Last night, we celebrated International Women's Day by inviting a bunch of the fantastic artists featured in Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics to talk about what they would add to the exhibition if they could.
Their presentations were enlightening, surprising, hilarious, and moving in equal parts. As well as gaining insight into their ideas and motivations, those of us in the room came away with new names to look up and new thoughts to chew over.
Every talk was a high point in itself. Nicola Lane gave us Beryl the Peril's punk days, showed us the relationship between design and disability, and ended with a call for an exhibition that would show women creators as their full selves. Kate Evans told us that the one thing she would show right now are the stories and portraits from her visits to the Calais Jungle.
And several of the talks highlighted other women creators whose work isn't in Comix Creatrix.
Back in January we published a Q&A between co-curators Paul Gravett and Olivia Ahmad, in which Olivia said: "It has been incredibly difficult to come to 100 – there are and have been so many incredible creators that it would be difficult to narrow it down to 200 or more!"
This is something we really want people to understand: when it comes to the contributions of women in comics, there's always more to celebrate. And one of the best things about this exhibition for us has been hearing the reactions - from visitors, from reviews, from people who downloaded the free Comix Creatrix Sampler on SEQUENTIAL, from twitter - not just about what you liked, but also what you would have added.
So today we'd like to present a round-up of some artists, writers and works that aren't in the exhibition.
Starting with: from her talk last night, Alison Sampson's list of more women making comics (including Katie Skelly, whose work you can see at the top of this blog) - and her call to everyone reading to share their own:
I invite you to name 10 more women artists. Please try and think outside the usual 10 or so from the US based direct market who are always named. There's a whole world of work to choose from.
Of her ideal exhibition Alison also says:
We’d have space where the work of webcomic artists could be appreciated and where artists who create in digital form, like Fiona Staples and Elsa Charretier could show their work as it is meant to be seen.
- which we can only agree would be amazing. Women webcomic artists are creating work with incredible breadth of style and subject. A few that our twitter followers have said they would like to add to Comix Creatrix include hits like Noelle Stevenson's Nimona (now published as a graphic novel by HarperCollins), Erika Moen's factual comics on sex, sexuality and sexual health (NSFW), and Rubyetc's depictions of the everday realities of living with mental illness.
Another important shout-out last night was from Kripa Joshi to Amruta Patil, India's most well-known woman comics artist. This interview by Debkumar Mitra with Paul Gravett also discusses Patil along with other Indian women creators.
This review of Comix Creatrix by Tony Keen makes the point that:
If I have a criticism, I would say that it is a shame that there is a concentration on female artists and female writer/artists, and little on women who write for other artists to draw (e.g. Jenni Butterworth, Louise Simonson, and more recently Kelly Sue DeConnick, Gail Simone and G. Willow Wilson).
And while the review acknowledges that "such a bias is inevitable and understandable given the host institution’s mandate to focus on illustration", we agree absolutely that women who write comics - and write about comics - should be celebrated. Here's one recommended reading list.
For an amazing wealth of knowledge on the history of women working in comics, meanwhile, visit writer and herstorian Trina Robbins' website, and check out her books including Pretty in Ink: American Women Cartoonists 1896–2013. Another vital writer on comics history is Deborah Whaley, author of Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime. Read an interview with her here.
Speaking last night, Patrice Aggs called attention to the importance of comics for girls - the future readers and creators of the genre. The Phoenix, which Patrice is a regular contributor to, is a great place to start if you're looking for excellent comics for young readers (of all genders!).
While Comix Creatrix focuses on comics aimed at adults, we're always thrilled to see young visitors enjoying it and drawing their own comics in response - the panel below is from one participant in our BSL-interpreted family day.
We're also looking forward to hosting Women Making Girls' Comics, a look at the hugely influential but often unrecognised women creators who worked on the girls' comics of the 70s and 80s.
The event will be a chance to see a selection of artwork that isn't on show in the exhibition. There's also great work being done online to index, discuss and share the work of this era - Girls Comics of Yesterday is a good place to start.
One particular genre not represented in Comix Creatrix is Shōjo Manga - because it's getting its own exhibition, opening in our South Gallery on 19 March. This is the first major exhibition of the genre to tour the UK and we can't wait.