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Perhaps you’ve heard of Isabel Greenberg: She’s a young (age 25) creator whose first full-length graphic novel, The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, is out this week. Her fellow creators have lots of good things to say about her and her work. She’s off to a good start, and frankly, she deserves better than this condescending profile in the U.K. newspaper Metro:
Isabel Greenberg is the new face of comics. Not just because one look at this petite, pretty blonde confounds the lingering cliché that comics are created by spotty adult males in unwashed Spider-Man T-shirts.
Right there, in the very first paragraph, the writer manages to belittle her subject, insult male creators by calling them pimply and dirty, and insult female creators by acting like they don’t exist. That’s quite a hat trick!
I blame the editor for this, first for assigning the story to someone who obviously knows nothing about comics and then for letting her get away with that introduction and the purple prose that follows. Calling Greenberg a “petite, pretty blonde” is not only sexist, it’s also lazy writing. That sort of thing was common in the 1970s, when every article about a woman had to include a description of her looks and what she was wearing. I thought we had moved on by now, but apparently Metro hasn’t received the memo; I doubt they’d let a writer get away with describing Craig Thompson as “tall, dark and handsome.”
Greenberg herself comes across as intelligent and perceptive, which is why it’s especially painful to read this:
‘I’m super-excited,’ she lights up, perched on the edge of her seat as if poised to flit around the room like Tinkerbell.
Reaction on Twitter was swift and severe. “Shame about the condescension because it is a cracking book,” wrote Jared of OK Comics. Daniel Carpenter called it “Completely insulting to comic creators and fans alike.” And Marc Ellerby really nailed it:
It’s a shame that The Metro thought it would be more interesting to write about how Isabel Greenberg stirs her coffee than her actual work.
Greenberg is a talented creator who deserves better. Her short story Love in a Very Cold Climate won the 2011 Observer Jonathan Cape Graphic Short Story Prize, and she is on the shortlist for this year’s British Comics Awards in the Emerging Talent category. She has also spoken perceptively in interviews with Paul Gravett and Rob Fred Parker, neither of whom found it necessary to discuss her appearance or coffee-stirring style. Just the fact that so many of her fellow creators took to Twitter to decry the article shows the respect she has already earned within the creative community. This is what comics is all about — creators supporting creators and encouraging new talent, not manic pixie girls defying lazy stereotypes.