Thee Comic Column #112: She Makes Comics

She-Makes-Comics-Logo-Medium-660x880I’ve been reading comics for more of my life than not and since almost day 1 there have always been women’s names I associated as key creators within the medium. For me Ann Nocenti and Louise Simonson were first, Karen Berger was a little bit later. These are women who actively helped define my world by defining the books that I read, books that helped shape the interior landscape I then in turn used to define the world around me as I grew up in the 80s and 90s. Ms. Nocenti’s work on Daredevil and Spiderman and Mrs. Simonson’s work as both editor and later writer on the X-books were among the earliest comics I fell in love with preadolescence. Later, in high school, many of the key books and creators that Karen Berger brought to her Vertigo imprint at DC etched their way into my very soul, most especially Sandman. That may sound a bit overly dramatic but it’s not; in a very real way the person I am today has roots in those books. Comics have never been any different than prose to me, every bit as important as the fiction I love; every once in a while along comes a Louise Simonson, an Irvine Welsh, a Neil Gaimen or a Donna Tartt and an entire new wing is added to the ego-scaffolding that is, more or less, Me. To me, both comics and prose are literature and literature is food for the soul. So the idea that women may not have a level playing field in the world of comics when they are so revered everywhere else in writing is insane to me and perhaps a little bit of a clue that the comics industry isn’t quite as established or ‘grown up’ as the world of prose.

Or maybe, just maybe, everything we know needs to be re-evaluated. Constantly.

My ignorance to the topic of women in comics annoys me; I’ve always tried to not be the person who traipses through life, unaware of ‘how the steak gets to my table’, so to speak. So when I walked into The Comic Bug last night and my good friend and Drinking with Comics co-host Mike Wellman asked me if I was “here for the movie?” I had no idea what he was talking about. I was just out on a quick errand, had planned to run out, grab my books and head home for a cozy night of Guinness and reading. But when I saw the movie was titled She Makes Comics, and Mike told me a little bit about it, I knew I was staying. The fact that She Makes Comics was produced through Sequart, the wonderful company that gave us the Chris Claremont documentary a few months back, I was sold.

Very glad I stayed.

She Makes Comics is a wonderful documentary film that traces the origins of comics by way of the industry’s relationship with women, both as readers and creators. The film is edited and paced extremely well – Sequart and particularly producer Patrick Meaney has been doing this a while (check out his imdb here) so he knows how to make a documentary that disseminates information and stays true to its purpose without over-indulging in it. And Marisa Stotter, the director of She Makes Comics has an eye for how to tell a story and who to talk to. The range of interviewees here is impressive; Marisa goes deep into the history of the industry and shows how it led to the present, where it might be going in the future. And there’s tons of passion here, enough that I was inspired more than I’ve been in some time. Just seeing mapped out all of the pioneering women whose contributions to the world of comics made it what it is today and so directly paved the way for those creators – both men and women – that mean so much to me… well, it was awesome. Hearing the stories these early pioneers had to tell has increased my love of the medium tenfold, even while alerting me to some of the… shortcomings that the industry may have. Women like Ramona Fradon and Trina Robbins, the Friends of Lulu and, moving into the 80s, Karen Berger didn’t just get women into comics, they are comics, helping to define the medium as the juggernaut that it is today, the art form so many of us hold so very dear. I’m not going to talk at length about what these women did here because Marisa Stotter does such an incredible job laying it all out in this film, so I’ll just wrap this by saying I loved She Makes Comics, I intend to buy it and I think you should buy it to!

Go here to do so, it becomes available this coming Wednesday: She Makes Comics. Trailer below:

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Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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