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Saturday, 16 July 2011

Comics Scotland: Team Girl

The Team Girl collective, who now consist of upwards of twenty female writers and artists, have been making a name for themselves recently, not just with their small press Team Girl Comic which is now on its third issue, but also by holding talks and workshops in locations as diverse as the Glasgow Film Festival and the International Alternative Press Festival in London. Team Girl Comic editor Gillian Hatcher (above left with Coleen Campbell right) talked to downthetubes about how the team got together, what inspires them and what their plans are for the future.

I first had the idea of starting a female comic group about two years ago. I’d been making my own comics for a few years before that- just photocopied zines- but was starting to feel a little isolated as I didn’t have any female friends who were into comics, and as far as I could tell at the time I was the only girl in Glasgow making comics (this of course turned out to be untrue). There were a few reasons why I wanted the group to be all-female. Firstly I didn’t think that my work quite fitted in with all the male-created comics coming out of Glasgow. Also I felt that Team Girl Comic had to be exclusively female, at least for the time being, as there are comparatively so few female created and female oriented comics out there right now in the indie comics scene. I wanted it to be something that was appealing to women readers and non- intimidating for the creators. From my own experience, women are more likely to be lacking in self-confidence when it comes to showing off their work, and it’s been great to see women pick up Team Girl Comic and say ‘hey, I could try that!’

We want the group to be inclusive and constantly evolving, so we welcome women and girls from any background, age or experience. This means we’ve got artists from their teens to their forties, professional artists to engineers, experienced cartoonists to people trying out comics for the first time.

To get the group started I began by looking to the people around me. I knew my friend Katie Pope had drawn comics in art school, and my engineer friend Iona Mowat had mentioned she sometimes drew comics but wasn’t publicising them. My little cousin Emma McLuckie liked to draw and my younger sister Jessica was up for giving it a go, so that was the beginning of Team Girl Comic. Very quickly word got round and those other women in Glasgow who were drawing comics, such as Heather Middleton and Penny Sharp came forward, as well as whole load of other contributors. Some heard about it through their friends in the group, some found us online or met us at comic and zine fairs. The first issue had just six contributors, the second twelve and the most recent issue had fourteen, and there are now more than twenty artists in the loop. It’s quite a lot to manage but we want to be as fluid as possible: contributors can be as committed as they want to be, keeping the comic fresh and varied.

As for the comics, each issue is a collection of short comic stories. There are no rules about what the comics can be about so we get a whole variety of submissions: autobiographical, sci-fi, cute animals, feminism, observations from our daily lives. Although most of the stories are written by adults for adults, we want to make sure Team Girl Comic is something a younger girl could pick up and perhaps be inspired by. Obviously being all girls the stories come from a female perspective, but we don’t set out to be especially ‘girly’ and the comics are read by both men and women more or less 50-50. This is exactly the way we wanted it to be: a comic that appealed to any gender but might also draw in some women who wouldn’t normally pick up a comic book.

Although the content isn’t all girly, the design of the comics so far has been very much influenced by the classic girls comics and magazines that some of us enjoyed growing up, such as Bunty, Twinkle and Misty. A lot of us also grew up reading the ‘boys’ comics too like The Beano and X-Men, as well as things like Tintin, Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes.

These days I think most of us mainly read indie graphic novels and collections, from Sandman and Maus to Persepolis and Blankets, but there are a fair number of us who are into our superheroes and manga too. I think the growing popularity of such graphic novels and their gradual acceptance as genuine literature has drawn a lot more women towards comics in the past few years.

The main point to Team Girl Comic is that it’s supposed to be DIY and fun, but if we can promote the ‘cause’ of women and girls in comics at the same time that’s great. So as word has got round and we’ve got a little press coverage, we’ve been invited to do a few workshops on the subject of women and comics for both the International Alternative Press Festival in London and the Glasgow Comic Con. This was perhaps helped by the fact I volunteered to do a presentation on making your own comics for the Glasgow Film Festival, which had a comics theme this year. Although we’re not experts in female comics it’s obviously something that interests us a lot, so we were able to lead discussions around what women and girls want from comics and what we could do about it. It was concluded in these workshops that although the situation is definitely improving, there is definitely a few gaps in the market when it comes to comics for girls and the world of comics can still be especially intimidating to a female newbie. We didn’t of course arrive at the ultimate solution to these problems, but it was great to hear the thoughts and experiences of regular female comics readers and creators, some lifelong fans others quite new to the scene.

We don’t have any more workshops planned at the moment but we will be attending several fairs in the near future, the big one being Thought Bubble in November (expect issue 4 by then, featuring even more new creators!). In the meantime you can buy Team Girl Comics from our BigCartel shop online or from various comics shops around the country.

We can’t believe how quickly the group has grown in such a short space of time and the positive responses we’ve got from the readers has been so encouraging. Our main plan for the future is to just keep going and going, making more and more comics and engaging with more people through our stories and events.

Team Girl Comic is stocked in Orbital in London, Plan B Books in Glasgow, Deadhead Comics in Edinburgh and OK Comics in Leeds.

There is more information about Team Girl on their
blog, which includes links to their on-line shop, and also on their Facebook page.

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