Sketchy Behavior | Hellen Jo 

Never afraid to speak and/or draw her mind, Los Angeles based artist and illustrator, Hellen Jo and her characters can be described as rough, vulgar, tough, jaded, powerful, bratty and bad-ass - AKA her own brand of femininity. Known for her comic Jin & Jam, and her work as an illustrator and storyboard artist for shows such as Steven Universe and Regular Show, Hellen’s rebellious, and sometimes grotesque artwork and illustrations are redefining Asian American women and women of color in comics. In fact, that’s why Hellen Jo was a must-interviewee for our latest Sketchy Behavior where we talk to her about her love of comics and zines, her antiheroines, and redefining what Asian American women identity is or can be; and what her ultimate dream project realized would be.  

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A comiXologist Recommends (their favorites from 2015)

by Harris Smith

There were too many comics this year to pick one favorite, so here’s just a bunch of my favorite things that happened in 2015:

1. Stories from a comic I published, Felony Comics #1, were featured in Best American Comics 2015, so that was pretty cool.

2. Ben Marra, cover artist for Felony Comics #1, published his first graphic novel, Terror Assaulter: One Man War on Terror, from Fantagraphics.  That was also cool.

3. Chuck Forsman’s self-published Revenger continued to channel the spirit of 80′s action movies like Death Wish 3, combined with the stark, deadpan sensibility that made his previous comics, like TEOTFW and Luv Sucker so powerful.

4. Future Shock Zero- If you want to get an overview of the best of today’s indie/art comics scene, Josh Burggraf’s sci-fi anthology is the perfect place to start, with comics by some of my favorite artists, including Lala Albert, Alex Degen, Sophia Foster-Dimino, Victor Kerlow, Jasoph Murphy, Aleks Sendwald, Pete Toms and Ben Urkowitz.

5. Every moment of Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe

6. Antisocial gorilla bikers in The Humans

7. Upping the indie quotient on comiXology like wow with the digital debut of MOME from Fanagraphics

8. We got  my favorite book by my favorite cartoonist, The Freddie Stories by Lynda Barry,  on comiXology, thanks to the digital launch of Drawn & Quarterly

9. Another one of my favorite indie cartoonists, Michel Fiffe, took on Ann Nocenti-era Daredevil (possibly the best creative run on a superhero comic of all time) in Marvel’s Secret Wars: Secret Love #1

10. Good superhero shows on TV- Jessica Jones, for its emotional complexity; Gotham, for being a noir-ish soap opera with Batman characters; and Supergirl, for being smart and fun.

11. DC Comics in general, for giving us a Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League book, teaming up Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cook on the Twilight Children, the new PREZ book, launching the old Joe Simon PREZ on comiXology, launching Jack Kirby’s OMAC on comiXology, and I know it isn’t out yet, but a new Swamp Thing book by Len Wein and Kelly Jones?  Too good to be true.

Harris Smith is a senior production coordinator and the editor of comiXology’s Tumblr, as well as the publisher of Felony Comics and a film programmer at the Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn.  His New Year’s Resolution is to read and make more comics in 2016.

How to be the white guy on the diversity panel:

So, thanks to the types of stories I’m interested in telling and the types of conversations I’m interested in being a part of, I often find myself either part of or hosting diversity or representation panels. For instance, at this year’s Awesome Con I suggested a panel on representation in comics which I titled “Representation is Important”.

To my pleasure, I arrived a minute late to the panel and almost didn’t get in because the panel was overflowing. On the panel with me were Alex Simmons (long time black comic book writer/actor/editor/amazing guy who has worked on everything), Amy Chu (Asian American female comic book writer and all around great person), Alitha Martinez (long time black female comics pro who has worked for both of the big two), and Laura Lee Gulledge (white female indie cartoonist and writer).

Now, I’ve seen panels with similar make ups where the white guy takes it on himself to explain how the comic book industry “really works” to the others on the panel. That’s not really my style. Also, both Alitha and Alex have substantially more history and cred in the industry than I do and Amy and Laura Lee are on pretty well equal footing. So, what do you do? When this is the topic in play, being the white guy on the panel makes you stand out. Also, it can lead to awkward transitions where somebody has just finished talking about the tough time they’ve had dealing with white editors/writers/artists/executives.

Here’s my answer: the first thing everyone did was introduce themselves and how they got into comics. Everybody’s story is pretty different and complex, as they are in any panel where you discuss how you got in. So, I’m at the end of the line and it rolls around to my turn. I take the microphone, smile at the full audience of interested and attentive people and say:

“My name is Jeremy Whitley and I got into comics the old fashioned way: by being a white man.”

I have never seen a room full of people melt so easily. I had to stop talking for a solid minute to let everyone finish laughing. It was amazing. Just throw that elephant up on the stage and let everyone have a good look. Then I explained what I was doing there and why I had an interest in this subject. And for my encore, I decided to take it on my shoulders to be the person who complained about some of the really awful stuff that’s going on in the comics community right now. Not only do I not feel the need to explain the actions of other men (white and otherwise), but I’m not going to make the people who have to face that junk bring it up and make them feel like they’re whining.

Also, and I see this far too often, don’t talk over women/girls. Whether they are on the panel or in the audience, you can generally tell when someone wants to talk and here’s the thing: as a white man there are no shortage or places or resources through which you can express your opinion and while it’s perfectly within reason to take your turn, when the subject is hot and somebody has something they want to say, don’t step on them. It’s the first rule of being an ally and no matter how strongly you FEEL about representation, diversity, or rape threats - these are still issues that only concern you indirectly and you should ALWAYS defer to those for whom it is a day to day issue.

TL:DR - Recognize your privilage. Expose it. Facilitate the conversation. Step back and be an ally rather than attempting to run the panel.

Island #7 by Mat Sheean & Malachi Ward

MAY 4 / 72 PAGES / FC / T+ / $7.99
BRANDON GRAHAM’s award-winning anthology returns! This issue introduces the first Image work by the amazing indy cartoonist MICHAEL DeFORGE (Ant Colony, Lose) along with the third chapter of MATT SHEEAN & MALACHI WARD’s “ANCESTOR.”