Jessica Abel interview (April 2006)

April 27, 2006 | Interviews


Jessica Abel isn’t a great female comic book creator — she’s a great comic book creator.
Before her arrival in Toronto to be part of the Women Of Comics symposium at the 2006 Paradise Comics Toronto Comicon (, the Brooklyn, N.Y., resident spoke with JPK about the status of female creators, her influences, her new book and the use of the term “graphic novel”.

JPK: What is your impression of the Women Of Comics event you’ll be participating in this weekend?
Abel: I think it’s really great to be able get a bunch of women together that are doing this.
I looked at the list of panels the other day and there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on.
Although I always have mixed feelings about going to an event as a woman in comics as opposed to as a cartoonist.
It’s not a lack of pride in being a woman cartoonist, but that it’s just odd.

JPK: So it’s weird to be singled out for one thing when it’s not the most important thing?
Abel: It’s not the central emphasis of my work, obviously. But that said, I think that the selection of people that they’ve chosen to bring kind of back’s that up in a way. There is no theme to the women who are coming.
A lot of women who are coming I don’t have any idea who they are — which is good. There have been times in comics when almost any woman in comics, I would know who they were.

JPK: Given the number and the diversity of female creators coming, do you think this shows women’s stature in the industry is at a high-water mark?
Abel: No, not at all. I think it’s only just beginning.

JPK: Is getting together a couple of dozen top female creators a good start?
Abel: I think it’s really good to have this wide variety of women coming to the show, showing how diverse the work of female creators is.
The basic thing I’ve always said about this topic is that the reason there aren’t more women cartoonists of my age and older is that there was very little work that most girls would like back when we were kids.
That has changed completely. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that there were more young girls than boys reading comics. With the influx of Manga and then the new wave of accessible non-ouetré super-hero comics, there’s just a lots of girls reading comics and that means that a lot of girls are going to want to make comics. Over the years I think we’re going to a huge increase in the proportion of women making comics. This is just the leading edge.

JPK: So then how does it feel to be part of that leading edge?
Abel: It will be nice when I don’t have to talk about it anymore. It will be nice when it’s just automatic. You know, when it’s not notable and it’s not special to be a woman in comics — when it’s just normal. That will be the mark of us having come really, really far.

JPK: What were your influences when you started reading comics?
Abel: I read lots and lots of comics when I was a kid — anything I could get my hands on — and I did like super-hero comics. Not deeply, but I liked them enough, which was some part of what helped me stay in it, stay reading until I found really good comics.
When I was in college, the real turning point for me, although I had seen other comics that I had really loved before that, the one thing that made me want to do it myself was Love And Rockets.
I could name off a whole bunch of other influences that were around the same time, but that was the really thing that turned me from being just a reader to wanting to do it.

JPK: Do you see influences from Love And Rockets in your work?
Abel: I think it’s more for others to say whether it shows or not, but Jaime’s work has been a perpetual favourite of mine. I don’t think his work and my work are very similar now, but they do have the same basic approach, which is the semi-realistic, and yet fully fiction world.
That’s a really broad category when you’re talking about literature or film or something — not even worth mentioning — but in comics it’s not such a huge category.

JPK: Your new book, La Perdida, is excellent. What has the reaction to it been like?
Abel: Thanks. The reception has been really, really good. There’ve certainly been a few people who have picked on stuff about it, but for the most part, say 99 per cent of the reaction has been very positive.
But of course, I’ve been releasing it in installments, so it’s not new for me. But the book is new and there are a lot of new readers, which is nice. It’s been nice to encounter people who’ve found it for the first time because now it’s outside of the comics’ ghetto.

JPK: So what’s the follow up project?
Abel: Right now I’m working on the script for a comic with a co-writer and it’s being drawn by a guy name Warren Pleece. It’s called Life Sucks and it’ll probably be out in 2007.
My husband, Matt Madden, and I are also working on a textbook for making comics.
I’m also working on a non-graphic novel — that’s what we’re going to call them from now on, by the way.

JPK: A non-graphic novel?
Abel: Anything that’s not a comic is now called a non-graphic novel.

JPK: I like that.

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