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Cartoon students are reanimating the femme-led 'Ladybroad Ledger'

A comic depicting three femme people, one with a microphone, one with a guitar and one with a bass and the title, "Ladybroad Ledger."
Illustration courtesy of Violet Kitchen
Three students from the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction are re-animating The Ladybroad Ledger comic after a couple of years of pandemic hiatus. The paper features full-page comics from femme and nonbinary Vermont artists.

Three local artists are reviving The Ladybroad Ledger, Vermont's only free femme comics newspaper.

The publication was founded in 2017 by three Burlington cartoonists as a platform for femme comic strip artists.

After taking a pandemic hiatus, a new generation of students — Annabel Driussi, Violet Kitchen and Sofia Lesage — are giving the Ledger a second life. All three attend the Center for Cartoon Studies, a two-year art and graphic design school in White River Junction.

With a grant from the Vermont Humanities Council to pay for printing costs, the three will hop in their cars this fall and distribute the 11-by-14-inch broadsheet newspaper.

VPR's Mary Engisch spoke with Annabel Driussi, a cartoonist with a neuroscience background, who is one of the three people taking over the paper. They began the conversation with Driussi recalling her early memories of drawing. Their conversation is below and has been edited for clarity.

Annabel Driussi: I remember going to preschool on the bus with my mom, and she would let me draw in the little journal, and every time I would make mistakes, I would get so frustrated. And she would be like, "Don't worry, you can cover it up by drawing a heart and coloring the heart in." And I still get so frustrated making mistakes now, but covering them up still works.

Mary Engisch: You attended school to earn a neuroscience degree, and also received an art degree, and then the pandemic hit. How did that change your post-college plans?

I realized that so much more than just the skill of making art, I really loved making art with people and finding ways to share this finicky and silly and wonderful thing with other people. I felt the like, "It's the pandemic now. Go to grad school!" So I applied to the Center for Cartoon Studies, and it's been way too much fun ever since. It doesn't feel like it should actually be school.

Have your studies in neuroscience spilled over into your cartooning?

I'm a science illustrator to make the bills and everything. And there's like, a kind of economy of information, I guess, and economy of line that comes from making a lot of infographics and trying to communicate something really directly with somebody, that actually science illustration and cartooning share.

One of the three founding cartoonists of The Ladybroad Ledger is now your professor. Annabell, take us to that Zoom class where your professor asks, "Hey, is anybody in class interested in taking over The Ladybroad Ledger, Vermont's only free femme comics newspaper?"

So, I was like virtually locking eyes with my friends Violet and Sophia in this class call. So, we were in the DMs and I was like, "That sounds so cool! Do you guys think that sounds really cool?" And they're like, "Yeah!"

"It's not something that somebody can like brush away with their thumb. It's like a full object that they have to hold the experience of. And I think it is really empowering."
Annabel Driussi

Why in this format? Why print-only, in a publication that's quite large, too, it's 11-by-14.

It's a printed newspaper, which is the dream. There was a lot of comics history, actually, that took place on big broadsheet newsprint and allowing artists to take the full page and do whatever they wanted.

So like Little Nemo and Gasoline Alley are examples of pushing the form so much further than anyone had because of the space that was allotted to artists.

And for women and femmes, we just like, don't usually get that much physical space to make work.

This is something that we're making to foster a community that's free, that you can grab at a bookstore or a coffee shop and on the street. And you don't have to scrape out the inside of your soul and pour it onto the paper. You know, it can be that. It can be like your deepest fears and shames, or it can just be like a silly comic about a rabbit that you never got the chance to make because nobody would pay you for it.

I think the idea is really exciting, of allowing people a whole page of newsprint to explore if they want to, and take comics, you know, that extra mile.

Part of the reason actually why it's so important to us that it's a print newspaper, and not something digital, is that a lot of us are creating for Instagram and for Twitter. And for these platforms where your work is literally like two inches by two inches on the screen.

And it's a really different experience to draw something knowing that it's going to be held in two hands.

It's not something that somebody can like brush away with their thumb. It's like a full object that they have to hold the experience of. And I think it is really empowering.

I've actually never gotten the opportunity to make comics that are like 11-by-14 poster size. It feels like — it feels like shouting instead of whispering.

The Ledger staff is holding events to create a community of cartoonists and supporters. Find more on one upcoming event here.

Have questions, comments or tips?Send us a messageor get in touch by tweeting us @vprnet.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
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