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Abbycomix:
"Rock&roll soap-opera- stylin' mini-comics about life"

An interview with

Abby Denson
from: Brooklyn, NY, USA

by Sonja Eismann, Haydeé Jiménez & Elke Zobl

January 2008


 

Can you tell me a little bit about your personal (age, place of birth and residence etc.) and educational background?

I’m 32 years old. I live in Brooklyn, NY in a brownstone in Carroll Gardens, a lovely neighborhood with gardens in front of and behind each brownstone. I was born in Illinois but grew up in West Hartford, CT, a pretty typical suburban town in New England. I’ve always had a connection to New York since my parents are both from there, as is my extended family. New York is my favorite place and as a child I knew I’d live here as an adult. I have a BA in Cultural Studies from Eugene Lang College and a BFA in Illustration from Parsons School of Design. I also lived in Tokyo for a summer, completing a Summer Session at Sophia University there.




Abby Denson - Self portrait
What are you currently doing, or involved in, besides your zines?
I’ve recently been doing paintings, which is a lot of fun. You can see examples on my site here:
http://www.abbycomix.com/blog/category/paintings/
Also, trying to update my blog regularly, which I think has become a current incarnation of zine culture. I’ve played in punk bands since I was 16 years old but have taken a break from music for the moment as I’m trying to concentrate on my comics career.


Can you tell our readers about your zines/comics? How many people are involved in it?

Creatively it’s just me making the comics, no other contributors. I’ve been using a print on demand place called comixpress.com that also sells the comics they print directly from their site. It’s much more affordable and higher quality than when I used to do it all with copy machines and put them together myself, but I still do handmade zines occasionally and it’s still fun. Also, I’ve started working with the small press comics distributor Tony Shenton. He helps distribute the minicomics to stores around the US.

What topics do you discuss in your comics most often? What language are they written in?
My comics usually deal with finding one’s identity and finding one’s way in the world. They’re drawn in a cute punky style that’s a mix of indy comics with a slight manga influence; I like to work in high contrast black and white or really bright colors. My current project, Dolltopia, is about dolls who are tired of being controlled by humans so they start their own society. I plan to collect it into a graphic novel. In it’s zine form it’s already been used in a few Queer Theory classes! My comics are all in English for the most part, though in the ‘90s I had some in translated into Italian and Japanese and reprinted by fans.


..........
Deadsy Cat + Kissy Kitty

How long have these comic-zines been running?
I’ve been doing it since 1996 or so when my first issue of Tough Love came out (the series is now collected into a graphic novel, published by Manic D Press, and I won a Lulu Award for it). I’ve put out various minicomics since then, including S.P.O.L., Night Club, Jamie Starr Teen Drag Queen, Deadsy Cat & Kissy Kitty, Dolltopia, Passing Notes, and Cute Boys of The ‘80s, to name a bunch of them.

Where/how are your comic-zines distributed? Who are your readers?

Mainly they’re available at conventions I exhibit at like MOCCA Art Fest, Alternative Press Expo, and Small Press Expo. Also they can order them from my website via comixpress.com or get them at stores that Tony Shenton distributes to. I have a pretty big gay readership and also fans of cute comics in general and manga like my stuff.


What kind of responses do you get from your comics’ audience?
I get a lot of support and kind words. Sometimes I get fan art. Especially with Tough Love, which is a coming out story, I get a lot of heartfelt mail from teenagers who say my story meant the world to them at a difficult time in their lives. I’ve also gotten letters addressing suicidal feelings from some gay teens, which is the reason we printed resource information in the back of the Tough Love graphic novel like suicide hotlines and support group info.



Tough Love
How did you become introduced to the culture of zines?
Hmm, the earliest zine I saw was likely Maximum Rock and Roll which had distribution to Barnes & Noble in CT. In high school I was involved in the small local punk and hardcore scene (such as it was) and kids made zines then. Later in art school my friend Jenny Gonzalez did minicomics and when I started to do my own comics I thought it would be a good way to go. Total control, easy to distribute, and fairly cheap to make.

What do you hope to accomplish by making and distributing your comics?

Promoting my work and meeting like-minded individuals. It’s great to have something to give people when you meet them so they immediately know what your art is like and a little bit of what you’re about.

What do you love and find challenging about zine making?

I love the total control aspect and the feeling of having little gifts to give people. Also, there is a definite high when you finish a creative project that’s totally original and that you’re proud of. The challenging part is production. Drawing comics takes a long time and a lot of work, so you have to love it if you plan to stick with it.

Which role does the Internet play for you?

It’s definitely become important. Myspace has become an important way for fans to communicate and for me to promote as well as my e-mail list, message boards, etc. Also, it’s been invaluable for planning book tours and events.

Please name some of your favorite zines and the reasons why you like them.
Oh geez, I haven’t been doing a lot of zine reading lately. That said, I do like Snakepit and LCRW (a literary which I got to contribute to this year), Microcosm’s stuff looks cool. I think I’ll just mention some minicomics here like anything from the Comics Bakery collective, also Fly is an amazing cartoonist and has loads of cool zines she does.


Cookie Time
What are some zines you have read lately that you would recommend to someone learning about the zine-making/reading world?
I’d recommend these links (that internet is so helpful)!
For a very technical and useful advice on making comics, silkcreens, etc. check this out from Jordan Crane’s site:
http://www.reddingk.com/img/reproguide.pdf

Also this minicomics rundown from Tom Spurgeon is useful: http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/all_about_comics/all_about/77/


What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start a zine?
Make sure you’re passionate about it since the work is hard and not usually financially rewarding, so you need your passion to propel you through all the work. Also, have fun!

Do you feel part of a (grrrl or general) zine community or network and what does it mean to you? What is the zine scene like in your community?

I think I did a little more so in the ‘90s when I got Fact Sheet 5 and was doing more trading with other zinesters. I still do penpal with a few other girls doing zines around the world like G.B. Jones and my comics pals from Japan. I’m more part of the comics scene here than a “zine scene” but it’s pretty strong. New York attracts a lot of cartoonists! I’m grateful for all the amazing friends [I've] made due to the comics scene, so it’s a great thing.

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Definitely!

What do you think about feminism today? How would you explain what feminism is to someone who has no idea what it is?
I think there’s a lot of confusion as most women obviously want equality, but many loathe to call themselves feminists. Obviously, a lot of advances have been made, but women still get paid less and are not as respected professionally. There is still a lot of sexual harassment and street harassment to deal with and these issues don’t seem to be taken seriously by many men. Not to mention our medical issues: short maternity leave, and the right to choose and birth control always in peril. There’s still a long way to go.

I’d describe feminism as equal rights for women including equal quality of life and freedom.

What would a “grrrl”-friendly society look like in your view? How do you think society might be re-envisioned and transformed in order to become an “ideal” world for women, grrrls and queer folks? Do you have any suggestions for the development of women/grrrl/queer-friendly policies?

Well, in a perfect world we wouldn’t have war or violence and that would be the most “grrrl” friendly of all! I think changing the way politics work so that it would be easier for minorities to get involved would be great. Also, better sex education and availability of birth control would help things a lot, for girls especially.


Dolltopia

What are some of your personal wishes/visions/ideas/plans for the future, if you like to share them?

I’d like to do more travel, like return to Japan ideally with an art opening or booksigning there. Also I’d like to visit Europe more and see places like Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and Amsterdam (again hopefully with an art show or booksigning event). Have more graphic novels published and book some shows for my paintings, then get back to making some fun music.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

To anyone who dreams of making a zine or comic: Go for it!

Thanks again for taking your time for the interview!



Jamie Starr: Teen Drag Queen

 


info:

http://www.abbycomix.com/
Abby's Web Site

abbycomix [AT] prodigy.net

e-mail



 


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