Laydeez do Comics, Glasgow, 8 March 2015

The first Glasgow Laydeez meetup of 2015 took place in The Old Hairdresser’s. Having hithero met in a community centre, we were pretty excited about having access to beer. Our March speakers were Eilidh Nicolson, Adam Smith and Letty Wilson. Eilidh Eilidh’s comic Girls from Mars has the mission of depicting “trans people as actual people, not walking punchlines or drama bombs”. It follows six characters and deals with specific trans issues, as well as issues common to all. Girls from Mars issue 1 Eilidh showed us some of her earliest drawings, demonstrating there’s been transgender characters in her comics ever since she was reading Peanuts and Garfield as a kid, and making comics based on Power Rangers.

She considers herself more of a writer than an artist, but it was through drawing she came to terms with her identity as a trans woman – somehow with words, she was able to ignore that reality.

Similarly, with her work for LGBT charities where she uses material like the Hens Tae Watch Oot Fur zine to campaign and educate, she says audiences seem to “get” her message once they see visual imagery. She also reflected that comics are a great medium for her since she feels her writing lacks detailed description, so images fill those gaps.

Eilidh went on to talk about the representations of trans women she had to negotiate growing up – hypermasculine, all stubble, giant jaws and legs akimbo. And when she looked for examples of trans people in comics, all she could find was Batwoman’s roommate. r-DC-COMICS-TRANSGENDER-BATGIRL-large570 At first she chose to draw her own characters without eyelashes and with Adam’s apples, as she felt she had to mark them in some way with “tells”. Now, as illustrated by the Q&A at the top of this blog, she simply draws a woman – occasionally slightly taller, but that’s it. Some of the issues Eilidh highlighted reminded me of the historical depiction of non-white characters in comics, drawn in contrast to normative white characters in a grotesque and exaggerated way.

Eilidh’s talk was humorous and reflective, and it was inspiring to hear her say she’ll be writing about the Girls from Mars characters for the rest of her life. Having now purchased and read issue 1, I’m a fan. The drawing style is bold and iconic, the pacing’s great and the writing witty and engaging. Issue 1 introduces us to the back stories of various characters via the device of a group with a slightly bossy chair prompting members to reflect on their year. Follow Eilidh’s work at http://heyitsayls.tumblr.com.

Adam delivered an informative and entertaining presentation on the long-running British newspaper comic Flook, proclaiming it our Peanuts or Calvin and Hobbes. Adam Flook featured a neotic piglet/mole/elephant creature, created in 1949 and drawn by Wally Fawkes under the penname Trog. It ran until the 1990s, appearing for the majority of its run in The Daily Mail. Flook was scripted by several writers, including Compton Mackenzie, Barry Norman and Keith Waterhouse, but perhaps the best-known was art critic, jazz singer and bon viveur George Melly.

Flook was originally a children’s strip, with storybook escapades featuring Flook and his human friend Rufus foiling smugglers and the like, but after a few years, the strip grew more subversive and satirical. Under Melly, Flook became a stand-in for George himself, a dandy navigating a London full of sharp social observations and class stereotypes. bigflook Wally drew Flook for 40-odd years, yet he and his creation are little-known even to comics fans. In 2013 the London Cartoon Museum programmed a talk by Wally as part of a Flook exhibition. The turnout was tiny – smaller even than this, Adam said kindly, with a sweeping gesture round the room – even Wally didn’t show up. However the curator offered to put Adam in touch with Wally, and the subsequent phone interview led to an article in The Comics Journal.

Adam finished his talk by generously inviting people  to “discover” Wally and Flook for themselves so that he can get annoyed about it. You can read Adam’s full article here and read some strips on his Flook Facebook Group. (And although he didn’t mention it on the night, Adam’s own comic, Khaki Shorts, co-created with Rob Miller, will soon be collected into an anthology – like the Facebook page to get updates.)

Lastly, Letty of Panel Comics talked about how her identity as an asexual and aromantic artist has influenced her characters. After Letty graduated from the MLitt in Comics Studies at the University of Dundee, she formed the publishing company Panel Comics with some friends, and is currently working as an artist on several titles, including Cosmic, scripted by Erin Keepers. Letty Letty asked the audience if we were aware of any asexual characters in popular culture. I lamely suggested Sherlock Holmes, but Letty pointed out that Sherlock does have a love interest, and indeed Steven Moffat, the show’s writer, has said he’d find a truly asexual character uninteresting to write. Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, and Lord Varys, the eunuch from Games of Thrones were some other examples, and Letty commented they are notable for their lack of humanity.

Letty takes a more positive line on asexuality, saying that as the most important relationships in her life are friendships, she enjoys putting friendship rather than romance at the centre of her stories. An obvious way in which to explore asexuality is the autobiographical “coming out” comic and Letty showed us a comic titled What I’m Not that she submitted as part of her MLitt course. (One of the captions that caught my eye was ,“Asexuality Myth 1: You only feel that way cos you can’t get a date…” Read the comic in full here.) But her own interests veered more towards monsters and fiction, and, she explained, the fantasy/quest genre is perfect for friendship narratives – think Lord of the Rings. cosmic

Letty went on to speak about her collaborative approach to character design with Erin on Cosmic, which features an alien-human hybrid called Rinette. They consciously decided not to make Rinette white, which they found in turn altered the development of the character itself. As Cosmic unfoldsRinette will encounter an asexual human character and learn that not all earthlings are the same.

I love Letty’s artwork – her inking is juicy and lush, and the colouring makes me think of decorative ceramics and mosaics – maybe because of the earthy palette of Cosmic. You can see Letty’s work on her sites, https://lettydraws.wordpress.com and http://lettydraws.tumblr.com as well as the Panels comics site.

Blog and illustrations of speakers by Heather Middleton

https://heathermiddletonillustration.wordpress.com/

Laydeez Do Comics Glasgow – 12th May

Guest blogger: Jules Valera

I am a comic artist and illustrator and you can see examples of my work here http://julesvalera.daportfolio.com Fact and fiction came together in the second Laydeez do Comics Glasgow this month, as Heather Middleton, Sha Nazir, and Evy Craig stepped up to talk comics.

LDC Glasgow May 1

First up was Heather Middleton, Team Girl Comic contributor and comics historian charting the life of French cartoonist Isabelle Émilie de Tessier, better known as Marie Duval, one of the first female cartoonists in Europe and recently recognised as co-creator of the well known 19th century cartoon character ‘Allie Sloper’. While her work was often credited to her partner Charles Henry Ross and her signatures removed from works that were reprinted later when Allie got his own magazine, Marie was seemingly undeterred, authoring her own book Queens & Kings and Other Things in 1874 under the pseudonym Princess Hesse Schwartzbourg, and taking to the stage as infamous English robber Jack Sheppard in the French play Les Chevaliers du Brouillard. Heather talked about the difficulties of trying to track down biographical information on a woman who seems to have played many different characters at once, as well as the “sisterly thing” of women rescuing other women’s stories from being lost in history. (An example given was the recent collaboration between Mary & Bryan Talbot and Kate Charlesworth, Sally Heathcote: Suffragette.)

LDC Glasgow May2

Next was Sha Nazir of Black Hearted Press, comic artist and organiser of the upcoming Glasgow Comic Con. Sha told the story behind his comic Mega Penguin, made at a time when he was under incredible stress at the office. BHP intern Paul Hamstead issued a challenge- “let’s draw!”- and the two spurred each other on to complete their own short comics on the side. Sha described the process- getting up each morning and getting straight into pencilling pages before the emails started rolling in- dispensing with the usual stages of blocking and blue pencils. “It was like a cool breeze of calmness”. He compared it to the experience of completing 24 Hour Comics- a stretch to see what you’re capable of under pressure, a reminder of what you can do. Unlike his other ongoing comic with Jack Lothien, Laptop Guy, where Sha explains that he only appears as a character, Mega Penguin is more of an autobiographical venture. Who wouldn’t want to be a giant, city-destroying penguin?

LDC Glasgow May3

“I am Mega Penguin… It’s my song to myself.”

Last was pop artist Evy Craig, fresh from her recent Glasgow exhibition ‘Tickling Sticks at the Ready’ celebrating British comedy legends through her unique portraits. She launched straight into an introduction of her ever-expanding cast of characters, seemingly produced from thin air from a brain-shaped studio, although apparently friends can attest to certain autobiographical qualities popping up from time to time. Of these characters, the most loved is Grunt, the jaundiced, booze-loving, friendly yellow guy who may be too fond of his bevvy but always wears fresh pants. Grunt’s popped up in issues of Team Girl Comic and made an appearance on the front cover of issue 4.

LDC Glasgow May4

“People are always asking me, “How’s Grunt doing?” I dunno, huvnae seen him in ages…!”

The panel closed with some positive discussion of comics and their ever-expanding readership, as well as the age old question of “is it art or is it literature?”- a nice way to wind things up before we headed off to the pub.

Thanks, Glasgow Laydeez! See you again in August!

– Jules Valera

@Lieabed

 

 

 

 

Laydeez do Comics Glasgow, Monday 10th February

Our first Glasgow meeting featured excellent talks from Kat Lombard-Cook, Moogs Kewell and Neil Slorance, some excellent krispie cakes and top hats, and a small herd of elephants playing football upstairs – we’re assured they will be playing outdoors by the time of our next meeting! Thank you to our speakers and everyone who came along, and hope to see you next time on 12 May. Below is my blog of the night.

– Heather Middleton

ImageImageImage

More information on our speakers: Kat Lombard-Cook, Moogs Kewell, Neil Slorance