Showing posts with label cancer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cancer. Show all posts

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Venus Winston, October 8, 1981-December 11, 2016

by Mike Rhode & Matt Dembicki

According to her Facebook page, artist and cartoonist Venus Winston passed away last night, from cancer. She was a member of the DC Comics Conspiracy (DCC) and a contributor to the group's Magic Bullet comics newspaper

Winston was a DC native, but lived recently in Hyattsville, MD. For an interview with us earlier this year, she noted, "In high school I attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts majoring in Visual Arts. After graduating I majored in Illustration at Rhode Island School of Design. I started making art at age 8 and loved reading comic books. I actually didn't start creating comics till 2010, when I started writing. Before this, I wanted to be a children's book illustrator or animation."  Winston began her "Cooking with Cancer" comic in 2014 as her own therapy. In addition to showing how to prepare food that might help a cancer patient, Winston was in favor of medical marijuana to stimulate the appetite.

Earlier this year, Winston was invited to present on her comic at Dundee University in Scotland this summer for the Annual International Graphic Medicine Conference. While fundraising to attend the conference, Winston wrote, "I lost my ovaries to cancerous Krukenberg tumors and it is my belief I survived by enforcing a healthy diet and mindset within my personal environment. 'Cooking with Cancer' has now grown into a collection of short stories, recipes and informative pieces focusing on my experience with cancer and how food can help beat illness."

Winston told us in September, "In a few months, I'll be self-publishing a children's book I've been working on for years." If her family continues that plan, ComicsDC will attempt to highlight it. Her work can be seen on her websites and

We here at ComicsDC send our condolences to her family and friends.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Venus Winston

by Mike Rhode

Venus Winston is a local artist, native to DC, who is chronicling her battle with cancer through comics. I hope to be able to meet her at this year's Small Press Expo.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I write and illustrate stories with surreal or slice of life narratives. At a very young age, read a lot of mythology and folklore. In many ways, I feel this how I write.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I still paint using acrylic and every now and then create my work in traditional pen and ink, however I have transitioned to mostly digital illustration. It’s far more convenient and easier to clean up.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born a raised in Washington DC October 1981.  

Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

Though I was raised in DC, after college I moved to Maryland. Right now I live in Hyattsville.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

In high school I attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts majoring in Visual Arts. After graduating I majored in Illustration at Rhode Island School of Design. I started making art at age 8 and loved reading comic books. I actually didn’t start creating comics till 2010, when I started writing. Before this, I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator or animation.

Who are your influences?

I grew up a huge fan of illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon, painter Frida Karlo and comic artists I enjoy are Lucy Knisley, Fabio Ruotolo and Fiona Staples.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

For a long time, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, just that I wanted to be an artist and had a dry spell as an artist for a time. Regrets or “do-overs” I consider dissatisfaction with the present, so I rarely think like that. I am happy with my place right now. I’ve learned allot working in various art jobs and can now put focus on art that I truly feel satisfied with. Everything happens for a reason, and the path I’ve taken has put me at this exact point. I’m happy with that.

What work are you best-known for?

People in DC know me for my painting. Right now I think people appreciate “Room of Norns” and my work in progress “Cooking with Cancer.”

What work are you most proud of?

I am proud of all my work! In a few months, I’ll be self-publishing a children’s book I’ve been working on for years. So If I must say something about proud, I am proud that I am finally finishing this upcoming piece.

What would you like to do or work on in the future? 
I want to publish my written work, possibly contribute illustrations, book covers and editorial work to writers, and start my own publishing company.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?
I paint and create smaller pieces, just so I don’t get rusty.

What do you think will be the future of your field? 
I think that the genres I am working in, like slice of life and medicine, are growing in the states. Super heroes are huge here, but audiences over seas have always appreciated stories that don’t focus on such subject matter. Artists that want to be successful in their field, I feel should explore alternatives to reaching international audiences. The internet, encouragement to self publishing and smaller presses, I think will make it possible for artists and writers to not have to rely heavily on larger publishing companies.

What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them? 

Last year I attended Awesome-con and Small Press Expo. I liked Small Press more and will most likely contribute to that convention. Small Press seemed more my audience and I have more appreciation for the stories that came out of it.

What's your favorite thing about DC?

That I grew up here and know people. It’s the best place to stay connected to people I love and admire.

Least favorite?

I think the city has gotten too crowded with people that don’t understand the history and culture of the city. They come with their own culture, which is great, but DC maintained its greatness because of the history here.

What monument or museums do like to take visitors to?

I don’t know about visitors, but MY favorite museums are the Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum. I go all the time just to get away.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

Bangkok 54 in Arlington, VA, Room 11 on 11th St NW, and Pho 75 in Langley Park, MD

Do you have a website or blog?

Yes and

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Jennifer Hayden, her breasts and their autobiographical comix: A pre-SPX interview

by Mike Rhode

A few years back I was doing an academic talk and paper which eventually was published as Graphic Tales of Cancer. Jennifer Hayden was working on her own story about cancer and was kind enough to talk with me then about her cartooning project about cancer. It's finally out now and I couldn't be more pleased to present this Q&Q with her. Everyone should go to the Small Press Expo this week, and buy her book.

Why will you be in Washington?

I'll be in Washington as a guest of Small Press Expo (SPX), where I'll be debuting my new graphic novel The Story of My Tits.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I write and draw autobiographical comix. My new book is a 352-page graphic memoir about my life and my experience with breast cancer. My first book Underwire (published in 2011) was a collection of short-storylength comix about my family. I post a short-form four-panel webcomic
called S'Crapbook at and a webcomic diary called Rushes at, part of which I self-published in 2013.

How do you do it?

With my diary comic, I draw with a copic pen in a blank Clairefontaine notebook. With all my other comics, I draw on Bristol paper with a rapidograph, which has begun to hurt my hand, so I do some details with a dip pen. I now also add tones with a black watercolor pencil, which I wet for a softer, painted look. I work panel by panel, not page by page, and go straight to ink, no pencil. If I don't like the panel, I toss it out and start over. I write in a notebook at my side, where I test the words until I get them right before I start the panel. I never really know what's next--I like the surprise. When the art is done, I scan it and assemble the pages in Photoshop, cleaning things up, but always keeping the hand-drawn look.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

Oh, it's time for me to be classy about my age. I was born in 1961 in New York City.

Can you tell us a little about your new book that you'll be in town discussing?

The Story of My Tits is a graphic memoir about my bout with breast cancer, but it includes a lot of other stories that ripple out from mine and resonate with it, like my mother-in-law's cancer story, my mother's cancer story, the story of how these marriages were affected by cancer, and how my own childhood, teenagehood, adulthood, marriage and motherhood influenced the way I reacted. I have to add that I think of it as a graphic novel, not a memoir, because I was less interested in being accurate and more interested in giving the reader the same ride through life that I had had, which involved some tragicomic tweaking here and there.

Breast cancer is a serious illness much discussed in the media, but it's also very personal. How did you decide to do a comic on it? Where did the amusing, but perhaps off-putting book title come from?

Cancer has been a popular subject for graphic novels, it seems to me. It's the perfect medium for this disease, because you can be almost simultaneously hilarious and desperately sad. And ironic, and informative, and real, and anything else you want. Comix are so utterly free. From the moment I was recovering from my breast cancer experience--which was when I discovered graphic novels--I knew this would be the best way for me to tell my story. I was very inspired by Marisa Marchetto's great strip Cancer Vixen in Glamour magazine, which I saw before she turned it into a book, and that helped convinced me this was the way to go.

I don't remember really considering any other title. When I wrote it down I thought, uh-oh. This isn't going to be one hundred percent popular. But then again, I'm not writing this book to tell anything but the truth. So that's the title and I stuck with it. And my publisher Top Shelf never asked me to change it.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I have none. I studied a lot of literature in high school and college, where I majored in art history, so I also studied a lot of great art and loved learning how visual narratives were built into those images. I always drew, and read Archies compulsively when I was growing up, but I lost track of comics as a grownup. Then, having written a few (very bad) novels that were never published (thank the   Goddess) and illustrated some children's books (which were just too rated G for me), I stumbled on
graphic novels and I just felt like I had come home. I knew exactly what to do. I gave myself a year to read all the best graphic novels I could find, then made myself sit down and start. The Story of My Tits begins with the first comix panel I ever drew.

Who are your influences?

Oh, so many. Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Charles Dickens, Albrecht Durer, Maurice Sendak, Hilary Knight, Goscinny and Uderzo (Asterix and Obelix are the gold standard for me; the most comedy and emotion in comics per square inch!), Garry Trudeau, Alison Bechdel, Lynda Barry, Julie Doucet, Dame Darcy, Will Eisner, and Jeffrey Brown. For a start.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

Discover comix in college, before I started losing my eyesight and getting sore hands. Go to art school and get some training in other media. But I probably would have just ruined art for myself, since I ruined everything then, being so hell-bent on "being an artist" (actually, at that time, a writer) and not on living a life that would inspire me to make art. So, I guess, actually, I would change nothing. It was all supposed to turn out this way.

What work are you best-known for?

Best-known for!? Possibly my pioneering work in conversational swearing. I'm not sure I'm known at all!! Underwire was my first  webcomic and my first book, so if I'm known for anything, it would have to be that.

What work are you most proud of?

Well, I really have done great work advancing the art of conversational swearing. But I'm also very proud of The Story of My Tits. All the years I was writing, all the years I was drawing, I was trying to grasp life, hold it for a moment, trap it, get it down where someone else could see it and feel it, just like me. And I think that in this book maybe at last I have.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

I have two more autobio projects I'd like to see in print--my diary comic and a collection of my S'Crapbook strips--but then I feel like getting my feet wet in fiction again. I have another graphic novel in mind that's a mix of family history, autobiography, and fiction. I've taken notes on index cards for a while and thrown them in a box, so I'd like to open that box and see what happens.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I do not say those last two words. Ever. I had troubles as a writer I have never had as a comix creator, so I make it a point now just to keep moving forward. And never to judge my subject matter. The greatest skill I have learned is how to recognize that particular tickle of humor/sorrow/ aliveness that makes me know I have a story to tell. I go where it takes me and I do not question it. When I'm in a rut or too swamped with emotion about the subject to go on, I take a break. Hours, days, weeks. I adhere to no schedule, thanks to my publisher. I work every day, but I am the mistress of my own material.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

Many more people are reading graphic novels now, especially women, than two, five, ten years ago. I believe this is a very wide-open art form right now, and it's appealing to some great verbal and visual talents. What you can do in great art and in great literature, you can do in graphic novels, only it's better, because you can use techniques from both at the same time. I think we're going to see some incredible masterpieces, which will establish the graphic novel, like jazz or rock 'n roll, as a vital new channel of expression.

You've attended the Small Press Expo previously - do you have any thoughts about your experience? Will you be attending it in the future?

Oh, I absolutely love Small Press Expo! This is my sixth year, and it is the highlight of my comix calendar. The organizers are fantastic, the venue is relaxed, the exhibitors are nothing but the best. I've exhibited there, I debuted my first book Underwire there in 2011, and I never miss it. Last
year I got a chance to tell Jules Feiffer--a guest of the show--how much I adored his book Kill My Mother--and in the next moment I met a brand-new cartoonist visiting from Switzerland and had lunch with her at the bar, talking about autobiographical comix. Everyone is there for the love of
the art form, and it just seems to erase all barriers.

What's your favorite thing about DC?

I grew up in New York City, so what I love about DC is that it's such a small city, and yet there's so much in it. It also feels European to me, with all those big pretty streets and monumental, classical buildings. When I first went to the Smithsonian, I was just running along the mall, in and out of all those unbelievable museums, cackling at my husband: "It's free! It's all free!"

Least favorite?

It does seem to be a company town. Everyone seems to be either working for the government or probably a spy.

What monument or museum do like to or wish to visit when you're in town?

Our family favorite is the Spy Museum. Yeah, we like spies. But I also love the Lincoln Memorial. And all the art galleries, I couldn't even pick one.

Do you have a website or blog?

My website is and my blog is I have another blog where I post my daily diary comic called And if you're on Facebook, my author page is jenniferhaydenauthor.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Meet a Visiting SPX Cartoonist: A Chat with Jennifer Hayden

The Washington City Paper blog is a bit backed up with a bunch of interviews I've gotten for SPX so I'll run some with friends here. I met Jennifer Hayden at Baltimore Comic Con in 2010, and we talked about webcomics and her plans to draw a comic about her breast cancer. As you might expect, Jennifer's not your typical 20-something young cartoonist. According to her biography on ACT-I-VATE, "is a politically incorrect mother of two. She lives in a barn in New Jersey with her husband, two kids, three cats and the dog. As a child, she spent every summer sprawled on the couch, reading the Archies. Now that wise investment is paying off."

CDC: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I do autobiographical comix. My first book of comix, Underwire, just came out from Top Shelf. It started life as a webcomic on Meanwhile, I've started posting another webcomic called S'Crapbook on, and I'm finishing a graphic novel about my life and my experience with breast cancer which will be published by Top Shelf as well.

CDC: What work are you best-known for?

JH: I guess I'm known for my work in Underwire, the personal rantings of a middle-aged woman with a husband and teenagers. Although some people have seen bits of the other book I'm working on, about my breast cancer, which is a much heavier project.

CDC: How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I never went to art school, so I draw with the same tools I used as a teenager: a Rapidograph pen on Bristol smooth paper. Now, though, I use Photoshop to scan the panels, which I create individually, and to arrange them on pages for print purposes (they stay individual panels in my webcomix.)

CDC: Can you tell us a little about your books that you'll have with you at SPX?

JH: I'll be debuting my new book Underwire. Top Shelf did a beautiful job publishing this baby--softcover with French flaps, and a gorgeous book and cover design by Chris Ross. It's eighty pages, with twenty-two of the webcomic strips, plus seventeen new pages of comix and art made exclusively for this book. I'll also be selling a new minicomic, with a collection of strips from my new webcomic S'Crapbook, currently running on

CDC: If you've attended the Small Press Expo in the past - do you have any thoughts about your experience?

JH: My first SPX was last year--I went to help out at Dean Haspiel's table, selling his new book Cuba--and I had such a blast. It's so much more sane, quiet and comfortable than New York Comic Con and even MoCCA, two conventions I've attended in New York City for the past few years. I couldn't get over how easy it was to talk with my favorite cartoonists. They were all there! I was literally wandering around in heaven. And this year: Roz Chast? Diane Noomin? Will my head just explode? Possibly.

CDC: What are you looking forward to buying or seeing or doing for this year's event? Or who do you want to see, to catch up on old times, or to have a fangirl experience?

JH: I look forward to having my first book out, that's for sure. (I am thinking of fashioning a paper crown that says "comix princess" and wearing it all weekend.) I also am seriously looking forward to being on a panel on Sunday called "Images of The Body", moderated by Craig Fischer, with Robyn Chapman (Hey 4-Eyes!, Make), Gabby Schulz (Monsters), and Jen Vaughn (Don't Hate, Menstruate! Heavy Flow), about "the ethics, erotics and extremes involved in representing the external experience of the body." Naturally I have a long shopping list of books I can't wait to get my hands on, from Top Shelf and some other publishers, and I'll be catching up with friends and swooning over some longtime idols. And then, of course, there's the smorgasbord of minicomics...

CDC: What's your favorite thing about the DC area? Least favorite?

JH: I was at the convention most of the time last year, so I didn't much of DC. I understand the traffic can be a bear, and this year should be challenging, with all the commemorative stuff going on in the city.

CDC: What monument or museum do you like or wish to visit when you're in town?

JH: I'd love to see the Smithsonian someday.

CDC: What do you think will be the future of your field?

JH: I haven't really been in this field long enough to say. What excites me is the prospect of graphic novels growing in this country as a literary form--to take on more aspects of traditional and experimental fiction, and use art to blow out the cobwebs. I think there's huge room for growth in this direction, and I can't wait to see what happens.

CDC: Do you have a website or blog?

JH: Yes. and

The Small Press Expo takes place 11 am–7 p.m. Sept. 10 and noon–6 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Road, Bethesda. $10-$15.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Why are some of the Post's Sunday comics colored pink?

It's a Breast Cancer awareness campaign thought up by Dan Piraro and done by King Features Syndicate. All of the strips can be seen at Cartoonists Care: The Sunday Funnies Pink Project. There's a link to donate to cancer charities from the main page.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Truitt on Wolverine's son, clone daughter

... or something like that. I don't bother reading X-Men titles any more.

Daken steps out of dad Wolverine's shadow
By Brian Truitt, USA TODAY September 14 2010

Marjorie Liu brings humanity to the tortured teen of 'X-23'
By Brian Truitt, USA TODAY September 15 2010

and here's one that sounds more interesting - I'm going to put it on my pull list now (of course I've written a paper on this topic).

Marvel Comics gives a superhero cancer in 'One Month to Live'
By Brian Truitt, USA TODAY

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Polite Dissent - a blog on comics and medicine

I can't believe I haven't run across this before - Polite Dissent - a blog on comics and medicine, but no, I hadn't until Bert Hansen pointed it out today. And "Scott"'s been doing this since 2004 with 1738 posts on comics! I need to dip in more obviously, especially if I'm going to keep talking about Comics and Cancer (next at American Association for the History of Medicine, Rochester, MN, late April - be there).

Monday, April 27, 2009

OT: Cancer comics

I'm working up a paper on the recent spate of comics about cancer, most of which follow in Harvey Pekar's footsteps of Our Cancer Year. Here's a webcomic - PHD from 4/20/09 - that's a nice short look at the problem.