Tag Archive for women

Review: Team Girl Comic #10

teamgirlcomic10There are so many things that can change in just five years. I know I’ve watched with delight how women have become a growing force in comics. They’re creating their own and posting them to Tumblr and speaking out about issues on Twitter. They’re taking over the artists’ alleys at cons and filling up sequential art classes. The changes are an amazing thing.

Likewise, Glasgow-based Team Girl Comic has grown and changed from its early days into a group that can absolutely not be ignored. If you haven’t been paying attention to Team Girl Comic, Issue #10 is the perfect place to start.

As explained in the opening story by Claire Yvette and Gill Hatcher, in Team Girl Comic #10, Hatcher didn’t feel like her comics were quite fitting in to the scene she saw around Glasgow in 2009. In an effort to find a community, she began seeking out other girls and women making comics. They began publishing anthologies and holding events, but the companionship and camaraderie they found in each other was the most important.

The diversity of styles and subjects is delightful. MJ Wallace‘s sweetly thoughtful “How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love Me” illustrates how she made peace with her body image in touching detail, even including some sketches from her life drawing classes. Shona Heaney‘s “The Winston Churchill Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” delivers on the title’s promise in both hilarious and disturbing ways in bleak, scratchy pen drawings.

There’s diversions into the fantastic, like “GEMS Saltire Squad” by Amanda “Hateball” Stewart, and into the surreal, like Donya Todd‘s “HC.” Many of the stories, though, do deal with what life is like for the modern woman, like Iona “Nondo” Mowat’s all-to-real “Small Talk Frustrations” and Lucy Sweet‘s charming reflection on getting older, “What Will I Be Doing When I’m Forty?”

The centerpiece of Team Girl Comic #10 is, without a doubt, “The Extraordinary Occurrence That Took Place at Comicon, in July 2013″ written by the legendary Trina Robbins and illustrated by Hatcher. Robbins writes about how, last year, other than the predictable outcome of a bunch of men winning in the Eisner awards, a surprising number of women won. Hatcher draws the reactions — disappointment and boredom to men winning and happiness and surprise to women winning — in a playful way. What is a simple anecdote becomes an entertaining glimpse into how comics is constantly changing for the better.

By bringing together women creators of all ages and experience, Team Girl Comic #10 definitely feels like the party that’s illustrated on the cover. It’s one where you have friends and you’ll make new ones. Everyone is welcome and everyone is going to have fun.

And I know I’m looking forward to the day when I’m reading Team Girl Comic #20.

PDF provided for review by Team Girl Comic.

Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki at Politics and Prose

Mariko Tamaki, left, and Jillian Tamaki at Politics and Prose on May 17, 2014

Mariko Tamaki, left, and Jillian Tamaki at Politics and Prose on May 17, 2014

Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s discussion of their new graphic novel, This One Summer (First Second/Groundwood Books, 2014) at Politics and Prose on May 17 was introduced by what seemed like an unlikely choice: A young man named Frans. In his metal T-shirt and camouflage pants with long hair and a beard, he didn’t seem like someone who would be too into a young adult graphic novel about two girls created by two women. But that was the point: Frans told us that while he came into comics through ’90s titles like Cyberforce, he found a lot to connect with in This One Summer.

If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.

For about an hour, the Tamaki cousins discussed their book and their work overall in an intimate chat, taking questions from the audience of a few dozen. The two had a playful, easy chemistry with each other, which showed why they are such effortless collaborators.

Many questions focused on their creative process. Mariko said she gives Jillian a script that’s written in a play format, but mostly trusts what Jillian will do with it. And the idea of “trust” was a big theme in how they work with each other. Jillian said she felt entitled to ignore some of Mariko’s dialogue and direction, and Mariko was OK with that, saying that most of those things were for her own understanding.

As opposed to their first collaborative graphic novel, Skim, this story was more complicated so there was more back and forth and more editing (and many Skype conversations). Both spoke of the strengths comics as an artform has — Mariko said that part of writing comics is writing very sparsely and letting the visual elements do much of the work.

Many people had questions about the editing process for this book and comics in general. The Tamakis did a lot of their own editing, but they did work with their publishers. They both said they were fortunate to have publishers who understand what they’re doing and because they did Skim, both publishers knew what sort of subject matter to expect.

That led to a question if they were ever forced to make changes. Mariko said they never felt forced to make any changes and Jillian said she didn’t know why anyone would be surprised by what they were creating. Mariko said that the things that define “young adult” literature have changed and Jillian added most kids aren’t going to pick up a book unless it has edgier elements in it.

When asked about writing about female protagonists, Jillian shrugged it off. She said she only wants to make books she wants to read and she doesn’t understand the trends. She’s more interested in realism and didn’t think, at the time, that Skim was really a YA book. Mariko commented that the subtitled on the mini-comic version of Skim was “This is the diary of Skim Takota. So fuck off” and she wasn’t interested in writing to market. She said she can’t write a dystopian adventure story and her characters would be “the first two characters to be killed off in the Hunger Games.

Both talked about the hard realities of doing what they do. As much as Jillian loves making comics, it’s subsidized by the other things she does — teaching, illustration work and more. Because of that, she said “I should just make the comics I want to make.” Mariko laughed about having to teach a class about working as a writer and said it should’ve been a class on “Working four jobs.” But both felt their other jobs is what gives them material and depth and keeps them motivated. Jillian said she creates comics for comics audiences primarily, since they’re the ones who know the medium. If others like it, then that’s just a bonus.

They joked about the differences between U.S. and Canadian literature — mostly that Canada isn’t into that whole “hero” thing but instead, just surviving, and they liked that Canadian literature is full of “cranky, frustrated women.”

When asked about how she’s able to convey such subtle emotions, Jillian offered this advice: “If you want to learn how to draw, make a comic.” She’s someone who’s still learning and growing as an artist, despite her years of experience. Mariko offered her praise, saying that in anyone else’s hands, the moments Jillian draws would be melodramatic.

As a perfect summary to the talk, as the two discussed their expectations for This One Summer going forward, Mariko said simply “What I wanted this book to be, it already is.”

But if the reaction from everyone — including Frans — is any indication, it’s going to be much more than that.

(Also on Saturday was the Gaitherburg Book Festival. I have a few photos and few thought on Tumblr.)

Review: Over Easy by Mimi Pond

Over EasyFor most of us, we begin to cross the border between adolescence and adulthood when we get our first jobs. It doesn’t matter so much what this job is as much as it puts us in contacts with adults who aren’t teachers or parents for one of the first times. No matter what you do or don’t have in common with your coworkers, you’re all in that situation — that job — together.

In the delightful Over Easy (Drawn and Quarterly, 2014), Mimi Pond explores the days in the late ’70s when she worked in a diner in Oakland, Calif., to pay off her art school bills.

To be clear, this book isn’t necessarily a memoir, although many of Pond’s own experiences are reflected here. Instead, we follow her stand-in, Margaret, as she navigates the new world of adulthood. She finds and loses love, tries drugs, and experiments with a new attitude and personality, modeled after her fellow waitresses. In other words. Margaret grows up.

While the book is told in a linear fashion, it’s more episodic than plot-driven. In one chapter, Margaret will go out for a girls’ night on the town with a coworker only to be ditched. She follows her coworkers’ lead in the bar across the street. She watches as the waitresses and cooks pair off, break up and then pair off again.

To be clear, it’s almost always Margaret’s story. Nothing happens outside of her perspective, and despite the cast of colorful cooks and super-cool waitresses, only one other character is given much of a personality — the kindly stoner manager Lazlo, provides a laid-back guide to the new era of Margaret’s life. Everyone else, from the owner Frank and hippie Camille, tend to be texture in Margaret’s larger journey. Still there’s a realism to that — while specific memories may fade, the emotions behind them remain

But Pond’s easygoing and lighthearted style keep the book playful and engaging. Her gift drawing faces and body language give the book much of its humor and compliment her witty observations, which the book is full of. As Margaret applies makeup for her first day waitressing, she narrates: “Eyes with that slightly bruised look – like I’ve got a gangster boyfriend that slaps me around a little. I don’t put my glasses on. Even if I can’t see the customers, I’ll flirt with them anyway.” It’s illustrated by Margaret concentrating on applying her mascara and then squinting at herself in a full-length mirror. We’ve all been there, in one way or another.

The duo-tone teal washes also let this tale feel comfortable and lived in. It’s like old sketches or faded snapshots. In Pond’s hands, the book offers glimpses of people who are neighbors, friends, coworkers.

And that’s the ultimate takeaway from Mimi Pond’s Over Easy. It’s just one young woman’s story about working in a diner in the late ’70s, but it’s also about finding one’s place in the world of adults and that’s a story that’s easy to recognize. This may not be the time or the place where you worked, but it might as well be.

Copy of book provided by Big Planet Comics.

Review: Insufficient Direction

insufficient-directionManga artist Moyoco Anno and husband, anime and film director Hideaki Anno are just like any other married couple: They binge-watch TV shows, try to find shelves to accommodate their collections, eat junk food (although they really try to eat better, with mixed results) and sometimes drink too much.

You know, all the normal couple things.

Moyoco Anno’s Insufficient Direction (Vertical, 2014), is a charming and hilarious look at a couple who happily indulges each other and creates a happily equilibrium.

Moyoco draws herself a baby she refers to as “Rompers;” she calls Hideaki “Director-kun” and presents him round-faced, wild-haired overgrown kid. Clearly, this is how the couple sees themselves.

The stories are small, episodic vignettes about married life without much consequence, but that’s the joy of them. Usually, “Director-kun” will get excited about something and “Rompers” will try to be the mature one (something she obviously resents). The ultimate conclusion is usually trivial but involves the two coming to some understanding.

But refreshingly, very few of these tales are a case of “patient wife indulges her silly husband.” The best moments of the book is when the two influence each other in the best and worst ways — singing along loudly to anime theme songs in the car, waking up early to watch children’s TV shows or embracing the joy of being lazy. It’s sweet and hilarious.

Moyoco renders scenes between “Rompers” and “Director-kun” in a loose, exaggerated style that suits the childlike world they inhabit. While it’s almost always just the two of them in these stories, Moyoco draws everyone else in a much more realistic fashion, further placing these two in their own world. It’s adorable.

The Vertical edition has extensive annotations about the references made in the book, and while I appreciate them, I didn’t mind not knowing about everything. Hideaki Anno’s essay about the book and Moyoco is sweet and heartfelt and makes the perfect cap to the end of the book. The only thing I question is including a short biography and filmography of Hideaki, putting the focus on him, when the book is much more about both of them.

And that’s ultimately what I take away of Insufficient Direction — it’s the story of a couple whose playful affection and obvious love for each other is a beautiful thing. I’m sure that Moyoco and Hideaki Anno’s relationship is not always easy (because no relationship is), but as presented, they’re so well suited to each other, it’s impossible to not find joy in getting to know them.

Copy of Insufficient Direction provided by Big Planet Comics.

Review: Alone Forever

aloneforeverAre you enjoying your Valentine’s Day or are you wishing you could just spend the whole thing in bed? Do you try to find a balance between ignoring the day entirely with your partner and the over-the-top show of chocolates, roses and Teddy bears?

Do you have no actual idea how you really feel about romance in general?

If you go back and forth about loving and hating the whole idea of being in a relationship, Liz Prince has you covered.

A collection of mostly humorous autobiographical comics, Alone Forever (Top Shelf, 2014), chronicles Prince’s adventures in love and lack thereof. She crushes on every boy with a beard she sees (there are many!) and cuddles with her cats. It’s a playful look at modern romance.

Prince never shies away from making herself look silly. Her detailed descriptions of outfits (usually including unwashed hoodies and band T-shirts) provide a certain self-awareness about why she’s unlucky in love. But she also shares the dates that go well and the dates that go just OK. It’s not just comics about feeling sorry for herself. Even in her darker moments, she keeps a sense of humor and in her brighter moments, her joy is clear. I love that it’s a refreshingly full picture of a life.

Since they’re autobiographical comics, a few feel do feel a bit tossed off and rough, as if it was just a quick attempt to get a moment down, diary-style. But Prince’s style is warm and friendly, and there’s a bold sweetness to the way she draws herself, her friends and her love interests. Prince feels like someone you know (or she may remind you a bit too much of yourself), and her comics feel like hanging out with a friend.

It’s maybe a bit slight but it’s a quick, fun book to read. Alone Forever is going to be what you need this Valentine’s Day, whatever your opinion of the holiday is. No matter your success in love, you’ll find a kindred spirit here.