Listen Now: Women’s Hour – Women In Cartoons and the joy of Miss Moti

Published On January 12, 2013 | By Richard Bruton | Comics

Women’s Hour yesterday had a 12-minute section featuring Posy Simmonds, Mel Gibson and Kripa Joshi talking ‘fat women in cartoons‘. Prompted perhaps from Mary & Byan Talbot’s win in the recent Costa Biography award. A respected

Well worth listening to:

“Miss Moti is a cartoon character with a difference. She is an overweight Asian woman with no superpowers and she sometimes gets stuck in stairwells because of her size. But how visible are fat women in cartoons and comic books?

Jenni speaks to Kripa Joshi, comic artist, Melanie Gibson, specialist in children’s literature and media at Northumbria University and cartoonist and illustrator, Posy Simmonds.”

Posy chatted briefly of her new work, dealing with a fat character, “how they move through the world, how the world treats them”, whilst Mel Gibson chatted about the disparity of body shape in superhero comics against other comics, and got some great examples in; Unskinny, Grandma Ben from Jeff Smith’s Bone, even a defense for the Fat Slags in a short section.

Personally I don’t necessarily think the ‘where are all the fat women superheroes?‘ question that presenter Jenni Murray seemed to be pursuing really works, as pretty much all superheroes, male, female, whatever, are drawn to the ridiculous body extreme more often than not. Argue that artists frequently mess up the female form more often than not absolutely (see The Hawkeye Initiative for that perfectly illustrated) but I . What particularly interested me in this was the work done by all three guests, but especially Posy and Mel to bring the discussion back to comics as a whole and away from the media perception of comics = superheroes.

It’s the ongoing struggle by us all to stop the first thought when we talk about comics being superheroes. Both Posy and Mel brought it back to non-superhero works with ease, mentioning Bessie Bunter and Grandma Giles, before discussing the diversity of imagery in Manga.

Go direct to the segment here, and the Women’s Hour programme details here.

(Kripa Joshi – pic by Sarah McIntyre)

Having listened to the show, I did go and have a look through some of Kripa Joshi’s Miss Moti strips from her two collections.

Excellent stuff, quirky inventive, fun. She talks over at her site of the influence of Chris Ware in stylistic terms and Windsor McCay in contextual, idea generating terms, and that’s spot on, but a deeper analysis of her work can perhaps be found in Anisha Sridhar’s article from which:

Stylistically, the art is inspired from Mithila art- a form of folk art traditional to Nepal and Bihar. “The art is very flat,” Kripa explains. “It’s two-dimensional and has no horizons, no sense of perspective.” She was drawn to it also because of its decorative aspect and rich colours while at the same time she recognized the need to develop this indigenous art from and take it one step further.

In terms of narrative, Kripa names Windsor McCay’s Little Nemo as her inspiration for creating the fantastical dream worlds that Miss Moti escapes to and Chris Ware for developing her visual language.

There are no captions or bubbles in Kripa’s comics. A purely visual journey, the only words one comes across are sounds. “I like to use Nepali sound effects,” Kripa says and then adds, “Like when a door shuts, I’ll say ‘dham’ instead of ‘bang’ or the sound the train makes is ‘kattak-kattak’.” These little notes add flavour and authenticity to her story lines and connect it back to her South Asian roots.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

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