For Part 2 of my ongoing interview series, I caught up with Danielle Corsetto. Danielle writes, draws and publishes the webcomic Girls With Slingshots, previously reviewed, and is the creator currently behind The New Adventures of Bat Boy for the Weekly World News.
A quick note about my interview series before we get into the intimate details of Danielleâ€™s story. I am aiming to do one interview a week, publishing on Tuesday. Next week, look for a very special Thanksgiving edition.
Editor’s note: This interview was conducted over several days, and questions are not presented in chronological order â€“ so some of Danielleâ€™s commentary may seem at odds with itself when talking about time and dates.
Danielle Corsetto: Like, I’m in the middle of scripting tomorrow’s GWS strip, next week’s The New Adventures of Bat Boy strip, and finishing a family portrait for a client. It’s 11:18 pm. I’ve hardly begun.
Fleen: How did you end up doing The New Adventures of Bat Boy?
DC : I was at a comic book convention in New York with my usual half-table ensemble – basically, a book of GWS strips and nothing else – when this guy with a Superman belt buckle came up to me and asked if I “do this stuff” myself. I answer yes, confused, and he reads a few of the strips and hands me a card.
“I think we could use you. Yeah, we could probably use you. Let me know if you’re interested.”
It wasn’t until I noticed that the card read “The Weekly World News” that I realized he wasn’t some no-name guy trying to act like he had some big special fake job for me. Initially I was supposed to come up with my own original storyline and characters, but Peter Bagge passed on his Adventures of Bat Boy comic to me instead. The original storyline I came up with will be pitched to some special client next year, with any luck. (Ooooo, mysterious! Look at how I didn’t blab the storyline to you!)
Fleen: Are you the kind of woman who gets offended when male journalists ask you to speak for your entire gender?
DC : No, I’m the kind of woman who gets bored when any gender journalist asks me to speak for my gender. With the exception of my love for girly drinks, shopping, and getting flowers, I’m hardly a spokesperson for the female gender.
There’s really not much to being a chick cartoonist. You get more attention because you have tits. You’re taken less seriously because you have a vagina. It’s an OK balance. It’s really not so different from being a guy cartoonist, except that you’ve got insight into the female mind (which Paul Taylor of Wapsi Square proves is not impossible to have if you have a penis).
The only irritating part about being a girl in comics is that there are several pros who just plain old want to get into your pants, and think their status as artists/writers will get them in there. Fellas, you make comics. I make comics. You’re not going to impress me with your status. You inked Green Lantern #512? Good for you! Get your hand off my ass.
Also, I’d prefer to talk shop over lunch than be taken out on a “date.” (Although, if you wanna pay, be my guest! I do GWS for free, you know!)
Fleen: How do you go about writing for your characters in Girls With Slingshots? Do you find it harder to write for some characters and easier for others?
DC : Hazel and Jamie are the sober and drunk sides of yours truly, respectively. They’re easy. It’s like giving a voice to the angel and devil on my shoulder, and then funnelling them both tequilla all night.
The other characters aren’t hard to write for either, because they’ve got separate lives and experiences and histories in my head. For whatever reason, I know them like I know my own acquaintences, and they live their own lives on the page without my nudging them. They work pretty hard for fictional characters.
Meanwhile, I apparently need to watch more TV (I’ve been TV-less for eight years now). I just had to axe a new character before she even got her debut, because it turns out Family Guy already came up with a character who’s constantly pregnant. And I thought I was being original, dammit!
Fleen: It’s a fairly common experience for writers to feel that their regular characters have a life of their own and in some ways are distinct “personas” if not real people. Did this take you by surprise, or did it seem a natural outgrowth of the process?
DC : ABSOLUTELY! Oh woops, that wasn’t a yes or no question.
YES, the characters have lives of their own, and NO, it did not take me by surprise. I’ve been making up characters since I was… I don’t remember how old I was, but they’ve ALWAYS had lives of their own. When I did Max and Jazz, my first ongoing comic strip (which starred all the dogs in my neighborhood, because hey, I was nine), I may have only done ten or twelve full comic strips. But they had this ongoing drama in the back of my head that slightly resembled Saved By The Bell (don’t deny it, embrace your former love for that show), and characters broke up with each other and had fights and make-ups and fell in love… but we never saw it on paper. It’s like the moment each character pops into my head, they come ready with two full suitcases; one for their past, and one for their future. And hell if I know what they’re going to pack.
Fleen: What do you believe makes Girls With Slingshots different from other â€œslice of lifeâ€? style comics?
DC : I actually don’t know! Maybe it’s McPedro. Maybe it’s that we’re following a bunch of chicks around instead of the common male lead character. Or maybe it’s that GWS is a non-gamer and almost entirely non-nerd comic. Don’t get me wrong, I can be a big geek myself, but my characters aren’t exactly your typical comic convention-goers.
I’m hoping it’s the characters that make the difference. They tend to speak for themselves, and people tend to really fall for them (perhaps because the characters aren’t trying too hard for the attention – they’re just living life, and you’re just reading about it). I myself am smitten with Jamie, and I just wanna give Hazel a big hug, although I doubt she’d let me.
Fleen: One of the more endearing (at least to me) characteristics of Hazel is that she writes better drunk… Is this something you find to be true of yourself, or just something you thought would be funny?
DC : I’m leaving my apartment RIGHT NOW to pick up some Woodchuck Cider. I will return in a moment, drink two bottles, and let you be the judge. I’m not lying to you, I was just about to go pick up my weekly six-pack anyway. By question five, I am drunk.
Fleen: If your mother and grandmother werenâ€™t at least occasional readers of your comic, do you think you would stray further into the territory of â€œadult-orientedâ€? comicry than you do right now? Other than the f-bomb, are there cases where this has caused you to restrain yourself or change your script?
DC : Funny you should ask this, as I was JUST sitting out on my couch debating whether to go with the original punchline for tomorrow’s comic (GWS #195), or write something a little less, uh, suicidal. I decided to keep it suicidal this time.
When I do a strip that I know my mom will cock her head to with a disapproving look (and I occasionally get “This is not my daughter writing!!” from her the next day), I try to balance it out with a good McPedro joke. She loves McPedro. Hell, EVERYBODY loves McPedro. And I’ve found that, even with his off-color jokes and sexual references, hearing the same slightly offensive joke from a talking mustachoied cactus makes it much more acceptable.
It’s probably a good thing my mom reads the strip regularly – because of this balance I try to keep for her, I’m also keeping the strip from getting too serious or depressing or controversial. And that makes it MUCH more accessible to a larger audience, to people who can shrug off the “giant clitoris” and “dead hooker” jokes because the next strip is about McPedro growing another obnoxious limb, ACH!!
(This is the question Danielle thinks of as â€œQuestion Fiveâ€?. No questions were numbered in the course of making this interview.)
Do you think there is a relationship between the number of limbs that McPedro has, and how funny he is? Would he be even funnier with, say, five limbs than he is with two? Or does he get LESS funny at some point? Would a 100-armed McPedro be an anti-funny singularity?
DC : I’m a little afraid to answer this, because I have so many things in store for McPedro. I’m sure a shark and jumping comes into play somewhere with this answer. Although, the picture of a 100-armed cactus seems veeeeery funny to me at the moment… might be the cider.
Let’s see if I draw better drunk, too.
Fleen: Pineapple Bombs?
DC : Mmmmmmm, yes. Also, Red-Headed Sluts, although I think half the reason I like them is because it’s so fun to ask a stranger to get you a Red-Headed Slut.
Fleen: That probably works better for women than men…
DC : That depends on the bar.
Fleen: Do you have any comments you’d like to make about Bob?
DC : For the sake of my family, I deny any sexual relationship I have ever had with Bob.
Fleen: Klimt, Klee, Kandinsky, or Oâ€™Keefe?
DC : Ohh, you bastard. Those are some tough ones! Klimt is hanging above my computer right now, though I prefer Egon Schiele. And then again, I always loved Kandinsky’s renditions of milkweed. Klee’s alright, don’t know his work all that well. O’Keefe? Absolutely. Girl power!!