Jennifer Camper is a NYC cartoonist whose books include Rude Girls and Dangerous Women and subGURLZ. Her work has been exhibited internationally. She’s the founding director of the Queers & Comics Conference, making her a voice of reason to field asinine relationship and comic book questions. Recently, we caught up with her about queer theory, comics vs. graphic novels, and the value of art.
All questions are pure satire and don’t reflect the actual views of the interviewer.
I just saw the horror movie Us that dealt with the theory of mole people. As a writer, do I need to better explore the subway of NYC to create a similarly glorious plot?
Subways are a great place for people-watching and eavesdropping. Writers and cartoonists can find all kinds of subject matter while riding the rails. People act out on subways — they are both a public and private space. And NYC does have miles of abandoned tunnels filled with secrets. I wrote my comic subGURLZ about the adventures of three women living in subway tunnels.
My partner has been slaving away at his comic for years now sinking most of our savings. I don’t know if his big break will ever come. What should I do?
Most cartoonists need a day job. Some options are teaching, graphic design, illustration, and crime. Another option is to snag a wealthy partner.
Is it more important to assign sexual identifications and orientations to characters from the get-go or let the audience decide?
It depends on the story. Sometimes it will be obvious, as when the first scene describes two women having rough sex in a gas station bathroom. Sometimes it will be a surprise, as when a character at the end of a story is lusting after a complete stranger on the street. And sometimes the character’s sexuality might be a mystery, and the audience has to fill in the blanks. The information should be conveyed in a way that best serves the narrative.
I don’t hang an LGBTQ flag above my store because it’s bad for business. Is it bad business to be writing novels or comics that are exclusively branded as LGBTQ?
If you’re writing novels or comics as a “business” then they probably won’t be very good. If you’re writing novels or comics because you have an important or intriguing story to tell, then you should write it as best you can and include whatever the story needs — queers, women, people of color, working class people, a variety of ages and bodies, robots, mermaids, and women with tails.
How should we effectively combat the culture of expectations that artists should give their work for free, especially when first establishing a relationship with a client?
Artists need to educate their clients. Remind them that they wouldn’t expect a dentist, lawyer, or rollercoaster tester to work for free. Sometimes artists can offer a discount or do work for barter for low-income clients. Artists should donate free work only when they choose — it should not be expected.
Why are certain artists and writers offended by the term ‘graphic novel’ as opposed to ‘comic book’?
The correct term is comics, godd*mmit. Folks often think that comics are lowbrow and only for children. So people adapted the term ‘graphic novel’ to imply that the work was deep, literary, and for adults. But not all comics are novels — some are memoir, journalism, poetry, biography, or other genres. Calling all comics ‘graphic novels’ is pretentious, inaccurate, unnecessary, and confusing. They’re all comics. Get used to it.
My 11-year-old daughter was caught reading a comic book at school based on the current political resistance. Her teacher snatched it, and then refused to return it. Should my daughter organize a school protest?
She should definitely organize a school protest. It’s fun and it’s a group activity.
Has the rise of adult entertainment totally killed off my idea of an erotic flip-o-rama comic?
Absolutely not. In the dystopian future, electricity will become less available and analog porn will become a necessity.
All art by Jennifer Camper