Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Devin Grayson interview 

Over at Comicgate, a German comics site, there's an interesting Devin Grayson interview, in which she turns the tables and offers a slate of questions she'd like to ask men in the industry regarding "men in comics."

Well, okay.

Do you find it difficult to write female characters convincingly?

Oh, Christ. I find it difficult to write anyone convincingly. Men, women, housepets, insects that do nothing but move towards light or moisture. I've tossed out autobiographical scripts because I couldn't make myself believable.

Do you ever worry that you’re alienating a female audience, or spend any time thinking about how to attract them? Do you feel any responsibility to do this? Do you think your female colleagues should (feel responsible for attracting female readership)?

Never, and never. I think the women I draw are absolutely real, and appealing to anyone who prefers recognizable people to supermodel glamour. It might have even hurt my career in this market, where glamour is, let's face it, a big selling point.

I don't think any creator should feel responsible for attracting any particular demographic. A creator's job is telling a story as well as it can be told.

Do you think men and women have different interests when it comes to reading?

Speaking very generally, yes, particularly when it comes to button-pushing genre material at the far fringes of literature. But a good story that transcends the formulaic will appeal to anyone.

When you’re creating a female character, do you put any special thought in to it? Maybe ask a female friend for input or write specific directions to the artist regarding her physical appearance and presentation or internal life and psychological profile?

I like to think I put special thought into any character I create. I've only written for my own illustration, so I've never had to put special instructions into my scripts, but I often consult with my wife (and occasional collaborator) Sara Ryan about women's clothing, and when she's the writer, I'm eager for any insights into the characters' internal states.

Do you feel any sense of responsibility for creating realistic, heroic female characters that aren’t primarily defined by their relationship with a male hero or villain? Do you think your female colleagues should (feel responsible for creating these type of characters)?

The heroic part rarely applies, but I think my responsibility is telling compelling stories, and that means the people I'm writing about need to be more than stage dressing. Far more often than not, of course, I'm just illustrating someone else's story. If the script isn't what it ought to be, it's my job to use the tools I have at my disposal- staging, gesture, visual subtext- to nudge things in a better direction.

Would you let your thirteen-year-old son read your work? Your thirteen-year-old daughter? What do you think he would get out of the experience? How about her?

This is a hypothetical offspring, but sure. I think he or she would get to read some decent fiction, and non-fiction, and some weird-ass superhero stories that don't make any sense because they were part of forgotten cross-over events or continuity patch-ups.

How do you feel about competing with females for assignments? Is it difficult having to defend your position as a male in an industry already glutted with them?

Never gave it any thought. On my first mainstream job, I was brought in to replace Jan Duursema, who was leaving Hawkman for an X-book. I got my start because a female artist moved up the ladder.

Do you think people in your industry treat you differently because you’re a man?

Nope. They treat me differently because I'm an awkward, stuttering mouth-breather working in a style that's state-of-the-art for 1955.

How would you feel about conducting an interview that focused exclusively on your gender, with no discussion about your work or your writing process? How would you feel if the majority of your interviews and publicity took this slant?

Irritated. I'd probably wind up creating a fictional interviewer, writing my own interviews and hype, and putting them on the web myself.

Many people assume that women are naturally more interested in and better at all the dialoging and character differentiation that go along with human interaction. Do you feel at a disadvantage as a writer since you may not have as much insight into relationship dynamics as your female colleagues? How do you compensate for that?

I do think I'm at a disadvantage for this, but it's got less to do with my gender than my problems functioning in normal human society. I compensate by crumpling up paper and starting over, and over, and over.

Who are you dating? Why do you think your female colleagues always get asked this question?

I'm dating my wife of seven years, Sara Ryan.

Why do my female colleagues always get asked this question? Hard to say. Maybe because to hardcore geeks, the very notion of a woman who knows from superheroes is stunning. The idea that there's a woman, an attractive woman, out there who might somehow appreciate them for their obsessions- it sets their brains on fire. I think they see such a woman as being a prize the industry bestows, like an Eisner Award, or a special insert in an issue of Wizard.

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