Ruth Fox is the writer and co-creator of “Outbreak,” a comic about twenty-six year old nurse Taylor Drayton. In the comic, Drayton and her friends explore a chaotic, post-apocalyptic landscape, navigating the challenges associated with an abandoned city following an outbreak. I asked Ruth about her work and being a woman in the comics industry.
Tara M. Clapper: How did you find your way into comic book creation versus other forms of illustration or writing? Did you read comics and graphic novels when you were young?
Ruth Fox: I’ve always been an avid reader! I blame my parents, who have a house full of books. Both my mum and dad are artists, so I’ve been drawing and painting since before I could walk, but I also started to write stories when I was about 12, and I began to illustrate my own work. Combining drawing and writing to make comics was an inevitable conclusion! I realised there was so much potential to create amazing stories and worlds.
My partner and I started “Outbreak” a few years ago, after coming up with the idea of indulging our passion for post-apocalyptic themes over a 6-part series. After completing the first issue, it was shelved for a while; we were too busy with other stuff! In the meantime, I’ve self-published two of my books. “Monster-boy: The Lair of the Grelgoroth” is my most recent, a fantasy/adventure book for middle grade readers, and can be found on Amazon.
In 2014, we finally found the time to return to “Outbreak” with renewed energy, and the following issues are coming along quickly and, I must say, awesomely!
TMC: When did you first realize that most comic book creators aren’t women? Did it bother you? If so, how did you overcome it?
RF: I think I realised it fairly early on, which disappoints me more than a little, because it’s kind of taken for granted that most comic books are created by men. This needs to change, because women are brilliant creators too!
TMC: What’s the most effective way to combat sexism in a male-dominated field?
RF: So far, the best thing I have found is joining online groups for women in the the comic book industry. The support is amazing, the atmosphere is friendly, and I always feel comfortable talking to other women about what I do.
TMC: What is your advice for anyone wanting to get a start in comic book creation?
RF: Just do it! Get started – make some sketches, jot down some notes. Meet up with other people who are interested, online or in person, because the inspiration you draw from them can really galvanise you.
TMC: Do you make comics as a full-time job, or part-time? What are realistic expectations for people in the field?
RF: Right now it’s a part time gig. I have a freelance job at the moment, which helps, but my partner and I are both working as hard as we can to be successful with our comics and my other writing projects, so we can do it full-time! We love what we do, and we’re dedicated to making it happen.
TMC: What has been your biggest challenge as a comic book creator?
RF: Often, when people ask what I do for a job and I mention “Outbreak,” I get a lot of strange looks, and a lot of “yeah, but what do you actually DO to earn a living?”
It’s hard to overcome that prejudice from people who don’t really understand what I do – that, while a reliable income from the comics would help, it’s certainly not why I do it. I write and draw out of pure passion. I’d do it even if I never earned a cent!
TMC: Women are a quickly growing demographic when it comes to comic book readership and comic book movie viewership. Why now – and how do we keep the momentum going?
RF: I think women have finally realised it’s okay to like comics! It’s brilliant. I live in Australia, and things take off a little more slowly here than in the US and UK. When I was at high school during the late 90’s and early 00’s (geez, I sound old!), none of my female friends watched Stargate or read X-Men, and I kept my interests mostly private in an attempt to save myself from permanent “outcast status!”
I think most women thought of comic books as “male” oriented entertainment, which is not true at all. Now, with the greater presence of science fiction and fantasy in the media, not to mention online access to comics, they can see that there is something in it for them to identify with. As well as this, we now have a greater opportunity to create content that will appeal to fellow women. So, spread the word! If you see something you like, talk about it online or in person! It will definitely help.