It’s been a while, so I’ve got a pile…if you are even interested any more!
§ Given all the recent violent incidents involving street performers dressed as cartoon characters, it was high time for the NY Times’ Kirk Semple to dig in to the life behind the masks. Turns out there are dozens, and they even lives in colonies….and cartoon characters don’t like superheroes and so on.
“Every day there is a new Spider-Man,” sighed a Moroccan Spider-Man who gave only his first name — El Houssine — because he did not want his family to know how he was making his living in the United States. “There are, like, 16 Spider-Men.”
Many of the performers live in working-class neighborhoods in New Jersey, a significant cluster of them in the city of Passaic.
“Next door there are five Elmos,” said Miguel Lezama, a 27-year-old Mexican, as he stood in the kitchen of a small apartment in Passaic that he shares with two other immigrants. He pointed in another direction: “On that side, a Cookie Monster and a Minnie. In front, a Winnie-the-Pooh and a Minnie. Up on Main Avenue, there are lots more.” He paused. “I live with a Cookie Monster.”
Of late, a few Spider-mans have gone rogue, prompting calls for licensing and other regulation of these costumed character, who hang around Times SQuare and pose for pictures in exchange for tips. Some of them can make a few hundred bucks a day, but it doesn’t sound like easy work.
§ The Comics Reporter interviews D&Q’s Tracy Hurren, who in addition to being a friendly face at conventions and a fine designer, has just overseen updating the D&Q website> she paints a chilling picture of the indie titans’ Montreal offices, however:
We have company lunches: we order vegetarian pulled pork sandwiches from the local dep and gossip and the interns walk away knowing too much. We’ve got a super strange cast of background characters that are constantly popping in — our super insists on naming his tools inappropriate things like “Mr. Nasty”; our DHL guy will only let Julia sign for packages because she’s so beautiful; we got too close with a mailman once and I think the last time we saw him he was lying on his back on the office floor; our tech guy Rick is too hard to explain, but he’s sarcastic and conservative and a real handful/hero and he seems to really like us all but I’m not sure why. Jade and Julia and I usually close up shop.
Sometimes Julia and I grab a beer after. It’s nice. Woody, Tom and Peg’s son, broke my favourite dinosaur toy last fall when they came over for a jam swap my roommate Kathleen — who is also our freelance copy editor — and I hosted and then he hid it so I wouldn’t notice but I just found it recently SO NOW I KNOW. Tom and I took French classes together last winter. We’d go for beers after. We both ended up dropping out but I dropped out first.
§ Cartoonist/health educator Whit Taylor reports on this year’s Comics and Medicine Conference and this might just be the best ever conference report. Taylor engages with both the events and the context of the meeting, especially as it relates to “applied comics”—educational comics on non fiction topics—which she discusses with CCS’s James Sturm:
I was concerned. “Look, I’m not trying to be a negative Nancy, but something’s bothering me,” I said. “What about the importance of artfulness? I feel like that’s a bit of a problem.”
Sturm did see this as a minor issue, but one that could be remedied by health comic creators better learning the language of comics. CCS was going to start offering a two-year MFA degree in Applied Cartooning. The curriculum would be geared towards those interested in creating comics for “fields outside of traditional publishing,” such as education and health care sectors.
“I see comics going down two tracks”, he said. “You know, I can’t compare my own projects to something that someone is doing for a public health campaign. That use is utilitarian. And that’s OK.”
§ Several people pointed out this essay by Kim O’Conner in which she takes the occasion of some Tom Spurgeon subtweeting as entrée into another discussion of why there aren’t more women writing high faulting’ comics criticism at places like TCJ. Since her post is at Hooded Utilitarian, it spawn a monstrous 180+ comment thread. Due to time constraints I did not read the entire thing. I was encouraged by Noah Berlatsky to post my own comment
in order to give the opinion of “a fellow woman” because he felt that “Kim’d appreciate hearing other women’s thoughts” but I’d rather, to paraphrase Ben McCool, stick my hand into a faulty toaster. I’m not a big fan of subtweeting, but then who is? O’Conner gets off some real zingers, though. Of the most interest to me is the issue of why women don’t write more. Is it because they are put off by the generally hostile atmosphere BEFORE they write, or the generally hostile atmosphere AFTER they write? I just can’t decide.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I was home schooled so I missed out on being bullied at school, and for better or worse this has given me a good portion of self confidence, and a strong belief in my ability to write and communicate. (Not that I don’t fuck it up half the time, I’m just saying I know I can write and I’ve never ever had one moment in my life when I didn’t think that.) I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone in a position of authority attempt to silence me, outside of corporate work situations, where my particular brand of self expression doesn’t go over too well. Maybe it’s just how I was raised to think, or when I started on the internet, but I always thought as soon as you wrote ANYTHING on the internet, people were going to argue about it! Tom Spurgeon and I were long ago members of Compuserve at the same time, and to be honest, the friendly discussions of where to eat in Burbank were just side dishes for the main events when someone would begin a flame war, which would often go on for days. And this was in a members-only highly moderated forum just for comics pros!
Online trolls are despicable, and they shouldn’t try to silence people, but if people are silenced by them, the trolls have won. Don’t let the trolls win!!! For whatever reason, guys online usually just turn the other cheek or offer their own burn; some women get upset and give up. We definitely need to stop that from happening, preferably by creating a WELCOMING, OPEN online society where these women know their writing is valued. And it is upon all REASONABLE people to work together to create that.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve never had trouble finding good women to hire to write. It’s getting them to stick with it that is more difficult.
§ Oh yeah speaking of all that, here’s a breakdown of Eisner nominations by gender.
§ And here’s an old interview with DC’s art director Mark Chiarello, who is not interviewed very often but should be.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.