Sunday, August 15, 2010

Go the girls in graphics!

With the internet so full of moving pictures it’s good that the web also hosts an older form of visual entertainment – comics and cartoons. They may be dominated by boy power (zap! kablooey! aaargh!) but cool trends are arising that are just as much for girls as for guys.
Back when Superman ruled there were female figures too, such as Wonder Woman — “beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, stronger than Hercules, and swifter than Mercury”. So far, so Grecian.
We’ve moved on. Check out for an online graphic novel that is updated every few days. Its creator works “without elves, fairies or wizards, without pirates, ninjas or zombies, without monkeys, penguins or dinosaurs, without sad girls, cat girls or robot girls”.
A Toronto designer simply named Stef draws Sarah Zero, who is a feisty redhead “struggling to find love and validation on the internet”.
Graphic novels and comics both tell stories via sequential art, but paper comics are shorter, usually less than 30 pages, while graphic novels can go on for 600 pages – or be online for years. At there’s a story staring another feisty heroine, Agatha Clay, that’s been running since 2002.
Its creators, Phil and Kaja Foglio, recommend it for teens and up, pointing out that it contains “lots of running around in Victorian underwear, occasional innuendo, a certain amount of violence and the occasional ‘damn!’"
Canadian cartoonist Kate Beaton has a brilliant little site at, chock full of comic strips that poke subversive fun at figures as famous as Jane Austen, the Wright Brothers and the Kennedys.
At artist Lilli Carré has a quirky page full of sparse black-pen drawings that shift and vibrate, along with pages from her books to browse and enjoy.
If all of this makes you think that here’s a field in which you, too, can play, here’s a really useful blog,, where the ‘dw-wp’ is short for Drawing Words and Writing Pictures. It’s been set up by cartoonist Jessica Abel to help others learn cartooning skills and get published. Don’t think you have to be a great artist. Some of these sites reveal that it is the possession of a sharp wit, not ace drawing ability, that makes for the most engaging comics and cartoons.
* This text is from my 'Webmistress' column in Next magazine, September issue, published Aug 16. Check out the mag's Facebook page too, at Next Magazine NZ.< .