So it’s time to come clean, I’m totally a recluse lately (and by lately I mean the last two years – ish). It takes a herculean effort on my behalf to go out and I generally have to be motivated by an incredibly impressive event, film, get together, whatever in order to make that herculean effort. Drink & Draw like a Lady (hosted by the generous 192 Books and organized by Hope Larson with help from Raina Telgemeier and Lucy Knisley) turned out to be just such an event and I’m supremely glad I dragged my lazy reclusive ass to it.
In addition to all the great women that I met, chatted, and exchanged materials with, the most awesome aspect of the evening was just the vibe - chill and relaxed, inspirational and encouraging, all at once. I realized, standing there, surrounded by women interested in and/or involved in comics, that I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a room filled to the brim solely with women before – let alone women interested in the same kinds of things I’m interested in – comics! It was at once empowering and comforting to be in the company of all those women, and an experience I’ll not soon forget.
There was no bitterness or competitive back biting (or negligee-clad pillow fights) as most Hollywood movies lead you to believe would naturally occur in such a situation. Instead I saw women of all shapes, sizes, colors, ethnicities, and backgrounds just completely jazzed about meeting each other (or seeing each other again) and sharing mini-comics, business cards, and even original art. It was just awesome.
The group was a mix of everything from industry professionals like the aforementioned Hope Larson, Raina Telgemeier, and Lucy Knisley to students just getting started and everyone in-between.
There were apparently rumblings last year that it was unfair to exclude men from the event – and I suppose there’s a fair point there – but it’s hard to argue against women trying their best to reach out and establish a support system for other women in comics. It’s a male-dominated medium as we all know, and I think we’ve got to do all we can to nurture these women. I know for several of the students I talked to it was a surprising and inspiring turnout of women for them to behold, a feat that gave them confidence that there was room for them in comics. And I can’t think of a better reaction than that. While the event did remain women-only, there were several funny 'no men allowed' moments - the first of which occurred when I was outside taking pictures before I went in, when a group of guys outside had a conversation that went roughly like this:
guy 1: "Ohmigod. It's ALL women in there."
guy 2: "How do we get in there?!"
guy 3: "What is going on? I have to know!"
Not long after discovering the door they also found the sign noting that the bookstore was closed for a private event, but there was much speculation as they walked away. Later on, while I was standing near the front door (which was open now as it was pretty warm inside), a young man walked in with a huge smile on his face (the kind of smile that said he liked his odds), he was nicely turned around not long after he came in, but he had a good sense of humor about it, though his smile was slightly diminished. Later a woman brought a man in with her, and though he looked a bit intimidated, he seemed committed to mingling. He too, in fairness, was scooted back out not long after coming inside. I'm not generally crazy about things being exclusionary...but there was something about creating that completely safe and positive space that was really wonderful. It's not a bad thing to get women with the same interests together and show them how many others like them are out there...and that whole message would have been lost in a mixed gender party. It still would have been an awesome event with men and women...but the message, the point, the focus, and mostly the results I think, would have been different. I don't think I would have seen the same confidence, especially in some of those young students if the party had been a mix of men and women, instead many students and newcomers walked away with a real sense of built-in community. A place where they couldn't have been more included, as opposed to excluded, which is how comics can often feel for women.
Some favorites for the night:
Favorite business card I picked up? Artist Tara O’Connor’s adorable mini business card from Moo, had maximum impact in a tiny package. A great illustration with lovely desaturated colors. Additionally, I got to meet O'Connor's fiance, Paul Abbamondi after the event and want to link to his fun superhero webcomic, Supertown because I love men that do comics too (I do, really I do!).
And while we're talking about the mens, I wanted to mention a great article that I read on Jezebel last week by writer Mike Adamick, all about his changing attitudes towards material now that he has a daughter. His personal piece really reminded me of a lot of you guys that have commented, or reached out to me via email - long time comic fans since you were kids, who have slowly found your ideas changing - things that you wouldn't have thought twice about as kids, or younger men - suddenly have a different meaning now that you are fathers and husbands. I find it incredibly encouraging for the comics medium (and hopefully other mediums as well) - almost as encouraging as I found the huge crew of enthusiastic young ladies at the event on Friday. Change takes time, but it's impossible not to feel like it's really starting to happen when I go to an event like that in the same week that I read a piece like Adamick's.
Favorite material I walked away with? An adorable (and funny) mini-comic called A Quiche Divided by Ami
Bogin. A Quiche Divided is a cute and humorous slice of life comic starring a hedgehog and a fox (standing in for Ami and her boyfriend Mike). You can see more of her webcomics (which update every Tuesday and Thursday) at The Glass Urchin.
Most interesting new person/project? I had a great conversation with Kristen Dolle, founder of Pink Brick House – a company about the future of women in media. Pink Brick House is still just starting up, but the fact that Dolle was at Drink & Draw Like A Lady, tells me that she’s certainly on the right track towards making Pink Brick House a powerhouse in the arena of women in media. I’ll be keeping an eye out for future developments with PBH.
Best Fangirl moment: This was a tie as I was equally delighted to meet both Lucy Knisley and Heidi MacDonald.
Knisley, is an indie creator I’ve lately become a huge fan of, from her pitch perfect Doc Ock piece in Girl Comics #1 that I talked about recently here, to her latest book French Milk (which I’m reading now) to her excellent webcomic - Stop Paying Attention, I think she’s absolutely one of the best female comics creators out there right now – incredibly insightful and bringing a hell of a lot of talent into the field.
Lucy Knisley and Tara O'Conn0r
However, as someone that has been writing about comics pretty seriously for a little while now, meeting Heidi MacDonald was a real “get” as I’ve been following The Beat for about as long as its been around and am constantly impressed with it. I was recently extra inspired by MacDonald’s bold move to take The Beat out on her own - a risk that seems to be paying off wonderfully thus far. I had a brief ‘talking shop’ conversation with MacDonald that really made me feel like I’d finally “made it as a comics professional” - when Heidi MacDonald knew who I was when I mentioned this column - I felt like I’d truly arrived. Thanks for that moment Heidi!
Overall the group was perhaps not surprisingly, quite young, which while it seems a bit sad (where are the badass older generations that have been helping pave the way all this time?!) it did give me much hope for the future of comics – it’s clear young women are out there – involved and ready to commit to this medium in powerful numbers. And that, for my money, is one of the best ways to keep us on this road towards inclusion and more female positivity in all forms for this medium that I so love.
If you missed this year’s pre-MoCCA Fest DDLL (called DDLL East), then try your best to check out DDLL West if you're a lady and you happen to be on the west coast for the 2010 Stumptown Comics Fest. DDLL West is on Friday April 23rd, 2010, 7:30pm to Midnight at The Secret Society, 116 NE Russell Street, Portland, OR.
There’s also a great interview with Hope Larson and Raina Telegmeier about both their current work and the Drink & Draw Like A Lady event on The Beat, I urge you to check it out.