Dimassa, Diane 1959-
Dimassa, Diane 1959-
Writer and artist.
Exhibitions: "Hothead L. Terrorist and Friends," SAW Contemporary Arts Centre, Ottawa, Canada, 1997; "Fashion Magazine," See Gallery, Springfield, MA, 1998; "Picturing the Modern Amazon," New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY, 2000.
Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist (comic book collection; self-illustrated; also see below), Cleis Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1993.
The Revenge of Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist (comic book collection; self-illustrated; also see below), Cleis Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1995.
The Complete Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist (comic book collection; self-illustrated; contains material published in Hothead Paisan and The Revenge of Hothead Paisan), Cleis Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1999.
(Illustrator) Daphne Gottlieb, Jokes and the Unconscious (graphic novel), Cleis Press (San Francisco, CA), 2006.
Author and illustrator of comic book series Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist. Also author, with musician Animal Prufrock, of Hothead Paisan: The Musical, Act One, first produced at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, 2004. Illustrator of books, including My Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein, 1998, and Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality by Anne Fausto-Sterling, 2000.
Diane DiMassa is the creator of the comic book character Hothead Paisan, a "homicidal lesbian terrorist" who takes violent revenge on men for the wrongs they have done to women. DiMassa produced a quarterly comic featuring the eponymous protagonist in the 1990s, and several book-length col- lections of the comics have been published. She subsequently collaborated with Daphne Gottlieb on the tragicomic graphic novel Jokes and the Unconscious, about a young woman dealing with her father's terminal illness, a tedious summer job, and complicated love affairs.
Hothead, whom DiMassa created as a means of therapy while recovering from substance abuse, reached the end of her patience with patriarchal society one day while watching television. She is "out to destroy homophobes, racists, and men who abuse women," as Anne Thalheimer put it in a review of The Complete Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist for the online publication PopMatters. While they draw Hothead's wrath, others evoke loving feelings in her—for instance, her cat, named Chicken, and her best friend, Roz. Roz, other friends, and even God try, without success, to turn Hothead away from violence.
To readers who might consider the comic too gory, some critics have pointed out that fantasy mayhem can serve a worthwhile purpose. To Thalheimer, DiMassa's Hothead stories "are an especially clever and subversive satire, both of the often-misogynist world of comic books and the larger ‘real world’ where lesbians are usually made targets." Discussing the first Hothead compilation, Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist, Stay Free magazine contributor Todd Morman described Hothead as "a visual crystallization of the bleak, angry sadness a lot of us share," adding that seeing her vanquish enemies "is spiritually cathartic in a way church never was." A Publishers Weekly critic, reviewing the second collection, The Revenge of Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist, also saw cathartic value in the stories and commented that they are "full of painfully earned riches for anyone … who's brave enough to partake." Inga Muscio, in a piece on The Complete Hothead Paisan for the Lambda Book Report, noted that the comic "presents a rare opportunity to view the ugliness in our society without a sense of victimization."
DiMassa and Gottlieb became friends after Gottlieb reviewed the Hothead comics, and Gottlieb eventually asked DiMassa to illustrate Jokes and the Unconscious. The graphic novel, based partly on Gottlieb's experiences, follows a college student, Sasha, working for the summer in a clerical job in a hospital where her father, who has recently died of cancer, was a doctor. Her encounters with patients and coworkers arouse both tears and laughter, and her father's colleagues provide her with a new understanding of him. Over the course of the narrative she romances a man and then a woman and learns to accept her lesbian sexuality.
DiMassa told Pulp Magazine interviewer Nola Summers that her collaboration with Gottlieb was "seamless," as they "have the same sense of dark humor and fondness for the macabre." Some critics likewise saw them as a perfect fit. "Gottlieb's trenchant prose is beautifully supported by Diane DiMassa's art," related Alonso Duralde in the Advocate. Charlie Anders, writing in Tikkun, thought DiMassa's work "creates powerful juxtapositions and compositions with Gottlieb's sharp prose." A Publishers Weekly contributor found DiMassa's drawings to be "imaginative" and summed up the novel as "a sad yet deeply funny book that moves from gross to subtle in a heartbeat."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Advocate, July 20, 2004, Margaret Coble, "Hothead Does Michigan," p. 56; October 24, 2006, Alonso Duralde, "Dissing Death: Jokes and the Unconscious," p. 58.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2006, review of Jokes and the Unconscious, p. 754.
Lambda Book Report, July/August 1999, Inga Muscio, review of The Complete Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist, p. 20.
Publishers Weekly, November 20, 1995, review of The Revenge of Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist, p. 72; August 28, 2006, review of Jokes and the Unconscious, p. 38.
Tikkun, November-December, 2006, Charlie Anders, review of Jokes and the Unconscious, p. 90.
Bookslut,http://www.bookslut.com/ (November, 2006), Jeff VanderMeer, review of Jokes and the Unconscious.
Cleis Press Web site,http://cleispress.com/ (February 28, 2007).
Diane DiMassa's MySpace page,http://www.myspace.com/hotheadpaisan (February 28, 2007), Regina Marler, interview with Diane DiMassa and Daphne Gottlieb.
GLBTQ,http://www.glbtq.com/ (February 28, 2007), brief biography.
PopMatters,http://www.popmatters.com/ (October, 2006), Anne Thalheimer, "Rage against the Sex-Gene."
Pulp Magazine,http://www.pulpmag.net/ (February 28, 2007), Nola Summers, interview with Diane DiMassa and Daphne Gottlieb.
Stay Free,http://www.stayfreemagazine.org/ (February 28, 2007), Todd Morman, review of Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist.
TechnoDyke.com,http://www.technodyke.com/ (February 28, 2007), Shosho Scholar, interview with Diane DiMassa.