When I saw an item about a new book in TwoMorrows Modern Masters from Paolo Rivera in my feed I thought “Oh cool! Rivera is such a good artist. “And then I wondered “Have they ever put out a books with a female artist?” These one volume career retrospectives are an attractive series of interviews and art reprints of significant creators. It’s a nice series, but clearly one with a very old fashioned agenda.
And on reading Johanna Draper Carlson’s post on the matter, I see her point was the exact same one:
Every time I mention one of these books, I also feel the need to point out that, while they’re covering young Marvel creators, they haven’t yet found a woman artist they either consider a master or one who’s willing to be part of the effort. I would really love to see a series entry about Kate Beaton, for instance, or Jill Thompson or Colleen Doran or Ramona Fredon (who would be more in keeping with their audience). That’s just a few who come to mind, focusing on those known to the comic shops.
All this just means that there’s no reason for me to read these books. I’m not their audience, and they seem to have found enough people who are that they’ve put out this many entries in the series. If you like the featured artist, it’s a nice way to get more examples of his work and artistic process, particularly when the books go on sale for under $10, as they are now.
Besides Rivera, other recent Modern Masters include Cliff Chiang, Eric Powell, Mark Buckingham, Frazer Irving and Ron Garney, wonderful artists all. But hardly a line-up of unassailable talents that no woman could ever aspire to. I once asked one of the TwoMorrow’s editors when they were going to do a book about a female cartoonist. He looked a little pained and said “Well, we’ve been trying to do one on Jill Thompson.”
So many times when I ask about some area where women are excluded I get one of the following answers:
Well we asked Gail Simone but she couldn’t do it.
Well we asked Colleen Doran but she couldn’t do it.
Well we asked Jill Thompson but she couldn’t do it.
Well we asked Amanda Conner but she couldn’t do it.
The TwoMorrow’s line of publications is excellent for what it is, a series aimed at older male superhero collectors, and I’m not saying that Julie Doucet should have been Volume 2 of the series. While the Rivera book is #30 in the series, it’s the 29th to be published (#24, featuring Darwyn Cooke has been postponed indefinitely.) I could probably come up with 100 people who should be included in a series on comic book artists called “Modern Masters.” But this line-up of 29 artists is a pretty clear example of the kind of “fan canon” thinking that has ruled comics for the last 40-50 years. I’m sure someday there will be a volume that focuses on a woman artist. Let’s be more Polly Positive’s and try to guess who it might be. Fiona Staples? Ramona Fradon? Carla Speed McNeil? Or maybe even, Jill Thompson!
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.