Interview with Liz Prince

 

tomboy-coverLiz Prince is an up and coming comic book artist, Her Latest work, Tomboy, is a graphic memoir of growing up with elements that will ring true for who ever picks it up. The story is smart, funny, and written with an eye for timing and space that only a master story teller could achieve.

Her other works include Will You Still Love Me if I Wet the Bed, Delayed Replays, and has contributed to BOOM Studios series Marceline and the Scream Queens. Her Latest work, Tomboy, is a graphic memoir of her life growing up as a tomboy  that . You can see her other works on her art page.

 

We chatted over email, and Liz revealed herself as a down to earth artist with goals that are to reach as wide of an audience as she can. Liz is just returning from a promotional tour and had time to answer a couple questions for Graphic Policy

1. What do you hope readers will get from reading Tomboy?

First and foremost, I hope that readers are entertained.  I didn’t want there to be one point to the story: I want people to take what they will from it.  Of course, there are a lot of messages in the book, but I didn’t want it to be a moral tale, or a lecture, or a lesson.  Hopefully if the reader is experiencing their own gender-related bullying or pressure, they will be inspired to stay the course and just be themselves; if the reader has participated in said bullying or pressure, hopefully they will no longer take part in it; and if the reader has never had any issues with bullying or pressure, hopefully they will be more aware of the ways in which we live in a culture that encourages strict gender rules.
It was very important to me, as a straight, white female, not to be speaking for anyone else’s experience.  I hope that comes through, that this is a very personal story, and it’s not supposed to be about ALL Tomboys or everyone who is gender non-conforming.
2.  At the end of the book you come to terms with a lot of the things that were hurtful and confusing to you growing up and turn it into a great story. Were you encouraged to write, or had you been writing since you were young?
My parents always encouraged me to pursue whatever my interests were, and my main interests always centered around art and cartoons.  When I discovered comics in 3rd grade, and decided that I wanted to draw comics for a living, my parents helped me try to find art classes and mentors and stuff like that.  My dad was a music writer and critic, and my mom had taken art classes at Pratt, so they were both interested in those things themselves.  Because of their enthusiasm, I’ve been drawing comics since I was 9 years old!!
3. Do you think there is anything that could be done that would help the kids that do not quite fit the ‘gender’ bill?
There are many things that can be done, starting with changing the ways that we teach gender to children; a big part of my book is exploring how children are predisposed to want the simplest explanation, and that leads them to be the most strict gender binary enforcers.  Getting rid of the “blue and pink” mentality of gender, and instead teaching kids that it’s not as simple as being a boy and being girl would certainly set kids on a path of greater acceptance and awareness of the gender spectrum.
4. Your illustration style is simple while still being expressive.Are there certain things that this particular style of illustration allows that other styles do not?
Very much in line with the Scott McCloud theory in Understanding Comics, wherein the simple smiley face is the icon best suited for people to be able to see themselves in, drawing autobio comics in a simple style allows readers to recognize more of themselves in a character, I think it gives it a more universal feel.  If something is too detailed, it becomes more concrete and specific, and there may be less for someone to latch onto. I don’t consider myself to be a very accomplished artist: I use cartooning for it’s most basic purpose, which is to tell a story.
5. I really liked your approach to narration: Young Liz struggling through situations and having adult Liz occasionally step in and explain things to the reader. It really allowed the reader to feel not only the confusion that surrounded Young Liz, but also allowed for a very accurate portrayal of coming of age. There was no projecting of an adult understanding onto the past.Were you trying to portray it this way, and if so, how did you manage keep your adult self out of Young Liz‘s experience?

Writing a book about gender, and looking back at my childhood through the lens of what I understand now, it was really important for me to tell the story from the present, but at the same time, I wanted the scenes from my past to play out in real time.
Adult Liz pretty much vanishes from the narration when I reach 6th grade, because that became the part of the story where I was at an age when I started being able to recognize a lot of these societal pressures for myself.
I wanted the story to evolve in an organic way, but I also wanted it to be fast-paced: drawing a book about my ENTIRE childhood could have easily taken me 5,000 pages, so I had to be very selective about what anecdotes I told, and how I weaved them into the story.
In the end, I’m not sure that I really did keep “adult Liz” and “young Liz” separate, because my current voice narrates the story throughout, but I’m glad to hear that I successfully was able to create that illusion!
6. Did drawing out scenes give any closure or perhaps new understanding to old memories? Were there any that were particularly difficult to revisit?
There were many things that I recalled with new meaning, as I’ve come to have a greater understanding of the ways that American culture divides the gender lines, and the subjugated role that women play within those lines. Tomboy has a lot of themes of internal misogyny, and I was able to see where a lot of that came from, in direct relation to the things that I was watching and participating in as a kid.
A lot of the bullying stuff still elicited an emotional response from me, which was surprising, but also reinforced to me that these behaviors that we endured as kids can really carry a lot of weight: just because it’s buried somewhere in my mind, doesn’t mean it isn’t still having an impact on me.  Very sobering stuff.
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 Tomboy is a memior of…well, a tomboy.

Its a memior that follows the author, going through her childhood and teenage years while being not quite a boy, but not quite a girl either.

The author Liz Prince has a knack for the kind of narrative that makes you feel right at home;  the character being the kind you root for when the going gets tough.

However, it always seems the going is tough for Liz. Frankly there are some heart breaking moments in this story. Particularly when the spunky tomboy realizes during an elementary school sex-ed lecture that she really is a girl–and she will never become a free living boy

She then runs into the bushes at recess and prays to God to not make her into a girl but to please, please make her a boy.

The young Liz does not like playing house, or doing any of those “girly” things. Most of her childhood is spent running away from the idea of being a ‘girl’. Boys always seemed to have more fun, were allowed to be more aggressive, and being a girl was a detriment.

Some of the situations she gets herself into are not only funny, but have a heartwarming familiarity.While the theme is a tender one, the delivery is kind. Funny, quirky and interesting situations with an easy flowing dialogue makes this a wonderful read.

Though she got relentlessly tormented by her peers, and even encountered negative situations with friends, she kept her identity as a tomboy. Not quite a boy, but definitely not a girl.

Liz struggles with the idea’s of gender as well as the expectations they entail. She comes to terms with who she is with the help of an indie zine she picks up and is suddenly flooded with understanding.

“I wasn’t challenging the social norm, I was buying into it!” her adult self chimes in, as the reader is shown a scene of teen-aged Liz pouring over a zine.

The novel has a curious young girl wondering, questioning and thinking about who she is and why she can’t seem to fit in, with adult Liz stepping in and narrating some important scenes from her past–making sense of the events and their significance for herself and for the reader without compromising the feelings of confusion and discomfort that come from being in, or even remembering, these situations.

Being a girl didn’t have to mean dresses, butterflies and lilting flowers. That’s just what the social norm dictated. Its a wonderfully crafted story that pulls at the hear strings and ends in bursts of understanding which were fifteen years in the making. Whether you are a life long Tomboy, the pretty girl at the prom, or a guy– this book has something for you. Everyone has felt confused growing up at some point.

Tomboy is a memior of Liz. It is also a memior of everyone who ever had trouble fitting in.

 

Story: Liz Prince  Art: Liz Prince
Story: 8.0 Art: 5.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Read

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Media Literacy?


I see you have the word ‘Literacy’ in there, is it like reading?


computer guyYes! It is just like reading. Media Literacy is being able to interpret, analyze, and evaluate the media we use and see– just like we do with books.

In its essence, being media literate just means being able to watch the news and decide what parts you think are news, and what parts you think the sources are shaky, or what parts are sensationalist, or racist, sexist, ignorant, well researched, or could use a little more thought.

That is only the news!

There are hundreds of other kinds of media out there that we have to also sort through, thousands of clicks, millions of words, pictures and videos, emails. Its a lot.

Being media literate is a skill we should all have. The printing press brought novels and ideas to the world  at a rate never before seen. The internet is doing the same. As schools teach literature, phonics and poetry, so should it teach media.

Before we get in a huff about media replacing traditional and more scholarly forms of pursuits like, say, the novel, lets stop and consider some things.

Novels are an important of part of the human condition; that will never change. The way books have made us feel less alone, have required serious hours of editing, re-working and are, and always will be a high art. There are some things that the internet and media can add.

Where the internet can just post and be done, a novel takes time. Yup, got that. Its true. But dont throw the baby out with the bathwater. Lots of people take time and to read, re-read, and re write the stuff they post too! (ahem, I do)

There are still things  will never get the level of intimacy that books bring you, but what media, and websites and forums can give you is support from online communities in knowing you are not alone with issues. Media does not just destroy. It gives us access to the arts and sciences, progress, protest, and light.

Media, as every weapon, has a dark side.  The same thing that brings you community, Tumblr, Reddit, Deviant art, Youtube, Facebook– also bring unprecedented levels of vicious anonymous bullying. Yuck. That is just one example. of the dual sides of Media. which is why we need to know how to use it as well as how to be a critical thinkers while consuming the media.

Aww but I just want to relax! No one said you cant. heck, I don’t always ‘critical-read’ books, because sometimes i just want to chill. And sometimes I want to read filth. That’s ok. But I know how to spot stuff now when the situation calls for it,  thanks to my teachers!

Cyber Bullies are going to be short lived.

Cyber Bullies are going to be short lived.

Lets do an example of what a Media Literate Person would think of a Cyber-Bully story covered on TV.

Lets take an old article from March 26th, 2014, posted on the Posted on the NY Times Website, written by Ken Belson, about the Dolphins player, John Jerry, a bully with a long enough record of mean-ness that caused the NFL to commission a “144 page repor” on the Miami Dolphins. This one guy, Jerry, was mentioned “over 100 times.” dayum….. Sounds like he’s a grade A asshole.

So the report goes on to say quote coaches, the players lawyer, team spokespersons and the like.

One of the team mates Jerry targeted has since left the team, there was no mention if it was due to bullying or other reasons, maybe he just got a better deal, but I have serious doubts that the bullying did not have something to do with it.

So, as a teacher would say: did you see a message?

  • It looked like the NFL cared, as they launched a 144 page report on bullying, and the coaches and spokesmen talked “extensively” about the issue.
  • The guys, Incognito and Jerry were cited by name A LOT in the report. So these guys were seriously nasty.
  • What did they do about it? Suspension…..That’s all. not even fired.
  • Who left the team and who stayed on the team? The guy getting bullied left. The bullies got to stay– and seemed to only get a slap on the wrist.
  • So do they really care about bullying? or does it seem that their efforts were mostly face-saving for the public eye?

This is media literacy. What is the message behind the news, the pictures, the magazines, the public action? We wont be fooled anymore, and we wont let kids roam the world thinking they are anything less than worth it.

Seeing the media this way means we have to do better. When the NFL players get away with things we have to SEE that they are getting away with it, and we owe it to ourselves and the youth to make Media Literacy turn to Action.

We just gotta know where it is, and why it is and then it will change.

Free Comics For All! Free comic book day in Boston

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Free Comics For All! A gift from the Industry, the stores and artists to their fans

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Some free comics laid out by the staff at Comicazi store of Davis Sq, in Somerville, MA

Free Comic Book Day(FCBD) saw success across the comic stores in the Greater Boston Area, bringing readers young and old as well as appearances by local artists come to sign, draw, and sell their spring releases for their fans. Store owners were giddy  (and busy) as well, with customers crowding registers with bags of free comics, posters and stickers as well as more than a few of their own purchases.

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Top Cow released Marc Silvestri and Sumeye Kesgin’s Rise of the Magi Preview! (www.topcow.com )

Many studios released their own booklets, BOOM! Studios’s Free Comic featured 1-3 page shorts of Adventure Time! Steven Universe, Garfield, and a snippet of one of their newest releases, Mike Kunkel’s HeroBear and the Kid among others. While some makers featured shorts, others, such as For Top Cow Productions, INC decided to feature a preview of their new Mini Series Rise of The Magi that included character and environment concept art in both color and black and white.

 

KaBoom! Free Comic Book Day

 Offering free comics may not seem like a business savy move, it does mean a publicity as well  a dedication to readers not seen in many other areas of business. The event helps reach fans that would not normally pick up copies of action, fantasy or science fiction and allows a chance for people to explore new realms of story telling and art style that they may have not wanted to actively purchase before. I mean, not one wants to spend money on something they wont like–that would be silly.

But when its free? It may help up expand our horizons!

C’mon, we have all said it at least once when a wide-eyed friend comes to us, clutching their new favorite series, telling us we have to read it!  “Oh, I’m not really into those kinds of comics”. It doesn’t mean we are closed minded, perhaps there is a genre we have tried over and over and still found that it just did not do for us what our favorites to, or if its just because we never really thought about it, after all, there are so many within our favorite series to begin with its hard to keep up with those releases, let alone a whole new genre!

Free Comic Book Day says, with an industry more gentle than most, “cant hurt! its only a couple pages, and plus, its free!”

 So, there are free comics galore, Im going to share with you some of my favorites that were on the tables in the Boston area.

                            
 
Mouse Guard: Labyrinth and Other Stories FCBD’s second ever Hardcover Release with stories such as Royden Lepp’s “Rust”, Jim Henson’s “Laberynth”, The Jim Henson Company’s “Farscape”, Sean Rubin’s “Bolivar”, and Tom Hommock & Meg Hutchinson’s Will O’The Wisp

One of my favorite finds of FCBD was a ARCHIA’s hardcover offering of David Peterson’s Mouse Guard: Labyrinth and Other Stories  that feature  shorts by Roydn Lepp, Adamn Smith & Kyla Vanderklut , Tom Hammock & Megan Hutchinson and Rámon K. Peréz. Last year ARCHIA released the first-ever free hardcover for FCBD

 In a conversation while waiting in line, one comic fan, arms brimming with new releases and 3-4 copies of the Mouse Guard explained  that he had to get a couple of copies because he needed one for himself, one for his nephews, and was even going to save a copy when he had kids. “The book is only a couple pages, but the artists do an incredible job of making the worlds seem vast”.

Other favorties were Kean Soo’s Jellyaby published under Capstone Comics, that included two stories, and a interview with Kean Soo, as well as his first ever sketch of the character Jellyaby, for whom the comic takes it’s title. Kean Soo’s website is http://www.keaner.net

 

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Kean Soo, illustrator and writer of Popular Kids’ Comic Jellaby (http://keaner.net/comics/) realeased his own Free Comic on FCBD under Capstone Comics

Even though this comic is made for kids, I must say that I am in love with the coloring, as well as the character design. As comic fans, I am sure there are few of us whose body type matches our favorite characters. Not to say that comic fans arent ripped, or insanely curvy, but those body types, even of non-fans, are few and far between. Jellaby features a tom boyish girl named Portia and her friend Jason. There is a sense of pause and timing in the drawings, which I think is a difficult and careful paneling task. There is silence and the crunch of leaves as Portia moves around, and its really quite incrediblw what Kean Soo has done here. So, thanks FCBD for introducing me to Kean Soo, I can say I never would have picked it up without you!

So yeah, theres free comics, but is there anything else? Should I go to more than one comic store next year?

 There are local artists too!

 FCBD brought Davis Sq’s Comicazi ( http://www.comicazi.com ) brought local artists in to sign new releases, draw, and chat with fans as well as bring huge cutouts of their main characters. Very cool.

Everyone was friendly and willing to sit down and chat. After you were able to push through the crowds and get to the tables, then watch them draw for fans while you wait your turn to chat, you get to peruse their merch tables. One of my favorites was a local Boston artist Max Wolfman and co-creator of a new comic The Adventures of GWF: A Tale of Cosmic Fistcuffs.

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Max Wolfman, posing with The Red Menace, protagonist and contender for the Galactic Championship Belt

Think WWE meets, well, the inter-galactic wrestling federation. Giant Robots, Seething bug-like life forms, and Hard nosed Cossacks meet fist to claws in amind screaming onlookers in the galactic arena. First of all, you gotta’ love the art, its like Japanese Manga meets the classic American Comic style. The angles the paneling takes is fresh and really moves with you, almost like there is a move camera there instead of an artist painstakingly drawing each panel out.

As for the characters, original and like-able (cough the announcers are my spirit animals, cough), the art style differs between the characters, which is a really cool effect I haven’t really seen much of. From the broad strokes and open spaces of The Red Menace to crunched and sharp lines of the giant toothed bug like Chaka, readers can tell what kind of fighting style the contenders have by how they are drawn. Crushing limbs and broad heavy hits versus hits that were cutting, quick and viscous.

The Announcers of the tournament acts as an in-kind narrators, one is a mustachioed guppy like creature with wide confused eyes, the other is a pair of eyes, peeking perhaps from a tear in the dimension.

A Tale of Cosmic Fistcuffs has been funded by Kickstarter! Heres a link to their page, check it out!

There’s always next year!

All in all, Free Comic Book Day, Im sure, was as much of a success (at least for readers!) across the country as it was in Boston. A sense of camaraderie and pure, unadulterated happiness was abuzz in each shop visited– 5, I think? Of course though, the best part, aside from talking to readers and creators, was going home and layin’ on the couch, reading comics till the early hours.

If you missed out the festivities, no harm in going local stores and see if they have any samples left, and of course don’t forget to help out the stores by purchasing at least one comic! They work hard to get the resources together for FCBD! If you dont have the means, then hey, no problem, FCBD is about giving and no one should go without the comfort of a good book.

Cant wait for next year. Put it on your calendar folks, enjoy your new discoveries, old favorites and free comics!

 

 

 

Money = Free Speech?

In elevated seats overlooking the court room sit the Twelve Justices of the Supreme Court, these people posses the most logical and applauded legal minds the country has to offer. The look on as lawyers and Attorney Generals argue obscure clauses and their impacts. That these clauses have impacts, known, predicted or yet seen that can catastrophically alter the lives of a nation.

Most laws go un noticed by most of the population. Laws that determine the process and procedures for the purchasing and change of guard within the Federal Bank’s board of directors. Or laws of weight and measure, known in the cold waters of the countries eastern port cities, limiting the weight or materials used in massive trade ships bound for tropical ports.

The laws brought to the Supreme Court are different. These decisions can reach into the homes of each and every citizen of the country. The laws can touch the lives in such an intimate ways; whether or not your neighbors have the right to marry, or if you’re friend, a naturalized citizen since high school, will still be sent back to a county they haven’t lived in since childhood. Continue reading