Bachelor of Arts
Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies
Gender, Comics, Graphic narrative, Hillary Chute, Alison Bechdel, Lynda Barry, Oberlin, Gendercomic, Zines, Risograph, Self-publishing
“Gendercomic” draws from two main sources to create a graphic narrative about gender and process. One source is the “Big Five,” the women whose work Hillary Chute examines in her book Graphic Women. These five women (Alison Bechdel, Lynda Barry, Marjane Satrapi, Phoebe Gloeckner, and Aline Kominsky-Crumb) have created graphic narratives, as Chute terms their work, which are works of book-length nonfiction that can only be told through the combination of words and images. The Big Five eke out a space for themselves in a comics world that has only recently become a little friendlier to women. Each narrative foregrounds the creator, demanding a space for themselves and their content in a male-dominated industry. Zine culture, the other main influence on “Gendercomic,” similarly foregrounds creators.
“Gendercomic” emerged partially from zine culture and the Oberlin Comics Collective (OCC). OCC publishes student comics and provides opportunities to attend comics conventions including Genghis Con and Comics Crossroads Columbus, and as a result the chance to learn from many contemporary zine and comics creators. Elements of zine culture found in “Gendercomic” include the playlist, handwritten text, and printing process. Including a playlist foregrounds the creator as a person with an existence beyond (but connected to) their work. All the text and drawings in “Gendercomic” are individually inked. Handwriting, as Chute argues, is incredibly personal and allows readers to connect with creators. Lastly, printing on a risograph reaffirms the handmade quality of “Gendercomic” and empowers the process of self-publishing and circulating “Gendercomic.”
“Gendercomic” contains both process comics and personal narratives. The process comics (titled “The…”) make transparent the development of the work. Although similar works could have served as helpful models, no works with all major elements of “Gendercomic” were available as models. Information about the process of creating “Gendercomic” will hopefully be useful for other creators. The personal narratives in “Gendercomic” focus on the author’s relationship with gender and gender studies. One purpose of creating these narratives is personal healing, but aside from that motive, the narratives provide an opportunity for readers to learn about gender studies topics free from the often-convoluted language of scholarly articles. This accessibility has been a main goal of the work even as its form and content have evolved. Other gender studies majors can already learn about the topics “Gendercomic” addresses through scholarly articles. “Gendercomic” is intended primarily for people in the author’s life who are not studying gender studies: family, peers from home, and non-professor adults.
“Gendercomic” exists at the intersection of the Big Five and of zine culture. The author includes doodle monsters in the style of Lynda Barry, draws Oberlin scenes as does Alison Bechdel, and grounds the work in zine culture. “Gendercomic” includes two types of comics in order to make process and gender studies topics accessible. By synthesizing influences, “Gendercomic” demands space for the author and the work to exist and be valued in academia.
Buckwalter, Anne H., "Gendercomic" (2015). Honors Papers. 255.