Valerie D’Orazio, the president of Friends of Lulu for the last three years, has announced on her blog that due to financial problems, personnel problems, and her own lack of will to keep it going almost single-handedly, the organization for women comics readers and creators will be forced to shut down in four weeks:
If by September 2010 nobody steps forward and shows interest in helping run this organization, I will start taking steps to officially dissolve it as a non-profit. Then I will donate the leftover money (if any) between the other major comics charities, return the donated artwork, and ship the historical records and sketchbooks to a University or MoCCA.
Before I would take steps to dissolve FoL (if it comes to that), I will personally contact a number of concerned parties via a mass email asking for volunteers to keep the organization going.
Johanna Draper Carlson, who has publicly sparred with D’Orazio in the past, and was an energetic Lulu volunteer in the early days. has her own observations and suggestions:
The women who created the organization in the early 90s were older, and several of them were from an era where activism was possible and had the potential to achieve results. In contrast, today’s younger female creators don’t see the problems FoL was created in response to (in part due to FoL’s actions) and thus don’t see much of a need for the group. These creators have more avenues available to them — webcomics, book publisher graphic novel contracts, online organization and support — and a formal group may seem old-fashioned.
A younger Woman in Comics, Comics Alliance’s Laura Hudson, responds as well:
D’Orazio says that whether her silence helped the organization is “debatable,” and I tend to agree. While I’m sure that she tried her best in a difficult situation, what would have helped the cause of women in comics most is what would have helped the organization most: a more transparent approach to their difficulties, and either a timely resolution of the problem, or a timely recognition of the fact that the reins needed to be handed over. Regardless, I’m glad to see that D’Orazio has made the decision to clearly delineate the financial situation of the Friends of Lulu and help it move forward by offering the leadership role to someone with the time and energy to make this the full-time job that it needs to be, deal with the serious documentation problems that laid it low, and help the organization rediscover its purpose and presence in the industry.
As the co-founder and early driving force behind Friends of Lulu — which has been around since 1993 (I think), obviously I have a lot of thoughts about this, which I don’t fully have time to lay out right now. I will note that I did offer to help Val with the awards — given my own busy schedule, I don’t think she believed me and never followed up. That offer stands.
Both Johanna and Laura are correct — the world that FoL was created to confront doesn’t exist any more. Women are back in comics as creators, readers, retailers…you name it. Even characters now and then. The ’90s were a period when women had been driven out of the medium, for the most part, even as it was a blossoming time for women IN the media, with Buffy and Sailor Moon, the two founding mothers of modern day Girl Geekdom.
As an old school Feminist, I don’t believe that anything is ever safe and secure, and we could go all Handmaid’s Tale at any moment. Examination and questioning of all aspects of life and art are the only way to understanding and progress.
Which is all a way of saying, I believe that there is a place for specifically singling out Women in Comics for their own little place. But I leave it to the new kids to figure out how, where, and when the tea party will be thrown. If they don’t want to party, it is their decision.
Also, I remain committed to keeping the Friends of Lulu Awards going in some capacity. If we can have The Glyph Comics Awards and GLAAD Awards, we can have some kind of awards for Women in Comics — although they are certainly winning the co-ed awards in increasing numbers.
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.