Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Lea Hernandez's News

Lea Hernandez, creator of Cathedral Child, Clockwork Angels, Texas Steampunk I-III, and Rumble Girls has recently announced that she is going to stop "looking for work in comics."

Late to the party, as usual, Melchior, I immediately thought to myself. Having just recently discovered and enjoyed her interesting, manga-inflected Killer Princesses, a book she produced with Gail Simone, I was looking forward to regularly seeing her future work appearing in my comic book store.

(Here's Lea Hernandez's LiveJournal. I learned of all this from Heidi MacDonald's The Beat.)

Hernandez's "Why Did I Quit Comics" entry (Jan 2nd, 2006 01:30 am) deals with how a deeply entrenched sexism influenced her decision. She reproduces a page from Frank Miller's script to All Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder #1. Here's what Miller wrote in the script to Jim Lee, the artist:
OK, Jim, I'm shameles, let's go for an ASS SHOT. Panties detailed. Baloons from above. She's walking, restless as always. We can't take our eyes off her. Especially since shes got one fine ass.

Here's what Hernandez wrote about Miller's script in her Journal entry:
The above is one of comics' legendary creators, a guy who once publically tore Wizard magazine a new taint. But this is comics, even when it's not out in the open: arrested adolescents in men's clothing, or women who accuse other women of "not getting it" or being bitter, old or jealous. Sure, the script was never meant for public consumption, but the attitude within is endemic.

When I first read All Star Batman #1, I (like a lot of people) had placed the blame for that book's relentless T & A at the door of Jim Lee (well known depicter of large breasted women). But it wasn't just a guy who likes to draw curvaceous women letting himself go a little crazy. He was explicitely directed to by Frank Miller. This, from one of the guys who cultural brokers in this country regularly place in a creative pantheon that includes Art Spiegelman, R. Crumb, Will Eisner, Neil Gaiman, and Alan Moore. Hernandez is right on this one, especially because newspapers and magazines that would never discuss "ordinary" comics--thinking that comics are not worthy of their attention--will pay attention to something produced by Miller. (I'll reserve my thoughts on why I think Miller is doing this for a future post.)

Here's Hernandez's LiveJournal entry from Mon, Jan. 2nd, 2006 01:46 pm.
How I Quit Comics

I need to clarify my Quitting:

I haven't quit making comics. I've got two books under contract for print: Ironclad Petal and Rumble Girls: RLO. Those will both been seen on the web first. I'm still writing and drawing them. I will write and draw more after them.

What I've quit doing is looking for work in comics, to make money doing production work, or servicing trademarks. Not that either of those is bad, mind, I'm just tired of doing it. I'm sick of the business, not the form. I'm tired of the chase. I'm disgusted with the state of the art. I'm thoroughly disgusted (and have been for some time) with some of my peers: their lack of hygiene, their lack of scruples, their surfeit of slander, their unwillingness to confront bad behavior, their lack of memory of even the last ten or twenty years of the history of this business.

There are scars from wounds from being in comics I might as well call self-inflicted because I let someone else cut me and said nothing because no one else did. Except, of course, it's not right to be a horrible shit because you're embarassed that you laid out all your stories and now must discredit me so I look crazy if I repeat what you've said, or I stopped being impressed with Your Fabulous Life.

I find my own children much more interesting, moral, and fun to spend time with. I spend my time advocating for my son, and learning to speak his language. I am enjoying my daughter's growing up as an artist. I spend time fighting with her school so she can get what she needs to learn. I'm learning about myself, and what it means for me to have two kids on the Autism Spectrum.

I want to underscore that Hernandez is not saying that she made her decision simply because Frank Miller produced a sexist comic book (or more specifically, a comic with degrading imagery in it). What she's saying is that the comic was produced by an industry that is riven with sexism, and she'd rather not be a part of it anymore.

Finally, again in her own words, an entry of Tues, Jan 3rd:
As I said, it wasn't that image in particular, it was a plethora of images like it, that were ONE of MANY reasons I quit comics (other than writing and drawing my own).

Previews and Wizard are comics' two biggest print faces, and they're -embarassing-. It's the "Hurr hurr hurr" a GURL" in four colors. And that image, and others like it, play straight to that, and how can anyone wonder why comics are seen as that weird uncle you doon't leave alone with the kids?

Most of what passes for comics (output, shops, conventions, and attitude) in the U.S. has a locker room stank that has not lessened in twenty years, not even with the influx of women creators, or manga.

And that is not for me. I gladly leave the making, selling and reading of this faux porn to the people who enjoy it. Everyone needs a place to be, after all.

It's a bit simple to say it's sexism, and to lay the blame on one image (which I didn't). Miller's para encapsulates a "HUrr, hurr hurrr a GURL" attitude that has been present in comics (U.S. comics) that I noticed the first time I walked into a speciality shop in 1982.

From that time to now, I've gone from offers of rooms, dates, dinner or breakfast har-de-har and gropings to being told I won't get a series because I was pregnant, I didn't need to be sent a check on time because I was breastfeeding so I didn't have to worry about needing the money to feed the baby, to being told (by a marketing manager) perhaps my husband could write my book in a way he could understand, to being laughed at for having an objection to having my books printed by slave labor, to get the idea.

Enough was ehough. I don't like the comics business, I never have, and I realized it would feel so good to stop beating my head against the wall.

And, frankly, guys can be sympathetic, but they'll never know what it's like to have a career that spans the spectrum from being fondled by someone in front of other people at a private party (San Diego, year 2) to being fondled in front of other people at a private party (San Diego, this year).

That is a really good post. I think we all can get lost in arguing about Miller's words and sensationalism and objectification and we forget that there are other reasons for this as well. And we forget the rest of the issue. Thanks.
Hi Kalinara!

Yeah, it's not just the Miller/Lee close-up of Vicki Vale's backside...
Exactly, thanks for someone else actually reading the part where she says it's about the whole damn industry.
I hope the mainstream media picks this up.
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