Interviewing Franchesco At Calgary Expo
At this year’s Calgary Expo, I was fortunate enough to sit down and talk to Franchesco, who has done work for DC and is a prolific freelance artist. Franchesco’s opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of Can’t Talk Media.
Bell: It seems like this would be an interesting time to work in this industry for someone who draws women. I know that you’ve drawn Wonder Woman—
Franchesco: Well, I’ve drawn lots of different characters for lots of different companies. One of the things I really enjoy is that the female form is so beautiful. We can use this as an example: Bettie Page, back in the ’50s, was considered shocking and outrageous because of the pin-up stuff. She’s such an icon.
And so, recently there’s been this huge backlash about how females are portrayed in comics. I understand that, and I respect it because I love the idea of freedom of speech. If you have an opinion, more power to you. You should be able to voice that opinion. But there’s a little thing that’s happening now I’m not quite understanding.
Let’s say you and I are watching television. What happens if we come across a show we don’t like? We change the channel. I don’t think either you or I would actually get on the phone or pull out our typewriter and say “Hey, CBS, thou shalt not air this show any more! Do not produce any new shows like this ever again.” It’s unheard of. It’s preposterous, is what it is. But it’s occurring right now.
I don’t understand it at all. It’s one thing to not like it; that’s fine! There are a whole bunch of other things out there that I’m sure you can appreciate and enjoy.
And now there’s all these horrible words being thrown around like “rape culture.” How do you get from a picture of a shapely pin-up to rape? How do you get from that to that? Maybe in my head it’s impossible, but maybe for someone else they can make that connection. I don’t know if it’s because they’re projecting something that they’re bringing, because we all have our own baggage so we tend to see what we want to see. I just really don’t understand it.
Bell: I think that people are focusing big picture ideas on specific art forms. When one comic book portrays women as sexy or sexual objects, that’s one comic. When it’s all the comics that we’re seeing, then it’s a problem. When there’s nothing that women can relate to when we’re looking at comics, when all we see are objectified women: Media reflects life. People learn from media as we’re growing up—
Franchesco: I couldn’t agree with you more, yeah.
Bell: So when little boys are growing up and they always see women in media portrayed as sexy objects, that’s what they learn to expect from women.
Franchesco: It’s like the N word. Back in the day it was perfectly acceptable to use the N word, but now— Like you said, a little kid will come up, and if Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa are using that word like it’s no big thing, they’ll learn to refer to that group of people with that derogatory term. Yeah, you’re right. So I think it’s important to make that shift.
What’s really difficult for me to make the connection to is, how is it that we’ve kind of had the pendulum swing so far in the opposite direction? It feels like we’re back in the 1950s. It doesn’t feel like we’re in the year 2015. I don’t understand it. I just don’t, but I want to understand it.
I love the fact that people get to say what they want to say. We all have a platform now, places like social media, and we’re always one mouse click away from things like pornography. If you want it, it’s there. On television, full frontal, no big thing, right? And women create those projects just as well as men.
I would like to get to a point where where it’s irrelevant what our reproductive organs are, and it’s all about what you do. It’s not about “it’s a girl who drew this” or “it’s a guy who drew this.” It’s all about “look at what this artist created.” I’m hoping that day comes within our lifetimes.
Bell: Do you think that the pendulum swinging so far in the other direction is necessary to get us to that point?
Franchesco: I don’t know the answer to that. Maybe that’s what’s necessary.
The thing that I’m most outraged about is the fact that the beauty of the female form is completely taboo. Like on Facebook. Say you were to post a beautiful picture of a woman, it’s no problem—but if she was topless, people would lose their minds! But if we show a video of ISIS decapitating people, it’s totally acceptable. How did we get to the point in this society where violence is okay, but when shown tasteful nudity people lose their minds?
Bell: When did sexuality become less acceptable than violence.
Franchesco: It doesn’t even have to be sexual; that’s the thing. Nudity and sex are two different things. Just recently in New York, I was at a convention, and there was a woman walking around topless. She felt that it was empowering for women to be able to do that because say it’s in the middle of the summer, we’re walking down the street, and it’s warm. I take off my shirt, no big thing. But if you were to do that, you would be in jail so fast.
She was like, “How is that possible?” So she went to court, and she won. In our lifetime, little things like that are happening.
But I also see the danger, because then you see little kids coming across things like that and they don’t have the life experience to know what’s acceptable, what’s that slippery slope? What happens when they say “She was asking for it because of how she was dressed”?
You and I both know that rape is not about sex. It’s about power, it’s about control, it’s about violence. It has nothing to do with sex, even though it’s a sexual act. Art reflects that. And I hope that it at least creates a dialogue so that people can talk about it.
Just a couple months ago, cartoonists in France were murdered because they drew something some extremists objected to. As a cartoonist, you should be able to do whatever and still be okay with that. It gets turned around when someone says, “Cartoonist, THOU SHALT NOT.” And that’s dangerous, because at the end of the day you should be able to do whatever you want to express yourself.