What is Femme Schism?
See the page entitled, About for more information.
Who are the creators?
Tiffany L. Pascal is a university-trained fine artist and a, more or less, self-taught comic book artist (if anything is truly autodidactic, that is). She is the sole creator of Femme Schism but receives support and inspiration from friends, family, and strangers.
What genre(s) is Femme Schism?
Like many independently-published comic book series, Femme Schism really can’t be classified into any single genre. If I had to choose, I would say it’s an alternative action/adventure romantic-comedy and fantasy-historical satire. No, genres ultimately make little sense.
Is Femme Schism an Original-English-Language (OEL) Manga?
Yes and no. While it is obviously manga-inspired with the large eyes and kawaii-style bodies, manga does not encompass specific stylistic features. Manga are merely Japanese comics. If a series of Japanese comics were inspired by American styles, would you call them Original-Japanese-Language Comics (as opposed to manga)? OEL is a highly ethnocentric term that enables English-speaking countries to perceive Japan through its own eyes rather than through the lens of Japanese culture.
Japanese pop cultural aesthetics have pervaded the U.S., and I think it’s silly to attempt to classify the diversity that has resulted from this cross-cultural exchange.
With that being said, I’ll revert back into a hypocrite and explain the ways in which my work is influenced by both cultures’ aesthetic traditions. The hair and eyes of my characters come from my love and fascination for those features found in manga. Other descriptive features, such as the nose and chin, are more Meso-American. While many of the female body types are pretty consistent in shape, I try to vary their sizes, which is neither a Japanese nor American convention in comics.
Barika, for instance, is more voluptuous and full-figured than the slender and tall Ursula. Conversely, Loto is short, stocky, and muscular. The materials I use are also traditionally American as I do not use manga-style screen tones.
Why publish Femme Schism as a web comic?
The year (2012) was the final round for the Xeric Grant partly because of the power and prevalence of web comics. This is not only true for comic books but for many literary publications as well. More and more authors/artists are putting their work online to gain exposure.
You’ll find many wonderful comics that you would normally never have the opportunity to read without the internet because the publishing industry has limited the potential for diversity and creativity. Most web comics, therefore, are independent of the comics market, and I strongly believe this autonomy allows for more creative liberation.
However, I produce these comics with the intent of printing them. While I believe in the power of web comics, I also firmly believe in the power of holding a comic book in my hands. I love the idea of walking into a comic book shop and seeing my work on the shelves next to Tank Girl and Scott Pilgrim. Well, actually, my last name may hinder that dream.
Why is the drawing style of Volume 1 different/rough-looking?
When I was creating Volume 1, being my first series in this style, I had not quite “mastered” my character designs or the medium I was using (as my previous sequential work was made with watercolors and graphite instead of ink and marker).
What/Who are your inspirations for Femme Schism?
Most of my ideas for this series come from my personal relationships, daydreams, and history.
My friend Shanda is a proud member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Band, located primarily in the Midwest. Whereas I grew up in racially-isolated, middle-class suburbia, she grew up on the Belcourt reservation, a product of the U.S. government’s past attempt to commit genocide against the native peoples of North America. She is my inspiration for Loto, not simply because she is indigenous, but because she is spunky, strong, and incredibly witty. With all the cliches surrounding comic book heroines, I felt that the qualities exhibited by Shanda were refreshing and genuine. Female characters tend to be compartmentalized, limited to the roles of damsel in distress, femme fatale, or sexy lady with a gun. Most women would NOT fit into any of these archetypes.
Haydn, the white missionary, is a more immature version of one of my closest friends, Haden. Because my relationship with him has drastically changed over the years, I chose to illustrate his transformation through my character. I’ve seen him change from a melancholy, angsty teenager to an upbeat and loyal companion who always seems both confused and certain at the same time.
Barika, who is constantly struggling between her faith and her gender, is a Muslim version of myself. I have a high respect for Muslim scholars such as Fatema Mernissi, and some of her philosophies/theories are on my mind whenever I draw a narrative around Barika.
Indigenous peoples have historically been brutalized by surrounding nations. Many nomadic food foraging societies, such as the Agta (Aeta) and Jarawa, are more egalitarian than postindustrial nations. Rape, in fact, is virtually unheard of within many of these cultures. Unfortunately, the artistic, social, emotional, and intellectual sophistication of these societies has been greatly overlooked.
I feel that the relationship between natives and non-natives should start anew, and that learning from people fosters empathy and innovation. I hope to demonstrate the tension and conflicts as well as the beauty found in interracial friendships.
What comic books/web comic series do you read?
I love to read comics, especially manga, and it’s quite obvious that what I read inspires my work. My favorites include Scott Pilgrim, Persepolis, Sailor Moon, Tramps Like Us, Ghost World, Mothergoose and Grimm, Caravan Kidd, and Fionna and Cake. I also am fond of Wapsi Square and Avatar: The Last Airbender. These are just a few examples.
When will Femme Schism be in print?
In September of 2012, I launched a Kickstarter project and reached my funding goal! This allowed me to print copies of Volume 1 and spread the word.
What religion(s) do you practice?
Although I was raised Christian, I do not identify myself as belonging to any particular faith. I believe in a higher power, but I feel that religion is the source of misogyny, social stratification, hatred, and cruelty. Religions are purposed to attempt to answer questions that cannot be answered, but most scriptures are written by men with influence. It seems awfully convenient that most of the world’s religions promote misogyny to the extremes. When even God supports gender inequality, how can a woman live a free life? I don’t believe this is the way God or any spiritual force wants human beings to live. I don’t think a truly loving god would promote gender roles, which have proven to be harmful, even fatal, over and over throughout history and across the globe.
Loto is supposed to embody a woman who is born free but enters a world of chains as she leaves her egalitarian community. While her tribe acknowledges sex differences, it does not use or allow these differences to promote gender roles or a sexual division of labor. Her deities are not concerned with such trivial things.
Is Femme Schism racist?
Addressing cultural differences is not synonymous with racism. The concept of “colorblind” fosters just as many problems as prejudice because when one refuses to acknowledge cultural differences in being “colorblind,” s/he will ultimately perceive one culture from the perspective of his/her own. While I don’t believe my series promotes the systematic discrimination against any specific group of people, in the words of a native acquaintance, “We are all slightly racist because we know what NOT to say.”
My work brings up issues that every heterogeneous society encounters. Although Loto sometimes exhibits stereotypical behaviors associated with indigenous cultures, she also debunks many of these ideas. Her cultural background is also fictional, derived from Medieval-period-Germanic indigenous groups, food foraging island communities, and the tribes of the U.S. She is someone with whom anyone can relate despite her “otherness.” Haydn too possesses some overgeneralized traits associated with contemporary white people–a tendency to judge quickly, a desire to dominate, and a lacking in responsibility for the crimes of his ancestors.
With that being said, I’m extremely self-conscious about my depictions of different cultures because I am employing stereotypes. For instance, Loto wields a giant tomahawk and wears fuzzy boots made of animal skin. Katsumi is a Buddhist and knows martial arts. Haydn has an inferiority complex and is judgmental. Out of these stereotypes, I’m trying to create complex, realistic characters that challenge your ideas regarding the various cultures they represent. As an example, Barika is cynical, rebellious, and strong, while most Muslim women are portrayed as oppressed and silent. Katsumi isn’t submissive and serene but, rather, she’s restless and critical. Loto doesn’t speak in grunts or metaphors. She’s well-educated and knowledgeable of the world’s political practices. And despite his judgments, Haydn is compassionate and gentle.
Whenever race is included in any discourse, some form of racial prejudice is always present regardless of the groups of people involved in the dialogue. Ultimately, in this context, my work is about addressing racism and debunking the stereotypes imposed upon native peoples in comic books.
What materials/programs do I use?
I wish I could say I used highly complex software and expensive tools, but my process is pretty basic. I use graphite to sketch, archival ink pens in a variety of sizes to ink (duh), and alcohol-based markers to define shadows and dark areas, and Photoshop to render frames, text, and bubbles.
How can I share Femme Schism?
Below are some banners! Feel free to tell your friends via Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc.