Interview: Women of BOOM! – Danielle Corsetto

Danielle CorsettoIt’s Thursday which brings us a new interview and our 16th “Women of BOOM!” feature, spotlighting the many kick-ass women that work at BOOM!, Archaia and KaBOOM! We’re focusing on everyone, editors, designers, writers, artists, you name it! We’re making sure to include the hard-working folks whose contributions are often overlooked in the process.

BOOM! (and KaBOOM! and Archaia) has given us unprecedented access and the chance to ask questions to their staff, and creative teams, to find out why the publisher is so successful in hiring women and their experiences in the comic industry as women.

Danielle Corsetto is a writer who has worked on the Adventure Time OGN Vol. 1: Playing With Fire and Adventure Time OGN Vol. 2: Pixel Princess and the webcomic Girls With Slingshots.

Graphic Policy: How did you get involved in the comic book industry?

Danielle Corsetto: I’ve been creating comic strips since I was eight, published here and there in little publications throughout college, but the real first step I took to “break in” was attending comic book conventions and getting to know people in the industry (as well as other aspiring creators). I’ve been self-published for years, so I never really “got into the comic book industry” per se, but I’ve been creating comics full-time for six years now. I think personal connections and networking are monstrously helpful in getting the word out about your work, so I always recommend comic book conventions to aspiring creators, even if you’re just there as an attendee!

GP: Did you read comics growing up? Do you read them now?

DC: I never read comic books, but I read newspaper comic strips all the time. Now that the scene has shifted mostly to the web, I still read some of my old favorite newspaper strips online, as well as a handful of webcomics and graphic novels. I love anything that falls into the “slice-of-life comedy” genre.

Vol1FullGP: How did you come to work with BOOM!/Archaia?

DC: Lucky for me, it sounds like some of the staff at BOOM! knew my work already, and asked me to work on some of their best properties! I’m currently writing the graphic novels for Adventure Time, which is my favorite show on TV. Even before I got the gig, Adventure Time was the ONLY show I’d subscribed to on my iPad. So it’s a dream come true to play with the characters!

GP: How would you describe your job for people?

DC: I’m best known for my own webcomic, Girls With Slingshots, which is self-published on my website and in book collections. When I meet people who aren’t necessarily familiar with the comics industry, I simply tell them that I’m a cartoonist, and let them ask questions from there. I just got back from visiting a dentist, for instance, and as a fellow small business owner, he wanted to know all about the business model for publishing comics on the web without a subscription model.

I suppose I’m an entrepreneur at heart, but I like the ring of “cartoonist.” It’s always suited me best. :)

GP: For people who want to pursue a career in what you do, what advice would you give them?

DC: One: go to comic book conventions, and two: DO IT!! Put it up on the web so that other people will keep tabs on you and ask when you’re going to do more. It’ll keep you motivated.

Also, when you’re at a convention and someone asks you what you do, don’t call yourself an artist or a writer unless you’re actively spending most of your time creating comics. I know (and you know) that you’re an artist or a writer at heart, but you also know just as well as I do that when someone (in the States, at least) asks you what you do, they’re asking what you do professionally. Tell them you’re an aspiring artist, or an aspiring writer. If you go around telling people you’re already doing it, you’ll never get off your rump and actually do it!

Which brings us back to my second point: DO IT!! Once you start doing it, THEN you can give yourself that title. :)

GP: Did you have a mentor to help you break into the industry? Do you mentor anyone yourself?

DC: I did! Funny enough, he’s a very different kind of artist and writer than I am, but I owe artist Michael Lark for pushing me to quit my job and do freelance work full-time back when I was starting out. He’s an incredible storyteller and all-around great, encouraging guy. Naturally, I met him at a comic convention.

Since then I like to think I’ve been a bit of a mentor to many aspiring artists and writers, just here and there. I teach an illustration class at the local college every spring, and a lot of those students are mad talented! I’m looking forward to keeping tabs on them as they grow, and seeing how their styles mature.

GP: Do you think women have a more difficult time breaking in and making it in the comic industry, if so why? And if yes, how do you think that can be overcome?

DC: I’ve been protected by this, for the most part, because I work for myself, and primarily on the web. But I did get a bit of advice from someone at the very first convention I ever attended as an exhibitor, and it was simultaneously annoying and humbling and painfully accurate.

At that first convention, I’d dressed myself to look (uncharacteristically) pretty and feminine, and I spent a good amount of the show blushing and being self-deprecating about my artwork. I don’t know where I learned to do this – I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy, and I’m pretty bold and confident within my friend circles – but it was definitely a learned behavior.

Someone who’d been working in the industry for a long time talked with me a bit, realized that I’m hardly a shrinking violet, and encouraged me to stop being a caricature of a “woman in comics.” His advice led me me to dress how I usually dress, act how I usually act, be confident in my artwork, and to see myself as a peer to others in the industry, rather than a “woman trying to make it in a man’s world.”

I suppose this could be misconstrued as sexist advice, but it worked for me. I’m very “me” at conventions now, and I feel entirely accepted for it. If you’re a shy female creator who enjoys dressing up, you can still be exactly who you are! (In fact, PLEASE be exactly who you are!) But when people ask you about your work, have confidence in your strengths. Have confidence in the way you’re presented, the way you’re dressed, and in all of your potential. You know you’re just as good as your male peers! And if you honestly think you’re not, then just keep working at it, keep practicing. It’s not like the estrogen in your body is a handicap to your talents, you know that!

GP: We notice that when it comes to women in the comic industry, BOOM!/Archaia has a lot of diversity present. Why do you think have they succeeded when so many other publishers struggle with this?

DC: I’m not sure! I mean, I’ve met the staff, and I feel super comfortable with all of them. I never feel like “the girl creator” (in part because so many of their creators ARE girls!). So maybe it’s because of the overall positive, inclusive attitude of the people they hire. I’m glad I’m a part of it!

GP: We’ve heard horror stories concerning women in the industry, have you ever seen or been discriminated/harassed and if so, how did you handle it?

DC: I haven’t seen much of it first-hand, or at least, I haven’t seen it coming from other professionals.

I think the worst I’ve ever experienced was at a small comic book show in New York, years ago, before my work and my name were becoming well-known. I was sitting next to my aforementioned mentor, Michael, who’s a seasoned professional and has been in the industry for nearly 20 years. Some kid walked up to his table, said some nice things about his work, looked over my (rather lacking, at that point) portfolio, and asked Michael if he thought men were just inherently better at drawing than women. I was surprised by his bluntness (“I’m right here, kid, I ain’t deaf!”), but I think all I could do was laugh. Michael, on the other hand, was appalled, and told the kid that despite the fact that I was 15 years behind him and just starting out, there were plenty of things I could draw better than him.

I humbly disagree – Michael can draw in just about any style – but the point was made that this kid was comparing apples to apple blossoms. I wasn’t any less talented than Michael, but I was over a decade behind him in experience, and that had nothing to do with my gender!

Since then I’ve had one or two guys walk up to me at shows and make an inappropriate comment – I suspect it’s because I’m very open about sexuality in my comic and on Twitter – and I always handle it by giving them an empowered “WHAAAAAAAAT did you just say?” The moment someone crosses a boundary with me is the moment I feel superior to them, because they’re making it so clear that they’re more socially inept than I am. I rarely blow up at people, but I also rarely let it slide when someone objectifies me, or treats me differently than they’d treat a guy.

GP: What advice do you have for women looking to break into the comic book industry?

DC: I guess I’ve already shared this, but: go to comic book conventions; be confident in your abilities; if you feel like you’re not good at something, don’t mope about it, WORK on it; and be yourself. We’re kicking the gender imbalance in comics square in the junk; help us kick it further by kicking ass!