Comic Non-Sans: Clearly the Work of a Female Artist

Honestly, I’m really not much on talking about gender roles in … well, anything.  That’s best left to people who are more plugged in to social issues than I am (which is just about everyone, as I devote the majority of my brain power to memorizing lyrics to 70s giant robot anime themes).  Nonetheless, as I am both female and a webcomicker, I find myself sitting panels about gender roles in fandom at more cons than I can keep track of.

For the majority of those panels, I tend to sit there twiddling my thumbs and offering the occasional “I know, right?” as my fellow panelists talk about reader perception, their fandom’s view of them based on gender (the artist’s and their own), and one’s difficulty being taken seriously creatively.  I had utterly nothing to contribute, because the bulk of my issues being taken seriously as a female webcomicker came in the form of people thinking ConScrew was autobiographical and wondering if ‘d consider dropping “my” boyfriend for someone a little less gimpy.

On a recent panel we did eventually, however, get into a discussion on the perception of what sorts of things female artists and writers turned out.  I recently finished the anime series “Blue Exorcist,” which was your typical fun shonen series packed to the gills with a variety of girls to match every possible “type” — one of whose combination of figure and unclothedness would get them landed in the hospital for simultaneous pneumonia and severe spinal injury.  But when I went and looked up the original manga, I was surprised … then a little disappointed in myself for jumping to conclusions … to discover that the creator was in fact female.

Ladies and gentlemen, I should know better.

My current collaboration is an amalgam of violent action and college life, with a predominantly female cast (including the protagonist and her ever-more-present foil).  When things are going normally and I’m not doing filler, I do the pictures and my writer does all the dialogue.  The aforementioned foil is a party girl.  She also likes to shoot things and wear as little as possible.  People look at our boy/girl creative team and think aha, well, the young lady can help her writer tweak the female characters’ dialogue to make it sound more genuine, and more than likely the gentleman has his own ideas concerning how little this character wears.

Surprise.  The sorority-girl-ish dialogue is written by a 36-year-old biker dude, and that tiny little evening gown that almost isn’t a felony in Virginia was designed by a woman.  And neither of us helped the other.  Why?  He’s a good writer with a good ear for how people talk, and I love designing off-the-wall clothes and consider “small enough that she can’t hide a gun under it” to be a challenge.  I honestly think people are more surprised by the latter than the former, as was the case with me and “Blue Exorcist.”  Surely no female creator would allow for that sort of oversexualization in a character, right?  To which my response is “Dude.  Sparkly evening gown.”  Probably not a particularly educated or academic response, but when I sit down to draw, that’s about as far as my mind gets creatively before I start.

I suppose in the end I managed to baffle myself a bit with the underlying concept of gender roles here.  I think that, even over all that, there is an assumption among some fandom sorts that all cool things on the Internet are done by guys.  (For example MegaSweet, who’s become something of a big name among MLP fan artists, apparently shocked a lot of bronies when another artist “outed” her as a girl.)  Chalk it up to Rule 30, or general fandom misconceptions, but contrary to quasi-popular belief we’re around, and sometimes we draw stuff that one might consider guy-exclusive.  And vice-versa; there are some guys out there who can out-cute and out-“girl” me on a regular basis.

I’m finding that it doesn’t actually bother me, though.  It gives me something to giggle about at panels and to gobsmack fans with.  It’s been years since I’ve felt a need to establish any sort of Alpha Female status among fannish groups, and now I’m just along for the ride.  Perhaps if it were a case of “Girls can’t” or “girls shouldn’t” it might bother me.  But when it’s a case of “Girls don’t … wait, you did?  Huh,” I can’t help but be amused.  And a little proud.

I just thank God every day that no one thinks that character is based on me.

Posted on November 1, 2011 at 01:00 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, The Written Word, Webcomics, Webcomics