Friends of Lulu to end in September

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201007281348 Friends of Lulu to end in September

Valerie D’Orazio, the president of Friends of Lulu for the last three years, has announced on her blog that due to financial problems, personnel problems, and her own lack of will to keep it going almost single-handedly, the organization for women comics readers and creators will be forced to shut down in four weeks:

If by September 2010 nobody steps forward and shows interest in helping run this organization, I will start taking steps to officially dissolve it as a non-profit. Then I will donate the leftover money (if any) between the other major comics charities, return the donated artwork, and ship the historical records and sketchbooks to a University or MoCCA.

Before I would take steps to dissolve FoL (if it comes to that), I will personally contact a number of concerned parties via a mass email asking for volunteers to keep the organization going.


Johanna Draper Carlson, who has publicly sparred with D’Orazio in the past, and was an energetic Lulu volunteer in the early days. has her own observations and suggestions:

The women who created the organization in the early 90s were older, and several of them were from an era where activism was possible and had the potential to achieve results. In contrast, today’s younger female creators don’t see the problems FoL was created in response to (in part due to FoL’s actions) and thus don’t see much of a need for the group. These creators have more avenues available to them — webcomics, book publisher graphic novel contracts, online organization and support — and a formal group may seem old-fashioned.


A younger Woman in Comics, Comics Alliance’s Laura Hudson, responds as well:

D’Orazio says that whether her silence helped the organization is “debatable,” and I tend to agree. While I’m sure that she tried her best in a difficult situation, what would have helped the cause of women in comics most is what would have helped the organization most: a more transparent approach to their difficulties, and either a timely resolution of the problem, or a timely recognition of the fact that the reins needed to be handed over. Regardless, I’m glad to see that D’Orazio has made the decision to clearly delineate the financial situation of the Friends of Lulu and help it move forward by offering the leadership role to someone with the time and energy to make this the full-time job that it needs to be, deal with the serious documentation problems that laid it low, and help the organization rediscover its purpose and presence in the industry.


As the co-founder and early driving force behind Friends of Lulu — which has been around since 1993 (I think), obviously I have a lot of thoughts about this, which I don’t fully have time to lay out right now. I will note that I did offer to help Val with the awards — given my own busy schedule, I don’t think she believed me and never followed up. That offer stands.

Both Johanna and Laura are correct — the world that FoL was created to confront doesn’t exist any more. Women are back in comics as creators, readers, retailers…you name it. Even characters now and then. The ’90s were a period when women had been driven out of the medium, for the most part, even as it was a blossoming time for women IN the media, with Buffy and Sailor Moon, the two founding mothers of modern day Girl Geekdom.

As an old school Feminist, I don’t believe that anything is ever safe and secure, and we could go all Handmaid’s Tale at any moment. Examination and questioning of all aspects of life and art are the only way to understanding and progress.

Which is all a way of saying, I believe that there is a place for specifically singling out Women in Comics for their own little place. But I leave it to the new kids to figure out how, where, and when the tea party will be thrown. If they don’t want to party, it is their decision.

Also, I remain committed to keeping the Friends of Lulu Awards going in some capacity. If we can have The Glyph Comics Awards and GLAAD Awards, we can have some kind of awards for Women in Comics — although they are certainly winning the co-ed awards in increasing numbers.

Developing.

Comments

  1. I’m still wondering how all of those financial records just vanished. What a disaster.

  2. Cheryl Harris says:

    We had that first meeting at San Diego 1993, and a bunch of us became the committee to get the group up and running formally. We signed the incorporation papers at Wondercon 1994.

    And, yes, there has to be some way to keep the Kim Yale Award for Best New Female Talent going.

  3. charles foster kane says:

    Is it wrong to say that I wondered about/feared for the future of the group years ago when Val took over?

    Hopefully something can emerge Phoenix-like from the ashes.

  4. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    Maybe the awards can be saved, and the rest of the organization can metamorphosize into something else? An internet discussion forum or something…

  5. That’s what I was thinking as well charles:

    Val’s own reputation essentially killed this iteration of the FOL.

    Have someone else in charge who’s respected across the board and not put under suspect and the FOL will be back in shape to the best of its ability.

  6. In hindsight, you have to question electing essentially a blogger and minor internet “celebrity” (via her “Goodbye to Comics” manifesto) whose organizational skills may have been overlooked by the board (or whomever brought her in to lead the organization).

    Perhaps a “co-leadership” post would be the best way to go, one to handle the outreach to and mentorship of young women (a full time job in itself) and one to handle the management of the organization, another full time job.

    If you want to make a difference, an organization can’t be run as a hobby or only when you’ve got spare time. That said, I admire Val’s honesty in laying out what happened during her tenure, both the good stuff and the bad. I’m not sure that, even now, she realizes how much of a lightning rod she is and how that probably worked against the day to day management and stewardship of limited resources.

  7. Sorry…double post.

  8. mercury says:

    “I admire Val’s honesty in laying out what happened during her tenure, both the good stuff and the bad.”

    Only all the good stuff she lays out is her actions, and all the bad stuff is pinned on others. And it smells heavily of spin.

    I don’t know the whole story, certainly, but I remember when the new FoL site was stood up, and it wasn’t because Val “blocked out a couple of weekends to build a new website from scratch”, but because she accidentally deleted the old site!

    From what I read elsewhere, the financial records aren’t missing, just disputed.

  9. As a member since 1995, I think the biggest problem was finding people to replace those who either grew tired of the work involved, or became successful, or found a better use of his or her time.

    I suggest someone be appointed to maintain the awards, and find an organization which can host and publicize them.

    While I suffer from the genetic deficiencies resulting from a Y-chromosome, I feel that maybe there isn’t that great a need for FoL anymore. The Internet has changed how people communicate and network, and there are many other groups which duplicate FoL’s goals.

    That said, I still support FoL. I just don’t know if it’s worth trying to resuscitate.

  10. Martha Thomases says:

    As one of the founders, I have to say that I thought Val did a great job. In fact, I had grown frustrated with the direction in which the organization had gone, and let my membership lapse, until Val got elected President.

    There’s a need for FoL as long as threads like this are dominated by posts from men, telling women how to run the organization we started.

  11. Not much liking the “pile on Val” nature of some of these comments. I know what it’s like to be in a leadership position – unexpected in my case – and find that the organization was in terrible shape.

    My only question…

    Who last had the documents that Val hasn’t been able to get? In my long-ago situation, any missing documents were almost certainly taken or destroyed to protect the two people who had scammed the organization while officers of same.

    I wish all the best for Val.

    Despite a dust-up with a friend of mine, Val has always struck me as a decent person and I think she’s doing everything here than can reasonably be expected of her.

  12. “There’s a need for FoL as long as threads like this are dominated by posts from men, telling women how to run the organization we started.”

    (sigh) Come on. Speaking for myself, the suggestions were only offered in an honest spirit of helpfulness…not a “here’s wut theez wimmen need ta do!” kind of thing. Sorry it was taken that way. Isn’t the spirit of Friends of Lulu (Lulu routinely crashed the gender barrier of the boy’s clubhouse, remember?) one of mutual gender interaction…..or are boys still not allowed in that particular clubhouse?

  13. bogartist@aol.com says:

    ” as long as threads like this are dominated by posts from men, telling women how to run the organization we started.”

    Oh, COME ON. There’s nothing even remotely like that in these comments. Nothing.

  14. I don’t know Ms. D’Orazio or anyone involved in the organization, but my own experience joining the FoL years ago (2005? 2006?) makes me suspect the organizational problems go back a long ways. Poor/non-existent communication, activity that seemed limited only to voting for awards and boards of directors, slapdash newsletter… this flashpoint probably would have come sooner or later even without Ms. D’Orazio’s push (especially if there’s suspect financials involved).

  15. Heidi M. says:

    Are there ANY women who have an opinion on this matter?

    And no dumping on Val. She’s been very up-front about this and getting a dialog going is definitely the way forward.

  16. Marguerite D says:

    I can only imagine how stressful it is to run this kind of organization, besides trying to run your own life. I give props to Valerie.

    One of the above comments mentioned how this position should only be filled by someone who can devote “full time” to it. I’m wondering how that’s possible, what with this economy. I don’t know much about Lulu’s finances, but I have a feeling they don’t pay much, if at all. Slapdashing a staff through volunteers isn’t the best thing, no question. But are there cartoonists out there who are actually able to survive while full-timing Lulu?

    And I think there’s absolutely a place for Lulu, even in this “better” climate for women creators. It needs to evolve, sure, but what organization doesn’t?

  17. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    Are there ANY women who have an opinion on this matter?

    Me, Martha and Cheryl? Not to mention you. Though yeah, regardless of her virtues or lack thereof (I don’t know, I wasn’t there, I only met her once) a dogpile of dudes going “Val stinks!” in a post promoting Friends of Lulu is a wee bit headdesky.

  18. I tend to lean toward Joanna Draper Carlson’s outlook on a lot of this: The market has slowly become more inclusive for women creators and many of us are where we are because we have stood on the shoulders of giants.

    Is there a need for FOL? Sure- if only to draw attention to all of the new women creators. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on right now that could use a little daylight. I would like to see FOL regain the status as a positive force with awards and anthologies rather than a reactive one with rants and drama, but this requires organizational skills and time- things in perennially short supply.

    Cheers,
    Ursula.

  19. It may be a very different world now than when FoL began, but even though the presence of women in comics has been greatly normalized (at least in indie circles, I can’t speak for that of which I am not a part), there is still a need for some type of “women in comics” organization. I don’t think the way it was in recent years was useful at all in today’s climate, but if it was re-worked to meet current needs, it could do great things. Something like some kind of mentorship/apprentice program would be great for young women who are just starting out (I know I would have loved to shadow another woman in comics when I was younger, and I would love now to be able to mentor a young woman in turn). The anthologies were okay, a good idea in that it’s great to be able to showcase so much new talent, but a bad idea in that… come on, who really reads anthologies? It’s not exactly the best way to get the work of new talent seen nowadays.

    It’s undeniable that there is still a great deal of work to be done to combat sexism in comics, even if it is of a more subtle variety than in years past, and FoL would do well to morph and change to embrace the actual needs of young female creators nowadays. In more useful ways other than just tabling at conventions and putting out anthologies.

    I will be sad if Friends of Lulu dissolves altogether, but I will be equally sad if someone takes up the responsibility for the organization and continues on the same tired path they’ve been treading for years.

    That said, I don’t blame Valerie one bit for anything, I really don’t know the details and I don’t see the point in pointing a finger at her, however tentatively some have been, when no one really knows what the deal is unless they’re in the middle of it themselves.

    I kind of wish I had the time to take up the helm myself, but a full-time gig is something I just can’t do right now, no matter how much I’d love to see it succeed.

  20. Internets says:

    It really seems like a formal organization and a newsletter sent IN THE MAIL is just not what anyone is interested in or even familiar with these days. It’s just so antiquated and confusing.

    Let this die out. And the facebook group that forms from the ashes might be something that people not only pay attention to but are actively involved in. I think the time for this has passed.

  21. I was never a member of FoL. I heard shady rumors about the organization—and women involved with it—long before I began to identify as a feminist and care about women in comics, and getting more women to read comics. Before I was a part of the industry. I no longer trust the source of those rumors, but the organization’s image problems made me leery of affiliating myself with it.

    The year I was nominated for the Kim Yale Award, I lost to another cartoonist who was on the board of FoL at the time. I’m not saying she didn’t deserve to win—based purely on merit she deserved it as much as any of the nominees—but her affiliation with FoL rubbed me the wrong way. It was hard for me to take the awards seriously after that. In spite of that sort of nonsense, the awards were important, and it would be a shame if we lost them. They’re a wonderful opportunity to celebrate women in comics, and the publicity value of an award like the Kim Yale to someone who’s just begun her career is incalculable.

    I would love to be part of keeping the Lulus alive—or, alternatively, creating a new honor for women in comics that doesn’t carry with it the specter of FoL.

  22. Matthew Jeske says:

    I think its a shame to see this happen.

    And to whoever said that Val was only a blogger -she was a successful editor at DC before that. Not that I think anyone should have to prove their notability before being president of a comics nonprofit.

  23. Heidi M. says:

    >>>a dogpile of dudes going “Val stinks!” in a post promoting Friends of Lulu is a wee bit headdesky.

    Thanks Kate!

    Women of comics, thanks for posting your thoughts and keep it coming.

  24. Martha Thomases says:

    I could be reading these posts in the wrong tone of voice (and if I am, it gives me great pleasure to apologize for my misunderstanding), but it seems to me that some are arguing that, because women creators have a (deservedly) higher profile, there is no longer a need for FoL.

    In fact, women continue to be severely under-represented in all facets of the comics industry, including indies. There should be more women in editorial, marketing and publishing positions. There should be more women opening comic shops, and/or working for distributors.

    As long as it’s the comics business, then business will suffer without including women.

  25. Jen Van Meter says:

    I started to draft a comment when I first read the article, then came back and saw Hope Larsen’s comment above; my experiences with FoL and reactions to this news have been so very similar to hers that what I’d started seems redundant.

  26. there definitely still needs to be some high profile organization dedicated to the recognition and promotion of female-made comics. knowing others are out there makes a difference.

    I know more than a few ladies who, upon discovering, learning from and talking to female pros (my wife included), felt empowered, inspired, and encouraged to make their own work. women who might not have done so had they not made those connections.

    in this day and age it seems like the obvious path forward would be a FoL (or similar) online community. a simple website devoted to highlighting female-made comics through spotlight articles, interviews, reviews and maybe an online forum for discussing technique and so forth. it would be something high-profile but simple to point all aspiring creators toward for inspiration and help.

  27. The arguments about whether FoL should still exist vs. a similarly missioned organization are separate–when I first started writing about comics, I was totally enthused to join FoL, only to learn pretty quickly that there wasn’t much going on other than the awards. From what I have learned since, there was some kind of major breakdown in the management and focus that probably can not be so well resuscitated without carrying a stigma forward. That doesn’t mean the core issues that FoL was concerned with aren’t still in need of addressing on an ongoing basis, especially when it comes to recognition and outreach to women interested in creating and reading comics. It just means that a series of events, distractions and judgment calls doomed this particular group. When a publisher goes out of business, that doesn’t mean its peers should too. It seems like this might be a great opportunity for someone with a streamlined vision and specific, actionable projects to grow something new, with concerns of the new generation of women in comics in mind.

  28. “And to whoever said that Val was only a blogger -she was a successful editor at DC before that. Not that I think anyone should have to prove their notability before being president of a comics nonprofit.”

    It wasn’t notability one should have on their resume, but experience in running a multi-faceted non-profit…something even editing comic books can scarcely prepare one for. If you want someone to effectively manage a non-profit, you need to find someone with those skills. If not, it’s just fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants amateur hour. Which was exactly what happened.

    Now, back to the man-cave to tell more wimmen-folk what to do.

  29. Synsidar says:

    If there’s just a desire to have a place for women writers and artists to converse and exchange ideas freely, a listserv would be a moderate maintenance, low-budget option. If the desire is to have a Web site with a forum, one blog or several, annual awards, etc., then people will have to commit some time, at least. Arguing that one is too busy with work to do that indicates a lack of concern about the status of women in the industry. Feminist SF lists comics among the topics the organization addresses.

    SRS

  30. Brendan says:

    I’ll agree that things seem to have improved quite a bit from the time when the group started.

    Awesome women like Gail Simone, Marjorie Liu, Jen Van Meter, and Kelly Sue Deconnick are all working regularly, so that’s a win I guess.

    I wasn’t old enough to read comics back in the 90’s, but from what I understand, it was a lot worse in terms of having women writers.

    Congrats to Val for keeping it going as long as she did.

  31. E.J. Steigerwald says:

    So, as an artist/reader/fanatic – what can I and other concerned readers do to help?

  32. Brendan says:

    And one stupid question, what did the OP mean by things going the way of “Handmaid’s Tale”?

  33. Heidi was referring to Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” which is chilling, awful, and should be read by everyone.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid's_Tale

  34. Cam63 says:

    Good luck.

  35. I don’t know much about FoL, but as I said in my comment on ComicsWorthReading, there’s also Girl-Wonder.org. They have projects like a Female-Friendly Comic Book Store Map, the Convention Anti-Harassment Project, they have forums, they host webcomics by women, they review comics by and about women, etc.

    Synsidar,

    Arguing that one is too busy with work to do that indicates a lack of concern about the status of women in the industry

    LOL, what? A lot of women are already unpaid and underpaid for all sorts of work they do (in any industry, and outside of their careers too). Not having the time or energy to devote to thankless volunteer work on top of making a living, supporting themselves and/or family should not automatically translate to “a lack of concern about the status of women in the industry.”

    Doing the kind of work that Friends of Lulu or a new organization like it would require is the kind of thing that should be paid work. It means the organizer(s) can truly focus on the work and be motivated to further expand/improve it, and make it far less likely that they’d have to leave or postpone work for the organization when outside problems/distractions come calling. Also, paid employees likely wouldn’t get away with misplacing financial records.

    As someone who only started reading comics regularly a few years ago, from what I’ve observed there is still a great need for helping and advocating for women in comics. Maybe it is better than it used to be, but it’s still loaded with problems, and a handful of women working in mainstream comics right now doesn’t make it all better.

  36. It’s a sad thing losing Lulu. But I don’t like the dump on Val syndrome either. There’s no way so many problems can possibly be the fault of one person. I have rarely met anyone involved in a non-profit who did not essentially learn on the job.

    A not for profit requires committed people working together with clear direction and rules for how things are done and how taxes and money is handled. If Lulu has lost that, its time to wrap it and go small again. Or its only going to get worse.

    Finding some people to help keep the awards going is a good idea.

  37. Beatster:
    As basically the biggest blogger in comix (or, anyway, one of), I’d say that if you wanted to launch THE BEAT AWARDS FOR WOMEN IN COMICS and got yourself a few other signficant ladies to serve as your vetting committee, those awards would be taken pretty darn seriously.
    My two cents.
    BR

  38. I remember going to the first Friends of Lulu panel/meeting/discussion group at SDCC 1994. I’d only just started as an editor in comics at Antarctic Press, and was very excited there would be an organization for me. Aside from a couple of exceptions, I was not exactly welcomed with open arms- at the time, I was editing adults only comics, funny animal books and translated manga (which was Massively Uncool in 1994…) I got a definite feeling that what I worked on was NOT cool, even if I was a woman. So I shrugged and went on my way.

    A few years later, on the urging of some good friends of mine in the industry, I checked back in with FoL, but the idea of paying yearly dues sort of put me off. Maybe it was just me, but as a publisher who published a *lot* of female creators, I sort of felt it was redundant for me to pay monetary dues to be a woman in comics. I mean, I was already paying printing bills, royalties, etc. And again, aside from exceptions who were already friends, I didn’t really feel welcome.

    I’m sad to see the organization go, since I think it served a good purpose and did good works, but yes, times have changed.

  39. The Beat says:

    There is more great discussion and insight in this one thread than there has been involved in anything FoL-related for years and years, I’m afraid. Thanks everyone for your candor.

    I haven’t been officially involved with FoL in years, aside from helping out with the Awards and some brainstorming with various new boards. A while ago — four or five years?? after the Empowerment fiasco __ I told the folks running it that they needed to go on a listening tour and talk to ACTUAL WOMEN IN COMICS and see what they wnated and needed in an organization.

    I think that was too time consuming for the time strapped folks who were running it. AND maybe…too dispiriting. I know first hand what it is like to hear complaint after complaint and not be able to do anything about it.

    At the very first Lulu meeting it was just going around the room and hearing what all the women trying to make a living in comics saw as their biggest problem that made a few of us realize that at that time (1992) the biggest problem for women in comics was persuading publishers and retailers that THERE WAS A FEMALE AUDIENCE FOR COMICS. As insane as it sounds now, that was a real issue 20 years ago.

    I suspect this kind of “internet going around the room” will result in a similar eureka moment for what is needed now.

  40. As one of Lulu’s founding mothers, I must chime in. My own personal experience with Lulu has been both positive and negative. It was incredibly encouraging for me to receive Friends of Lulu awards at a time when I would never have received an Eisner. (and in fact I just lost an Eisner to Berke Breathed, but at least I finally received a nomination!)I faithfully produced a hardcopy newsletter for almost 10 years, doing literally all the work myself, folding, stamping,etc., with only the volunteer production help of Lee Binswanger, who isn’t even a Lulu member. We both worked on it for free. I felt that if people had to actually pay to join Lulu, the least they could get from their money was a hardcopy newsletter. I finally had to stop in 2008 when I was getting chemotherapy, and simply did not have the strength or energy to continue with the physical part. I asked the board if they would take over the printing,folding, stapling, mailing task, and I would send them the completed, edited newsletters electronically. Nobody on the board was willing to take the few hours to do what I had done on my own, so that was the end of the hard copy newsletter. Shortly after that,the board discontinued their email list. There were no more Lulu cons either, so what were members getting for their dues? There is a strong need for an organization to promote women’s participation in comics, but somewhere along the way, the board dropped the ball. I hope someone can pick it up again.

  41. Karalyn Johnson says:

    I followed a link to this page from a Facebook comment that read, “The End of Friends of Lulu! It looks like THE MEN WIN!! We outlasted ‘em, guys! MEN FTW!!!!” How very sad. Is it not possible to empower a group of people without others feeling threatened and resentful?
    FoL was never about helping women through hurting men. It was a way to help those who had little voice to be heard. By bringing women into the industry FoL helped to bring a semblance of balance to a medium whose views were overwhelmingly one-sided and limited in scope. Bringing in new talent with fresh views has brought in new readers whose thoughts and values were never previously addressed. The influx of female talent is making the market stronger and larger by creating a wider fanbase for an industry that desperately needs it.
    If FoL does fold then something needs to take its place as a nurturing influence for those who want to be part of the industry we all love. We will all be stronger for it.

  42. Things hvae changed says:

    Things have changed for women since 1993 in comics. Although, you could always get work if you were good and made your deadlines. Many women who worked in comics then and today never joined FoL because it never really appealed to them and they didn’t want to be singled out as woman working in comics but as a writer or artists. For some of us it wasn’t relevant then and still isn’t relevant now.

  43. As an outsider, I’m unsure of the organization’s mission statement.is this organization promoting women in superhero comics or women in comics in general? I think the former is a problem if there are relatively few women who read superhero comics. The grassroots approach may be exaughsted. Knocking on the doors of power can only do so much.
    The best position for women may be to get in the halls of power–which include management–and change things from the top down. I know change that is top-down has its own negative connotations , but it may the only hope the industry has for bringing in new female readers, creators, characters, etc.

  44. ” The influx of female talent is making the market stronger and larger”
    Where is the evidence for this statement? I’m not saying that you’re stretching the truth, but new female readers are flat out invisible to me. Judging by the scaling back of manga output, it could be argued that the crowd brought in by Sailor Moon might be leaving comics altogether.

  45. Zemba says:

    “publicly sparred”? Wow, that’s putting it mildly. I’ve just spent the last few hours going through links to various articles on both of their blogs and watching Carlson and D’Orazio go at it somthing fierce. I haven’t seen this level of trolling outstide of the message boards on amazon.

    Carlson’s own comments seem to imply that she’s more concerned with portraying D’Orazio as a lunatic than she is with the success of FoL, while D’Orazio looks to be completely frustrated and sick of all of it.

    Given the comments made by both Carlson and D’Orazio on their respective blogs, one has to wonder if the tax status wasn’t the least of the problems, the bigger ones being childish cliques, in fighting and ego’s.

    Also, a false charge of sexual assualt?

    I guess this is all old news but I will say it was one of the more entertaining reads I’ve had in a while. And it was interesting to see The Beat on Carlsons site pointing out her “slant” and Carlson acting proud of it.

    What does this all have to do with the continuing efforts to promote women in comics? Absolutely nothing.

    Comic book people are exciting.

  46. Sparky says:

    Change happens. I like the idea of a FoL brand. I miss manning the booth at SDCC, and enjoyed the meet-up one APE in San Jose. I’ve friends thanks to Lulu.

    I’d support keeping the Lulu awards alive. I’d donate $ for that.

    Let’s get FoL a FaceBook page.

    – Alan AKA Sparky

  47. Nice! Thank you! I always wanted to write in my blog something like that. Can I take part of your post to my blog?

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