slant towards guys, period, but I can't base that on any actual facts or anyting, so... *handwave*
tinpan
May. 1st, 2006 01:45 pm (UTC)
I'm not surprised that there aren't many indy-style women who are vocal. The indy circuilt is still very much a closed door when it comes to comics about and by females. A lot of the indy comics considered hits or classics are either mysogynistic to some extent (Art School Confidential, Ghost World, Crumb) or written from a a very male point of view (Blankets, Strangers in Paradise, Love and Rockets, Mail Order Bride, the bulk of squishy emo romances produced by Oni). Anytime a woman gets in, she's ghettoized (ala Dark Horse's 'Sexy Chix'- terrible name) or the occasional Comics Journal 'Women Issue' like we're an alien species.

So of course women are going to gravitate towards manga and webcomics- they're simply easier to get into, more receptive to our interests, and with fewer glass ceilings.
vegaslife
May. 1st, 2006 05:31 pm (UTC)
Are there any women in comics who are allowed to compete on the basis of their talent and creavity? Are the publishers / editors to blame because they single out the fact that women are involved?

Is the hyping of female involvement a necessary evil? Publishers hype comics featuring female involvement because they want to attract female readers?
heykidzcomix
May. 1st, 2006 09:57 pm (UTC)
I think there might be some--off the top of my head, the person who wrote that one JSA Classified arc that was pretty good is a woman, though I'll be damned if I remember her name. Nobody seemed to make a big deal about that. I don't know how good a marketing technique it is anyway--it's tough to track down how well Sexy Chix is selling, for example.

I also think publishers would have a better chance at attracting female readers if they didn't keep shooting the characters fannish women like in the face (i.e. the powerless but still ballsy wife; the geeky fixer-upper; the hot, goofy jock; the girl who grew up to be Robin; etc.) in order to give the big guys something to cry about, but that's another argument.
gwalla
May. 2nd, 2006 05:17 am (UTC)
Amanda Conner, I think?
annlarimer
May. 1st, 2006 07:47 pm (UTC)
What is OEL?
heykidzcomix
May. 1st, 2006 09:26 pm (UTC)
Original English-Language manga. Tokyopop has a line out.
annlarimer
May. 1st, 2006 10:03 pm (UTC)
AH! Thank you.
covenhouse_cat
May. 1st, 2006 08:32 pm (UTC)
I just had to reply, at least in brief:

Many of my favorite comics creators are women. Wendy Pini, Linda Medley, Jessica Abel, and Dori Seda are among the best.

I don't know, but I know that I feel highly intimidated by the difference in style of writing between male and female perspectives, let alone the difference in art styles.

I would be creating comics, but I need the money. So, for me, it's an issue of practicality.

The few times I've been published, it was illustrating a male writer's story. I could probably still get work doing that on occasion, perhaps at Fantagraphics or as an inker for Dark Horse, but I'd rather do something else right now. And ultimately, I'd rather illustrate my own writing.

At some point in my life (I'm currently trying to find a tenure-track position wherein I can get summers off to draw and write comics, direct and act) I intend to go back to my comic book in progress.

But, yes, why aren't there more female creators of comic books out there? It's especially odd when you look at the numbers of fanfic writers who are women. Thanks for bringing up the topic. I hope to check back on this again.
crowhen
May. 2nd, 2006 08:26 pm (UTC)
Actually, the pool of women/girls who want to make comics (or are trying) is larger than you think, and it is growing. I make comics for gURL.com, and I get emails from many, many teenage girls saying that they are learning how to make comics or they want to make comics--and they aren't all talking about big sparkling eyes, either.

For the record, I don't just make comics for sites. I'm a self-publisher. Bitchiest thing ever to take on by yourself. I do all the writing, art and prepress. Still haven't found a distributor. I have submitted to indy publishers, but the competition is fierce or they just aren't into my breed of comics. Maybe it's the big eyes, or maybe it's because all my stories are for teenage girls.

It's getting harder and harder to do this solely on my own. So far my mother has been a great support, but I am growing older, and now I'm thinking I should go to college or move somewhere where I can get a second job. Sadly, if I get said second job, self-publishing will become even trickier. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to write, design, draw, ink, tone, letter, proofread, prepare and print a comic all on one's own.

I need a house husband!

BTW, my name is Rachel Nabors. My comics site is SubcultureofOne.com. I found you through Comics Worth Reading, I think.
( 35 comments — Leave a comment )

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