Looking at gender disparity in comics publishing can really put a damper on a girl’s day. Lucky for female creators, community building events are popping up all over the place, encouraging rampant lady doodlers amidst this time of crisis.
Hannah Chapman is the mastermind and founder of Chicago’s very own Grahm Cracker Comics Ladies Night and Comic Book Slumber Party. Both events seek to call attention to female comics creators while eliciting some pretty epic hang-outs. Hailing from Bath, Hannah provides insight into her experiences as an organizer and dishes the juicy details of her inaugural CBSP event.
Do you really have slumber parties where you make comics late into the night? Can we come?
I’m kicking myself now that we didn’t have an official slumber party as part of the event. Clearly that needs to be rectified. That said a couple of guest speakers and volunteers were at mine the night before so we had an improptu Carcassonne game and a few drinks. We definitely stayed up later than we should have!
How many people are involved in this?
Planning and organizing? Just me! I’ve adopted the royal ‘we’ on Twitter and Facebook to try and make myself feel a little better about doing this alone. That said, Donya Todd (who did all the branding for the event) was super involved in the whole thing. We chatted a lot about what should happen on the day, who to invite etc, and the idea for the patches came out of some dorky email I sent her. Also I managed to convince the Bath Lit Fest and American Dream Comics to get involved and they were really helpful too – providing volunteers and printing the posters and stuff.
Who is your intended audience for CBSP? In your mission statement you say, “comics by girls for everyone”. Is your intention to seek out and encourage a younger, more inclusive audience? Why the word ‘girls’?
Good question, and genuinely I have no real answer other than: the word girls is not one that I draw breath at. I know it’s a little patronizing and suggests a naivety or perhaps ignorance. In all honesty I just meant “comics by people who do not associate with the male gender for everyone…” which doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. You have to be careful though, wording can be really problematic. The mission statement will probably evolve over time.
photos by Rosie
Why do you feel that gendered media creation is important for comics?
I think it’s important to acknowledge just how many voices are out there. For a really long time popular media displayed women as secondary citizens and they were used as plot devices, comics were not alone in that. So naturally if you’re a woman reading this stuff you’ll hardly think “Wow, here’s an industry that cares about my voice”.
There seems to be a rise in the visibility of projects popping up that deal with comics and gender specifically right now (meanwhile… too!). Why do you think this is happening?
I’d say it goes hand in hand with the rise of the internet and the rise of indie/alternative titles. People have more ways to discuss these things, realize they’re opinions are not totally unique to them, and to coin a military phrase – it’s easier for them to ‘mobilize’. The internet has also helped people who would have struggled to have their comics seen reach an audience, and for the most part female creators have fallen into that group.
Were you inspired by or influenced by other projects similar to yours?
Totally! And that’s the point! Awareness is kind of self-perpetuating I think. CBSP stems from the event I organized in Chicago, Graham Crackers Ladies Night. I took all the things I loved most about the monthly meetings in the US and made a day long event of it. But GCC Ladies Night was inspired by the bi-annual Ladies Night event at Strange Adventures in Halifax, Canada. And I know that since GCC Ladies Night started a string of other shops in Chicago have started similar things.
I also knew I wanted to emulate some of the more successful cons and events I’d been to, so I was inspired by TCAF, ELCAF, and things like Friday Late at the V&A museum.
When were you in Chicago, and what were you doing here before you founded Graham Cracker Comics Ladies Night?
I was studying at Columbia College for a semester. I spent my days attending drawing classes, writing classes, and best of all, comics classes. It was such a great time and I cannot wait to go back. I founded GCC Ladies Night about a month after I got there – before then I loitered in comic shops in my spare time.
What was your experience like in the Chicago comics community in comparison to that in Baths?
I think it helps that Chicago is A) a huge city and B) in America where they do comic shops really well. Bath has a great shop, American Dream Comics, where Chicago has approximately a gazillion (that’s a fact). So there were just loads more places to go and meet people who are into comics. It helps that colleges like Columbia have comic classes, there are comic publishes based in Chicago, and they have existing events and cons there. So the community is bigger and more developed. Older too! Bath could get that way if it tried, I think.
We came across CBSP (and many other working cartoonists) on Tumblr. What are your feelings on Tumblr as a new forum or self-publishing platform for comics?
Tumblr is a great place to release baby comics into the wild. You just cannot expect for them to come back unscathed. Tumblr is rife with people not crediting artists, stealing there work, removing watermarks etc – but it’s managed to maintain a real community feeling which I love. People do tend to look out for each other on there. Reblogging and sharing things is super easy on Tumblr too which makes it great for getting your work out there.
You’ve mentioned that there are very few people involved in comics in Bath, let alone female cartoonists, how was the turnout for the event?
The turnout was great. We had between 18 – 35 people in each of the workshops, and I’d say up to 45 people in the venue at any one time. It was pretty small, and Bath is in an awkward place to travel to if you’re not local so I think the turnout may be better in other places but both venues were really happy with how many people were there, and we all had a great time.
Anything unexpected or exciting happen?
Mainly in the sense that people I didn’t know turned up, haha. I half expected to be sitting in a room with my pals, but it wasn’t the case. One really nice guy came all the way from Edinburgh – so we’ve promised a return CBSP trip as way of thanks. And the whole day was exciting really.
CBSP just highlighted Every/Body, a project that was centered around comics that addressed peoples’ complicated relationship with their own bodies through comics. Do you see comics as a medium that can be wielded – either by creators or readers – to speak back to a culture intent on ignoring you?
100% yes. Art is a mirror of society and as a society we’re pushing for culture to acknowledge that the world is a massively diverse place. Comics are bound to get caught up in that.
What are your plans for future events? Or extensions of CBSP?
I don’t want to say too much but there will be at least 3 other CBSP events this year and there are ways it may branch out into bigger and better things – so keep an eye out. We’re definitely planning events in: Bristol, Bath, London, Edinburgh, Berlin, and Chicago.
Greasy illustration by Krystal Difronzo
There seem to be a menagerie of fantastical creatures on your site. If you were any anthropomorphized animal what would you be?
I’d be a honey badger. For true. For a long time I was convinced my spirit animal was a badger and then the whole honey badger internet sensation hit and I realized here was an animal that was A) a badger B) South African (I am too on my Mums side) and C) won’t stop eating for anything. Match made in heaven.
What is your favorite slumber party activity? We suggest painting glitter nails – in case you didn’t have one.
Horror stories or movies followed by turning all the lights off and playing hide and seek. I like to get properly freaked out at sleep overs.
Can you draw us a utopic vision of what the ultimate Comic Book Slumber Party would look like?
Here’s a dumb sketch of me and Greasy playing with each others hair! I have five brothers so playing hairdressers didn’t happen so much growing up!