I have no earthly idea how many people read my interviews versus how many people read my columns. I wish I did, but I don’t. As I’ve often lamented, I write in a vacuum. If I do well, I’m rarely told, if I do badly, surprisingly I hear next to nothing then as well. It’s no big deal. I do not write for the recognition. OK, I’ll admit, when Phil Hester said he appreciated the quality of my questions after our recent interview I felt a certain buzz. I still get a kick when the e-mail bell dings and it’s from Todd Dezago or some other creator I respect. (God knows, on the other hand, I imagine the communal reaction to an e-mail from me is an initial “Oh crap!”)
Well anyway, thanks to ORCA’s Bob Stronach, Mark Dingman and Rick Olney, as well as friends like PULSE’s Jen Contino and CBEM’s David LeBlanc, someone started to notice my interviews. Why? Well late last week, Jason Brice of Silver Bullet Comic asked if I wanted to join their news staff. And, as the cliché goes, it was an offer I could not refuse. So within the next month I will no longer be doing ORCA Q&As on a regular basis. Periodically I may still do one, but if you’re lucky someone will want to take my place and do the job twice as well as I did. Time will tell. For some folks, that’s the bad news.
The good news is that I want to maintain a presence at ORCA (and CBEM as well), so I will continue to do Stream of Babbling on a biweekly basis, as well as the weekly O’Shea’s Offhand Opinions at ORCA. So my presence will be diminished, but it will not be eliminated.
A New Source for Fun Interviews
Lea Hernandez is a talented woman. She’s a busy woman. So busy we’ve been trying to do an interview for a number of months. It’s just not meant to be. Here’s the basic facts about Hernandez:
“Lea Hernandez is the multiple-Eisner nominated creator of KILLER PRINCESSES (with Gail Simone, Oni Press), the pop piss-take comic series RUMBLE GIRLS (Image Comics), the acclaimed Texas Steampunk graphic novels CATHEDRAL CHILD (Cyberosia, June 2002), CLOCKWORK ANGELS (Cyberosia, December 2002), and IRONCLAD PETAL (ModernTales.com, 2002).
Other works include Marvel Mangaverse PUNISHER (with writer Peter (SUPERGIRL) David, and the re-writing half of the translation team on 3×3 EYES and WHAT’S MICHAEL for Studio Proteus’/Dark Horse Comics’ Harvey and Eisner Award-nominated SUPER MANGA BLAST. She is also a manga retouch artist, logging 5,000+ pages, mostly with North America’s premier manga packager, Studio Proteus.
In November 2001, Lea was a guest lecturer at Minneapolis College of Art and Design for their wildly successful “Schoolgirls and Mobilesuits” weekend seminar.
Lea is one of a handful of women who has written and drawn a creator-owned comics series for a major American publisher–a rare breed, but not a singular one. Her previous credits include the anime and manga column for Wizard Magazine, artist for Disney Comics and Disney Adventures Magazine, Marvel, DC(TRANSMETROPOLITAN #33, TRANSMETROPOLITAN: I Hate It Here, The Big Book of Wild Women, The Big Book of Urban Myths), BRAIN BOMB, GT Labs’ DIGNIFYING SCIENCE, cover artist for Giles Poitras’ THE ANIME COMPANION, just to name a few.
In addition to her comics work, Lea was a vice-president in the legendary animation studio GAINAX (Evangelion, Furi-Kuri), a professional film-cutter, awning seamtress, and Nebula-recommended short fiction author.
Lea was born in Alameda, California, and now lives in Texas with her husband and kids, adopted dogs, second-hand cat, and rats.”
Oh and now she’s just helped establish Girlamatic.com which “features webcomics (mostly) by women, (mostly) for women. … It’s about good webcomics. If you like good webcomics, you’ll like girlamatic.com. And girlamatic.com will like you!”
So that’s all she has time for, right? Wrong, along with Joey Manley, she has launched the new weekly internet radio show, The DivaLea Show. Here are a samples of guests the show featured or will feature (from the show’s message board at http://www.talkaboutcomics.com/viewtopic.php?t=5671). Check out the show (or the transcripts at the message board). Sidekick Manley says this show is one of three that will ultimately air at the Talk About Comics website.
Chatting with Sequential Tart EIC Marcia Allass
(This piece originally ran in CBEM 421 [Rerun with my permission])
There’s a bevy of great websites and organizations supporting the comic book industry, but few are as dedicated as Sequential Tart, “1. a web zine about the comics industry published by an eclectic band of women 2. a publication dedicated to providing exclusive interviews, in-depth articles and news, while working towards raising the awareness of women’s influence in the comics industry and other realms” (as described on the website). Sequential Tart is celebrating its fifth anniversary and as I noted a week ago in my Stream of Babbling column, they are ratcheting up their outreach program efforts on many fronts. The most pressing efforts are plans to have a booth at the upcoming San Diego Comicon, for which they are raising money to make that possible. Given the upswing in their already busy schedule, I thought now would be a good time to interview ST Editor-in-Chief/Columns Editor Marcia Allass. Fortunately, she agreed and the following interview is the result. My thanks to Jen Contino of ST and PULSE (and former CBEM columnist!) for helping facilitate this interview, as well as many thanks to Marcia for the time (and quick turnaround on short notice). Enjoy!
O’Shea: What do you hope to achieve with the outreach program and how many of the ideas developed from ST’s efforts at Megacon?
Allass: Well of course we primarily want to achieve raising awareness of what is actually available in the medium of comics to those who currently don’t read them. We’d noticed at conventions in the past that there were an awful lot of women (and some men) who were only attending the shows in the capacity of ‘drag along’ (if you will pardon the nomenclature). That is to say, attendees who were either being dragged along by a partner, spouse, parent, or a child, having no previous interest in the medium at all. Also at the many conventions, we’d noted that the pop culture element was high – people who were fans of TV shows like Buffy or films like Mallrats were coming along to meet their heroes and having no interest in the comics side of affairs. So when we were offered booth space at Megacon 2002, we decided that it was time that someone seized on what amounts to a ‘captive audience’ and took the opportunity to prove the diversity and excellence of many comics which would probably be unknown to you if you were not a frequenter of specialist comics stores. Most of our ideas developed from that starting point.
Our secondary aim at Megacon was to address existing readers of comics who were perhaps not aware of the diversity of titles out there. A surprising amount of people stick to the ‘safe’ titles and publishers that they know, and don’t always realise that there is much more out there that they might enjoy. We’d rather people be introduced to new works than grow tired of the ones they read and leave the comics-reading audience entirely.
Our Recommended Reading Lists were specifically designed for Megacon with the idea of interesting people in comics titles based on genres of movies, books and TV that they may have a previous interest in. We had a great response at Megacon 2002, and spoke to a great many people who had simply never realised the diversity of the comics medium until they investigated our booth.
San Diego Comicon is obviously a much larger convention – maybe four or five times the size of Megacon. Since 1999 people have been asking us when we will have a booth at San Diego, and our Fifth Anniversary year combined with our positive experiences at Megacon 2002 made us decide that this year we *should* get that booth, and try to reach as many people as possible. We’ll be keeping the aims and the general program of Megacon for SDCC, and hopefully being able to expand our outreach ideas even more given the larger number of attendees.
O’Shea: It may be too early to say, but what are some of the “free samples of comics on the lists on hand for interested parties” Do you care to mention some of the more supportive publishers?
Allass: We had an overwhelmingly positive response from publishers large and small prior to Megacon – so much so that it would be impossible to pick out any particular one for praise, to tell the truth. We still have a good number of Megacon books in storage that we will be bringing with us to SDCC, and since we already know how supportive the publishers can be, we hope to be able to acquire free samples of most of the comics on the recommended reading lists by San Diego.
O’Shea: How were the recommended reading lists compiled and will they be updated from the January 2002 drafts (given the ever shifting landscape of the industry)?
Allass: The Recommended Reading Lists were a true group effort. Using our Staff and Editorial mailing lists we identified several pop-culture-related genres, and then asked people to send in suggestions of classic books to fill each genre list with ten recommendations. The emphasis was on books that were outstanding in their genre and that we felt would appeal to audiences unfamiliar with comics. We acted as each other’s checks and balances on this and the editorial board was the final arbiter where there were choices to be made between titles on a shortlist.
We will be taking our original Recommended Reading Lists to San Diego (the books that we specified on them are still excellent books – that hasn’t changed!). We will also have some additional lists with updated titles for the existing genres to highlight excellent work published since January 2002. And we should have an extra genre or two as well!
You can check out the current lists at http://www.sequentialtart.com/read/
O’Shea: How often do you find yourself disabusing folks of the misconceived notions regarding the motives of Sequential Tart?
Allass: Hah! Not so much any more, thank goodness. We certainly did run into a lot of that right back at the start – I even wrote a guest editorial on the subject back when Steff Osborne was the esteemed Editor-In-Chief. Initially we attracted a lot of flak for not covering exclusively or primarily female creators, despite that not being our mission statement at all. Over the years we’ve been tagged with various other suppositions such as that we are a hive-mind of jackbooted fem-doms looking to subjugate mankind to our desires, or that ‘they won’t approve of this comic because it has women in skimpy clothes in it’ or ‘they won’t like this because it has sex in it’ and so on. But I think in general people have come to appreciate that there is a wide cross-section of female readers at Tart who cover most every genre among them. We’ve always kept away from enforcing an editorial line at ST, as that is inherently exclusionary – we prefer women to use us to talk about the comics they like, whatever those comics are. I have engaged in a heated defence of Vampirella in conversation before, and we have writers who are fans of many non-traditional women’s comics such as those published by Top Cow, Image, Chaos, and Eros.
Oddly enough, the most frequent mistaken notion that I find myself correcting these days is that Sequential Tart was founded via the Warren Ellis Delphi Forum. I have no idea how that myth came about – maybe because a number of other publications *were*, and that I was a moderator on that board for a few years. Still – people are surprised when I explain that ST predated the WEF!
O’Shea: Do you think in a twisted way, Bill Jemas’ offhand insult of the Tarts helped make more people aware of the organization/publication?
Allass: I really couldn’t say, to be honest. I think we were pretty well-known already at that time, otherwise we wouldn’t have featured in his rant. To be honest, I categorise his remarks as ill-judged, rather than intentionally insulting. I’m very much a ‘water off a duck’s back’ kind of person about personal attacks or name-calling – and most of the senior Tarts were undisturbed by the whole incident. We addressed his remarks in an editorial at the time mainly because we had a lot of contributors who didn’t know who or what Bill Jemas was, who were somewhat nonplussed to hear on our messageboards that a major publisher was being apparently uncomplimentary about their morals in a press release, and who looked to the editors for ST’s position on the issue. But as far as I am concerned, that was our last word on the subject, because it’s not worth rehashing.
I’d prefer to think that people discover Tart by Googling for ‘good comics journalism’ rather than ‘dubious publisher humour’, to be honest!
O’Shea: For those, like me, who weren’t there at the beginning, how did ST come to be?
Allass: Well, Sequential Tart had its origins in an all-female emailing list set up by Steff Osborne at her Garth Ennis Fan Page back in 1997. We called it The Garth Ennis Estrogen Brigade (GEEB) and you may have seen it mentioned in some Vertigo comics at the time. She was feeling isolated in her reading tastes, and wanted to chat to other women who read genres and comics that were not traditionally considered to be primarily of interest to women. The list attracted a surprising cross-section of women with diverse backgrounds, ages, and reading tastes. We talked about comics, pop culture, life, and all manner of things.
One topic of discussion that kept recurring was a general disappointment with the very narrow field of comic book journalism. Some of us read The Comics Journal, others found that too dry and limited in not covering all the books they enjoyed. Some of us read Wizard, and were finding that it was getting increasingly childish and carelessly mysoginist, whilst also failing to cover all the spectrum of books we liked. And at that time, internet coverage was largely confined to news-only or narrowly-focussed comic or publisher-specific websites.
We talked a lot about what we wished was out there for us to read, and eventually Steff proposed that we should create our own webzine, on the basis that *surely* we weren’t the only people out there looking for an alternative, and that *surely* our tastes weren’t so exclusive that no-one else would be looking for what we wanted to read. A lot of people on the mailing list threw their enthusiasm behind the project, and with a staff of about twelve we launched our first issue in September 1998, a month after most of us first met in person at the San Diego Comic-Con. It was at the Comic-Con that most of the material for that first issue was acquired.
The name was a suggestion thrown out on the list by a woman who joined the GEEB list briefly before vanishing shortly afterwards – clearly she was sent by fate to gift us a catchy name that we all immediately loved!
Five years later we still have some of those original staff on board, and our contributors list has grown from 12 to about 70 part-time writers currently!
O’Shea: What do you view as some of the milestones in the five-year history of ST?
Allass: Every issue is a milestone! I’m immensely proud and continually impressed with the amount of hard work and effort that our contributors and staff put into each issue of ST – especially given that many of them have one or two jobs, a family, college degrees or schoolwork to attend to as well, and of course ST is not a profit organisation and our staff are not paid.
When ST first launched, I don’t think that any of us dared to speculate that we’d still be publishing five years later – we hoped, of course, but it’s wonderful to have those hopes turn into reality.
If I was asked to personally choose some points in our history that I have special memories of, I think I’d say our first anniversary in San Diego in 1999 – the editors present toasted our first year with sparkling wine on Mount Soledad at sunset. And winning an Eagle Award in 1999 and a Lulu Award in 2001 were also special events for me. I like it when the hard work of all our staff is recognised in that way. And I know that all the Tarts, me included, still get a kick out of seeing their reviews re-quoted in Previews or on comics, being approached at cons by our readers, or when we are asked for research assistance by respected broadcasters like the BBC.
O’Shea: Do you think the mission of ST has changed drastically over the course of these five years?
Allass: No, not really. Our core mission remains the same, and as stated at the top of the home page of ST. We’re still dedicated to working towards raising the influence of women in the comics industry and other realms, and that’s always been our primary focus. Providing a platform to showcase the views, preferences, and opinions of women who read comics will always be our main goal.
I see the outreach program as a natural extension to that. We have already raised the awareness of women readers in the comics world way beyond what it was in 1998. I think we have also gone a long way to changing some very restrictive notions about the kind of women who read comics, and the kind of comics that they read. It’s time for us to look beyond the existing readership now and towards women who have not yet had the opportunity to discover comics for themselves.
O’Shea: Going forward what do you (the organization) hope to have achieved with ST by the time of its 10th anniversary?
Allass: Crikey! You ask the tough questions! I’d like to be able to sit back in my rocking chair in five years time and really feel that we helped to effect a genuine change for the better in the comic industry, in terms of widening the readership and broadening the minds of those already reading. We’ve already had the compliments of being name-checked by new comics webzines as a pioneer, and of being often asked to comment when the issue of women and comics is raised both inside and outside of the industry. We’ve also won awards and been praised and criticised by many, many people.
I think we once said that we wouldn’t rest until there was as big a queue for the ladies restroom at San Diego Comic-Con as there was for the gents. I think most of us still feel that way, and our planned outreach program is hopefully going to go some way to addressing that!
It would also be great if in ten years time people look at us and see that an internet-based not-for-profit magazine can be consistent, and a success. It would be great to go some way to changing that perception we encountered in our early days of the not-for-profit webzine as necessarily a dodgy, fly-by-night venture that would fail immediately.
O’Shea: In the five years since ST began, despite the support of organizations like ST, a great deal of comics have come and gone. Can you think of any comics in particular that you wish were still around and celebrating an anniversary this year, but are not?
Allass: Oh gosh – there are so many! Looking back at our very first issue, I was able to find many featured there that are no longer around: Transmetropolitan, Preacher, Nevada, C.H.I.X, Hitman, Starman, The Invisibles, Young Heroes In Love, Action Girl, Deadpool …. Some have died a natural death as they were limited series, but others were cancelled or left on the shelf due to lack of interest.
Fortunately, I believe that comics is a medium that can always afford to be in a state of flux. At its heart it is a very mutable medium, and one that has the potential to be very immediate. And there is always new and exciting stuff being published to replace even the most loved book. I think that the variety of work available now is greater than ever before, and I also think that the potential for comics to gain a better foothold in popular culture is at its greatest in years right now. I have great faith that those excellent books that have been cancelled over the last five years will see the light of day again in reprints and collections, as quality will always stand the test of time. DC/Vertigo’s recent announcements regarding Sandman Mystery Theatre attest to that.