Archive for November, 2013

Here’s the Thing – Sexism, Women, & the Comic Biz

Today brought another round of discussion on Twitter about “the issues women have in comics.” Because I have four daughters who love comics and have attended SDCC since they were five, and because they want to be comic creators, I lamented…

“I’ve always been vexed & annoyed about the treatment of women in the comic biz, but now… having 4 daughters, it flat out pisses me off…”

This set off a chain discussion on how bad it really is in comics for women and girls compared to other industries.

Which lead to this post.  Now, in case you haven’t put 2 and 2 together, I’m a straight white American male. While my life has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, I’ve always been acutely aware of the advantages that are present and available to me because of genetics and geolocation.  I don’t feel guilty about this fact, but I’ve always felt distinctly uncomfortable when I’ve been in situations where “guys talk shit”.  This was true in high school in the 80s when guys would insult other guys by calling them “fag”. It was true when I was in college in the 90s and guys would call a female co-worker a “slutty whore”.  It’s still true today.

I’ve been working in comics professionally since 1989.  On the positive side, there are more visible female comic creators in this business than anyone thought likely or possible “back in the day”.  On the negative side, many still have to put up with the kind of crap that was part and parcel of being one of the scant female creators in comics back in the 80’s.

The other thing I’ve seen over the last 25 years? The thing that remains as true today as it was back then?

You cannot make surface assumptions on who’s “safe” or trustworthy, because it’s frequently not who you’d expect.

Example I:

In the early 90s, I went to a fairly well known comic creator’s place for a week to join a group of “rookies” in doing a marathon session to help pencil, ink, and color 24 pages in 5 days.  The mix was 3 guys and 2 girls (in addition to the aforementioned comic creator).

Said comic creator was “known” for having “progressive” ideas about female creators… that they were just as good as men, that there needed to be more of them in comics, that they needed to not put up with shit from men… and the fact that there were 2 women on the team seemed to reinforce that.  As someone who had looked up to this creator for years, it was inspiring to see someone bucking the trend, putting his money (he paid all of us) where his mouth was.  As a group, we stayed up making comics most of the 5 days, catnapping for a couple hours, coffee on constantly, loud music, laughter. It made me think, at multiple points, “this is awesome!”  The book got done, and the Comic Creator took us to a sauna/spa for drinks and “to unwind”.

I can’t speak for the two women, but I was certainly a bit uncomfortable when we got there and I realized “Oh, we’re all going to be in this hot tub… together… naked?!”  Everyone else stripped down without hesitation, hopped in, started drinking and BSing.  I convinced myself I was being “uptight”, and stripped down hopped in, grabbed a beer and tried to not feel too self-conscious.

That ended when said comic creator lifted himself out of the hot tub with an erection, and looked back and forth between the two women before asking “OK, who’s gonna help daddy out?

My reaction was a simple and loud “What the fuck?!? Dude… what the?!?” as I scrambled out of the tub, grabbing at my clothes, determined to get away from this situation as fast as possible.  The Comic Creator lowered himself back into the tub, laughing it off saying “it’s a joke, kid lighten up!” insisting I mellow out and get back in the tub.  I didn’t.  I was too freaked out… I kept feeling like “I’m an idiot, I thought we were a team, that we were all ‘bonding’ over comics, but…

It was a January in Seattle, I had pulled my clothes on over my wet skin, not even stopping to dry off, and I walked to the bus station (a good 3+ miles) and went home, cold and wet and freaked as hell.  The entire 8 hour ride back I beat myself up… “The women didn’t seem bothered by it, why did you get freaked out?  You overreacted, you’ll never get another chance to work on…” Those feelings got reinforced when I didn’t get paid for the work. Further compounding the self loathing and confusion was the moment I ran into one of the women a couple years later and her first question was “why did you freak out and run off?

Example II:

Dave Sim.

Now, immediately, I know a huge number of people reading this are thinking “Oh HO! What did Dave do?!” Expecting the worst.

In ’92 Dave was doing a US Tour for Cerebus, and my friend Randy and I were helping him organize the Seattle stop.  There ended up being a scheduling conflict, and the majority of the retailers at what was supposed to be a “one day con” bailed in order to go to Vancouver or Olympia for some event where a couple of the newly launched Image creators were appearing.  Dave responded by telling us “Let every creator in the area know that they have a table for free, get the word out, fuck having 20 guys selling back issues, let’s just make it about the creators” Dave did that even though it meant he’d eat most of the cost of the ballroom that was being rented for the show.

So the show goes off with a number of local indie creators in attendance.  There’s maybe 100-200 people that show up to check it out at most. Not completely a ghost town, but not bustling either.  The end result was that Dave and every creator there ended up spending a LOT of time with each person who had something to sign. A lot of original sketches got done. No one was making money, but it was genuinely enjoyable.  I was sitting next to Dave when this girl approached with a portfolio under one arm. She was in her early 20s, blonde, and looked like a model. It’s no exaggeration to say that she was stunning.  She walked up, and asked Dave, glancing occasionally to me and Randy, “I want to be a comic artist… I love comics, can you tell me what I should do?”  Dave and I looked at each other for a moment, expressions blank… knowing all too well what a dozen comic editors would say at that moment… before Dave said to me “Tell her what NOT to do, and I’ll look at her art”  She looked puzzled for a minute until I started talking…

Don’t go to a ‘meeting’ alone in an editor, writer or artist’s hotel room, don’t go out ‘for drinks’ with the just the two of you so you can ‘discuss opportunities’, don’t go over to his house alone so he can ‘show you the proper technique’…” I kept going on, and on, and on as Dave flipped through her portfolio, chiming in with the occasional addition, such as, “Remember it is ‘not the way it gets done’ no matter what any dirty old man tells you.

After I’d gone on for a while, Dave started critiquing her work.  It was OK, definitely in the “beginner” category.  The classic stage of “Keep at it for two years and do these kinds of things, and maybe you’ll be ready.”  He wasn’t mean about it, he gave very specific, helpful advice, and told her before she left “If you want to make comics, make sure you’re doing it your way.”  I don’t know her name, I don’t know if she followed through and stuck with it.

Driving back the next day, Randy… one of the few people who knows about the hot tub story… said to me “You know, everyone thinks that one Comic Creator is such a nice-guy feminist, and Dave is such a sexist misogynist, but…” and I said something like…

Yeah, but fucking actions tell all.

 

The Homecoming Game – Part 23

Sorry for the long delay in updates. Been travelling a LOT for work, and also… working… so, here we go:
….. ….. ….. ….. …..

“We’re running out of alibis
From the second of May
Reminds me of the summer time
On this winter’s day”

- The Bitter End, Placebo

XV- ETHER

I arrive at the Hospital around 4pm. Einstein’s theory of relativity has been proven without ever needing to leave the planet. I’ve been back here less than 48 hours. I’ve been here for an unending, eternal lifetime. I sit in the car for a while. The car stopped in the Visitors parking lot, engine still running. Headphones blasting. Marilyn Manson is howling the lyrics to Irresponsible Hate Anthem at volumes that would induce bleeding in a lesser man. “Hey VICTIM should I black your eyes again? Hey VICTIM! You were the one who put the stick in my hand…” I’m sitting there. I’m listening. Trying to clear my head. Trying to wake up. Trying to blast away the emotions and that fucking internal voice that keeps chiming in. Trying to breathe. Trying to have just one more cig.

Trying.

And Brian Warner…Mr. Marilyn Manson… another one of us borne of redneck, middle-America. One who escaped, but still found himself haunted and fucked. Soul tainted and scarred by what he lived through as a child, he sings/screams out a possible answer. A baptism.

(Something to think about, at the very least.)

FUCK IT…FUCK IT! Fuck, fuck, FUCK!

I turn the car off. The ping… ping… ping… rings out.

Reminding me that my keys are in the ignition.

Reminding me of a heart monitor when someone is on life support.

Reminding me that I still need to call Elispeth and the kids.

Reminding me of sonar as it warns of something dark and unknown and wrong moving through the water, approaching with ill intent.

I grab the keys, and cigs, and make sure the headphones are in the glovebox, along with the remaining Red Bull I brought with me when I started out this morning. I check my jacket and jean pockets three times, making sure my phone and lighter and wallet and cigs are all on me and where I expect them to be. I haven’t had issues with this for years… the compulsive double-checking, the irrational, overwhelming fear that I’m forgetting something… but God or the Devil or whatever machinery causes the wheels of the universe to turn, thinks I don’t have enough currently on my plate, and really what is missing from this whole experience is a good old-fashioned bout of OCD panic. It’s been so long since this has been an issue that I don’t even have a prescription for Paxil anymore. I lock the car, even though it’s unlikely that I need to. I don’t even think about it… habits of protection and safety on autopilot.

The sun’s going down, the temperature’s dropping. I make a note to myself that if I stay here another day, I’m going to have to get another coat. My leather blazer is too thin. Ineffectual and useless in terms of keeping out the chill as the wind picks up and drives icy knives through the black cowhide into my skin. I start towards the main entrance, passing the glowing red sign that points out the way to the Emergency Room as I walk.

…..

I know this Emergency Room well. I spent my last night in town here. An unexpected, unplanned and melodramatic goodbye present from the town that had already inflicted a non-trivial amount of pain and discomfort on me over the course of 18 years.

It had started out with a simple enough plan. Michael and a handful of friends, gathered at the house of a slightly-older acquaintance (One who at the age of 20, was old enough to by alcohol in Idaho.) for a “farewell party”, at which my friends and I would drink. They’d toast and/or mock me, and thus we would spend the last hours of my life in the Valley in a drunken reverie.

That was the plan.

In theory.

I’m sure you’re well aware of the cliche regarding God’s opinion towards his silly little monkeys making plans. That night was a perfect example. Michael picked me up in the new car he had just been given by his parents in recognition of his recent graduation from High School. He, being the ‘responsible one” between the two of us… and likely in some small part because he wanted to show off his new car to our assembled cohorts… decided that he would serve the role as “designated driver” for the night. The term, circa 1987, meant only having a couple of beers during a party. The idea of completely abstaining from booze at a going away party? That was just crazy talk. Kid’s stuff. Silly babbling by uptight prudes who desperately needed to get laid. We were experienced partiers. We weren’t some “weekend dabbler”, who’d have a couple of wine coolers at a kegger and then spend the entire next week talking about how we got “sooooo wasted last weekend.” We’d done extensive testing. Experiments had been conducted with every possible variable under precise and carefully controlled conditions. All of us attending that night Knew Our Limits. Michael pulled up, and for some reason… even though she had never done so at any time prior during the previous 4 years during which I had done these laborious tests into the realm of alcohol, Pot and Speed… my Mom cautioned me, stopping me as I was on my way out the door.

Be careful” She said, her face creased with worry “I need you to promise me that you’ll be careful, Jack. Promise me.

I was confused and perplexed by her concern. While other kids got into trouble with the law, got caught drinking, having sex in public parks, got thrown in jail for being an intoxicated minor, or for drinking and driving, or… on occasion… ended up dead… that just wasn’t me.

I drank like a fish, smoked as much pot as I could get my hands on, and popped or snorted any bit of speed that showed up in town, but I was very, very, careful. I’d curl up next to a bush in a yard and sleep for a couple hours at 3am if I had even the slightest feeling that I was in a “state” that might lead to trouble. I was careful. I was cautious. I Did Not Get Caught. While Mom probably had a good idea that her son was no angel, I had given her no cause for concern over the four years in High School. I got straight A’s and B’s. I was involved in the Theatre and Art and Photography clubs. I was an editor for the school Newspaper. I had been voted in as a Student Body “Class Representative” for the graduating Seniors.

I was, by all outward appearances, A Good Boy.

I told her not to worry. That I would be safe. That I would probably just crash at Michael’s, and then come by in the morning to shower and pick up my stuff before heading to the train station in Spokane. I gave her a hug. I kissed her cheek. I told her that I loved her, and that I was glad that she was my Mother. She got teary-eyed, and I told her jokingly to “cut out the waterworks, sister” in my best Humphrey Bogart voice (which was, as we’ve already established in regards to my impersonations, pretty awful, sounding more like W. C. Fields) and told her not to worry, her Son would be coming home.

Safe.

Sound.

Whole.

12

11 2013

Outtake – “Alt”

So…

for the last 2 months, I’ve been buried in the world of script writing. One script for a TV pilot, the other for a feature film. I’ll hopefully be able to talk publicly about those two projects very soon, but that’s the main reason there have been so few updates on The Homecoming Game recently. The “final” draft of the pilot got sent out today. It’s been an amazing process… one that’s lead to me working on another TV pitch for a series called “ALT”. Here’s a sneak peak at the opening (which will give you “flavor”, but none of the specifics)

EXT. DARKNESS – UNKNOWN

Descending Bass notes RING OUT, two at a time, the next pair beginning just as the previous notes begin to FADE AWAY.

In SLOW MOTION we see the CLOSE UP FLARE of a match being struck. The guttering flame touches the end of a cigarette, smoke billows and swirls as tobacco transforms to ember.

FOLLOW THE MATCH as it is FLICKED AWAY... tumbling... a cartwheeling comet that is SNUFFED as it LANDS IN THE STREET.

The last Bass note of the intro lingers, fading for a moment. It’s barely an echo as the FULL ASSAULT of the song kicks in, explosively transforming the scene with LIGHT AND MOTION.

04

11 2013