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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!

22 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve never understood the inexplicable joy that most comic-book creators take in continually drawing one heavily muscled person pounding the crap out of another so I’m not their audience either. But when I watch the news it seems that that is the way most people want to wrest control of their lives. Give me a book on Jill Thompson or Coleen Doran or Ramona Fradon any day., thank you very much..

  2. Yes we need to support woman cartoonist , and comic book artists! Please pass it around follow us on Twitter# theskullfamily thanks

  3. I collect some of these and have I have been waiting for one on Amanda Conner and Becky Cloonan. I can’t believe there are 30 volumes in and there hasn’t been one female artists.

  4. This is scandalous. Julie Doucet should have been on Wizard’s Top 10 Hottest Artists list.

    And what is the deal with people drawing faeries? I do not understand that! It does not appeal to my tastes! It must just be a way for people to–

    Kidding, I love Charles Vess’s art.

    But really, folks, TwoMorrows is not Marvel. There’s not much money or cultural capital at stake here. “Modern Masters” is a marketing term, not some genuine honor or award in the industry. TwoMorrows will eventually get around to a book on Amanda Conner or Jill Thompson, and then… this line of artist spotlights will remain vastly disproportionately male, just like its audience. And Kate Beaton and Noelle Stevenson will continue to do just fine, without the help of the traditional comics-shop crowd.

  5. Marie Severin! For cryin’ out loud. A comic genius, and she was on the foundations of Marvel Comics before Marvel was even Marvel.

    And Sara Pichelli . Modern and Master both apply.

  6. Charles Vess! Very cool. I’m sure you’re on everybody’s masters list. That aside, I think there was a drought of women in comics for a long time (outside of those you mentioned). In modern times, it appears that most of the women who are breaking into comics aren’t doing it at one of the big 2, but with smaller publishers or going it solo. I don’t think anyone these days will make any such claim that there AREN’T any women masters in comics, or that women aren’t ‘capable’ of producing such work.

    Here’s a name that fits in with the masters they have published (i.e., in the superhero genre): Sara Pichelli. She’s one of the best artists I’ve seen in years.

  7. Can’t we all (comics fans) get along? There’s good in every genre of comics. And artists of all sexes to be celebrated. Let’s not waste precious comics reading time fighting each other!

    Being a silver and bronze age fan myself, I own many of the TwoMorrows books, but I’ll have to admit, when you call a series ‘Modern Masters’ — well, you do paint a bit of a target on yourself as to who gets in this exclusive ‘club’. Unfortunately, to date, that club has a big ‘No Girls Allowed’ sign on it. I would like to think (hope) it’s because the TwoMorrow editors only see things through a certain set of myopic glasses — not because there’s deliberate discrimination there. But by doing so, they *are* missing out on expanding not only their own horizons, but their audiences’ as well. Hopefully, this article will get them off the dime and finally committing to the volumes they are “trying to do”.

    In the meantime, I’d like to recommend two books in my library that are still available about two of the candidates mentioned here — The Art of Ramona Fradon published by Dynamite Entertainment and Marie Severin: The Mirthful Mistress of Comics from aforementioned TwoMorrows. And for a terrific overview of the talented ladies of comics, also check out Pretty In Ink: North American Women Cartoonists, 1896-2013 by Trina Robbins from Fantagraphics. In fact, Trina’s written a number of entertaining retrospectives on women in variety of comics genres — and is a ‘Modern Master’ herself worthy of a volume on her own noteworthy career (TwoMorrows, take note!)

  8. Rowena? Olivia deBernardis? Julie Bell? There’s more to genre art than just comics work, after all.
    But if you want to stick to comics and be really daring: Cathy Guisewite.

  9. Well, ladies and gentlemen, a book has been put out that is all about Amanda, her art, interviews and even photos. It is called THE ART OF AMANDA CONNER and it was put out by Amanda and IDW. The book is a FULL COLOR hardcover and a better representation of her art than anyone else could ever put together, mainly because Amanda picked all the content and even designed the book -with the help of Joe Pruett . The book is available here: http://www.amazon.com/Art-Amanda-Conner-HC/dp/1600109500

    If I remember correctly, she was asked to do one of these Modern Masters, but she decided that having control of the design, content, wanting a different format, a hardcover and ownership of the publishing was a better route to go for her and it comes in at a whopping 200 pages.

    I own all the modern masters books and they are wonderful, but I figured I let you all know what the case was with Amanda and her work.

  10. Marie Severin?
    http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1044

    Yes, not in the series, but published by TwoMorrows.
    For indie creators, there is the Comics Introspective series. I enjoyed the Peter Bagge edition. (Looks like it’s the only one… guess it didn’t sell?)

    The biographies section has more of the Golden Age greats.

    But, yeah… The big names… they’ll get their own books, like Ms. Conner, Jackie Ormes, and Ashley Wood. [I kid!]

    One hopes, with the new “authentic normal” diversity, that there will be more academics and historians writing about the lesser known corners of the comic page.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/television-is-getting-more-diverse-heres-why-its-good-for-the-business/2015/11/27/8cc06fd2-8ee1-11e5-baf4-bdf37355da0c_story.html

  11. That Amanda Conner book from IDW does sound great, but I don’t know why there can’t be more than one book about her. If she doesn’t want it, that does trump everything, of course, but I think we can all name various artists who have had multiple books and other forms of fan praise/analysis done about them.

    Also, Nicola Scott seems to fit the Modern Masters bill.

  12. I’m the creator/editor/designer of the Modern Masters series. Heidi, it was me you talked with at the NC Comicon a couple years ago about this. When I started this series, everything about it—format, page count, price point—was designed in such a way that I could cover as many of the artists I wanted to cover as possible, most of whom I knew would be tough sells. I set out two basic guidelines: 1) “Modern” would mean any artist who came into the industry after Neal Adams (which is why you’ll never see a Ramona Fradon or Marie Severin Modern Masters—if you ever run into me at a show, ask me about the standalone Ramona Fradon book I did want to do), and 2) “Masters” needed to be represented by a large body of work—I set ten years of professional work as my minimum. When I started out, as Brian pointed out, the number of female artists who fit inside my parameters was pretty small to say the least. Looking at the names being thrown out in the comments here, I’m not seeing many that fit in those parameters either… yet. But I’m following Sara’s work and Fiona’s work and Babs Tarr’s work and Erica Henderson’s work, just to name a few, and I hope to be able to cover them down the road once they have a large enough body of work to discuss.

    Not that everyone says yes. As Jimmy mentioned, sometimes artists—like Amanda—turn me down, or do a book with another publisher before I have a chance to ask them. (And by the way, as much as I wanted to cover Amanda’s fantastic career, the book Amanda ended up doing is definitely worth checking out. Follow Jimmy’s link.) I’m not going to name all the artists who have turned me down over the years, but it’s become a pretty long list now.

    And sometimes I pitch a name to my publisher (again, I’m not going to name names, so don’t ask) and he says no. As Carl pointed out, TwoMorrows doesn’t have Marvel money, or even Boom! money for that matter. We are forced to be very pragmatic in our project choices. For the millions of fans who consume pop culture, there are thousands of comic book fans who consume comics on a regular basis. For those thousands of comic book fans, there are dozens who consume books about comic book creators. We are selling to a niche of a niche audience, and unfortunately that puts much tighter limits on who I can cover than I’d like. But I’m very excited that the pool is going to be getting larger and larger very soon.

  13. Well, as long as there’s a wish list for books about female Comics artists… I’d certainly add June Brigman to the list. She’s incredibly talented and under appreciated to be sure. Just sayin’…

  14. >> I’m the creator/editor/designer of the Modern Masters series.

    Well, let me step in and tell you that until you hit Heidi’s representation targets, you are a bad man who hates women. No excuses.

    If you have criteria, bend them until you hit Heidi’s representation targets, and realize that they were merely excuses for you to indulge your subconscious bigotry. If you have any pending volumes with male subjects, postpone them until you hit Heidi’s representation targets. Legal contracts are just an excuse for your bigotry, break them. Any objections to this plan are excuses for the institutional misogyny THAT YOU CAUSED and must pay for.

    If Heidi will not give you a specific number, then you may conclude that your efforts are not good enough and that you have failed her. Try harder. If you go out of business, then that is your just reward for the social crimes you have committed. Bigot.

  15. JRH, I appreciate that your tongue is fully lodged in your cheek, but I don’t think Heidi’s question is an unreasonable one, or one that shouldn’t be asked. And I don’t think she was suggesting I’ve intentionally been neglecting women artists (though she didn’t rule it out). But I’m easy to find if she ever wants to discuss it more fully.

  16. Hey Eric, thanks for stopping by to explain things. It does speak for itself that the number of artists who are a) women b) broke in in the past 50 YEARS (since Neal Adams) and c) have been working for 10 years can be counted on two hands. But then you see passive aggressive jokers like JRH who view any questioning of the orthodox hegemony as promoting social engineering and you realize how very, very easy that was to accomplish.

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