The Problem with Women Superheroes

Spider-Woman #2 coverThe problem with women superheroes, is that there is nothing wrong with them at all! Female superheroes have had a huge resurgence over the last few years. She-Hulk, Spider-Woman, Incredible Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, even Raven, have hand their own titled graphic novels, and have tackled topics like puberty, motherhood, and being a woman in a male dominated profession. When there is a fan base that is looking for a particular subset of a genre, women led superhero titles for example, it is important to understand how to find that specific subset. Did you know there is a separate heading for “Women superheroes” and just plain ol’ “Superheroes”? I didn’t for a long time, which is why understanding the reason headings are created the way they are help to create context for way headings are applied. So, let’s explore how “Women superheroes” came to be and how to apply it correctly.

Cataloger’s have not been very good at keeping track of updates to their taxonomies. When did Cookery change to Cooking? We often hear that it is based on literary merit or cultural shifts; however, “Women superheroes” as a heading is based on a different context. To research this post, @VioletFox and @Marccold recommended I read Hope Olson’s The Power to Name: Locating the Limits of Subject Representation in Libraries, but it was not available at my library. I was able to find the article The Power of Name: Representation in Library Catalogs from Signs, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Spring, 2001). In the article, Olson describes subjects like “Women superheroes” as “drawing attention to women as exceptions to a male norm.” As stated earlier, literary merit is often sighted as the impetus for creating new headings, but historically, much content was created by and for men. Of course, there have always been women creating comics, but because of their marginalized roles, were often left out of the wider discourse. We can also break down how men are seen a subjects, and women as objects. The headings “Computers and women”, and “Self-employed women” whereas “‘Male prostitute’ specifies that it refers to men, because prostitutes are conventionally construed to be female objects.” These are some of the many examples given by Olson in her article, which I implore you to read for further information.

Zatanna #11 coverBut, I have been cataloging comics for over five years and it wasn’t until very recently I learned that “Women superheroes” was a legitimate heading. Why wasn’t it on every Wonder Woman comic? Why wasn’t it on every She-Hulk comic? When a quoted subject search is performed in Worldcat, “Women superheroes” brings back 1,473 book titles and “Superheroes” brings back 25,337 book titles. That’s over 17 times as many titles. This could be because “Superheroes” was established in 2007, five years before “Women superheroes” was established in 2012.

As catalogers, we are charged with making materials accessible. So, what do we do with female led superhero comics we want to provide access to? Do we assign only “Women superheroes” and limit access to only one seventeenth of the collection? Do we double up on headings and assign both “Women superheroes” and “Superheroes”? This could explain why there are so many more “Superheroes” than “Women superheroes”. We could also train our staff to search for broader subject terms and advocate for more equitable subject headings.

Hope offers some optimism at the end of her article that we should all heed. In a section titled “Techniques for ameliorative change,” Hope states, “we need to let the other speak for it/him/herself – we need to develop an ethical relation with the other.” Unfortunately, there are no Women superheroes to ask how they’d like to be described, but there is a wealth of comic creators, both women and men, and fans who can offer guidance on how they want their creations, and fandoms, described. As catalogers, we often forget that we have the ability to make items more accessible and communities more accessible through our work. It is a superpower we must take the reigns of and guide towards a more equitable future.

 

Comics in Paris

20190110_165220This past January, I finally got to do something that I’d been waiting to do for over ten years. Return to France. I spent six months studying in a small, southwestern city during college and fell in love with the culture, cuisine, and of course, comics. We had been planning on going back for a long time, but just hadn’t found the right time to go. So we booked our tickets, checked our passports, and away we went.

I was prepared to do some major European comic book shopping this time. I used the ALA Graphic Novel Round Table Facebook Page as a sounding board to get advice for what comics shops to visit and where to go for the most nerdy places to visit (the ALA GNRT FB page has a lot of international members, so be sure to check it out when planning your next vacation).

20190105_122350It is clear why so many people have been inspired by Paris. You can walk the city and visit the Galerie de Paléontologie et d’Anatomie comparée, the Galley of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy and see bones that are million of years old From there, walk to the Musée de Cluny – Musée national du Moyen Âge, The Cluny Museum – National Museum of the Middle Ages to try and decode the hidden message of the 16th century tapestry Lady and the Unicorn. Then hop a train the to Centre Pompidou to take in an auditory installation and decadent displays of contemporary art. And all along the way you’ll see amazing street art, artists, buskers, and performers plying their trade.

Image result for Catacombes: 1, Le Diable VertSo what was my haul? What made our suitcase 0.5 kgs away from being over the limit? At the end of the Catacombs tour, a small gift shop had a graphic novel I’d never heard called Catacombes: 1, Le Diable Vert by Jack Manini and Michel Chevereau following Jeanne Chiavarino, whose father disappeared into the Catacombs during World War II, and what horrors she must face in the tunnels herself. At Aaapoum Bapoum, a primarily vintage comic book shop that came highly recommended, we learned that the major two publishers, Marvel and DC, print four or five translated issues together. We picked up Miss Hulk, aka She-Hulk, Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, and Batman. I really, really wanted to get some Smurfs, or Les Schtroumpfs in French for our nieces and nephews, but opted to bring back some Smurfs paraphernalia and order the English language version for reading at home.

It had been a long time since we took a dedicated vacation that wasn’t a family obligation and it revitalized a sense of adventure in me. Something that I feel I had lost sometime in my adulthood. Being somewhere where you struggle to speak the language, aren’t as comfortable with the culture, but shows you something new a different is exciting and scary and worth it. Go out of your comfort zone and read a comic you wouldn’t normally read.

 

Where to Shelve Non-Fiction Graphic Novels?

What is the one of the first things that you are taught in your elementary school library? The difference between fiction and non-fiction, that one is a story you make up in your mind, whereas the other is based on fact or real life events. It is an easy way for students to differentiate between the books they can read for fun and the books they need to write papers and learn facts. While most libraries have collections of fiction in genre/subject sections with genre call numbers, and non-fiction is in Dewey Decimal (DDC) and Library of Congress Classification (LCC), there is still room for fiction within non-fiction classification schemes. Such as the 800s for literature of all languages, and 741.5 for comic books, strips, etc. in DDC.

Non-fiction comics have had a resurgence in popularity recently, though they have a long history in the publishing. Generally, non-fiction comics can be broken down into three styles: biographies, historical/reporting, and instructional/educational.

andreMemoirs and auto/biographies, including Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Box Brown’s Is this guy for real?: The unbelievable Andy Kaufman and Andre the Giant: Life and Legend are prime examples of graphic biographies. This category varies as much as it does in the regular, monographic non-fiction collections. From stream of consciousness writing to an in-depth look at an individual’s life from birth to death, this is the most popular type on non-fiction graphic novel.

The second are journalistic and historical accounts. Graphic novelist Joe Sacco is extremely well known for his journalistic graphic novels including Footnotes in Gaza and Palestine, and if you haven’t checked out The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme, an accordion folded scene of the famous World War I battle, I highly recommend looking at this amazing piece of artwork. Eric Shanower, known for his work on Nemo in Slumberland, writes and illustrates the beautiful Age age of bronzeof Bronze series about the Trojan War, and Jonathan Hennessey, Mike Smith, and Aaron McConnell’s The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution show how meticulously researched a graphic novel can be. However, these graphic stories are often seen as not truly non-fiction because they are interpreted through images which are not little book of knowledgeprimary sources.

Another type of non-fiction graphic novels are explanatory and instructional comics. Instructional comics had, historically, been made by the government for educational purposes. The University of Nebraska’s digital collections has a large number of digitized government comics which were often instructional in nature, such as How DDT spray keeps malaria away published in 1940. The Little Book of Knowledge series translated from the French and published by IDW covers topics like sharks, tattoos, and heavy metal music.

In LC libraries, you can shelve books with a graphic novel extender in the classification, so it is reasonable to have your non-fiction graphic novel collection interspersed with the rest of your non-fiction collection. With DDC, all comic books and strips are in the 741.5s, so many libraries create a genre collection for these items with a call number like GN, GRAPHIC, etc.

But what do we do with all these non-fiction graphic novels in DDC? Do we put them all economixin 741.5? Comic strips are typically shelved in 741.56 and contain titles like GarfieldPeanuts, and the Batman dailies starting in 1943, but what do we do with a graphic novel like Economix: How and Why our Economy Works, by Michael Goodwin and David Bach? Do you put it in 741.5 GO? GN GOOD? GN 330 GO? 330 GO?

These are difficult questions for any collection development, circulation, and cataloging librarian to tackle. What is the best way to ensure all readers, whether graphic novel fans or not, find the best books on the subjects they are interested in. Some may decided that it is a good idea to shelve all graphic novels in the same collection. But how to patrons differentiate between fiction and non-fiction? If you create a separate non-fiction graphic novel collection and classify by Dewey, how are you creating access for patrons who may not otherwise have any notion of learning from a graphic novel? Finally, if you interfile them with your regular non-fiction collection, does that vouch for the authenticity of the facts within the book?

When making decisions about where and how to shelve specific types of books, it is important to think about your patrons, access, and perception. Many large library systems, like the New York Public Library, the San Francisco Public Library, and the Seattle Public Library shelve non-fiction graphic novels with their non fiction collection, illustrating a thoughtfulness in shelving decisions. Overall, I am in favor of shelving non-fiction graphic novels in the general non-fiction collection. It allows to compare the circulation of monographs vs. graphic novels in an educational mindset, reduces the number of locations needed for shelving (graphic novels AND non-fiction graphic novels), and separates two distinct genres and styles of graphic novels.

 

Pumpkin Spiced Comics

Ah, the idea of pumpkin spice granola is starting to fill my senses. I’m sure a cool breeze would be inching me closer to that wool sweater in storage. Halloween costume ideas are fluttering through my mind, waiting for the best pun of all. Fall is, by far, my favorite season. Fall is also when I tend to do my most reading. The days are getting shorter and I tend to nest in fall; I work, come home, sit in my poofy chair with a cup of tea, my knitting, and a good book. Here are some of my favorite titles for the fall season.

Tea Dragon SocietyThe Tea Dragon Society
Written and Illustrated by Katie O’Neill
Published by Oni Press

In a world where the best, most delicate tea is harvested from dragons, only a select few care and cultivate these amazing creatures. Gerta, a young apprentice blacksmith, discovers a small tea dragon lost at market and learns of the Tea Dragon Society, a fledgling group of people who care for these precious dragons. Learning from Hesekiel and Erik, the tea shop owners, and Minette, their young ward, Gerta experiences the calming aspects of ritual and learns to respect a slowly disappearing art. O’Neill’s art truly elevates this from an all-ages comic to a contemplative meditation about time, tradition, and being unafraid to have new experiences. Plus, with the winter, indoor hibernating months coming up, you’ll be happy to spend the dark evenings reading and playing Renegade Game Studios’ card game based on the book.

Gideon FallsGideon Falls
Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino
Published by Image

A lot of new mysteries come out in the fall, mostly bakers up to no good or antiques dealers who always seem to have a dead body in the back room, but it’s also a time for mayhem and murder. Norton, who lives in the crowded city, collects small wooden splinters he finds in garbage heaps and knows they are a part of something bigger. Father Fred is sent to the pastoral town of Gideon Falls, where murders and hallucinations run rampant. What do Norton and Father Fred have in common? They’ve both seen the Black Barn, and they both want to know what secrets it holds. Part haunted house, part murder mystery, Gideon Falls is perfect for fans who want to see Nailbiter combined with Twin Peaks. An ideal title for those who want something darker this Halloween season.

spell on wheelsSpell on Wheels
Written by Kate Leth
Illustrated by Megan Levens
Published by Dark Horse Comics

Hocus Pocus is one of my favorite movies to watch in the fall, and it was the first to introduce me to the triple witch concept seen so often. Of course, I’d come to know of the three witches of Macbeth (I highly recommend Toil and Trouble by Mairghread Scott and Kelly Matthews) and the Grecian Moirai, the Fates, the three (or four…) Charmed sisters, and the concepts of maiden, mother, and crone. In Spell on Wheels, we follow three 20 something witches as they travel across the country to reclaim their stolen magical items. Jolene, a technopath, Claire, a psychic, and Andy, a master of spells, come from long lines of witches and make for an interesting take on the triple goddess symbolism. Combining arcane traditions with modern eBay-esque apps, I really think the tagline on Dark Horse’s websites sums this book up real well, “Supernatural meets Buffy and The Craft”.

Thrilling Adventure HourThe Thrilling Adventure Hour
Written by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker
Illustrated by a lot of really talented people!
Published by Archaia

I think about a family sitting around their lighted radio listening to the latest episode of X Minus One or Suspense while amber leaves tumble to the ground outside the windows in fall. If you aren’t familiar with the Thrilling Adventure Hour, it was a serialized podcast in the style of old time radio dramas (so even though no new episodes will be released, it’s still fun to go back an listen to them). They had titles like Captain Laserbeam and Nevada Sparks Marshal on Mars, referencing the classic radio dramas of old with a modern twist. My favorite title from the Thrilling Adventure Hour was Beyond Belief staring Paul F. Tompkins as Frank Doyle, and Paget Brewster and Sadie Doyle. The small blurb sums up the series perfectly, “Meet Frank and Sadie Doyle. Toast of the upper crust. Headliners on the society pages. And, oh yes, they see ghosts.” Tompkins and Brewster play these boozey socialites dealing with vampires, ghosts,  and other monsters, perfect for the run up to Halloween!

MystiK UMystik U
Written by Alisa Kwitney
Illustrated by Mike Norton
Published by DC Comics

In the hallowed halls of Mystik U, the new and old magicians of the DC Universe come together to fight the Malevolence, an evil being seen in the future. I’ve been a Zatanna kick lately, and when I saw she wes enrolling at Mystik U, I knew it was a title I needed to pick up. This three part mini-series written by Alisa Kwitney, an editor at DC/Vertigo, is part haunted house, part time travel, and part young people getting in over their head; all classic horror film tropes. With classmates like the Enchantress, Sargon the Sorcerer, and Faust, these teens inherent powers plus imbalanced hormones create touching moments for a light nostalgic read.

What’s on your comics shelf this fall? Let me know on Twitter @librnwithissues

Graphic Novel Professional Development

One of my reading goals for 2018 was to read more diverse books. I want to read more juvenile and youth materials, more original graphic novels, more diverse authors, more diverse characters, essentially channeling myself to read things I wouldn’t normally pick. I just finished reading The Prince and the Dressmaker, a youth graphic novel written and illustrated by Jen Want. Prince Sebastian is hiding a secret. He like to dress as a lady and tour the dance halls and nightlife of Paris. While his parents search for his bride, Sebastian is in search of a daring new dress designer, and finds a common seamstress named Frances, who’s creative flair is appreciated by Sebastian more than the other ladies of the palace. With her designs, Sebastian’s alter ego, Lady Crystallia, takes the fashion world by storm, but, afraid his secret will get out, Prince Sebastian forces Frances and himself to stay in the shadows, risking Frances’ chances at meeting her fashion icons and advance his own career.

For some reason, this book really spoke to me on a personal level. Could it be my yearning to return to Paris having seen the notifications that it’s been ten years since I lived in France? Could it be the fact that I recently took out my sewing machine, disenchanted by the current fashion market that I thought I could make all my clothes from scratch? Or maybe it’s the lack of confidence I’ve had lately, especially when it comes to writing and talking about comics. What does matter is that I was able to connect with a book on a personal level, something all authors strive for. It’s also what librarians are always hunting for, the personal experience a patron has with a resource.

But not everyone values the reading experience the same way. There have been times when I talk about my passion for comics and get a lot of push back. Can’t you read full paragraphs? Can’t you imagine the story in your mind instead of needing the illustrations? Aren’t all comics for kids? (In this case, yes!) Aren’t all comics hyper sexual/violent? But others are much more open to the idea, saying things like, wow, I didn’t realize there were so many different art styles in comics! I didn’t realize that character has changed!? What do you mean there are non-superhero comics?!

While comics become a more ubiquitous part of our culture through the major superhero films and their use as an educational tool, it may seem like advocacy is not as needed as it was before. But, there has been an interesting development in the library/comic book world. Whereas YALSA has done their “Great Graphic Novels” lists for years, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund helps libraries defend the first amendment rights of comics, but what I’m most excited about from and advocacy standpoint is the transition of the ALA Graphic Novel Member Interest Group into the ALA Graphic Novel Round Table. What this group will do exactly is yet to be determined, but I am excited at the aspect of graphic novels they will focus on, as there is no age restriction, content restriction, and it’s not nestled in another group, so it won’t be focusing on just collection development or creating recommended lists.

I am very excited for the new ALA GN RT. Building community and working towards advocacy is one of the best feelings for me personally. Any opportunity I have to work with other people who are passionate about comics is a great thing. So, consider joining the ALA GN RT, think of some ideas for programs, best practices, projects you would like to work on with other professionals to promote and advocate for comics and graphic novels in libraries.

 

 

So You Want to Publish a Graphic Novel

I do a fair amount of original cataloging for comics and graphic novels. More and more small and independent publishers are popping up all over the book market, breaking down the publishing gatekeepers and allowing for different and diverse stories and storytellers to reach a large market. As a professional cataloger, however, there are many difficulties which can arise from cataloging small press and self-published books. Many of these difficulties originate from the publisher themselves creating inconsistencies or leaving out vital information catalogers use to create cataloging records. And here’s a tip for all you publishers out there, some libraries don’t add items unless there is a good cataloging record available. It’s always good publicity to have a library catalog your book, so be have some sympathy for your catalogers and follow some of these general tips to make your books more catalog-able.

There are two pieces of information every cataloger and searcher relies on to find a specific item. The first is contributors’ names. Note how I say contributors and not authors because colorists, pencillers, letterers, and editors, can be as desirable a search term as the author. Because names are so frequently used and searched, librarians use controlled vocabulary to ensure that all contributors have uniquely identifiable names. This can mean the contributor’s middle initial or name, birth year or date, or area of captain americaactivity can be used to make a unique name. So, you could have Smith, John and Smith, John (Letterer) as two distinct names. Sometimes, comic book contributors do not have an authority file yet, and a cataloger has to pick the best, unique name to use. As a publisher, ensuring the name is spelled consistently on the item, your website, and any solicitations, is important to determine the author’s desired name spelling.

Nearly as important as how you spell contributors’ names is providing attribution to those contributors. I know that Mark Waid and Chris Samnee started crediting themselves as “storytellers” in many of their collaborations, but this is incredibly unhelpful to librarians because we still live in an author centric world, so the author will always be the main contributor listed. So, even if you are going to be crediting an author and artist as “storytellers”, state in the blurb who is responsible for what. As more authors provide art and more artists become authors, attribution is very important for searching and building relationships among contributor’s works. It helps searchers know the difference between Jordie Bellaire the colorist and Jordie Bellaire the author.

2017.22 Bandette

The second, really important piece of information is the title. I know this seems like a pretty simple piece of information, but you’d be surprised at how many different ways you can formulate a title. Librarians will record the title from the title page but will also note the title from the spine, front cover, title page, and title page verso. If you have a volumed series, make sure you distinguish between a subtitle and the volume title. Let’s look at the Bandette to see the dilemma cataloger’s face. The title page says, “Bandette in Presto!,” the cover and title page verso says “Bandette Volume One: Presto!,” and the spine says “Bandette Presto! 1’.  What’s a cataloger to do? In all honesty, local practices usually dictate which title you’re going to use, but here we have one book with three different title formulations and 99% of the time it will be xmen blueformulated as SERIES TITLE : SUB TITLE. VOLUME, PART TITLE. Think X-Men: Blue. Volume 1, Strangest.

Many, many hours are spent designing graphic novels and trade paperbacks to create appealing books readers want to pick up. However, the way your book looks when it is fresh off the presses is not the way it’s going to look when it hits the library shelves. A lot of key information for catalogers can be obstructed by how the item has been processed. ISBNs are the most important identifying number on your item. It is the first way most catalogers search for an item, but because libraries buy from vendors who can pre-processes items, sometimes the UPC/ISBN barcode is covered with a sticker so it isn’t confused for the library barcode. If you do not put your ISBN on the title page verso, librarians have a really difficult time finding and adding the item to their collection.  Barcodes will go on the back or front cover and call numbers 100% of them time go at the bottom of the spine, often with a genre sticker as well, take up the bottom two inches of your spine. Also, libraries use a lot of technology to ensure their items are not stolen. Tattle tape is inserted into the spine of the book, so if you don’t have a good gutter, some of your text and images will be lost. RFID tags are also used for security and foil covers will interfere with the radio frequency, rendering the security functionality useless.

I understand that a lot of artistry and creative energy goes into making a graphic novel and you should create whatever type of book you want. The suggestions in the post should be used as a frame for thinking about marketing your books to the library crowd. Libraries have collection development policies to ensure that diverse, representative collections are created in libraries. Simply making your book more accessible to catalogers can make a bigger supporter of small and self-published books.

Why is it spelled colourist? Discussion of Relationships Designators

It was recently National Siblings Day and it got me thinking about relationships. We have a lot of different relationships in our lives; our friends, our families, our coworkers, but, when you work collaboratively on a project, like a comic or graphic novel, your relationships with the people you work with are a combination of family/friend/coworker. You’ve created something intricate and nuanced through your collaboration and you all deserve credit for your portion of the physical and emotional labor. The cataloging world has embraced relationships as a way to express a creator’s contributions to a work, which is very important for patrons seeking out specific types of contributors to a particular comic.

In recent years, you may have noticed $e and $4 in 1xx and 7xx fields, as in the following examples:

100 1# $a Gaiman, Neil, $e author.
100 1# $a Walden, Tillie, $d 1996- $4 aut $4 ill.

How you describe the relationships in FRBR is through the WEMI, Work, Expression, Manifestation, Item, model. RDA looks specifically at how creators contribute to the work and expression of the resource. If you are unfamiliar with the WEMI model, the book The Diary of Anne Frank is often used as an example.

Work = the actual diary Anne wrote
Expression = The German language edition, the Braille edition
Manifestation = Hardcover, paperback
Item = the specific copy you have

It is very important to understand WEMI because the RDA toolkit breaks down relationship designators between Works and Expressions for comic books. There are essentially six relationship designators you need for comic books: author, illustrator, artist, colourist, creator, and editor. Noteably, inker and letterer are missing, but because of the use of hierarchy, you can apply the broader term of illustrator for these creators. You can check out a crosswalk of RDA Relationship designators and MARC Relator terms here (especially good if you do not have access to the RDA Toolkit).

When you look at Appendix I, Relationships Designators: Relationships between a Work, Expression, Manifestation, or Item and Agents Associated with the Resource, it tells you what terms you can put in the $e of the 1xx and 7xx fields when describing a person’s relationships to a work. But sometimes, you’ll see a term that is not in Appendix I and is most likely from the MARC relator terms. In RDA, the term is spelled colourist, and in MARC relator terms, it is spelled colorist, thought most of the time, the terms are spelled the same way. According to the 2015 PCC Standing Committee on Training Training Manual for Applying Relationships Designators in Bibliographic Records, you apply the RDA relationships designator, then the MARC code, then another standard vocabulary, leaving the $e vacant if no good term exists.

So what is the point of doing all this extra work and typing (hint, quick keys are AWESOME for common relator terms :))? As we move to linked data, the standardized names of a creator will be just as important as their relationship to the work. A person’s name will no longer be good enough to describe a resource, which is why having specific relationships designations is so important. Many creators have more than one relationship within the cb/gn genre and those relations are important to the information retrieval process. Skottie Young is an author and an illustrator. But, what if I want something he didn’t write? Jordie Bellaire is an amazing and prolific colorist and is authoring her first comic book Redlands with Vanesa R. Del Ray for Image comics. What if I only want to find her work as an author? Catalogers must work to ensure that narrower relationships, such as letterer and inker, are still represented in current controlled vocabularies. People win awards for this work, so isn’t it important to have that specific aspect of the work represented? It is difficult to navigate how to suggest new names for controlled vocabularies, but it’s always good to put those ideas out there.