web stats

CSBG Archive

She Has No Head! – Ladies Comics Project: Phase II, Part Two

Welcome to Part Two of The Ladies Comics Project: Phase II in which a handful of my colleagues, family, and friends – both new and old – and women both familiar with comics and not – read and reviewed a graphic novel or trade from my personal library and told me what they thought about it.  For more details about this project and more ladies reviews and feedback, go here to read Part One.  You can also read about the original Ladies Comics Project here, here, and here.

A week later and with emails now totaling 654 plus a handful of gchats, texts, and phone later, here were are: The Ladies Comics Project, Phase II: Part Two…

Illustration For Ladies Comics Project Phase II by Tara Abbamondi

Name: Sarah

Book: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon)

Age:  33

Location: New York, NY

Occupation: Student

Previous exposure to comics/graphic novels?  I read It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken, Parker, and Ghostworld.  I also read Archie comics when I was younger and recently, a Spiderman 9/11 tribute comic.

Why did you pick the cover/issue you picked? I’d actually wanted to read it for a ridiculously long time and when I saw it on the list it gave me the little push I needed to sit down and finally read the darn thing!  I’d been hearing so many good things about the graphic novel and I saw the author, Marjane Satrapi on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and was impressed with her.

I have a thing I do whenever I fall in love with books, a semi-pathetic ritual.  Immediately after closing the book I hop on the internet and see what other people thought of it.  If they hate the book I’ll say nasty things about their lack of taste in my head, never posting, just in my head.  When I finished Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, I flipped over the endpapers for more, wiped my eyes with a Starbucks napkin and hopped on the internet.

I haven’t read Art Spiegelman’s Maus or Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita In Tehran but I’m sure both are every bit as wonderful as the online reviews of Persepolis make them out to be.  I’m not in a position to hold these three books against each other in a literary battle royale to see which one comes out on top.  I’m basically just in a position to say I really, really loved Persepolis.

Persepolis follows Marji as she suffers the trials and tribulations of growing up in Tehran in the middle of a cultural revolution.  Her parents are radicals, continually taking part in anti-veil and anti-shah demonstrations.  Between religious-fundamentalism and communism there is this young girl who believed herself to be the last prophet, held many late-night conversations with a God who looks like Karl Marx  but also wanted her maid to eat with her family and wanted everyone to have cars.  This is a story about a girl trying to understand the world around her and frankly that’s every child’s story everywhere, which is exactly Satrapi’s point.  Iran isn’t so different from America when we stop thinking in terms of religion and politics and class and pare it down to one spunky little girl who loves Kim Wilde, wants her grandma’s knees to stop aching and who maybe wants to be the next Marie Curie.

There is something about reading a memoir in graphic novel form that creates this weird intimacy-distance paradox.  Seeing a portion of someone’s life storyboarded is completely voyeuristic.  It one ups the literary writer adage of ‘show don’t tell’.   But then it’s a comic-strip; it’s a funhouse mirror.  The distance the medium creates gives us enough room for intimacy. Satrapi’s use of humor brings the reader right into the story, whether she’s showing us how the girls jump-rope with their veils, or how Marji’s parents smuggle posters for her by hiding them in the lining of her father’s coat, making him look boxy in the panel.  The choice of simple black and white illustrations are perfect for the child narrator as children tend to see things in terms of good or bad, black or white.  It also punctuates the polarization within the country at the time and plays on the very rigid foreign perceptions of the Iranian people.  The writing throughout is equally funny with the same macabre undertones.  In panels where people are locked inside burning theatres, drown in their own bathtubs, stabbed at protests the humor keeps the reader from shutting down emotionally and for me the humor made me care more about Marji and her family; it brought home the gravity of the impossible situation these people and their country faced.

Persepolis is a near-perfect book to me.  I think the time shifts were a little bit hard to follow.  There, that’s my only piece of criticism and it didn’t disrupt my engagement with the story whatsoever.  I just feel like I should say something negative to make it feel like a real review.

.

Name Shelti Thompson

Book: Scott Pilgrim Volume 1 by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Oni)

Age: 30

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Occupation: High School Dance teacher

Previous exposure to comics/graphic novels? I have not had much exposure. The only comic I have read is The Walking Dead – about 57 issues.

Why did you pick the cover/issue you picked? The book I chose to read was Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life vol. 1. I chose this book because I had seen the previews for the movie and had heard it was good. So I decided to read it first and then watch the movie version later. I was very pleased with my choice.

The story line of Scott Pilgrim was great! I immediately got sucked in with the fun banter and humor between the characters. There was a nice variety of characters but not so many that I would get confused and to who was who. It was fun to read through how Scott falls for Ramona and what he must do in order to date her. I definitely want to learn more about Ramona as there wasn’t much in this volume about her. I mean what the hell did she do to have all of these evil ex-boyfriends? And what is going on with her head at the end? I also enjoyed the way Knives was written. Being a high school teacher I felt that she was written well. Scott’s roommate Wallace was very funny and so was his band mate Stephen Stills. There were some definite laugh out loud moments for me as I read this book. I thought that it was very clever to have the computer bubbles introducing some of the characters and giving their rating i.e. “Awesome” or “t-for teen”. I found that I really liked how some of the story feels so realistic and then all of a sudden there are these fictional elements such as the subspace highway and the super powers of ex-boyfriend #1. There are certain parts in the story where it definitely had a video game feel, which was fun – especially at the end when they are fighting and Scott defeats the first boyfriend who then turns into coins! Hilarious!

I enjoyed the drawing as well. It wasn’t super complicated but it was well done. Each character had his/her own unique look. I did sometimes get confused with a couple of the girl characters, but that only happened at the beginning. I felt that it was easy to follow the story and everything flowed together nicely.

Overall I really enjoyed reading this book. It had a humorous style, great characters, and a good story. I really can’t think of anything negative to say about it. I did like that it was longer than a regular comic but when I got to the end I still felt that I wanted more. I wanted to know what happens with the other boyfriends. What will happen with Scott and Ramona?  I can definitely say that I will be reading the rest of the series. Lucky for me that my husband has them!

.

Name: Janna Rosenkranz

Book: I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J M Ken Niimura (Image)

Link(s): jrosenkranz on twitter

Age: 45

Location: Western Michigan

Occupation: Pre-service secondary school English teacher, currently I’m an adjunct instructor of English and Theatre at various local colleges and universities.  I’m about to teach a YA Lit course to pre-service teachers at Baker College in Muskegon, MI and am using the first part of Maus as one of my books. I’m also still acting in local theatre.

Previous exposure to comics/graphic novels, if any? I’ve read The Sandman series, most of the BTVS season eight comics and looked at the graphic treatments of classics (Shakespeare, Jane Austen) for future teaching opportunities.

Why did you pick the cover/issue you picked: I’m fascinated by fairy tales, legends and the use of ‘magic’ in literature. The Amazon description of my chosen book seems to be a modern treatment of these literary devices and genres. It also seems to be a useful piece of YA lit to teach in the future.

When I got the email from a friend in NY asking for volunteers for Kelly’s project I was thrilled! I’m a pre-service high school English teacher (and an adjunct instructor at a local college) and am very interested in using graphic novels as tools in the classroom.  I’ve had the Classical Comics version of Macbeth on my Amazon wish list for months and am excited to be teaching Maus I in a Young Adult Literature class this next quarter.

As I looked through Kelly’s list of material I wanted something for the YA audience with a contemporary feel and yet something that might link back to the old fashioned English Lit canon.  I found that all in I Kill Giants along with the bonus of a female protagonist. What specifically attracted me to I Kill Giants is that link back to the canon with its references to Egyptian/Sumerian/Norse legends.  As I started reading I was captivated and thrilled to find that the book follows the structure of any good novel.  In fact it involves a (No Spoilers!) mysterious question about the protagonist, Barbara that kept me turning the pages like I would any Dickens’ novel.  The insight that Joe Kelly and artist JM Ken Nimura have into a young girl’s soul is pretty amazing for two men.  The story is simply told and yet it is that very simplicity of storytelling that makes the novel extremely effective and emotionally satisfying.

As a teacher I can see such potential in this novel, I like to make connections when teaching to demonstrate the ‘oneness’ of literature and culture. With I Kill Giants I can utilize ancient legends and even introduce some Dylan Thomas and modernist and Freudian poets. Heck, I can even connect it or use it as an intro to Hamlet and/or David Copperfield!  Huge thanks to Kelly for the opportunity and I will definitely use this book (and others) from her list in the future.

.

Name: Kristen

Book: Lucky by Gabrielle Bell (Drawn & Quarterly)

Age: 40

Location: Sacramento, CA

Occupation: Academia

Previous exposure to comics/graphic novels, if any? I used to read the free comics at Bob’s Big Boy when I was little (ed. note: that makes two ladies! who knew Bob’s Big Boy could be so influential!)

Why did you pick the cover/issue you picked? I wanted something that was written by a woman, and I didn’t want anything that had to do with fantasy or superheroes.  I was more interested in seeing how women use comics to tell true-life and/or autobiographical stories.

KELLY: So you read Lucky by Gabrielle Bell.  Can you tell me what prompted you to pick that book over others?

KRISTEN: The primary reason I chose this book was that I wanted to read something that was written and illustrated by a woman.  I think some of my disinterest in comics stems from the fact that it seems like a male-centric form, so I wanted to see if reading something by a woman would appeal to me more.  Another reason I chose Lucky was that I wanted to avoid anything to do with superheroes, fantasy, dragons, epic battles, etc.  I wanted something that was contemporary and based in reality.  This was just a taste preference – I don’t really like fantasy movies or books, so I figured I wouldn’t like fantasy comics either.

KELLY: And was it what you expected after reading?

KRISTEN: Yes and no.  It was a bit more “slice-of-life” than I had expected, in that the author really focuses on mundane events (like renting an apartment), especially in the first section of the book.  I thought there would be more of a strong plot driving the story, but this was more like reading someone’s unedited daily journal.  Which is interesting in its own way, but different from what I had expected.

KELLY:  So would you say you enjoyed it?  If so, why?  If not, why not?

KRISTEN: It took me a little bit to get into the book, because she sort of jumps in without introducing characters or situations, and so I spent the first few entries (chapters? strips?  I’m not sure what the proper term is) a little confused, trying to figure out who was who and what was going on.  It’s sort of like coming to a movie partway through and trying to play catch up.  But once I got up to speed I did enjoy the book.  And I have to say that I sort of lied before when I said that I really hadn’t read any comics other than the free ones at Bob’s Big Boy, because when I started reading this book I realized that I had forgotten to mention Matt Groening and Life in Hell, which I love.  Lucky sort of reminded me of Groening’s style in some ways, especially his strips where he illustrates a journal entry that he wrote as a kid.  Because Lucky kind of reminded me of Life in Hell I think I enjoyed it more, because it seemed familiar and I was able to get into the whole cartoon-as-journal thing more easily.

KELLY:  Did you find you responded more to the words than the pictures or vice versa?  Or both equally?

KRISTEN: Both equally.  Especially in the first section of the book her pictures are kind of sparse, but they get more detailed in later sections.  But either way they are often funny and offer a nice compliment to the words.  The pictures aren’t essential – you would still be able to follow the story without them – but they really add a great element that helped me get a fuller appreciation of the stories.

KELLY:  Did you find it rewarding in the way other reading material like novels are?  If not, can you pinpoint why?

KRISTEN:  It seemed lighter reading than other novels.  Maybe it’s because I read it in a few hours, whereas most novels will take me much longer to read (I tend to read slowly and get lost in novels).  I also sort of missed the descriptive language of novels, the way the writer paints a scene with words and the reader gets to use their own imagination to visualize that scene.  Lucky just seemed easier to tackle than most novels, which isn’t necessarily a good or a bad thing, just different, sort of like the difference between reading a book and watching a movie.  While I’d still prefer to read novels, Lucky was rewarding in its own way.

KELLY:  Did reading Lucky change your opinion for better or worse about comics and graphic novels?

KRISTEN:  Better.  I’ve always associated graphic novels and comics with superheroes and fantasy and, frankly, violence and sexism.  It was nice to see that I was completely wrong about that.

KELLY:  And what was your favorite thing about the book?

KRISTEN:  I liked the humor in the illustrations.  A lot of them sort of wryly comment on the words, which was fun and very different from the experience you get reading novels.

KELLY: Your least favorite thing?

KRISTEN:  Although the journal entry approach was kind of interesting, I would have preferred a through-line plot.  Because the stories were so episodic and fractured it was difficult to relate to any of the characters in any meaningful way, and so, even though I enjoyed the book while I was reading it, it didn’t stick with me afterward in the way that really good novels or movies do.

KELLY:  Are you glad you picked this book specifically?  Was there anything else that you wished you’d had the opportunity to read?

KRISTEN:  There were a couple of other books on the list that I would have liked to have read.  I don’t remember all of them right now, other than Persepolis, which I was interested in because I had heard good things about the movie.  I was also interested in The Walking Dead, because I really like the TV series, but didn’t end up picking that one because I wanted something written by a woman.  Overall I think Lucky was a good starter comic for me – sort of like a nice sample that made me interested in seeing what other comics are out there.

KELLY:  Do you think you’re more or less likely to buy or read comics after reading this book?  If more likely, will you be looking for something similar to this, or something new and different?

KRISTEN:  I’m more likely to read comics after this, because they seem more accessible now.  I would probably pick something similar to Lucky - something contemporary, set in the real world, free of dragons and hobbits – although I wouldn’t necessarily have to pick something autobiographical or written by a woman.

KELLY:  Do you think having access to comics and graphic novels digitally – and the ability to preview pages and descriptions and buy from the comfort of your own home would make you more likely to try out comics and graphic novels?

KRISTEN:  I don’t think it would have a huge impact, since it’s already possible to preview books on websites like Amazon.  I’m sure if I were to get really involved in comics something like that would appeal to me, but for now I don’t feel a great need for that.

KELLY:  And lastly, if anyone could make a comic you’d be interested in…what would it be about? What would it look like?

KRISTEN:  I like the idea of using comics or graphic novels for autobiography – especially the idea of women using the form to tell their own personal stories.  I would be more interested in a female-centric autobiographical comic with a more compelling story line than Lucky - not that apartment hunting and yoga class aren’t compelling!  But a really fascinating personal story set in the comic format would definitely interest me.

KELLY:  Thanks again for participating Kristen – it was great to have you involved – I hope you’ll come back for future Ladies Comics Project installments!

KRISTEN:  You’re welcome!   And I’d love to take part in future installments – this was a lot of fun!

.

Name Justique DeAir

Book: The Abandoned by Ross Campbell (TokyoPop)

Link(s): http://www.audioshocker.com/author/justique

Age: 23

Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Occupation: Existence

Previous exposure to comics/graphic novels, if any? Early high school exposure to manga (Love Hina to be exact) had me hooked on the sequential arts early. I picked up Wolverine Origins shortly thereafter. But my real involvement occurred when I met Nick Marino of AudioShocker.com. He picked a few books, namely We3, Watchmen, Dark Phoenix Saga, and Y: The Last Man, and I’ve been hooked ever since. And I’ve recently begun to create webcomics — I’m a colorist on Time Log and a co-writer on Super Haters.
Why did you pick the cover/issue you picked? What can I say…I’m a sucker for cover art…and this book has exactly what I need to pull me in…a voluptuous hottie with a blunt object (you’ll have to excuse me for not knowing exactly what it is) covered in blood. Add in the fact that it’s a book by one of my favorites – Ross Campbell — and it seemed like the perfect choice for something like this.

Zombies. The word alone evokes fear, disgust…hell, even a sense of surety in my own ability to survive. Maybe. But rarely, at least until I read Ross Campbell’s The Abandoned, did it evoke sadness and hope. Now I think of zombies as opportunity lost, life destroyed, and love…well…there is no love among the dead.

The Abandoned starts with Hurricane Riley and Rylie, two forces to be reckoned with existing in my favorite of all US places: the south. There is a sense of still and routine, while hope and promise permeate the first handwritten entry in the book. Soon, however, zombies take over and things are headed for the worse.

Without giving too much away, because EVERYONE should read this book, I feel like The Abandoned is gorgeous. A beautiful story about survival and the human need for togetherness. I think I really liked the characters over the plot more than I thought I would. Strong, funny, and real, the story is made up of characters I’d love to befriend and those whom I don’t like…let’s just say they get their comeuppance.

And what more could I ask for in a story such as this one? Sure, the ending is sad, but I finished the book in one sitting and contemplated it for many nights afterward.

Upon re-reading it and knowing the ending beforehand, it’s not so sad after all. There is uncertainty. I can relate to that. There is dread. Hell, if anyone can relate to that its me. But in the confusion of what exactly causes the epidemic, there’s hope. And therein lies the beauty. Ross Campbell manages to take a situation that could be nothing but disgust and fear and turn it into a story about hope, dedication and a strong will to survive despite a gnawing certainty of one’s own mortality.

.

Name: Erin Jade Lange

Link: butterslastmeal.com

Book: Revolver by Matt Kindt (Vertigo)

Age: 31

Location: Phoenix, AZ

Occupation: Journalist and soon-to-be Author

Previous exposure to comics/graphic novels, if any? I devoured Archie comics as a kid, especially Betty & Veronica.

Why did you pick the cover/issue you picked? I thought the flipped image was intriguing, and I wanted to know what happened to the characters or if it was an alternate universe or what.

I chose Revolver because the cover intrigued me. It looked like the story could be about an apocalypse or a terrorist attack. Instead of superheroes, the characters on the cover looked like normal people thrown into a desperate situation. In any case, it looked action-packed!

This is the first graphic novel I’ve ever read, so I had no idea what to expect and nothing to compare it to. I devoured Archie comics as a kid, but that’s the closest I’ve come to reading in this format. I should say at the outset, I’m not sure graphic novels are for me. I found myself stopping on every page to take in the art and the other details, which interrupted the actual narrative, so it was hard for me to get absorbed in the story itself. It seems graphic novels must be equally about style and story, and when it comes to Revolver, I would say I loved the style but not the story.

Details like the news ticker running across the bottom of the pages and the actual page numbers slipped into that ticker were brilliant. I loved the radio and TV broadcasts playing in the background of the alternate worlds. There was a stark contrast between some of the shallow “news” reports of our real world and the legitimate doomsday reports of the alternate reality. As a journalist, these details impressed me with their accuracy.

I liked the art as well. The character drawings felt minimalistic, but their expressions were still emotional. I was impressed by that “less-is-more” approach. I also liked the shift in colors between the two worlds, but it was a little too subtle. A more stark difference in the colors would have made those transitions easier to follow.

As for the story itself, I was a little disappointed. The spoiler-free summary is that a guy trapped in a mundane life with a materialistic girlfriend and an unfulfilling job suddenly wakes up one day to find the world falling apart. He comes alive in the horrible new world, full of terrorist attacks and other atrocities. The world is worse, but he is better. The next day he wakes up back in his original world. The days alternate from there as he struggles to figure out why this is happening and which world he truly prefers.

The setup/concept is great – Go to sleep here, wake up there. Go to sleep there, wake up here. – But a mystery like that, I think, demands a good payoff. I felt the revolving worlds were never really explained. And the closest thing the reader gets to an explanation is a monologue from the antagonist that goes on too long and slows down the story right at its climax.

I also felt the message was a little preachy. I don’t want to give too much away, but the commentary about what’s wrong with real-world America could have been more subtle, and some of the time spent smacking us over the head with the message would have been better spent fleshing out the plot.

.

Name: Kathy

Book: Smile by Raina Telgemeier (Graphix)

Age: 62

Location: New Rochelle, New York

Occupation: Children’s Librarian

Previous exposure with comics or graphic novels? I order graphic novels for the children’s room and I have looked at comics and graphic novels through Brian (ed. note: Kathy is mother to our fearless leader Brian Cronin!)

Why did you pick this cover/book? I liked the cover and I was only going to choose from the Young Adult category.  I choose Smile because being a children’s librarian and Brian’s mother I have seen many more “adult” themed books and I wasn’t interested in that type of material.

KELLY:  Did you like Smile or dislike it?

KATHY:  I expected to enjoy the book and I did enjoy the story and illustrations. The story was a growing up story and sweetly told. I have seen many, many of these stories during my career and they are always a pleasure to read

KELLY:  Did you prefer the pictures over the words, or vice versa?

KATHY:  I think I responded more to the words.  The pictures were great but the text was my base.

KELLY:  Was it rewarding in the way other reading material, like novels are?  If not, why?

KATHY:  I would rather read a story without illustrations for my own personal enjoyment but I do remember as a child enjoying illustrations in my books so I can see why kids enjoy graphic novels.

KELLY:  Did you deliberately pick something with a female lead?  If so, why?

KATHY:  Maybe I was influenced by the fact the lead character was a female but I would have read one with a male lead but they were in the categories I wasn’t interested in reading

KELLY: Did you have trouble relating to it, or conversely, surprised how much you’re relating to it?

KATHY:  I didn’t change my opinion since I buy graphic novels for the children’s room and I am very familiar with this genre.

KELLY:  What’s your favorite thing about it?

KATHY:  I  enjoyed the whole family dynamic, her sister and brother, father and especially her mother supporting her so completely.

KELLY:  What’s your least favorite thing about it?

KATHY:  I didn’t enjoy how her friends tormented her as well as the many visits to dentists that she had to endure.

KELLY:  Do you wish you’d picked a different book?

KATHY:  I was glad I picked this book.  It was easy to read and sweet.

KELLY:  Has reading this book opened your eyes at all to comics and graphic novels?

KATHY:  This reading has not changed my opinion of graphic novels.  As I said before I buy them to circulate because the children like to read them.  I buy stories which don’t circulate well, unless they are very popular like Owly, Bone, Babymouse. The real popular graphic novels are more comic book based like superheroes, transformers etc.

KELLY:  Would you ever have considered buying a comic book or graphic novel for yourself before this experiment?

KATHY:  I won’t be reading more graphic novels.  This was a change of pace but it is not what I am interested for my personal reading. I am not interested in graphic novels because I prefer to supply my own pictures when I read novels.  So since my interest is words not pictures I don’t think graphic novels are for me.

KELLY: Thanks for taking time out to participate in Ladies Comics Project, Kathy, I hope I can get you back for the next phase.

KATHY:  Sure! It was great to participate in your comic book project.

.

Name: Tara

Links: http://gingercurls.wordpress.com

Book: Neil Young’s Greendale by Neil Young, Joshua Dysart, and Cliff Chiang (Vertigo)

Age: 25

Location: New Jersey

Occupation: tech assistant by day, cartoonist by night

Previous exposure to comics/graphic novels?: At a very young age I was an avid Peanuts fan (still am) and spent my Sundays reading the comics in the paper. By the time I got into middle school I discovered comics like Sailor Moon, Ranma ½ and Magic Knight Rayearth. Toward the end of high school I started getting into indie comics and as an artist I shed my manga style. Since then I’ve had comics on the brain.

Why did you pick the cover you picked? I picked Neil Young’s Greendale not only based on the cover, but also based on the title. Being a long-time Neil Young fan, I was drawn immediately to it, and of course, in my eyes, it doesn’t hurt to have Cliff Chiang doing the artwork (beautiful!)

I had only heard of Neil Young’s album entitled Greendale, but never got around to listen to it, when I heard there was a comic coming out based on it, I withdrew even further and decided to wait until after it came out to listen to it. Well, life got in the way and I never got to buy the comic, or listen to the album, of course, until now.

Now, where do I start? I read this comic in one sitting, and read it once more just to wrap my head around it a bit more.

It’s 2003, and America has entered its own war. Sun Green is a teenager living in Greendale, a town founded by her very own bloodline. Strong-willed, politically involved, Sun is what most people of any age would consider a hippie. She has a special bond with nature that all Green women seem to share.

Sun starts having strange dreams about her ancestors and questions begin to form and her search for answers beings. Apparently it was common for the Green women to leave, flee to the woods and never return. Soon after these dreams have become overwhelming, full of violence, death and a particular stranger dressed in red. The dreams, she could handle, but when she starts seeing this stranger around town, it makes her think and feel the worst is yet to come. Boy, was she right.

I didn’t have to look very far to find a strong female character, since this comic is full of them! The men in this story, though involved, don’t have the same presence as the women in Greendale. Oddly enough, I saw a slight resemblance to Neil Young in the majority of the men in town, including the mysterious scarlet-clad stranger. Not sure if that was intentional, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

The art in this comic is beautiful. I found myself looking through the book even now that I’m done with it, just to admire the artwork. I really have no complaints, only that I wish it were longer, that and perhaps the inclusion of the Greendale album for listening pleasure. I did listen to the album after I read it, and it fit really well, it wasn’t exact of course, most rock-operas turned anything aren’t completely verbatim. That being said, the writing was fantastic, I can’t imagine having to write a story based on someone else’s words, but Joshua Dysart seemed to have no problems transitioning from songs to narrative, filling in the details along the way.

So in case I haven’t been clear, or in case you all skipped to the last sentence, this is a great comic with a beautiful story, and I highly, highly recommend you pick it up.

.

So that’s it for this week’s installment!

And still more comments from ladies that they prefer to use their imaginations in prose novels than to have things laid out for them visually in graphic novels.  This is probably the most surprising and intriguing of the comments that I regularly heard for this phase of the project, and I think it really points to the importance of exposing kids to the comics medium early on.  I read novels like crazy as I’m sure many of you do…and consider myself a novelist (albeit still unpublished – curses!) so it goes without saying that I enjoy prose novels at least as much as I enjoy comics and graphic novels…and yet I don’t have the disconnect that some of these women report having when reading an illustrated work.  I think this feeling must just come down to lack of exposure early on, which allows them as readers to become set in their ways about reading – and for many it then becomes a challenge to read in a format that feels limiting to them.  Some commenters have mentioned that it doesn’t follow that television or film would not feel equally as restricting to these readers as comics do, since it’s the same principle (i.e. images combined with words) but I think it all comes down to exposure.  As children and young adults readers expect to use much imagination when reading prose, but television and movies have always been graphic based medium…it’s expected and learned.  With comics, it feels like reading prose to some readers, but it isn’t…so it feels wrong somehow…unless they were exposed to it at a younger age, in which case it feels natural.  All very interesting stuff.  And as far as I’m concerned even more reason for comics companies to take the younger demographic seriously…to court them aggressively as current and future readers of their books.

A huge thanks to all the ladies who participated in Phase II, Part Two and especially to Tara Abbamondi who provided me with the custom illustration for the the project.  I hope you all have enjoyed Part Two of this experiment and will come back next week for Part Three in which the ladies tackle everything from Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead to Adrian Tomine’s Shortcomings .  Until next week!

Update: Part One.

***FYI – She Has No Head! is actively accepting review copies of “female positive comics and graphic novels” for future columns.  Please get in touch via email (using the CSBG “contact us” button above) to discuss.***

14 Comments

[...] Part two of the second phase of Ladies Comics Project is up on She Has No Head! Illustrations for The Ladies Comics Project by Tara Abbamondi [...]

I’ve only read Persepolis 2, which I call the asparagus of comic books – good for you, but not particularly good-tasting. It feels more like something you ought to read because it expands your scope rather than something you’d really love. I know I’m in the minority with that opinion, and I would like to read Persepolis as it seems a bit more interesting.

I find it humorous that Erin didn’t love Revolver because she had to stop and look at the pictures. I wonder how prevalent this is among people who aren’t used to comics – the art is an integral part of the reading experience, and stopping to look at it isn’t a bad thing. The “narrative” in Revolver (and other good comics) isn’t just the words, it’s both. I don’t blame her, because it took me years to slow down and look at what artists are doing (and I’m still not great at explaining it), but that statement made me chuckle.

I think Kristen just needs to read Persepolis or Fun Home or dang… can’t think of it… what’s her name that dated Ira Glass. That just seems like a case where the material just didn’t quite suit the reader (though I personally enjoy much of Gabrielle Bell’s stuff). And not that you need more stuff to do, but it would be interesting to see which titles got the most votes for first choice even if only one person in the project got to actually read it (maybe you did that for the last project; I forget).

I always enjoy reading about the Ladies Comics Project, Kelly.

Da Fug – Lynda Barry.

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing as I was reading Kristen’s piece. And because Kristen’s my friend, I need to send her some of these titles.

Another great installment.

I think that you right about the comics industry needing to make an effort to teach its next generation of readers. However, I am not sure that they would ever really fill the same space a textual novel. More than one of the women surveyed mentioned that the comics they selected didn’t enable them to “get lost” within the story in the way they had hoped.

Sarah defined that sense further when she said that a graphical memoir was both voyeuristic and distancing. I wonder if that is not an intrinsic aspect of the medium. It can pull the reader into the point-of-view of the protagonist without enabling them to leave their own behind. That pull-push effect seems to be almost unique to the medium of comics and not easily analogous to the experience of reading a novel or watching a movie.

I am beginning to think that the medium itself really does encourage the peculiar emotional state that Erin seemed to find unpleasant. The reader is both hyper-aware of the details of the event depicted, but emotionally divorced from it. It suggests why (for example) war comics were so hugely successful. It also explains why outsiders so closely associate the medium with humor, since tragedy plus time (or emotional distance) equals comedy.

Thanks for your always amazing work. These pieces always elicit a lot of thought.

It could be that there is a stigma associated with comics that causes that disconnect between art and prose. In more comics-hostile discussions, I’ve been asked, “Do you read real books, too, or just comics?” (To which I reply, “My comic books are quite real, I assure you. You can touch them and everything!”) I read prose, too, but I love how graphic novels combine prose with art that rivals that in museums.

Traditionally guys are more visual and girls are more verbal, so that could be part of it, and early exposure would make great strides in bridging that gap. Most fellow comics-reading girls I’ve encountered started early on Archie or, in the case of younger adult comics readers, manga. The best thing we can do is smash the “comics are for boys” assumptions so many people make and continue exposing female readers to good content, not just what some consider girly content.

Lining up the pacing of the art and the writing is definitely a learned skill. It’s the same ability you employ when you watch a movie with subtitles. And there are people out there who struggle with those in the same way that people struggle with comics. But it’s learned quickly!

“A week later and with emails now totaling 654 plus a handful of gchats, texts, and phone later, here were are…”

And 1979 Semi-Finalist posts and 3 Chicks Review Comics (and even a guest podcast recently), not to mention reading comics, and…

How do you do it all?

(BTW, how’s the novel you were working on in November coming along?)

David Eric Carpenter

February 8, 2011 at 11:08 am

I do find it interesting to read about reactions of non-comic readers to reading comics for the first time–the idea of confusion of how to read it always draws me out the next time I read a comic. It is interesting to observe the process of how we process information that we don’t even think about.

My wife is not a comics reader, but she is geeky enough to enjoy well done movies based on comics (Iron Man, the recent Batman movies, and the like)–and to not look down too much on my geeky hobby.

I was proud to see my two year old daughter running around with a Superman shirt and cape when I picked her up at pre-school yesterday. She came over to me, beaming and announced, “I’m Spider-Man!”

I don’t care if she was right or not…just happy to see her having fun.

I also have to give a public ‘thank you’ to Boom! Studios for the kids line of comics, too. While she loves books of all sorts, she gets a real kick out of Toy Story comics.

I’ve really enjoyed all of this series Kelly and thank you for doing it! Seems like a lot of the participants this week were relatively familiar with comics but still lots of good stuff here and lots of comics I feel I should check out (Ross Campbell’s stuff looks very interesting).

As regards the “preferring to create images in my head” argument goes I have to agree it’s to do with exposure from an early age. As people have pointed out it’s accepted for movies particularly subtitled ones.

It’s weird cos I recently read Daniel Clowes’ Ice Haven and there’s a bit at the beginning where a comic-book critic character discusses this idea. While he says “the jury’s still out” as to whether comics are a valid form of expression I quite like his final thoughts on the subject which I shall now quote.

“While prose tends toward pure “interiority” coming to life in the reader’s mind, and cinema gravitates toward the “exteriority” of experiential spectacle, perhaps “comics”, in its embrace of both the interiority of the written word and the physicality of image, more closely replicates the true nature of human consciousness and the struggle between private self-definition and corporeal “reality””

I don’t know how if this is Clowes’ personal belief or if he is kind of poking fun at over-serious critic types but it’s a good explanation I think.

Incidentally Kelly, are there any of Clowes’ comics in this project? I think his stuff would be a pretty good representation of the power of comics for anyone new to the medium.

Also, I feel I should mention Gillen and McKelvie’s Phonogram. Obviously from my name I’m a fan but I do think it would be something that women would enjoy and pretty much a no-brainer for a music fan.

@Greg: For what it’s worth, though I like both Persepolis and Persepolis 2 I much prefer the first volume. I think it’s definitely a superior work.

I’ve heard a lot of people complain of a similar issue Erin had with Revolver – a feeling of getting lost or not knowing where to go, or stopping to look at images and losing the flow of the words. I think it’s really learned behavior to absorb them as one…

@Da Fug: Well…I actually think Kristen really liked Lucky overall…but yes, I’d definitely recommend Persepolis, Fun Home and lots of others (including the newly released Ivy!) if she’s looking for a non-fantasy/non-sci-fi, slice of life story by a woman. Though Lynda Barry is great, I don’t think of most of her stuff as having a really strong narrative flow…but that’s possibly just me.

@Mer: Kristen is totally on the verge of becoming a full on comics nerd Mer – send away!

@Dean: Thanks! I definitely didn’t mean to suggest that comics could or would fill the same space as novels…I think they’re very different things and offer different things and should be considered such – the same way I wouldn’t say film could fill the same space as novels or tv as films etc. But I do think they’re not for everyone and the more research I do the more I think that there’s a lot better chance of them being for more people if more people are exposed to them earlier. Totally agree with your comments about Sarah and Erin’s responses. So interesting.

@Stacey Radar: I’ve never encountered that kind of elitism – that “oh you should try reading “real books” if you like reading comics so much” perhaps because I’ve always been such a voracious reader of everything…but I know people who have definitely encountered that stigma. Such a limited perspective, kinda makes me sad for those folks.

@Apodaca: Agreed!

@Keith Bowden: Thanks Keith. To be honest? Juggling it all is not working out so well. Ever since I started working full time again my time has been stretched very thin. And with new novel revisions (final revisions?!) due to my agent shortly I’m afraid something’s going to have to give…not sure what it should be though as I feel pretty committed and passionate to all of it.

@David Eric Carpenter: Your story about your daughter dressed as Superman and proclaiming herself Spider-Man makes all this crap worth it David – thanks for sharing.

@JayPhonomamcer: Thanks! I always advocate people check out Ross’ work. :) Clowes Ghost World was on the list – and got picked – expect to see a review on it on Monday! Phonogram would have been a good option for the list – but I don’t own it. :(

Great stuff, Kelly.

So I put Smile in my top ten comics of 2010, Mer loved it and now even my mom enjoyed it! A lot of Telgemeier love from my family! :)

Yes, I LOVED Smile! And what made it even more special? When I met Raina at her signing at the much missed Rocketship, Raina and I started discussing Northern CA as we both grew up there. She asked me what town. She knew the town because of its short lived attraction – The Wooz (a human maze amusement park – a Japanese import). She signed my copy of Smile by drawing her Raina character wearing a Wooz t-shirt. Apparently she had visited The Wooz as a kid and got the t-shirt.

@Brian: Thanks Brian. What’s not to love about Telgemeier?!

Did you see the weird review she got on Amazon about Smile and “what kind of standard for our children”? Lots of fans descended on that woman to tear her argument (if you can call it that) apart – and rightly so – including CBR’s own Greg McElhatton. A few people (not Greg of course) got a little snarky and rude as happens on the internet, but the woman’s review really is so off base.

http://www.amazon.com/review/R2V467BP49BIO7/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0545132061&nodeID=&tag=&linkCode=#wasThisHelpful

@Mer: I actually tried, and failed, to meet Raina at last year’s Drink & Draw Like A Lady event…if they do it again this year I’ll try harder – she seems great.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives