Female Talent (in Comics and Life)

I was asked to write a blog on Female Cartoonists, and though my instant thought was “Why do they have to be female? Why can’t they just be cartoonists?” I kept that chip on my shoulder in check, and after a few weeks, I was reminded of why it’s important to highlight women in the arts.

Recently, a friend shared a link with me on The Top 10 Female Punk Bands. To be honest, I had only heard of a few of the bands listed. I had a flashback of being in high school and telling my older brother that I wanted to sing in a band. He said, “Bands with female leads don’t really make it. There are only a few good girl bands.” At that time, I could only think of Hole, which wasn't a good example because Courtney Love was married to Kurt Cobain. It was rumored that Cobain helped her write some of Hole's best songs. Whether or not that was true, there is no doubt that the Love/Cobain relationship helped put Hole on the map. Therefore, I had no rebuttal to my brother's comment. But after I read this article and researched all of the Female Punk Bands I didn’t already know, I thought, “This is information I could have used 10 years ago!”

I’ve been hit one too many times over the head with The Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K,” and I have yet to hear The Raincoats’ “No Looking,” or Liliput’s “Nice,” on the radio. In the 90s, the Riot Grrrl scene was at it's peek, but mainstream radio never played Riot Grrrl songs. I remembered... talented women often go unnoticed or don’t get the recognition they deserve.

Now that I'm working on comics, I hear people say, "Girls read comics?" and "Really... women CREATE comics?" YES and YES. And this time I've done my homework, so I can tell you there are plenty of women working in comics, all with various styles and unique voices. I'm proudly taking this opportunity to praise a few local Female Cartoonists I have come across in the Bay Area.

1). Biographical Comics: Maria Forde’s Marlon Brando
 Maria Forde brings the core of his inspiration into her book, as she goes over the sad and tragic aspects of Marlon Brando’s early life. She presents Marlon Brando in a more intimate way. The whole book feels so honest and personal, you’d think Maria Forde lived through Brando’s experiences herself.

2). Autobiographical Comics: Tyler Cohen’s Primahood, featuring Mamapants!

Tyler Cohen mixes every day stories with songs and playful illustrations. Her comics are about parenthood. She makes us part of her and her daughter’s adventures, but Primahood is more than a mother-daughter story; it delves into the themes of feminine identity and how it changes throughout life. Cohen’s work is accessible to anyone who enjoys a fun, poetic take childhood, adulthood, and the areas where both meet.

3). Fairy Tales: Karen Luk’s Encounters

Karen Luk rewrites Fairy Tales and Folk Stories with a modern, female perspective. Her characters are deep and savvy, providing the audience with a new insight into stories we have heard a million times before. The women are adventurous, are on their own fantastic journey; they are never victims lacking control of their destiny. Each story can stand alone, but Luk connects her characters through their challenges. She threads her stories together with her color palette, her fantastic creatures, and courage. Everything about Encounters is carefully crafted to bring the elements of magic and wonder to life.

4). Superhero Comics: Nomi Kane’s Chutzpah!

Nomi Kane knows how to play with genre and presensation. Chutzpah! stands out because of it's beautiful royal blue cover, and the yellow and red banner that titles the page. This comic has an appealing, bright blue ribbon laced around the folded edge: a personal touch that makes this comic even more inviting.
Chutzpah! is a unique take on the superhero story. Rachel, the protagonist, is a Jewish woman, who is dealing with her sister’s death. A psychic hands her a potion (a gift from her sister), and after Rachel drinks, Stars of David come out of her mouth. These stars give people the confidence they need to get out of risky situations. The point this superhero makes is “if you had the confidence to stand up for yourself, would you need a hero to come to your rescue?”

5). Dark Humor: Esther Pearl Watson’s Unlovable

Esther Pearl Watson was inspired to create this comic after finding someone’s journal in a public restroom. She appropriately named it after The Smith’s song, “Unlovable,” because it envelopes all of the tragic high school moments Tammy Pierce, a dorky but endearing teenager, experiences. Unlovable reads like an episode of Freaks and Geeks, but the scribbled line work creates figures that remind you of what puberty is like: painfully awkward. These images put you in Tammy Pierce’s misshaped shoes. Unlovable brings you back to those uncomfortable, heartbreaking high school memories, with some much needed distance and humor.

This is only a brief introduction; I can easily choose five additional female artists for each of the categories listed above. I can also think of more genres or styles to write about. But I hope this piece provides a decent sample of the different types of comics women have created. I’m happy to write about more female cartoonists because they often don't get the praise they deserve, because it helps to know that people you can relate to are creating meaningful art, and because you never know who might need the inspiration: a few lonely, teenage girls can use these role models to help them say, “You're wrong. Girls kick ass!” to anyone who might be misinformed.