SCOTT McCLOUD is on the phone, talking about his chapter introductions — demi-essays, really — within the must-read Best American Comics 2014 anthology, which is due out next week. In raving about such talents as Raina Telgemeier, McCloud is really speaking to what he sees as a demi-revolution coming within comics.
In the next decade, the comics scholar/cartoonist is saying, we will see a new generation of top female talents come into their own, as creators like Jillian Tamaki amass enough of a body of work that they will naturally be positioned to become the next Chris Ware or Dan Clowes. And when that happens, he says, perception will match reality about the growing gender diversity within so much of comics — from creators to readers.
Yet in terms of midcareer trailblazers, that future is already here.
Exhibit A: September 2014. Some of the groundbreakers are getting their due.
On Sept. 17, for instance, within a span of several hours, graphic novelist Alison Bechdel (“Fun Home,” “Dykes to Watch Out For”) was announced as a recipient of a 2014 MacArthur “genius grant,” and New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast (“Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” — her first graphic novel) was long-listed for a National Book Award for nonfiction (the only woman cited in her category, interestingly). Chast told The Post’s Comic Riffs that it was wonderful to be part of a banner day for women cartoonists.
Now this morning comes the news that Chast is also a nonfiction finalist for the inaugural Kirkus Prize, the winners of which will be announced next month — and which will come with a $50,000 prize. Her sublime “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” is a graphic memoir about coping with the decline and deaths of her parents. “I’m thrilled and honored,” Chast tells Comic Riffs of the Kirkus recognition. “Old age is an interesting topic, I think.”
Also nominated is Virginia-based children’s illustrator Cece Bell, whose first graphic novel, the new “El Deafo,” is a finalist in the Kirkus’s Young Readers category. “El Deafo” is a graphic memoir about growing up deaf, and the superhero alter-ego she imagines to empower herself and embrace her being different.
“When I read that … Roz Chast had been nominated, I knew I had arrived,” Bell tells The Post’s Comic Riffs this morning. “She is my hero, for sure.
“The small chance that I might get to meet her,” Bell says of Chast, “helped me decide to fight my fears and get on the plane” to attend next month’s awards ceremony in Austin.
Also newly up for an award is Chast’s New Yorker colleague Liza Donnelly, whose book of cartoons “Women on Men” is one of three finalists for the 2014 Thurber Prize for American Humor. The awards ceremony is tonight; the winner will receive a $5,000 prize.
That ceremony will cap a month in which artist Fiona Staples (“SAGA”) was much honored at Baltimore Comic-Con’s Harvey Awards; Susie Cagle won an Online News Association award, in an Online Commentary category, for her comics journalism for Medium; and Jillian Tamaki and cousin Mariko Tamaki won the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel at SPX: Small Press Expo — among five women winners that night. (Donnelly, it should be noted, presided over last year’s Ignatz ceremony, when all the presenters were women.)
So September has been a welcome month — capping a midyear awards season that seemed to really kick off in April, when alt-weekly cartoonist Jen Sorensen became the first woman to pick up the Herblock Prize, and the musical adaptation of Bechdel’s “Fun Home” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
And as McCloud notes, the next generation — cartoonists like Tamaki and Bell and Sorensen — seem to be burning bright in trails blazed by Chast and Bechdel and Donnelly. And the readers are following.
“When I wrote my book ‘When Do They Serve the Wine?,’ I was teaching women’s studies and humor studies at Vassar College,” Donnelly tells The Post’s Comic Riffs, ahead of her ceremony tonight. “I used my and others’ cartoons to make points, and realized how important it is for women of different generations to seriously talk to one another.
“Each generation makes the same mistakes and we can stop that if we just share our experiences. What better way than with humor?”