Rachel Davis, a student on the Masters in Comics and Graphic Novels at the University, is co-founder and organiser of Laydeez Do Comics Dundee, which launches this week on Friday 31 May. Here Rachel, describes how the latest chapter in the Laydeez Do Comics story came into being.
I never left my country until I came here to Dundee this past August. Three-thousand-plus miles to Dundee is worlds away from my hometown Nowhere-ville, New York in more ways than one. Still, I rocketed-off from my doomed planet à la Supergirl with two goals in mind: to obtain a Masters in Comics and Graphic Novels and to be ‘better’ (a better student, person, anything). No singular event in the past nine months has joined my pursuit of comics and self-betterment than my joining the laydeez of Laydeez Do Comics.
Laydeez Do Comics: A History, a Founding, and a Reclamation
If you haven’t heard of Laydeez Do Comics, I hadn’t either until 21 November with cold rain, hot burgers, and the warm smile of illustrator and author Dr. Nicola Streeten sitting across from me. Over lunch, Dr. Streeten described how she and Dr. Sarah Lightman founded a non-profit organization in 2009 to, as the homepage says, ‘champion and support the work of cartoonists, comics artists and graphic novelists whose work focuses on the drama of the everyday.’ The organization does this by hosting free, women-led meetings where folks (no gender specified or dismissed!) come together to discuss their comics, learn from one another, and just be together. This year marks the 10th-birthday of Laydeez Do Comics with ten years of workshops, festivals, awards, mentorships, residencies, and more in the UK, Czech Republic, US, Israel, and India. That full history filled me more than the burger did.
Luckily for me, I was not alone in this feeling. Also at the table were Dr. Golnar Nabizadeh, lecturer in Comics and Graphic Novels, and Grace Wright, my fellow coursemate, American, podcaster-in-arms who listened with the same rapt attention that I did.
In less than ten minutes, Laydeez Do Comics’s latest chapter was founded.
Now six months later and with Comics and Graphic Novels doctoral student Hailey Austin as a fellow co-founder and co-organizer, Laydeez Do Comics Dundee is here.
Popular comics history says that the medium is a ‘No Girls Allowed’ boys club. This narrative claims that, with the exception of ‘girl comics’, girls and women do not read or create comics to the same degree that boys and men do. Reality counters this narrative. Women have always been integral to comics; from Marie Duval, co-creator of iconic British cartoon Ally Sloper to Jackie Ormes, the first African-American woman to have her comics serialized in the 1930s, to several thousand creators working today.
Women have always been a part of comics production. Women also read comics: look no further than the University’s Master’s and PhD programs in Comics and Graphic Novels which have always had more women than men in each class. And yet, the face for the comics fandom continues to be characters like The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy. The work of Laydeez do Comics is necessary for creating a more accurate, all-encompassing face for comics creation, consumption and studies. It allows all of us, regardless of gender or comics expertise, to find our history. Comics, and its history, are yours, and so too is Laydeez Do Comics Dundee.
Laydeez Do Comics Dundee’s First Meeting
The first meeting will be on Friday 31 May. There is a lot to celebrate: Dundee’s first meeting and the organization’s tenth year – but also women reclaiming comics history. Given the importance of this first meeting, it is more than fitting that the theme of the first meeting will be ‘Comics and Memory’. After all, what is history but public memory? We definitely have a memorable day planned for the public at the Dundee Comics Creative Space for the 31st of May. The memorability will consist of:
- Comics-making workshop with Rebecca Horner (16:00-17:00): Artist, colourist and Dundee Comics Creative Space Workshop Coordinator Rebecca Horner will lead attendees in making their own comics around the theme of memory. No drawing ability required!
- A Talk around Representation and Memory in Graphic Novels (18:00-20:00): After a one-hour break, Dr. Nabizadeh will give a 20-minute talk based around her recently released academic book, Representation and Memory in Graphic Novels.
- Panel and Audience Discussion featuring Ink Pot Studio artists (18:00-20:00): After Golnar’s talk, Ink Pot artist Ashling Larkin will moderate a discussion on different types of memory in comics. The panelists will be Ink Pot artist Catriona Laird who draws biographical comics, PhD student Megan Sinclair whose research focuses on graphic medicine and trauma in comics, and Hailey Austin and her work with comics archiving. After a moderated discussion, they will accept questions from the audience.
- A Light Reception (18:00-20:00): What is a celebration without wine and cake? This time will allow guests to discuss comics and memory, and to purchase zines and merchandise from local artists.
On behalf of Laydeez Do Comics Dundee, we hope to see you on the 31st and/or at our future events (July’s meeting will centre on the women behind DC Thomson’s Commando comics!) We would love to have you there to celebrate comics, memory, our comics history, and of course, capital-L Laydeez!