If you were to search out a graphic novel that could perfectly embody the collective moment we currently live in, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better candidate than Drawing Power, a collection of short stories by more than 60 women artists and writers about their experiences surviving sexual assault and harassment. With voices representing a diversity of generations, races, and sexual orientation, the compilation manages to capture the zeitgeist of the #MeToo movement while using the versatility of the graphic novel format to convey visually that which might be too painful to communicate in mere words.
Offering insights that range from personal to harrowing, Drawing Power’s vast array of contributions feels especially intimate thanks to each artist’s unique style. The collection’s stories run the stylistic gamut, from pen and ink sketches, to watercolor paintings, to notebook scribbles, to children’s book layouts, and much more. Drawing Power is as much a multimedia showcase as it is a unified collection of personal reflections.
As part of Adobe Create’s series of one-on-one discussions with the creators of recently published graphic novels, I spoke to Diane Noomin, the editor of the collection and longtime comics veteran who sensed that the time was right for a collection like Drawing Power.
Create: Drawing Power is a unique, timely, and powerful body of work that assembles all these different stories of sexual harassment and assault in one volume. What is it about the graphic novel that made you feel this was the right format for these stories?
Diane Noomin: It’s natural for me as a cartoonist to use words and pictures to tell a story. The women I asked to be in Drawing Power are also cartoonists. Words and pictures are an ideal way to communicate emotions that are difficult to share. The power of the individual drawings combined with words reaches readers on an intimate level.
Create: How long have you been working on assembling this book? While the #MeToo movement can be traced back to 2006, it really gained traction in 2017 after the Harvey Weinstein scandal surfaced in full. Did the #MeToo movement give you the confidence that the time was now right for this collection of stories, or was work already underway before then?
Noomin: Honestly, the idea came to me after watching Trump brag of sexual assault on a repeat broadcast of the Access Hollywood tape. I was so angry and had nowhere to put that anger. The #MeToo movement was in full flow. It seemed that every day there was another headline of a prominent man being accused of rape or sexual violence. The difference was that some of the perpetrators actually were arrested, fired, or forced to resign from their jobs. I decided in that moment to create a book about real women being exposed to sexual violence or threat by real men. As a cartoonist and an editor, the format was predestined.
Create: Did you face any major challenges in creating this book, such as reluctant publishers?
Noomin: I was lucky enough to connect with Abrams ComicArts, and the editors there were excited about Drawing Power. They gave me a lot of editorial control and support.
Create: Based on the stories shared in this book, it feels like the contributing cartoonists and writers were energized by the opportunity to tell their stories in such a unique way. Were there any holdouts who were reluctant to share, even with the buffer this creative means of expression provides?
Noomin: All of the cartoonists I wrote to had a story to tell, with the exception of one who said it had never happened to her. However, a few of them were not yet ready to share their story. Most of them said this story was the hardest one they had ever done.
Create: Now that the book is out, how do you feel about its reception and the accomplishment of completing it?
Noomin: I’m really pleased with the response to Drawing Power. And I’m thrilled to be on the New York Times’ Best Comics of 2019 list. On my book tour, I met many of the artists and we all felt we were connected to something important.