The Derek “Jeet”er of comics
In Love with Art tells an empowering tale
Article: Destiny Kaus – A&C Writer
Contrary to my belief that comic book writers were either antisocial-individuals-turned-serial-killers or secret superheroes who sat in front of a keyboard wearing their spandex suits and a cape, I found a gem of a comic book writer who smacked all of my assumptions right out of the ballpark. Jeet Heer, I like to call him the “Derek ‘Jeet’er of comic books, brought his comic writing capabilities all the way from India to Regina.
His newest work, In Love with Art focuses on the relationship and marriage of Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman. The publisher Coach House Books describes Mouly as the “female comics pioneer” who paved the way for other female writers and artists to enter the comic book world. She has also overseen one of the most controversial covers of The New Yorker: a cover displaying Bert and Ernie in an attempt to support gay marriage.
“That cover got the most hits that The New Yorker has ever published,” explains Jeet Heer.
In In Love with Art, Heer reveals the story of how Mouly married Spieglman, the art director of The New Yorker who played a huge role in promoting comic books and graphic novels as accepted forms of literature. Though certain writers may jump at the opportunity to air out the dirty little secrets of a marriage, Heer did not. He did not wish to expose deeply private parts of Mouly and Spiegelman’s marriage.
[pullquote]“[I think there will be a] strong response from female readers, especially women who are in the arts who are in editing because it tells the story of how a woman is able to make her way in a world that’s usually hostile to women.”[/pullquote]
“[I wanted to] tell the story of a marriage, but also be respectful to the people in that marriage.”
By refusing to divulge aspects of these writers’ private lives, does Jeet Heer lose potential readers? One can only assume. Interestingly enough, Heer believes that his graphic novel will appeal largely to the female gender.
“[I think there will be a] strong response from female readers, especially women who are in the arts who are in editing because it tells the story of how a woman is able to make her way in a world that’s usually hostile to women.”
Ah, the lifelong debate about gender equality in the workplace.
To my surprise, I found that comic books as an art form are actually growing in popularity in Canada. According to Canada’s Library and Archives, “Canada produces some of the best and most sophisticated graphic narratives available today.”
Jeet Heer also states that, “for most of the history of comics, no matter how far back you date, whether it’s from the Middle Ages or the nineteenth century or the twentieth century, comics haven’t been seen as art per se. They’ve been seen as a popular, vulgar form of mass entertainment rather than art. It’s only very recently in the last 30 years or so that comics have been starting to be seen as art.”
When Heer mentioned that, “In Regina, there are actually more comic stores than there are bookstores,” my jaw nearly hit the floor. I had to investigate, so I went straight to the yellow pages. In Regina, there are six bookstores and four comic book stores. Though bookstores still outnumber comic book stores, the ratio is much closer than I imagined.
To the aspiring artist in this growing comic culture, Jeet Heer lends one piece of advice.
“A liberal arts education is actually a really great thing. I think that if you’re any sort of writer, to study English or history would be very valuable.”