Sometimes we have to ask a question more than once.
Natalie reads the comics pages in the Los Angeles Times every morning while she eats breakfast. Recently, in the middle of eating her scrambled eggs and toast, she said this, “There’s only one comic strip that’s by a woman. Why’s that?” She had noticed that only one comic strip –“Stone Soup” by Jan Eliot — (out of 27 comic strips in the Los Angeles Times), is by a female cartoonist. The other 26 are both drawn and written by men.
Her question sounded disconcertingly familiar. In 1991, I made a documentary film about women cartoonists, which won many awards, screened across the country, and got lots of press attention. Like Natalie, I had noticed how few women cartoonists were in the comics pages. I had wondered why. And then I wondered how the women who were published managed to get there. I decided to find out–from the cartoonists themselves. I found four smart and witty role models (Cathy Guisewite, Nicole Hollander, Lynda Barry and “Brenda Starr’s” Dale Messick) who showed me new ways of looking at the comics, and the world.
The film even inspired change. Some newspapers added comic strips by women. The Los Angeles Times added Nicole Hollander’s strip to their pages, which increased the number of comic strips by women to three. Yet, twenty years later, look at the comics pages in any major newspaper and you’ll find the same startling disparity Natalie recently noticed.
Natalie’s question bothered me. It made me think. It made me wonder why Natalie was having to ask the same question I had asked 25 years earlier. Natalie suggested we watch “Funny Ladies,” which we happened to have in film and videotape format. We sat down and watched the videotape (thank goodness we still have a videotape player). As an artist and storyteller, Natalie was enthralled. We agreed with what one reviewer said about the film: “a short and savvy film you wish would never end, it ought to be required viewing for artists, writers, women, men and everybody else.” Furthermore, the social issues that come up in the film are still surprisingly timely. (The comics are a wonderful way to inspire conversation about a wide rage of issues.)
I decided it was time to update the film so that it was available on DVD for a new audience.
Thus, the DVD (with a brief “Filmmaker Update”) is available for purchase by public libraries, schools & universities at New Day Films –www.newday.com If you would like to purchase the film for individual use, email me via this website. You can watch a “Preview” by clicking the YouTube link here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sx5ymaXT9sc