One of the things I’m most passionate about reading in the comics universe are comics and graphic novels with a social, political or autobiographical thesis. The graphic medium of storytelling can be used to communicate history, personal struggle and triumph, political perspective and to encourage massive social change. (And, if you come to Comix Chix: Live! at NYCC, you’ll hear the panel discuss this topic in depth as it pertains to the women’s movement and women in comics.)
This issue of Chix List focuses on five important graphic storytellers who have used their art and writing to tell social stories bigger than themselves and to tell very personal, intimate stories of their own personal struggles.
Chix List #2:
Why she’s important: Ormes was the first African-American woman cartoonist. Her career began in 1946 with the social political weekly political comic strip, Patty Jo ‘n’ Ginger. Designed to counter the stereotypical racist images of black women in comics, Patty Jo (who The Slate calls the “spiritual precursor character” to Huey in The Boondocks) was designed to be a precocious child who directly addressed political issues of the time. Topics taken on with candor include the nuclear arms race, civil rights, poverty, McCarthyism. Whereas, the silent Ginger was designed to be fashion-forward, a glamorous pinup – directly contrasting the conventional images of black women as “mammy” frequently seen throughout mainstream media of the time. Ormes went onto create several more important comic series throughout her career which portrayed African-Americans, in particular African-American women, as equal to their caucasian counterparts. At the height of her career, her comic strips reached 358,000 households, nationwide.
Why she’s important: While Barry’s fiction work has always been avant-garde and mind bending (Cruddy: An Illustrated Novel is amongst my favorite books of all time, it’s just so damn WEIRD) her willingness to delve into the dark places of the mind in her “autobiofictionalography” is what makes her stand out as a storyteller. One! Hundred! Demons! uses multimedia graphics such as cutouts and watercolor to take on the personal topics of regret, abusive relationships, self-consciousness, the prohibition against feeling hate, and Barry’s response to the results of the 2000 U.S. presidential elections with humor, grace and gut wrenching honesty.
Read this first: Persepolis
Why she’s important: Satrapi is one of the only female graphic novelists to take on the important socio-politial topic of growing up a woman in a Middle Eastern, muslim country. Persepolis is set in Iran, shortly after the Iranian Revolution, in which the last Shah of Iran was deposed and muslim extremists took power over the country. Satrapi’s parents were Marxist revolutionaries, which gives her a unique perspective on the events which unfolded during the late 1970s in Iran. She takes on topics which range the gamut with bravery and wisdom, making the story, which is told through the innocent voice of a child, even more the powerful.
Why she’s important: For many of the reasons that Marjane Satrapi is an important voice in graphic storytelling, Inverna Lockpez is similarly important. Lockpez is an artist (painter, sculptor) with a long history of making art which is edgy and takes on social justice and environmental themes. In 2008 she collaborated with comics artist, Dean Haspiel, to create a semi-autobiographical account of her coming of age in Havana, Cuba on the cusp of the Cuban Revolution. The brutality and stark manner in which her story is told makes it one of the most powerful pieces of semi-fiction graphic story telling of the 21st century.
Why she’s important: Bell’s talent lies in her ability to weave the mundane day-to-day issues of life into a compelling narrative which both comforts and challenges the reader. All of her series tell stories which allow the innate humor of ridiculously normal situations to bubble to the surface, providing a whimsical look at a slice of someone else’s life. She’s a guilty pleasure, but deeper than that. It will be exciting to see what comes next from the 37-year old writer and illustrator.
Got a lady you think should be on a Chix List? Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your name and Twitter handle (if you have one) and a brief reason you think the lady in question rocks and I’ll be sure to include it in an upcoming list.
- Live From New York, it’s COMIX CHIX LIVE! (comix-chix.com)
- Chix List: Five AH-MAZING Comic Makin’ Ladies You Should Know About (comix-chix.com)