In a boys' world, Jessica Abel writes comics for girls
The world of comic books and graphic novels has long been dominated by men, who more often than not portray women characters as busty babes in supporting roles. But artists like Jessica Abel hopes to change that by redefining the way women write and appear in comics.
Comic books have not traditionally been a friendly place for women, unless they're wearing spandex bodysuits with push-up bras. But artists like Jessica Abel are out to change that.
Abel is the author of the graphic novel "La Perdida," which is about an American woman's misadventures in Mexico City. And, along with her husband, Matt Madden, she's teaching a new generation of graphic artists. Her classes now often have more women than men, she recently told the Los Angeles Times.
Abel was drawn to the genre more than two decades ago by the busty Latina mechanic Maggie Chascarillo, a character in the series "Love and Rockets" by Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez.
"It just immediately spoke to me," Abel said. "First of all it's beautiful. It's beautifully drawn, the title is very compelling, and it just felt like, this is gonna be good."
At the time, Abel was a college freshman, a punk girl from Chicago awkwardly transported to small-town Minnesota. "Love and Rockets," on the other hand, was set "in a Mexican town outside of L.A., a very poor neighborhood," Abel said.
"Even though it's not my environment, Jaime is so good at telling us about that world that it feels like you could know it," she said. "It's a world you want to enter into even at its grubbiest, even at its meanest. That's when I really started feeling like I could take hold of this, this identity for myself, and build it, and do something with it."
When Abel started drawing comics, it was a boys' world. In many ways, that still holds true today.
"Being female and wanting to do this was my opportunity to be punker than I was before," she said. "I would've been thrilled if there were more women involved in it, but it was a cool challenge that there weren't."
"God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls," Jaime Hernandez's latest installment in the "Love and Rockets" series, is out now. Jessica Abel's new book is "Mastering Comics: Drawing Words & Writing Pictures Continued."
PRI's Peabody Award-winning "Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen" from WNYC is public radio's smart, surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Let Studio 360 steer you to the must-see movie, the next book for your nightstand, or the song that will get stuck in your ear.