Girls with Slingshots is a bit of a misnomer; there are no slingshots and all of the female characters are of adult age– which makes it way less controversial for them to work in bars and porn stores. Since October 2004, Danielle Corsetto had drawn the strip, which now updates five days a week in full color. Corsetto took some time away from a busy table at this year’s C2E2 to talk about how her strip has developed over the years.
Like a lot of webcartoonists, you’ve been learning your craft by doing your craft. How have you seen Girls develop over time?
It’s a bit more bold, I think, and I feel a bit more comfortable (laughs) now that it’s gotten to where my mother has read everything. That, and I’ve had a really wonderful response from people, so I feel I can tackle different sexual preferences and orientations and types of people without being too worried about it, so I feel really comfortable writing about that now.
One of the reasons I wanted to interview you was the annotations in the back of volume 5. I had no idea the amount of research you put into your characters and storylines. How does that relate to your work, do you do the research to support the story, or do you get interested in something and incorporate it into the strip?
Sometimes its the latter but mostly it comes from the characters. I didn’t know that Erin was going to be asexual; that totally blindsided me. So I researched that after realizing that she was asexual. I didn’t know anything; I had one friend who identifies as asexual and we don’t talk about it or anything, you know, I just knew this about them. The STD things was more interesting, that was me wanting to find out about it because I feel like I never got an education in it and I had a lot of friends who came out and told me that the had herpes. [In the story] it was originally going to be about herpes, but I thought restless leg syndrome would be funnier. So I did all that research partly because I was also looking for answers for them; they were getting mixed answers from their gynecologists and their doctors. It seems like something that nobody focuses on unless it’s fatal, so with all those little STDs in between it seems like theres a lot of information that goes against each other. There were a few people who are studying to be doctors and they said “we’re not doctors yet, but let me give you this information if you have any questions I’ll research it for you because I want to know as well.” and they would send me pages and pages of things. And for BDSM I lucked out: BDSM and deaf people both were things I knew nothing about. Luckily with both of those things people from those communities. have been coming out to me and saying “if you need any help with this I can give you information.”
Sadly the only reason Melody came about was that her and Soo Linn were in the wedding storyline–Soo Lin is blind and Melody is deaf–and the only reason I made Melody deaf is that Maureen’s family is already very quiet and I thought it’d be funny if one of them actually was deaf. (laughs) People always ask me how I come up with my ideas; if I come up with a joke and try to write a strip around it, it totally fails. I didn’t even end up using this joke, but I wanted Candy to come in and look at Soo Lin and Melody and say ” Oh, so Helen and Keller over there…” That was the only joke! I didn’t even put it in there because I couldn’t word it right. So I was like “Ah screw it, I got these characters I kind of like and I figured there were probably not that many blind readers–although I did find out recently that there are many people out there who are blind who do still read comics and have people read comics to them. .
That’s incredible. you know, I’ve always though that Marvel should do a Daredevil audio book.
Oh that’d be so great!
I know, right?
Oh you’re right! Ah jeez!
Deaf people for the win!
Yeah, really! So the reason I focused on Melody is I thought “Wow I never even considered Deaf people, and I never thought about how now it’s so much easier for deaf people to communicate, to be integrated with hearing people. It’s been really cool to learn about the communication between them, there’s so much more eye contact than there is with hearing people. I didn’t realize they’d be so blunt most of the time. I’m sure not every single person who is deaf is that blunt, but learning that made me see melody completely differently, which is why she winds up talking very bluntly to her sister about her sexual relations with Chris.
I just met Matt Daigle [who does the comic strip That Deaf Guy] and I was so happy to meet him. I’ve been reading that now for more ideas too.
I think ASL is amazing, not only because it’s a gestural language, but because it’s the only secondary language “non-native” speakers learn for altruistic reasons. You’re not learning it to order dinner in some “deaf country” you’re doing it to help facilitate communication.
Really cool, I really enjoy it. I actually have a couple of apps for ASL and occasionally if I get bored I’ll just start going through them. I can’t remember them but it kind of just gets me thinking. I’ll watch videos, and I prefer that over seeing the little drawn lines, because that’s not very helpful. To see people actually do it, It’ll watch them over and over again until I figure out how I’m going to draw it. It’s been really cool.
I loved when Chris made a Valentines Day banner for Melody using cut-out hands making ASL signs. It almost made me wish I was in love with a deaf girl so I could do that, but it would make for really weird dating criteria.
So with all these characters you’ve brought in, do you still feel GWS is about Jamie and Hazel or is it now more of an ensemble?
I still feel that it’s Jamie and Hazel; no matter what you’re only going to be seeing people they no. I miss doing Jamie and Hazel strips, with just them together, but I do still see it that way. I feel like occasionally we want to focus on other people. Because, well, Jamie’s in a weird place right now and Hazel’s still kind of homophobic.
Which is actually a very realistic approach to characterization. It bugs me a bit when you have characters come out in a story and all there friends and family are just immediately supportive and accepting and no one is ever freaked out or has issues. I actually talk about your strip in a lecture I do on LGBTQ characters and creators, you have such a realistic portrayal of characters of so many different sexualities– you’ve got gay characters, bi characters, asexual characters, and… I forget, but I don’t think you’ve had a transgender character yet?
People were asking me to include trans characters and I said no, if they turn out that way great, but I’m mot just doing it out of an agenda. I’ve had a lot of people accuse me of being transphobic in the strip because I have characters that react the way like a lot of people in real life act– because it’s actually a phobia, people are like “I don’t know how to handle this.” But Hazel of course would be like that.
She’s… she’s trying.
Girls With Slingshots volume 6, the first full-color collection, is now available from girlswithslingshots.com
Greg Baldino writes for more publications than he probably should. Follow him at @gregbaldino to keep track of them all. And no, of course he wouldn’t date someone solely on the basis of them having a hearing impairment, that would be crazy.
Photo of Danielle Corsetto with Jeph Jacques and Randy Milholland at C2E2 (c) Lisa Ogle. Find more of her photos from C2E2 2012 here.
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