Towards the end of last year I was asked a few questions about my involvement with the amazing series of events / movement that is Laydeez Do Comics, as well as the role gender plays as a comic creator. The related article looks unlikely to be published now but Guardian journalist Tola Onanuga‘s questions raised some interesting points so I thought I would put the Q&A up here…
Tola: How did you get involved with Laydeez do Comics?
Richy: I first went along to see my friend, the manga artist Inko, talk back in 2011 when Laydeez Do Comics took place off Brick Lane. I was a little nervous of how men would be received in the group but it turned out to be one of the most welcoming comic events I’d been to. Soon afterwards I was asked to create one of their monthly graphic blogs ( see here! ) and later to give a presentation of my own work. I’ve enjoyed attending most of the monthly meetings in London since then, and recently the creators of Laydeez, Nicola and Sarah, wrote about the positive impact of Laydeez Do Comics as a foreword to my comics anthology Tempo Lush Tales of the Tanoox. Tola: Why do you think events like Laydeez do Comics are important?
Richy: While the readership of comics and graphic novels is diverse, the public perception of the medium seems to still be that it is largely almost solely male orientated. There need to be events which make an effort to welcome women into discussions of comics culture.
Laydeez Do Comics goes beyond creating a comfortable space for different genders to feel included. It involves contributors from a wide range of backgrounds and ages working in different genres. It even lets first time creators discuss their work alongside comics veterans.
Tola: Where do you find inspiration for your art?
Richy: I grew up making comics, my world immersed in Peanuts strips, Disney films and Hannah-Barbara cartoons. Its natural to me to express my thoughts and frustrations through creative means. I think more and more people are turning to comics as a form of cathartic self-therapy. Right now, parenthood is influencing my work, and while the giants of comics and cartoons still inspire me, local creators like Amber Hsu (Tiny Pencil) and Simone Lia (Fluffy) also have a huge impact.
Tola: What role, if any, do you think gender plays in a comic artist’s chance of success?
Richy: You wouldn’t think it was an issue sitting amongst the open minded folk at Laydeez Do Comics, or visiting the artist alley at virtually any comic convention where you’ll find no lack of talented female creators. However, if you compare the high percentage of women who have an interest in comics with the much smaller number who get their work published there’s clearly a discrepancy.
Tola: Where did the inspiration for your heroine Lucy the Octopus come from?
Richy: The Lucy the Octopus strip allows me to look back at times of feeling bullied and ostracised at school. By making the protagonist both an octopus and a girl I avoid any self-conciousness that would come from a more direct autobiography. I wanted to make Lucy a traditional “everyman” figure who happened to be a girl, but is relatable to everyone. Young boys growing up need female role models as well as male ones. Tola: What has been your favourite piece of work so far?
Richy: Working on Lucy the Octopus for three years had been incredibly satisfying and it will be be bittersweet when I finish off her story next year. It’s also been really enjoyable collaborating with dozens of artists from the small press comics scene in my Tempo Lush Tales contemporary comics anthologies.
Tola: And finally, what are you currently working on?
Richy: I’m developing a graphic novel focussing of the pressure to fulfil societal gender roles from a male perspective. It’s about a lumberjack raising a son while keeping his passion for cake baking suppressed!