One thing that really stood out to me about the She Makes Comics Netflix documentary was really how many women were involved in the comics industry. For example, I didn’t know that Vertigo was founded by a woman, especially since so many of the comics that I read and appreciate, and since so many important ones, have come out of that label. Another things that I new a little about but didn’t realize how deeply it affected women’s involvement in comics was the comics code. Hearing the fact that before the comics code, there had been more women readership than men was pretty astounding to me, especially based on the way the comics community can sometimes present itself now. Furthermore, the sort of live action reenactment of being a woman in a comic shop really rang true to me, and that sort of unwelcomeness from men in the community is something that I have definitely experienced.
Watching this documentary did leave me with some questions, however. It seemed to me that the comics code did more that just regulate things that were deemed ‘inappropriate’ within comics, but also wound up forcing out many comics that were more geared towards women and other groups. Could this be seen as an intentional aspect to the comics code, or just an unfortunate side effect? If intentional, how did it affect underground women comic makers? With the women involved in It Ain’t Me Babe nearly getting arrested for their work, it would seem that these effects were, if not intentional, at least embraced and enforced by law enforcement. Do we see the criminalizing of radical women’s comics reverberating and carrying into today, after the comics code?
I really enjoyed this article because of the way it worked around an idea to come to a conclusion. When it started with saying that the superhero paradigm is an inherently white male one, I was a little worried about the attitude it would take. However, Lamb’s comments rang true to me, especially that the notion of heroism that superheroes depend on is not a thing that can translate across race and gender because of the fact that it is entrenched so wholly and consciously positioned in white-man-ness. One thing that I think could have been a little more clearly stated, and that I think was one of the writers main points, was that to simply race bend or gender bend, or even to create a non-white non-male superhero, does not do justice to the character or to the people the character is striving to represent because of the paradigm that superheroes adhere to. This becomes difficult, because the goal in creating non-white non-male characters within super hero comics is to do justice to representation.
While I understand what this writer is saying, and can see the reverberations within media, the notion of an inherently white boy superhero is leaving me with a fair amount of questions. With the success of movies like Black Panther, a superhero which has done incredibly well, how do we classify this type of representation? I feel as though it can only be construed in a positive light, but are there ways in which it fits into the “white-superhero” paradigm? If the superhero paradigm does not do justice to non-male non-white characters, how do we create something with a comparable weight that does justice to these character and unique situations? Perhaps this contributes to the prevalence of nonfiction work, or autobiographical work, by people who do not fit into this box?
I thought that it was both interesting and productive that this reading not only presented a problem that I had not previously considered – the marginality and lack of representation in information sciences – as well as attempting to provide a potential solution to that problem. By starting the article with showing how the marginalization of information caused difficulty in representing the lgbtq experience and created a distrust of the system by the community was, to me, a very apt way for illustrating a real problem I and others have seen within other instances. Furthermore, I was worried with the way some of the proposed solutions seemed to be going that this article would place the whole burden of obtaining representation on the marginalized people. I was pleased, however, to read the author argue for proactivity on the part of information sciences, and to do so by looking at the spaces lgbtq people have already worked on creating for themselves. If the goal of the information sciences is to further community involvement and participation in their work, what better way to get to that point that looking at communities where active participation in story creation and preservation is already taking place.
In terms of this setting being webcomics, I was very intrigued. While I do read comics, webcomics are not really a form I am particularly familiar with. Reading about how “Jocelyn Samara, creator of Rain, has clearly inserted her own experiences into the comic, as well as reached out to fans and asked them to share their experiences in order to shape the direction of the series” to me harked a little back to some of the fiction-ish autobiographies we read in class. However, I think that the community involvement is a truly unique development. The article did mention that this type of participatory community art thing did exist in part before the internet, and is stronger in many different types of media now because of the internet. However, I have yet to see something like what seems to be happening in Rain. To include the personal experiences of readers within the story, as well as personal stories of the writer, may not be striving for authenticity in the same way as the autobiography stories we read — they strove to achieve an authentic self-story — but rather seems to be trying to achieve an authentic story of a people. In taking the different experiences of these people and putting them into one story seems to me to almost reference the idea of an oral history more than traditional comics, in the way that it becomes a preservation of ideas and events in the way fiction and simple autobiography cannot do. I guess this is why the participatory story telling of the webcomic is of such value to information sciences — it has become, to a degree, and information science in itself.
When I first started reading this, I was a little worried that it would attempt to posit women’s liberation and progress as dependent upon their embrace of their sexuality in a way that focused almost exclusively on the body and seemingly heteronormative relationships. I was pleased that it did not. While there are some things the chapter said that I would say don’t necessarily need to be grouped in the ‘erotic,’ I liked how Lorde defined erotic and how she focused on the idea that women need to find intrinsic fulfillment in their work and life. One quote I found particularly interesting was “for once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of” and how once this happens, women become “less willing to accept powerlessness.” I thought that this was interesting in terms of contemporary politics. I sort of saw the ideas playing themselves out via how a realization of external enforcements and standards would force the subjugated to look internally for senses of worth and value, that, to a certain degree, if your state, society, the people around you aren’t going to support or protect you, to do so for yourself or to demand that it be done is a revolutionary act. While this idea doesn’t relate directly to Lorde’s ‘erotic,’ this is sort of how I see it presenting itself or realizing itself, perhaps.
In terms of defining the erotic, I thought that is was really important that Lorde made the distinction between the pornographic and the erotic. In doing this, I thought that she was trying to say that pornographic is more in line with the external, or societal expectations enforced on women, whereas the erotic is originating from within. This was a large part in getting rid of my initial apprehension to this text.
Overall, however, while I did enjoy this reading, I found it to be more of an abstraction than anything else. I realize it was only one chapter, and perhaps there are other instances where this idea gets greater elaboration, but I would like to see more instances of application to progress and how this idea cold potentially situate itself within different demographics, etc.
One thing I found interesting in this ex is sort of how it seems to hold people accountable for the monsters they and their cultures create. This is specifically addressed in the last thesis, where Cohen states that the monster’s bear self-knowledge, that they ask ourselves to “reevaluate our cultural assumptions.” Thought this, and the section on mixed-race relationships being represented as the monster, this text made me think about was how I situate myself within this sort of “monster culture,” I guess. Like, as a mixed race person, sort of seeing the monsters our culture has produced as both representing the background that I come from, representing myself as the Other, while at the same time, representing the things that have been culturally ingrained in me to fear or to think of as Other than myself. I hope that made sense. Or, in that I think it was interesting that, even as a mixed race person, I am still a apart of a culture, part of the group that created these monsters based on cultural assumptions about “…race gender, sexuality, our perception of difference..” etc, even if those things the monster is created from is about me. In this way, the last passage of Cohen’s text becomes increasingly important, especially the last line: [the monsters] ask us why we have created them. I thought that it was important to read this as a mixed race person and remember that it isn’t just the people traditionally in power who need to question why these monsters were made, question what their assumptions are, but mine as well, in sort of a way to deconstruct the harmful ideas intrinsically held about myself within myself. Or, to acknowledge that that these harmful assumptions aren’t just restricted to those people who actively believe and act on them, but are rather sort of permeating undercurrents held by everyone, underlying ideas that require constant checking in and active questioning in order to overcome.
Writing my own autobiographical comic for the Lynda Barry assignment wasn’t the first time I’ve written about my own life in comics form – I did an independent study on drawing comics last fall and used a piece of nonfiction I had previously written as a starting point. However, for me, these two pieces of nonfiction writing were quite different. The piece I did for the Lynda Barry project was conceived as a comic piece, not translated into one from just text. I found this to be much more conductive to something genuine, at least for me, especially since there were less intermediary steps.
One thing I tried to do when doing the Lynda Barry project was think of my demons in a more abstract way, which I think is a things that Barry did. I appreciated this because I thought that it helped to get at the things that are a little harder to talk about, but I also found that this made it a little more difficult, at times to think/talk about them. I also found myself trying to give certain categories of things I do/issues that I have so that I could better address them. I think this allowed me to better understand the issues I wanted to write about and allowed me to better address them within myself.
Furthermore, I really appreciated starting more or less with just drawing the demon, and then integrating it into a comic. At least, that’s the way that I tackled this assignment. It felt more productive and useful to me to try and pin down that the thing was and then see if I could trace it through a narrative or potentially more than one narrative that I wished to address.
One thing that I found interesting was the way that my writing changed when I did write in this way. For one, the images I came up with when drawing for the autobiographical webcomic were not so much a story in themselves. I used less dialogue and used more caption type writing. It felt more like a diary entry than a narrative story. I addressed a lot more of my thoughts on and about the specific thing than actual events that took place involving the thing. The images might have shown events that actually occurred, but they were more out of time and place experiences and moments that came together to support what I was writing. In all, I found the Lynda Barry exercise to be a good, but different, way to start writing, and I would like to further explore autobiographical writing in comics.
I apologize in advance for any incoherence — it is late, and I had a lot of thoughts
One point of tension I noticed within the first chapter of visual methodologies was between the modern and post-modern idea that seeing is knowing, or associated with knowledge, versus the idea of the inherently loaded image. That is, “scientific knowledge about the world has become more and more based on images rather than on written texts,” and there is the notion that knowledge within the sciences is more of an objective knowledge, despite the fact that, in my opinion and as I think I correctly extrapolated from the text, images are inherently subjective things, the interpretation of which changes based upon the context of viewership. Even in things like flow charts and graphs, I would argue that the image is actively subjective in the way that it takes a stance. The image itself — and through the image, it’s creator — is trying to convince the audience that the information it is displaying is relevant and truthful, and it is up to the viewer as to whether or not to take said information as truth. In this way, I think this point of tension, this sort of crossroads, is good place to say that comics occupies, especially in so fat that the use of images as carriers of knowledge and supporters of information, when juxtaposed with the inherent subjectivity of imagery, creates an interesting platform for specific types of information and stories, such as personal histories and memoirs. If you have the image and story of it happening, then it must have happened at least in some capacity, even if only in the creator’s head, but at the same time, the subjective nature of images allow for what it is conveying to be more personal and personally relevant, more open for interpretation perhaps, that strictly written word, and also allows for potentially more personal connections from the audience. It is at this point that I disagree with the statement made in this first chapter that cartoons are useless without their captions. In my opinion, the point of choosing comics as a medium rather than something more text driven is because the story being told requires the visual aspect. Without the words, comics are just the images, but they are still sequenced, and they are still created in a way that allows them to still contain and convey facts/information while remaining open to interpretation and whatever baggage the viewer brings with them to the table. We as the audience are allowed to take what is happening within the visual narrative as fact, even if it is only fact in so far as what is shown is what is shown, or that what is shown is how the creator feels about the narrative, as well as understanding and dissecting it on a more personal level.