Friends of Lulu, the all-volunteer organization founded to "promote and encourage female readership and participation in the comic book industry," has certainly had its troubles this year, but it looked like president Valerie D'Orazio had things back on track with an interim Board of Directors and the opening of voting for the Friends of Lulu awards. (Full disclosure: I was a judge for last year's FoL awards and was asked to cast a tie-breaker vote for this year's nominees, although I did not do so.)
The nominations raised some eyebrows, however, because male creator Von Allan was nominated for the Kim Yale Newcomer Award. D'Orazio defended the nomination, stating that there is nothing in the rules that disqualifies men, although at The Beat, Heidi MacDonald unearthed some evidence to the contrary. It gets weirder, actually, if you look at the full list: Marla Levesque, a character in Allan's The Road to God Knows, was nominated for Best Female Character, the book was nominated for Lulu of the Year, and his
assistant was nominated for the Woman of Distinction category. To sum up: Von Allan or a direct connection was nominated for four of the seven Lulu awards. and his assistant was nominated in a category that also includes Peggy Burns and Francoise Mouly. Edit: Boswell is actually the editor of the book, so I'm withdrawing my objection to that.
Diana Nock also gets four nominations. One could argue that at least she's female, but it seems rather odd to have the same creator on the lists for both Newcomer of the Year and The Female Cartoonists Hall of Fame. To her credit, Nock has graciously asked her readers to vote for someone else for the Hall of Fame category.
There are some other WTF? nominations on the list. Nominations for the Leah Adezio Award for Best Kid-Friendly Work include Roger Langridge's The Muppet Show Comic Book: The Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson and Art Balthazar and Franco Aureliani's Tiny Titans. These are fine comics, to be sure, but they don't put girls and women front and center the way that, say, Babymouse (which is also on the list) does. Unlike in previous years, where the nominations were proposed by judges, the nominations this year came from the general public, so there is definitely a random quality to them, with well known franchises sharing space with comics that even I never heard of.
Arguing about award nominations is part of the fun—one could even say it's part of the point, because it gets people discussing the work—but D'Orazio lashed out at critics yesterday:
But as much as I have been hurt by some men in this industry, I'm not going to front an organization that does things like removes male comic creators from ballots. I don't want to be a part of a philosophy that believes that the solution to gender discrimination is more gender discrimination.
D'Orazio also voiced her frustration with members and professionals who have critiqued the organization without actually doing any work.
You know all those highly concerned former members that are having a public conniption fit over the fact that a man might win "best new talent?" Why aren't they equally as concerned about keeping Lulu going so there can still BE a "best new talent" award to give? Nobody's contacted me and said: "Friends of Lulu is SO important to me, how can I get involved again to keep it going?" Not one of these damn people publicly lamenting over FoL's apparent demise has offered as much as a fingernail to keep it going. You can be sure that before I take the steps to close FoL, I will post every single one of their names and say that they didn't do squat to help me save it. I'll post their Tweets and blog posts and comments regarding what a horrible human being I am for finally letting FoL go, and next to each I will write in red letters: "Did not do anything to save Friends of Lulu."
Indeed, as Johanna Draper Carlson observed at Comics Worth Reading, running an all-volunteer organization is difficult. D'Orazio has announced her resignation from FoL in order to form a new organization, Comics Are For Everyone, and Carlson thinks the future looks dim for FoL:
The group’s ability to agitate for change has been diminished through this last leader’s tenure and the corresponding loss of visibility, and simply recouping the lost ground, let alone forging a new future, may be too much for a loose volunteer coalition. It depends on finding the right leadership, and so the first thing (I think) is for the group to clarify that question going forward.