Women in Comics Month: The Jess Fink Interview
May 19, 2014
PREVIEWSworld: Please introduce yourself! Tell us where you currently work and what you do in the industry.
Jess Fink: I'm Jess Fink. I currently work at my home studio in NY as a freelance illustrator and comic artist.
PREVIEWSworld: How long have you been working with sequential art? What titles, companies, and creators have you worked with over your time in comics?
Jess Fink: For as long as I can remember I've been making comics; as a kid they were the only thing I wanted to do! I have a degree in comics and illustration from the School of Visual Arts, and I've been working professionally for about 10 years. I've done erotic comic work for Fantagraphics/Eros as well as anthologies like the award-winning, women-friendly Smut Peddler anthology. Pages from my sexy graphic novel Chester 5000 (FEB108346) were also featured in the Museum of Sex in Manhattan. My non-erotic and autobiographical work has been in many anthologies like SPX and Popgun. My most recent book, We Can Fix It (MAR131303) is a comedy/memoir and was just published by Top Shelf. I've also drawn comics for Adventure Time (DEC130999) and Bravest Warriors (APR141022) for Kaboom!
PREVIEWSworld: How did you get interested in comics? How did you find your way into working with larger companies?
Jess Fink: I've always loved drawing and telling stories with comics. I had a love for art and animation at an early age and started devouring comics big time in high school. After I graduated from SVA I started sending out my work to potential publishers and got work with Fantagraphics/Eros. I also started my webcomic, Chester 5000 which got a lot of attention. I posted all of my autobiographical work online as well, and this lead to making friends with and working with creators and companies I love.
PREVIEWSworld: What's your current project? What're you reading right now?
Jess Fink: My current project is We Can Fix It, A Time Travel Memoir. It's a comedy/autobiographical comic about traveling back in time to fix mistakes I've made in my past... and also make out with myself. There's a lot of me taking on old bullies and trying to stop awkward teen situations from happening as well as plenty of time travel jokes.
I also recently illustrated a book about two teen best friends called We Are Become Pals by hilarious and brilliant writer Joey Comeau (author of the web comic A Softer World.) Other than that I'm working on another book in the Chester 5000 series that updates on Jessfink.com/Chester5000.
As for what I'm reading right now, I am always reading a ton of web comics. There is some amazing work going on! There are a lot, but a few of my favorites are Bad Machinery (NOV121261), Hark A Vagrant (AUG111018), Gun Show, Octopus Pie, Rice Boy, TJ & Amal, and Athena Wheatley. I've also been reading a lot of French comics; I adore the work of Christophe Blain and Joann Sfar.
PREVIEWSworld: In your opinion, how has the comic book industry evolved in terms of gender?
Jess Fink: Well, if you go way back to the beginning of comics there were a ton of comics being made for girls, and kids of all genders enjoyed them. After that the industry sort of plunged into a dark age where people assumed women weren't interested, but I think with web comics and manga and female-friendly publishers, the industry is coming back around to women again. It's exciting to see!
PREVIEWSworld: What stereotypes do you see surrounding women in comics? How could people of all genders go about breaking those stereotypes?
Jess Fink: Personally I haven't experienced much discrimination. Working in web comics is different in a lot of ways because there's no one to stop women from creating the work they want and finding their audience. Unlike the larger comics industry, there are no boundaries or boxes to fit into. I think the stereotypes women face in the comics industry are the same ones they face in any industry, except with the additional presumptions that women aren't "real" nerds. There is still this strange idea that women don't read comics or that there are a smaller amount of women interested in them than men. However, in my experience going to comic conventions where the crowd was mostly women, and working myself in web comics, which is also at least half women, I can honestly say that is a false idea. Comics are definitely made by and for women in huge numbers and it's important to recognize that.
PREVIEWSworld: Have you noticed a trend in the type of comic books women buy? How do you want to see women represented in comic books 10 years from now?
Jess Fink: I think women read comics of all shapes and sizes. I was personally and indie comics nerd in my youth reading titles like SCUD (MAY110468) and The Maxx and JTHM (FEB100651), but many women I know grew up reading super hero comics and still love them. I have noticed that women read a lot more manga, where women are more often main characters and female representation is high. I think what women want is for there to be better written, diverse, well-rounded female characters. So many writers think the default gender for any character is male and only add women as love interests or for sex appeal. It's hard to be optimistic when the movie and television industry reflect these problems too, but there are a lot of people changing it right now! In 10 years I hope it won't even be an issue anymore.
PREVIEWSworld: What do you feel the benefits are for the larger industry by having a better mix of genders at all levels of comics production? Did you have a mentor or a hero in industry?
Jess Fink: Having a mix of genders means diversity of experience and diversity of experience means more creativity and new ideas! Shutting out female voices and female creators is like cutting off the rest of the pizza and only ever eating the crust! I think web comics, manga and female friendly publishers have proven that there is a huge market out there full of people who want to read comics by and about women.
PREVIEWSworld: If you could give advice to any aspiring editors, executives, writers, or artists, what two things would you tell them?
Jess Fink: Be kind! Make friends and be open to different perspectives!