Monday, July 13, 2009

ZX page 6: Reflection Cascade

This page and the one after it were the first major hurdle in making this comic. I'm at page 15 now so looking back I can sorta see how I am struggling with writing a woman. I am not a woman, though my flowing beautiful locks befi... uh. It's difficult to write about what you don't know, and I have to constantly remind myself that we're all people in the end, made of people-stuff. And also, well I'm certain this won't win me any fans but in the spirit of no shames and all that, I *do* have to fight off an amount of misogyny when writing women, this reactionary urge to write them as if they're fundamentally shallow. I shall explain myself before my throat is spectrally cut.

To rationalize this fault I'd have to say that since romantically I've only been interested in women, I've had my emotions toyed & tampered with and ultimately abused by only by women. Amazing cruelty and crassness and often unapologetic baseness, you know how it is. I'm certain that the other half of the population gets treated similarly by men and that gender, and to degrees, social and communal status probably don't have much to do with anything. We're all half-blind, fumbling and pawing our ways through dim and brittle paths to each others psyches. Damage must occur.

So, writing Mary (Marina, in Greek) is difficult because I want to be fair to her and her concerns, but I do not want her to be an author insertion (there's plenty of that elsewhere), nor do I want her to be 'easily likable', or sexy fanservice (which sickens me as a concept to tell the truth). I want alienation and emotional convergence in equal amounts, and whereas when I write Stephan and ZX my bearings are true because this is my life I'm talking about (they basically write themselves, seriously, you should see my rambling drafts. Not much is amended or left out), Mary comes from an outside perspective:

I'm often preoccupied with the 'dull burdens' of everyday middle-class life, not so much because they're fascinating in themselves but in how we manage to extract perfect amounts of misery from them. Even though our basic needs are met, we're not starving to death, think of the children in Africa, etc... So in pondering young women I find my myind wandering around the complexities of their 'social obligations' towards family, expected communal status and so on. I haven't had to deal with this in my own life a lot because I self-identified with a concept of an 'artist' pretty early in my teenager years and I hid behind the aloofness this concept allows for for a long time (well... still, I guess). Girls are much more tormented with being what they're supposed and expected to be societally, and especially if they develop the necessary skills to cloak their own emergent teenager personalities behind those socially-pleasing, overachieving masks, they tend to not develop in a way I'd judge (sorry) as evenly paced. Namely, they seem to skip adolescence. They go straight from being children, to being adults (as least as far as the outer world is concerned). So whereas they appear much more mature, much earlier than teenage boys, after the social motiffs of schooling/higher education and the straightforward life goals that come with them effectively run out (via achievement), they're often confronted with large gaps in their personal expression. Mary is an exploration of this, I suppose, but not an intentionally cruel one. You'll see where this goes as the comic progresses.

For lovers of comic theory, check out the almost panel-by-panel visual counterpoint to the wording of the inner monologue. The theme of reflection especially, colors the morphology of this page.

Thank you for reading, as always. Comment and make the reclusive artist happy

- Helm

P.S. check out those mad torrents running overnight


Solar said...

Writing the dialogue for the opposite gender my seem inaccurate, just as writing about the life of the same gender could be inaccurate having not experiened that sort of life. What's more important, in my view, is creating a consistant and believable character that withstands critisim objectively. That is not to say the character cannot be created subjectively, using personal experience regardless of gender differences. The key is that once a character is constructed, it stands up objectively as a 'persona' in its own right. There are many female traits and male traits that actually occur in both genders in equal measure. Gender is often a more visual affair than a model of actions (although we all carry a specific sterotype that fits 'male' and 'female' for thoughts and actions).

A good character is not one that fits a preconception but one that is believable.

Mary works as a character, and I particularly look forward to the exploration of suppresson of personal expression of the sake of outward appearence and acceptance.

I will say the line 'Mostly a promise, so that when I break it I will have hard evidence so I get to hate myself.' is very Helm :) Nothing to stop a woman experiencing that too.

Look forward to turning the page next week


Helm said...

My biggest concern is not that women and men are intrinsically different (which they are, and I can deal), it is that society pressures a whole different set of acquired differences as if they're basic on us, and how human beings reflect on both real differences and perceived ones can create even more. It's like playing up to a stereotype, you become a gross parody of it, you know? Humans often want to define themselves contra natura but that too is a clich╬╣ spectacle definition. The only valuable thing is to be able to detect whether a gender roles are derived from nature or not to begin with in order to assess them. A lot of what we deem as 'female behavior' is very much not so. What is left at its core?

Ryan Marlow said...

I think that it's easier to write from another gender's perspective if you see that men and woman face the same emotional hurdles based on their position. They just deal with those issues differently.

Nick said...

"I have been thinking of the eldest of the three, Myrto.."

which are the three? Their friends?
I suppose we are gonna see next, or it doesn't matter that much ?

I agree with your description of the girl feeling a bigger urge to act as she should, but I also see a rather growing(?) proportion of the young female population being more "revolutionary" and anti- and freak-like as far as this is concerned.

Helm said...

Nick, three sisters, as described in the page previous to this one!

Dominika said...

Great page!
The story gets more and more interesing.
You're doing good job with Mary's character.
The problem with male artist writing/drawing female characters is that sometimes they try too hard to make the character obviously female. I like that Mary's room is just plain and ordinary and you weren't tempted to add figurines, plants, calendars with naked men etc.

PS: Vespas are soooo cooool!

nihilio said...

I'm under the impression that the supposed "misogyny" of this page is either
a) Dave Sim's Cerebus creeping in (I can see the influences both in this one and the next page) so you could go for "it was a tribute"
b) interpretting your characters misanthropy as misogyny and turn all apologetic in case you are bad-mouthed.
My money are on b, since I cannot read any misogyny here (there is some in the next page though, but it sticks to the topics exposed in this one and stay in character). I can think of a (slightly disturbed) woman turning her self-hatred towards other women, since they mirror her in many ways.

As for writing the other sex... that's hard. Few people can pull it off and I've read too many women writing men and turning them into neurotic sentimentalists and too many men writing women as shallow or slutty.
I believe that, in the end, it is all about incorporating the sex into the psychological core of the character and fleshing him/her out with no regards to his/her sex.
Harder than it sounds, so in the end you can always base a character on a person you know and try to think how said person would act in a similar situation, or just keep writing till it sticks.

The layouts are great. I'm not a big fan of inner monologues, but the way this page works is pretty interesting.