So this will be my last All the Rage.
I won?t lie to you, Rage is a difficult and demanding column to write. It takes a ton of time to contact people, broker deals, peruse websites and newsgroups, and to write everything up. For the last year it?s really been borrowed time for me. I blew off birthday parties for nieces and nephews. I broke plans with good friends and lost much needed sleep. Hell, I refused sex.
But reduced booty action aside, there are really two things that made me decide to step down. The first is this sense that the weekly gossip column is becoming a tired institution. Nearly every comic site has cloned Rich Johnston, and editors are starting to realize they can cover gossip from newsgroups and message boards in their regular news sections. Second, despite this spike in activity, rumors are increasingly hard to come by. Publishers are Big Brothering down on employees to plug information leaks and people aren?t as willing to talk as they used to.
Now don?t worry. Just because I?m leaving the Rage doesn?t mean the Rage won?t continue. You?re getting a new host by the name of Blair Marnell. Blair has contributed to Rage in the past and I?m sure he?ll do his best to keep you hard every Sunday.
For those of you tearing up, my leaving Rage doesn?t mean I?m leaving SBC. In fact, you?ll actually be seeing more material from me each week. A lot of the stuff I?ve been finding on message boards will now end up in the daily news section. I plan to devote more time to interviews, editing and events planning for SBC. By far the most fun I?ve had is meeting creators, talking to them about their projects and discussing their issues with the industry. So I?ll continue doing that.
And of course, I will also continue to get piss drunk at conventions.
It?s been a fun run. Thanks for being there.
PS Since this is my last Rage before I go off to do interviews and that other crap, I have decided to toss out the gossip. Instead, here?s the Colleen Doran interview I promised a few weeks ago. Enjoy.
Colleen Doran: SOILWORK
At the age of 12 Colleen Doran created her critically acclaimed and innovative sci-fi/fantasy series A Distant Soil. Twenty years later she continues to write and draw the story. She?s also found time to illustrate the best-selling graphic novel Orbiter and the epic limited series Reign of the Zodiac. But to get where she is today Colleen had to endure the greed of publishers, push off dirty old men, and fight the urge to give up what she loved most in the world.
In a series of interviews by filmmaker Rich Henn (now available on DVD), Colleen reveals what it took to succeed as a young, talented woman in an industry dominated by men and vultures.
I talked to Colleen about the film, as well as her current and upcoming projects.
COLLEEN DORAN: Rich and I have known each other for some years and he simply approached me and asked me. No problem-o!
MARKISAN: In Scenes From the Small Press you talk about some very personal experiences. There are even moments where you get choked up and cry. Did you think talking about past events would evoke such an emotional response on camera?
COLLEEN: Heck no. I have spent a long time learning to deal with these experiences and thought I had come to terms with everything. But that day, doing the interview for Rich, there was that camera looking at me and suddenly I was remembering that time when I just couldn’t face a blank piece of paper, when drawing became painful. If you watch the film, you realize that despite everything, the only time I become really emotional is when I talk about the time I lost my love for drawing. It was terrible to go through all of those things and survive and come out the other end and realize that they had stolen from me the thing about me that I loved most ? work. And that’s when I lost control. Of course, if I had known I would react that way, I probably would never have done the interview.
It’s also distressing when you consider that there are so many people out there who think the sexual harassment I am talking about is my poor little feelings being hurt because someone told a dirty joke. I am not complaining about things like that. That stuff doesn’t even register on my radar. I am talking about men assaulting me, literally jumping on top of me and having to be pulled away by third parties. Men witholding checks demanding sexual favors and becoming beliigerent and abusive when I was not forthcoming, even going so far as stalking with harassing phone calls at all hours, abusive letters, threats, you name it. I am not even remotely concerned by a joke, or a guy giving me a hug or any of those things. I am talking about some very serious behaviors. I have heard some women complain very sincerely that they thought they were being sexually harassed because someone made a “spin the bottle” joke and I just sort of blinked and said, “Is that all?” I wouldn’t even notice something like that.
MARKISAN: After the interviews were complete did you ever have second thoughts about the video being released?
COLLEEN: Oh yes. I talked for a long time with Rich about it. I had promised to be as honest and open as possible and I thought it would be cowardly to take out the things that I thought made me look bad because of my ego. I left in all of it, even the unflattering parts, and watching me in bad lighting, from an unflattering angle crying on camera and angry as hell is pretty humiliating. But it is also true, and I had to leave it all there. I thought, in the end, even though it is graceless and unlovely looking, that it is a testament to the experience of a lot of creators who really get their hearts broken by the comics industry. And there it is on camera for everyone to see. That’s what it looks like. So we left it, warts and all. I also had some friends look at it and they all agreed it should be left in. A couple of them have known me since I was a teenager and they know what I went through. So, they agreed that it should be seen for what it all was.
MARKISAN: You are careful not to name any of the assholes who harassed you. Did you ever think about getting some payback through the legal system?
COLLEEN: Actually, I did pursue some of these incidents, both criminally and civilly. They were never reported by the comic press. One of the incidents I discuss on camera was particularly interesting because I am describing the behavior of what we would now call stalking. Well, when this happened in the 1980s, stalking was not against the law. A man could follow you around, call you at all hours, send you frightening letters, and generally make your life a living hell and there wasn’t much you could do about it. Other than that, I had to settle matters out of court with these people. I tell you, it was incredibly frustrating. There was no sisterhood in comics back then, let me tell you! If you wanted to go after one of these men, you were on your own! No other woman would testify for you. They were all scared to death.
And in the case of these small press publishers, that was especially bad because when they knew they were in serious trouble, they would just fold up shop, take all your money, steal your art, transfer their assets and start up again under another name. If you wanted to sue, there was nothing left to get. If anyone had an advantage with the legal system, it’s me! My father is now retired, but he was a police chief. And the sad thing is, he knew what I was in for by reporting this stuff to the authorities. The first time I went to the police. I was not taken seriously at all. I had to complain repeatedly before I could get anyone to listen to me. And to complicate matters, all of the incidents were across state lines, making it a federal matter. For the most part, the local governments were powerless and considered it a federal matter or a civil matter. It was a real nightmare.
And of course, the men who engage in this kind of behavior know exactly how best to get away with what they are doing and how to make it as difficult for a woman to get justice as possible. They’re usually not stupid. They don’t conveniently do all of this stuff on camera, you know, though a couple of them were dumb enough to write reams and reams of letters that were excellent evidence.
The one and only iota of satisfaction I got out of any of this is a conversation I had with my father. He had been the head of internal affairs at his police department. That means he had to investigate sexual harassment complaints from female officers and citizens. He told me that after he had seen what I had been through and seen what a toll it took on me, he was forever changed. He was much more sensitive to the women that came to him with complaints. He knew what an awful experience it was and he took it very, very seriously. I was so glad I had told my parents and after speaking with my father about it that day, I decided to be more open about it to everyone. I was really proud that I had stood up for myself and it had had a positive impact in a very important way. So, I have been forthcoming about my experiences ever since. However, my caveat to all of this is that I have never asked for one penny of redress. I have never sued for money at any time. I have asked to be released from a contract due to the serious abuse of the person with whom I was working. Otherwise, whenever I have sought legal help, it was to stop the behavior of the perpetrator. At no time have I asked for damages or a trade off of any kind. I just wanted to be respected by my client. If my client couldn’t behave themselves, then I wanted to be able to leave.
MARKISAN: Did you ever try and do anything to protect yourself from possible harassment, like take some self defense courses?
COLLEEN: Yes. I studied Tae Kwon Do for two years and Tai Chi for a year. Now, I take kickboxing.
MARKISAN: Along with stealing your money some of the people you worked with really tried to take away what you liked to do most – draw. You said that you became physically ill because of all the mental abuse. Yet, you didn’t give up. Obviously getting through something like this can help make a person stronger. What positive things did you take away from the whole ordeal? And what advice would you give to women who are going through similar experiences?
COLLEEN: Well, in the first place I realized that most of the power that these people have over you is power you can take away from them at any time simply by speaking up for yourself. If you recoil from them and act frightened and shamed, then they live on that. That’s why they act the way they do. They love to see the little woman scared and cringing. Your power is their shame. They fear exposure. None of them ever want any of this to be made public. If this guy is one of those small press weenies, a freelancer shouldn’t fear speaking up for one second. These guys are pipsqueaks on a cosmic scale. They don’t seem weak when you’re a kid just starting out, and you will probably never see the money they owe you if you fight them, but you don’t want to be stuck working for those jerks anyway. Might as well leave and let everyone else know what they are in for if they go to work for this freak. There was no internet when I was starting out. There is now. News travels fast. If the man who is giving you a hard time is working for a big company, he is a major liability to that company. If you keep careful records, get him on tape and if you are smart, you can really build a case. Go directly to your superiors and let them know what is going on. No major publisher wants a scandal or a lawsuit. They will be forced to deal with the matter, one way or the other. Ultimately, you just want to do your job in a place where you don’t want to be grabbed and jumped and bullied by some pervert. If your behavior is impeccably professional, you will win in the end.
Moreover, since these goofballs have a major character flaw which revolves around bad attitudes about power, this can probably be exploited by you. If you watch carefully, you will find out that they are playing fast and loose with ethics in other areas. Find out where their weakness is. In every case where I have had a problem with a man like this, I have also had a problem with the same person violating my contractual rights. Abuse of power will manifest itslef in many ways and sexual harassment is an abuse of power. These goofballs won’t be able to resist skimming money, trying to steal your copyrights, ripping you off on your licenses, you name it. When you find that other dirty deal, you’ve just got more ammo to work with. It is always there. These guys can’t resist.
MARKISAN: Hopefully the sexism you experienced in the comic business isn’t as rampant today. Do you think things have changed?
COLLEEN: Yeah, I do, but I am not the best person to answer that question. Predators seek out the weak. I am not a little girl of fifteen just getting started in comics anymore. These men are going to avoid me because they know I can fight back. If you want to know what things are like today, you must speak with beginners. However, they are not usually very honest about their experiences because they are afraid of being blacklisted or labeled a trouble maker.
MARKISAN: In the film you mention that a couple of your harassers offered their apologies years later. One was made indirectly, to your editor. The other was an acknowledgement of your artistic skill after years of insult. How do you feel about these guys finally giving you some small measure of respect after all these years?
COLLEEN: I don’t feel much about them one way or the other. Either they mean it or they don’t. Everything they do is between them and their conscience.
MARKISAN: The video isn’t all about your troubles with people in the comic book industry. You talk a lot about your work too. Late in the film you mention Stealth Tribes, your upcoming collaboration with writer Warren Ellis. I believe there was even a folder marked Stealth Tribes on your wall. What exactly is the story about and how far along are you on the project?
COLLEEN: It is a hardcore cyber punk tale. I love it! I am about 1/3 into it. I was just starting to research it when we filmed the last part of the video. You will start seeing art and promos for it soon. It will be out later this year.
MARKISAN: Like Orbiter, Stealth Tribes will be an original graphic novel. What appeals to you about the OGN? Do you plan to do more books in this format?
COLLEEN: The thing I love most about drawing comics is being able to create a well-realized world with my work. A cartoonist has more opportunities to design a complete world vision than in any other medium. Illustration is limited and film is far more collaborative. A visual artist has the best chance of getting her work seen in its complete form in comics.
The monthly comics grind makes it more difficult to maintain a solid and well designed world than the graphic novel format because I have one story to concentrate on over a long period of time in the GN. I can conceptualize and focus in a fashion that I can’t really do in a monthly comic which gives me 22 pages, then another 22 pages, and so on. I have to keep jumping in and starting over every month, perhaps researching whole new material every single month, especially if I am doing fill-ins which I did for most of my career. One is a sprint and the other is a marathon. I am a marathoner. It’s part of my character.
I actually get less time to do the job on a graphic novel than I would to do a monthly comic. If I were doing a monthly comic, I would only be penciling 22 pages a month. But I have to do about 16 pages of pencils and 16 pages of inks on a book like Stealth Tribes or Orbiter. However, since I don’t have to do full pencils on them, that saves me a lot of time right there.
A book like Stealth Tribes is unusually difficult because almost every page requires some sort of reference or design work. I spent a significant period of time researching Orbiter in the beginning, but since the material was all about the space shuttle, I was able to concentrate my effort on one subject. Stealth Tribes is all over the map and has a large cast, so I have to keep very organized files to reference and may spend a couple of hours on a particular page just researching something.
Of course, the advantage to a monthly comic is that I can come up with a style and stick with it, getting faster and more familiar with the look of the book. However, I change my style on every project, so each time I start a new book, I start off really slowly! Editors that aren’t used to working with me get a little nervous because my pace is plodding in the beginning, but once I get my speed, I can go rather quickly. I never really have time to grasp a style on a graphic novel so as to get a lot of speed, but by the time I finished Reign of the Zodiac, I was not only penciling the book, but had ghost inked most of the last issue as well!
I always spend a lot of time in the beginning of a project conceptualizing, coming up with the design elements and gathering my reference. Graphic novels are a total immersion experience that I truly enjoy. I love to be lost in the work for months at a time. I would be very content doing more and more graphic novels.
MARKISAN: Is your own writing ever influenced by your work with other writers such as Ellis on Orbiter or Kieth Giffen on Reign of the Zodiac?
COLLEEN: Nope. In fact, when I write, I make it a point not to read anything by anyone else for awhile so my voice won’t start picking up stylistic traits from others.
MARKISAN: Reign of the Zodiac was originally supposed to last 12 issues with the hope that the series would continue after the first arc. Unfortunately the book was cancelled after just eight issues. Given the early fate of that title, are you at all hesitant to do more long-term projects?
COLLEEN: No, not really. I throw myself into every project as if it is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I love every one of them and give it my best regardless.
MARKISAN: Other than Stealth Tribes and A Distant Soil, what other projects do you have in the works? Any chance you’ll do something for Marvel again?
COLLEEN: Whew! That’s a good question. I have had several inquiries and my name is being bandied about at Marvel for something, but nothing definite. I’d love to work at Marvel again. I really loved doing a Mutant X Annual a few years back. That was great! There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that I can’t announce, a lot in a variety of genres, formats, mediums. If I live long enough to do all of the great projects I have been discussing, I will be a happy girl!
MARKISAN: Can you describe your creator-owned series, A Distant Soil, for folks who might not know about the book?
COLLEEN: A Distant Soil is the story of a young girl who is born an Avatar. She can draw on the Collective life force of her people. But only one Avatar is ever supposed to exist at a time and if two remain, the power is diminished and can’t be controlled. Since the Avatar is a weapon of mass destruction on his homeworld, that leaves them without their supreme weapon, the power they use to control their section of the universe. So, the bad guys make it a point to capure and kill Liana. However, the real Avatar is rebelling against his own people and secretly tries to help Liana. There’s lots of political intrigue and many strong characters. It is really a unique books in comics, I think!
MARKISAN: You’ve been writing and drawing A Distant Soil for 20 years. How does it feel to have come this far with the book?
COLLEEN: Weird. I am getting close to the end. Every time I get closer I get more and more nervous. It is like losing my security blanket. It’s ridiculous! I have plenty of other projects. But I am so attached to this one it is ridiculous.
MARKISAN: Now that Scenes From the Small Press: Colleen Doran is out are you interested in seeing other creators tell their stories in this kind of format?
COLLEEN: Yes, absolutely. Comic books are a native American art form. There is very little biographical information about creators, very little being written about the true history of this medium. I’d like to see in depth biographical info about people like Frank Miller, for instance. Jeff Smith. There are lots of fascinating stories about the people of comics.
To purchase a copy of the film Scenes From the Small Press: Colleen Doran visit www.timespell.com/colleen.html.
For more information about Colleen Doran and her work visit visit www.colleendoran.com.
To catch up on Colleen Doran?s work check out these graphic novels:
|A Distant Soil
|A Distant Soil
|A Distant Soil