As Women’s History Month marches on, we are happy to bring you another post in our “We Can Do It” series, highlighting women who strike out in underrepresented fields. Check out our first installment about female tattoo artist, Sandra Burbul.
When local creator and publisher Lindsay Moore reached out to us wanting to tell her story of publishing an all-female horror anthology, we jumped at the chance to have her share her experience. Lindsay talks openly and honestly about her challenges as a woman in the male-dominated fields of comics and horror. When she met resistance, Lindsay decided to strike out on her own and make her dream of Dark Lady (and other works) a reality.
Written By Lindsay Moore:
I was a member of a local comics collective for seven years. It was a creative outlet for me. The group has put out a dozen anthologies, and I’ve been featured in nine of them.
In the years leading to my departure, the group had a handful of incidents involving sexism. These incidents caused at least four women to quit. No one wanted to take action. When I spoke up, I was told it wouldn’t happen again. Problematic members were valued; the women they bullied into leaving were told, “you aren’t welcome here.”
In the midst of this, I pitched Dark Lady, an all-female horror comics anthology. I wanted to bring women back into the group. I wanted to show them that they were valued by giving them a creative outlet. But I had never put together an anthology so I assumed I would need someone with experience to guide me.
I pitched Dark Lady in December 2014. I stood up during a meeting and said, “I’m putting together an all-female horror comics anthology. Horror is a very male-dominated genre, and women are often under-represented – ”
I was interrupted by one of the group’s senior members. He continued to yell Mary Shelley’s name, growing louder as I attempted to keep talking. I looked over at the man who was in charge. He did nothing.
I’d had numerous discussions about the problem of sexism in the group with the group leader. When I told him that women were leaving, he admitted that he didn’t want to get involved. When I told him that he had a responsibility to take action, he always assured me that he would, but never actually did. It shouldn’t have surprised me when he didn’t come to my aid.
I persisted, nearly shouting to be heard above the cries of “MARY SHELLEY! MARY SHELLEY!”
“Does anyone have any questions?” I asked.
The man in charge raised his hand. “Yeah,” he said, “but what if I collaborate with a woman?”
The other men in the room asked questions. Unfortunately, none of them were serious.
“What if I use a female pen-name?”
“What if I write about a female character?”
“What if I just don’t tell you I’m a man?”
“Will you be asking for proof of gender?”
“What if I get a sex-change?”
None of the women in the room asked any questions.
It was an infuriating and dehumanizing experience. When I expressed anger over my mistreatment, I was told by both men and women that I was over-reacting, that I should quit, and that I shouldn’t talk about my experience because it would make the group look bad. Needless to say, I severed ties with the group.
I focused on putting Dark Lady together. I had initially thought that I would require the group’s help; after all, the group’s senior members knew how to put an anthology together and self-publish it. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was too stubborn to give up. I wanted to prove the group wrong.
I posted a call for submissions online. A few days later, I received an email from a woman in Finland. She told me that a friend had shown her my website and that she wanted to submit a horror comic. The idea she pitched me was disgusting. It was the perfect example of gross-out body horror. I loved it. I needed it. Dark Lady wouldn’t be complete without it.
I took out my calendar and mapped out a schedule. October seemed like an ideal time to publish a horror comics anthology, but if I was able to get it by late September, I’d be able to sell it at Hartford Comic Con. I would need the final artwork from contributors no later than August 1. That would give me a month to format the pages and get them to the printer.
At the time, I was working at a textbook publishing company. I knew that the most vital part of any publication is its schedule. I broke Dark Lady into a series of parts (cover art, promotional art, creator info, etc) and then painstakingly worked out a schedule for when I wanted to receive those parts.
More women contacted me with pitches, artwork, and scripts. I reviewed everything and sent out feedback. I researched the best printing deals and calculated the amount of money I would need to get Dark Lady printed. I raised the money at Boston Comic Con by selling decoupaged cigar boxes. I purchased a bar code and an ISBN, and set aside money to pay my contributors.
I was actively promoting Dark Lady on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. I now know that I wasn’t doing enough. I learned that when self-publishing, no one was going to promote my work for me. I would have to put myself and Dark Lady into the public eye. I was extremely lucky in that a handful of bloggers saw my Facebook posts about Dark Lady, were intrigued by them, and reached out to contact me. These wonderful people helped me promote Dark Lady before she was completed, and I am eternally grateful to them.
After finally receiving all the files, I was able to send Dark Lady to the printer right on schedule. She made her debut at Hartford Comic Con.
I soon realized that I wasn’t done with Dark Lady. It was not enough to get my anthology printed. I needed to continue to promote her. I spoke with local comic shop owners and sold them copies of Dark Lady for their shelves. I searched out bloggers who review comics and contacted them. I provided them with free PDF copies of Dark Lady in exchange for honest reviews.
Dark Lady has gotten an overwhelmingly positive response from everyone except the original group I pitched her to. When I tell the story of how they rejected her, I’m met with face-palms and groans (and, from men, the occasional apology on behalf of their gender). So far, every man I have discussed Dark Lady with has reacted positively. Male horror fans have told me that they’re excited to see women interested in their favorite genre.
Nothing about Dark Lady was easy, but publishing her has been the most rewarding experience of my life. Dark Lady is the only all-female horror comics anthology that I know of. She has received praise. She celebrates women in horror and in comics.
I took my experience with Dark Lady and published a co-ed anthology about the Seven Deadly Sins, Simply Sinful. Simply Sinful held its own set of challenges, but I took everything I had learned with Dark Lady, and the production process was smoother and more efficient.
I’m currently putting together a third anthology, Tales from the Public Domain, and have set up a Patreon page to fund the cost of printing, an ISBN, a bar code, and to increase the creators’ payment. Please consider helping put Tales from the Public Domain on shelves.