“You have to grow up reading comics to want to make comics,” Jessica Abel told the audience last Wednesday, Nov. 04, at the Kalamazoo (Michigan) Public Library. And because girls historically didn’t read comics, there haven’t been very many women writing or drawing comics.
It used to be there were one in 300 women in the comics industry, Abel said in an offhand estimate. That had grown to about one in 30 when she started some 20 years ago. Abel guessed that figure today to be about one in three.
(I wonder if Abel has ever had this conversation with Amelia Rules creator Jimmy Gownley, who’s promoted comics for younger children, especially for girls ….)
Abel noted manga as “huge” for her students when she starting teaching comics at New York’s School of Visual Arts in the early ’00s. “It’s influence is now less pervasive,” she said, with what appeared to be a small sigh of gratitude.
She cited Jaime Hernandez’s Maggie and Hopey stories in Love & Rockets as a primary inspiration for her work. You can see a little Maggie and Hopey in Abel’s own major graphic novel, La Perdida — a character starts out “with a chip on her shoulder. Then something happens,” she said.
Abel confided she’s doing more writing than drawing these days. She is currently working on scripts for a character called Trish Trash, a roller-derby girl on Mars, among other projects, including a novel.
You can see my review of La Perdida posted Sept. 06, 2009, and of Hernandez’s Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories posted Oct. 14, 2009.