Friends With Boys - Page 205

[Oh man, second to last page!!!!!11 Anyway, a couple of things. One, I did a (hopefully amusing) post on being a Homeschooled Feral Child for the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog. I am proud to be published on a blog for something my parents have actually heard of! Two, I did a rather in-depth interview with Wired’s Geek Dad blog, and specifically went into my reasoning for why some of the Friends With Boys plotlines aren’t tied up in a neat little bow.  If that’s something you’re interested in find out more about, read away!

And onward! Today we have a wonderful guest blog post by super-librarian Robin Brenner. Robin is the founder of No Flying, No Tights, a graphic novel review site that also seeks to educate non-comic readers about the art form.  When I was first starting out reading comics and looking for recommendations, No Flying No Tights was one of the helpful sites that pointed me towards my kind of comics. I’m really thrilled to have Robin contributing to the blog, and I loved what she had to say about kids and comics, girls and comics, and the future of comics, which I agree is bright indeed. So please Read More to find out what Robin has to say! /Faith out.]

In the comics world, especially of late, there have been a lot of conversations (and arguments, and unfortunately vicious commenting) concerning female readers of comics, female characters in comics, and female creators. From using humor to critique the ridiculousness of the only roles women seem to fill in media (thanks to Kate Beaton and her webcomics cohorts) to questioning the lack of female characters, let alone protagonists, in animated films (thanks to novelist & comics author Shannon Hale, who has made highlighting this gap a mission of sorts), there’s a lot to get you down about girls connections to and exclusions from the world of comics, cartoons, and animation. These conversations are necessary and important, but I decided with this guest post to look at the things that will give hope rather than frustrate.

When you live in a world of blog posts, twitter discussions, and pop culture critique like I do (as a professional teen and comics librarian, it’s definitely part of my job), it’s easy to get mired in all of the down sides. You develop tunnel vision, seeing only the walls and glass ceilings and bouncing off the more irritating boundaries. This is especially true when positive steps seem to be able to be counted on one hand. Comics can be diverse and vibrant and inspiring, but they also get hemmed in by lingering prejudices, conscious and unconscious biases, and hurtful heckling by a few rotten apples.

Thus, I wanted to focus on the items that brighten my day-to-day comics life and remind me why girls and women are as important to the evolution of comics as any other group. I want to look at why our young readers can give us hope that change is coming, however slowly.

If you consider the general flow of comics discussion, the majority of those tweeting, blogging, and commentating on comics have been adults who have been fans for at least a decade. It helps to remember that while fans come from all age ranges, the young fans are the ones who are going to change what comics we read, how comics are created, and expand our definitions of what comics are.

I talk to teenagers every day in my library. Here, I’m happy to report, we have a relatively giant comics section tailored for their needs. These teens have not been raised with superhero comics. These are kids who started with Calvin and Hobbes and the Bone series and moved on to a steady diet of Japanese manga and stand-alone titles. Many have encountered superheroes, but through television and films. It was only later that they realized there were ongoing comics series to explore. (For example, I just had one eighth grader tell me he snapped up our battered old collection of Static Shock because he’d loved the TV show.) Most of these teens don’t find their comics in comics stores, but on bookstore and library shelves. They read them for hours, ensconced in comfy chairs. Their favorites are book-books, not 32-page comic books, and many are published by book publishers like First Second (who is releasing Friends with Boys on February 28th). This has led to a major shift toward even more book publishers getting into the medium. To teens, comics have always arrived as hardcovers and paperbacks. Even more of them follow webcomics online; newspaper funnies barely register. Their touchstones for animation are not Disney, but Hayao Miyazaki’s steady stream of animated adventures (notable as well for featuring far more girl protagonists than US animation companies) and the constantly referenced and beloved Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender.

To these readers, comics are not a niche medium, or a juvenile indulgence to be outgrown. This is the generation that has honed its visual literacy with comics, video games, television, films, and the internet, and the way they read is vastly different than previous generations that limited reading that “counted” to prose. To today’s teens, comics are just another way to get stories and they are not going to give up the medium as they grow up. Their tastes may change, and they may go through phases of interest, but their love of the format isn’t waning.

These girls and guys also don’t put books down because the a lead character isn’t a mirror. These are the teens of both genders that devoured The Hunger Games without caring one whit that the lead character is a girl or that there’s a romantic triangle in the mix. What they care about is an engaging story, and the stereotype that girls will read about both guys and girls while guys will only read about guys just isn’t true (if it ever was.)

The argument that comics are a man’s medium and that’s it’s okay for the medium to stay that way just doesn’t compute — since when have comics only been for guys? Both guys and girls camp out in the graphic novel section and read. They count women in their list of favorite creators including Raina Telgemeier (Smile), Shannon Hale (Rapunzel’s Revenge), Svetlana Chmakova (Nightschool), Hiromu Arakawa (Fullmetal Alchemist), Bisco Hatori (Ouran High School Host Club), and Yana Toboso (Black Butler). They do, however, want more books like the ones they enjoy and that’s when they feel stumped by what’s available — for them it’s not a truth inherent to the industry that women aren’t as visible as either characters or creators, but a challenge they want to take on.

Just wait until these teens start taking up the creative reins themselves. So many of them are becoming creators. With the rise of social art sites like deviantart and tumblr alongside the visibility and accessibility of professional comics creators, more and more young fans are putting pen to paper. The distance between being a reader and a creator is dwindling fast. Guides like Adventures in Cartooning and Drawing Words and Writing Pictures show young readers the nuts and bolts of comics creation, and off they go. What they create has been influenced by everything they’ve read, and I cannot wait to see the professional work I know they will someday launch.

So, while those of us can feel bitter and defensive about the state of comics by and for women and girls, the good news is that change will come, and these teens are raring to go.

[Robin Brenner is a Reference/Teen Librarian at the Brookline (MA) Public Library. She was the Chair of the ALA/YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List Committee in 2008, was a judge for the 2007 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, and has covered graphic novels, manga and anime for Library Journal, School Library Journal, VOYA, and GraphicNovelReporter.com. Robin gives lectures and workshops on graphic novels, manga, and anime all across the country. Her guide Understanding Manga and Anime was nominated for a 2008 Eisner Award. She is the editor-in-chief of No Flying No Tights, a graphic novel review site.  Brenner is a contributor to EarlyWord.com and for the group blog Good Comics for Kids hosted at School Library Journal.]

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21 Responses

  1. Wynne says:

    She’s related to the hand. That’s gotta be the last page.

  2. Kat says:

    Loved the Speakeasy blog. I can relate, although not being homeschooled. Dad is an archaeologist and a college professor, and being raised in that environment makes you about as socially acceptable as having been raised by wolves. Very polite wolves. I’m probably the world’s youngest Jack Benny fan. This is not an asset. It’s a good thing I don’t care!

  3. Thilo says:

    Hey Girl,
    i’ve read all your pages since 3 month via rss-feed and i must say i love your style and your book.
    I don’t remember how i found your page but i’m glad i found it!
    Some things remind me of my childhood…
    I can’t afford your book ’cause i got no money but i just wanted to say thank you for sharing your book with us all.
    I will order the book as soon i can.
    Best wishes and good luck for the future,
    Thilo from Germany!

  4. SeraphL says:

    So, the penultimate page. In the single page remaining I doubt that all those questions will be answered:
    -Who is the ghost?
    -How come the McKay’s all have ghost-vision?
    -Was the hand relevant?
    -Why did Maggie’s mum leave, and will she ever come back?

    There’s going to be a lot left unresolved… but honestly I kind of like that in a story. Life works that way, never giving you all your answers together or even at all, so an ending that’s too ‘perfect’ might seem a bit disingenuous. And Maggie’s moved from A to B, so I’m happy with that.

    I got a little email from amazon telling me my copy is in the mail. I can hardly wait!

  5. Graham says:

    Penultimate page? I thought this was 211 pages. This is only page 205.

    • Mercy says:

      Graham.. I’m wondering if we have seen some double page spreads posted as one post.. that could explain it.

      OH MMYYY GAAAADDDD it cant end! but but but what about the the hand and and the g g g g ghost and oh.. wait.. I’m a sucker for open endings…

      SEQUAL!!!! :D please. ill pay you… in socks as I have no money. everyone needs socks.

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      There are several double page spreads which in the online comic were a single page. They’re two pages in the actual book.

  6. Jemma says:

    oh man, almost done! But I can’t wait to hold a hard copy of the comic is my hands.
    I was hoping to see some comeuppance for Matt and his cronies though :P

  7. Nicole says:

    Lovely. Can’t wait for the last page even though I don’t want it to end.

  8. Tanja says:

    Love this post, Faith! Thanks again for sharing your experiences in comics with us. And, I know I’ll be missing “Friends with Boys” when it’s over…thank you for creating these characters and building such an interesting world. I’ll have to revisit them occasionally with the printed version which will be coming to my home library…soon. :)

  9. staticgirl says:

    I’m really going to miss this when it’s done.

    *sigh*

    I’m am very encouraged about what Robin said. I am a child of the 70s and there were plenty of comics aimed at girls for me but nothing once we’d grown up. It was a bit of a desert (with the honourable exception of Vertigo perhaps) and then younger people started posting comics on the net with influences from across the world which really excited me. It’s great to think there’s a whole generation coming up that doesn’t think they have to do the spandex because I am so tired of that stuff.

  10. Lis says:

    I just wanted to pop in and say that I’ve really enjoyed reading this! And today I swung by Barnes and Noble, where lo and behold, they were selling Friends with Boys! A copy now sits very happily on one of my bookshelves. :]

  11. Annika says:

    Ah, I must buy this! I’ve enjoyed this so much! thanks!

  12. Laur says:

    Robin, thanks so much for that insight into your young readers. I, having grown up in the Philippines, did not have access to a lot of standalone comic books at all and my first encounter reading graphic novels like the awesome stuff First Second is releasing was in a library – and it excited the heck out of me. This was fairly recent, too!

    Echoing staticgirl and Faith, I’m very excited about the future of comics and women making comics. :D

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Friends With Boys, webcomic edition!

Hello readers, new ones just discovering the comic and those who’ve been with it since the beginning. Friends With Boys is now complete online. You may read it in its entirety, all 200+ pages, for free, for the next eight days. Then the image files of the comic (except for a short preview) will be taken down. While the comic was being serialized online, I blogged a lot about my comic making process. I did write ups about how I make comics, what my opinions on what makes a good comic are, and pointed out various Easter eggs throughout Friends With Boys. That stuff will all remain up, so if you buy a hard copy of Friends With Boys, you can still read along with my thought process.

And now (today!), Friends With Boys is a published book! Yay! I hope that if you’ve read the web version and liked it, and want to support me as a creator, you’ll consider buying the book.

I’ve really enjoyed serializing Friends With Boys online. If you’re new to my work, I started out making comics online before moving into print. I posted the very first page of my very first online comic on my very first website back in August, 1999, and wow, was that page ugly. Here it is! Notice a weird similarity to the first page of Friends With Boys? Yeah, that was not deliberate, I promise. But look how much your drawing skills can improve if you draw thousands of pages of comics over a ten year period! Anyway, I’m really thrilled my wonderful publisher First Second Books has allowed me to return to my roots and put Friends With Boys online as a lead up to its publication. As a reader and purchaser of comics, I have bought quite a few hard copy versions of online comics, because I enjoy the reading experience of having the whole thing collected, and I want to support the author. I hope you will too. :)

Otherwise, there are a few upcoming events I hope to see some readers at:
Book signing! At my local comics shop Strange Adventures, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 3rd (Saturday), 2-4pm (EDITING TO ADD: The book launch has been moved to the following Saturday due to the books not shipping to Strange Adventures on time. The launch will now be March 10th from 2-4pm. Go here for info).
Comic convention! I’ll have a table at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, May 6th-7th. There are a few other conventions I am trying to attend, but everything else is up in the air at the moment. For updates, please follow my twitter or join my Facebook fan page.  I’m pretty good about updating those two spots.


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