Geeking Out About Flame Con Panels: Cartooning Women

On the Saturday of Flame Con 2, at 4:00PM, in Room A there was a panel titled "Cartooning Women". I didn't know what to expect, but as I am a feminist, and am interested in writing about women, this was a panel I had to attend. It covered a broad spectrum of topics discussed by moderator Jennifer Camper, Jennifer Cruté, Sara Lautman, Sophie Labelle, Katie Fricas, and Cristy Road. I was unfamiliar with these comic creators and was amused and moved by their discussion concerning working in the arts as creators and women.

Cruté, shrouded in darkness (unfortunately it was early afternoon and the panelists were backlit to the point where the audience could pretty much only make out silhouettes)

Camper kicked off the panel with a small shiny gift bag filled with questions. Each question, she said, could be answered or put back in the bag if the panelist preferred. "You can even make up your own question," Camper elected, "we wouldn't know." Cruté, a fine artist and comic creator, got the first question, "What creator do you read over and over again?" She responded she often reads the work of Barbara Brandon, the first nationally syndicated African-American female cartoonist. Road cracked wise that she often reads the "bathroom of a dirty punk house." The second question went to Lautman: "Do you draw queer characters different from straight ones?" Lautman says every person she draws looks like a lesbian, and likens her character design to "androgynous humanoid Muppets".

The next notable question began an emotional conversation which wove through the duration of the panel concerning how everyone supplements their income in addition to their comics career. The question was "What is fun in cartooning?" Fricas responded sincerely that her comics career has been hurting her lately. Each woman took time during the rest of the panel to talk about how they piece together a living, often compromising their art for commerce. Labelle depends on her Patreon to pay for rent which allows her to draw full time. Road advised everyone in the room to take any freelance work that they are offered. Road used to work for big magazines doing illustration, but left that life because she found the micromanaged conditions unfulfilling. She now works in bars, and as a cater waiter (which she loves). Fricas added that she is a full-time librarian and works for The Guardian and other publications. Cruté sells her art, but also does freelance work like design graphics for children's clothing. Like Road, she worked in commercial art but got worn out when she was constantly told to change the appearance of her women to be "lighter, thinner, and smaller." Everyone agreed that it's difficult to make money from doing what one loves, and often more money is going to be made doing work one does not love. Lautman reported she is moving away from her current home in New York to live a more sustainable life in Baltimore and has been unable to keep a comfortable lifestyle with her various jobs which include working in a bakery. She looks forward to teaching back in her hometown.

The panelists, regrettably only in silhouette (forgive me, ladies!)

A more humorous discourse took place regarding what cartoon characters the panelists would have sex with. The audience wanted the panel to continue only on this subject and it very nearly did. Fricas jumped in with a well thought out list: Bugs Bunny in drag, Peppermint Patty, Violet, Lucy ("They're children!" one panelist shouted), and Minnie Mouse. Roads said her first butch crush was on an animated character Zipper Cat from the television series The Get Along Gang. Also, the animated Disney Robin Hood. Lautman has always been drawn to Gadget from Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers and Pepper Ann. Labelle observed she had a crush on Casey Jones from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. "What about April?" another panelist chimed in. Labelle said with assurance, "No, April was my role model."

Gavin Rehfeldt's picture
on August 29, 2016

Native Chicagoan. Former comics slinger. Current comics reader. Bespectacled.