In this third part of our interview with the Inkstuds host, we discuss criticism and sexism within the comics community.
[Art By Mike Myrhe]
Was making comics something that had been on the table for you, at some point?
Not necessarily, no. I’ve had someone ask me to do something for an anthology. If I did something, I would be really fussy. It has to be the completely right thing. So, we’ll see, we’ll see. I’m not going to say, “never,” but that’s not what I’m here for.
As a critic, would you be opening yourself up to hyper-criticism by releasing a work in that medium?
[Laughs]. Sure. Criticism’s important. You’ve got to say something’s bad in short order, in order to know that something’s good. So, maybe Inkstuds is bad. That’s fine. But that’s a whole other bag of worms.
Is the comics community too critical of itself? Is it not critical enough?
Give me a second with this one [laughs]. I think we can’t make a generalization about the comics community. It’s important to have criticism. People need to learn how to not take criticism personally. I think, in order for the craft to grow and to continue growing, there needs to be smart criticism. I’m not saying that all criticism is good. I think there’s a lot of shoddy criticism. Hyperbole can be a crutch on comics—“this thing’s the best in the world.” Someone’s going to read it and it won’t be the best in the world.
I think, like anything, creating a critical mind is important to understanding things in different ways. I’ve had debates with people about [Gary] Panter where they don’t get it—and that’s fine. They don’t have to get it. But once you understand what’s going on there, and you look at it through a lens, and you discuss the work—that’s the main thing, we need to be discussing the work on a level of taking it as seriously as possible.
People need to be treating this as professionals. You remember when Gabby Schulz did that whole comic strip about women in comics? It was a response to a post by Kate Beaton, “hey, when you say you want to have my babies, that’s creepy.” That is creepy. You shouldn’t be doing that. You’re not going to say that to a writer. You’re not going to go up to Chuck Palahniuk and say, “I want to have your kids.”
Someone says, “I’d say that to a male cartoonist.” Why would you? Take yourself seriously. Treat yourself with respect, treat artists with respect. This isn’t a dialog you should be getting into.
Can things like Facebook and Twitter make it too easy to get into something like that? Things escalate into giant fights fairly quickly online.
There was that post about MoCCA that went up about festival lineup. It was a sausage fest. And we’re all complaining on Twitter. Which is good, we’re talking about it, but we also need to figure out why this is happening. We know there are going to be some great women there. Why aren’t they being listed, instead of just complaining that they aren’t be listed.
Like last year when the Ignatz nominations were announced. That was a dude fest, because the panel was all dudes. It’s not to say these dudes are sexist, but when you don’t have women involved in the process, they won’t necessarily be as represented.
We’re recognizing a lot of legendary men in comics, from someone like Al Jaffee to someone like Peter Kuper, where we’re not necessarily recognizing the women, the contemporaries. There aren’t that many female contemporaries to Al, but there are plenty of contemporaries to Peter, and I think he’d be the first to admit that. I think this is something where, when we’re doing these festival, let’s get recognition for more females. How ‘bout a Mary Fleener? You’re gonna have Pete Bagge? How about Roberta Gregory?
We should take a look at what is being published. Are a lot of publishers really pushing? Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly are both doing a really good job of pushing some stuff by legends who are women, like Carol Tyler, Joyce Farmer, and Lynda Barry. These are all very important women in the medium.
How has the response been to the book, thus far?
It’s been great. Everyone who’s checked it out has been really into it. I think my favorite response I heard is that Tom Spurgeon likes reading it around the house from different couch to different couch in his palatial estate. I think he said something like, “it was the best snapshot on contemporary comics that you can get, now that there isn’t a functioning Comics Journal.” That was great.
That meant a lot to me. The big guys that I look to, as far as what I do are Todd Hignite, Tom Spurgeon, and Gary Groth. Those three interviewers are who look up to—not that I can emulate, because I’m not going to do the same interviews. Tom is very methodical, Groth has probably a million more things written down than I do. I kind of fly by the seat of my pants. But they’re all amazing interviewers. They all respect the work, and they all know the cartoonists they interview in and out.
[Concluded in Part Four]