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Forney, Ellen 1968–

Forney, Ellen 1968–

PERSONAL:

Born 1968.

ADDRESSES:

Home and office—Seattle, WA. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Cartoonist and illustrator. Work has appeared in the newspapers The Stranger, Seattle Weekly, The Rocket, Village Voice, New York Times, Weekly Alibi (Albuquerque, NM), and City Pages (Minneapolis, MN); work also featured in the magazines Out, Mademoiselle, Ms., Bust, Nickelodeon, Pulse, and Experience Hendrix, as well as in the online magazines Oxygen—The Read, Microsoft—V-World, Slate, Minx, Greasergrrls, ABC News (Online), and Starwave. Teaches comics at Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, WA.

MEMBER:

Greasergrrls.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Eisner Award nomination for talent deserving of wider recognition, and Harvey Award nomination, both 1999, both for Monkey Food: The Complete "I Was Seven in '75" Collection.

WRITINGS:

COMIC BOOKS

Real Smut #5 & #6, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1993.

Duplex Planet Illustrated #4, 1993; #7 & #11, 1994, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA).

Hands Off!, Ward Sutton Productions (Seattle, WA), 1994.

Dark Horse Presents #100-104, Dark Horse (Milwaulkie, OR), 1995.

BOUND COMIC ANTHOLOGIES

The Best Contemporary Women's Humor, Crossing Press (Freedom, CA), 1993.

Seattle Laughs, Homestead Book Co. (Seattle, WA), 1994.

Dyke Strippers, Cleis Press (San Francisco, CA), 1995.

Bizarro Comics HC, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2001.

I Love Led Zeppelin, Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 2006.

Lust: Kinky Online Personal Ads from Seattle's "The Stranger," Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 2008.

ILLUSTRATOR:

Surfergrrrls, Seal Press Feminist Publications (Seattle, WA), 1996.

Marjorie Ingall, The Field Guide to North American Males, Henry Holt & Co. (New York, NY), 1997.

Heather M. Gray, Real Girl/Real World: Tools for Finding Your True Self, Seal Press Feminist Publications (Seattle, WA), 1998.

Men like Us: The GMHC Complete Guide to Gay Men's Sexual, Physical, and Emotional Well-Being, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2000.

Ariel Gore, The Mother Trip: Hip Mama's Guide to Staying Sane in the Chaos of Motherhood, Seal Press Feminist Publications (Seattle, WA), 2000.

OTHER

Tomato #1 Starhead Comix (Seattle, WA), 1994.

Tomato #2 Starhead Comix (Seattle, WA), 1995.

Monkey Food: The Complete "I Was Seven in '75" Collection, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1999.

(With Sherman Alexie) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Little (New York, NY), 2007.

Also artist for "I Was Seven in '75" comic strip; work has also appeared in Savage Love #1 & #2, by Bare Bones Press. Author of autobiographical story "The Night Tom Waits Poured Me a Bourbon on the Rocks" serialized in Dark Horse Presents #100-104.

SIDELIGHTS:

Ellen Forney is a professional cartoonist and illustrator who established her reputation with the autobiographical "I Was Seven in '75" comic strip and Monkey Food: The Complete "I Was Seven in '75" Collection, for which she received Harvey and Eisner Award nominations in 1999. The "I Was Seven in '75" strips were among Forney's first pieces. As the title suggests, these comic strips contain stories from Forney's childhood. Though some topics, such as family vacations at a nudist colony, are quirky, others—like fiery mistakes while learning to use the microwave—will be familiar to many children of the 1970s. Indeed, many of Forney's story lines are about the timeless process of growing up in any generation. On occasion, Forney will even include an actual photograph of her family from the 1970s, a touch about which some reviewers commented very favorably. Monkey Food "reads like a family scrapbook," a writer for PublishersWeekly said. "You won't find a more loving [family album] than this," commented Greg McElhatton in Funny That Way. Monkey Food is indeed the complete "I Was Seven in '75" collection; Forney stopped drawing the strip when Monkey Food was published.

Feminism and issues of alternative sexuality are prominent in much of Forney's work, including Tomato #1, and Tomato #2, Forney's two solo comic books. Tomato #1 lampoons feminist spokeswoman Camille Paglia. One of the plots involves Forney asking Paglia to collaborate with her. Paglia doesn't have time to collaborate, but would have time for a date if that was what Forney was actually asking for. Tomato #2 features a series of vignettes about topics as varied as lesbian porn, body piercing, ex-girlfriends, and Grandma Florence's Scrabble. Tomato #1 and #2 both received high praise from OH, a lesbian comic magazine.

Many critics have singled out Forney's drawing style for particular praise. They have pointed out that Forney's clean, simple drawings do not betray a lack of style; in fact, McElhatton noted his joy at the large format of Monkey Food, since it allowed the reader to see "how Forney put a lot of thought into each drawing."

Critics have also praised the affection and humanity in Forney's drawings. As Winda Benedetti put it in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer profile, "it's the strange, the eccentric, the outlandish in each one of us—herself included—that puts the ink on her paintbrush." No matter how odd these characters are, they "receive tender and compassionate treatment." Indeed, Forney sees her work as a means through which to celebrate and encourage individuality and personal freedom. "I love my subjects," she stated to Benedetti.

I Love Led Zeppelin is a collection of Forney's work over thirteen years. Forney's comics, her editor Eric Reynolds told Benedetti, "reflect her curiosity about other people," such as an exotic dancer who teachers her some essential moves, or an emergency room physician who instructs her on the art of reattaching a severed finger. The comics, Benedetti wrote, are often explicit and even shocking, but are always informed "with a generosity of spirit that shimmers on the surface of each panel."

Among Forney's most sexually explicit works is Lust: Kinky Online Personal Ads from Seattle's "The Stranger." As its subtitle indicates, the book illustrates various personal ads from Seattle's alternative weekly newspaper. The book grew out of Forney's work for that paper, illustrating one ad from the personals section each week. Each piece is a one-panel cartoon; sometimes it includes the original text of the ad, but Forney often changes wording to fit the illustration. Included are ads that focus on fetishes, role playing, or other sorts of "kinky" practices. In an interview posted on [email protected], Forney explained: "As a sex-positive woman, the more I can inspire other people to become comfortable with their own selves and their own desires and pursue them, I think that's really healthy and important." Forney highlights the humor, eccentricity, and humanity in these ads, and sees her work as a "celebration of kinky sex," as she noted in an interview with the Seattlest Web site. "A lot of people have unhealthy attitudes about sex, about what they desire, they hold a lot back, there's a lot of shame, and repression can come out in ugly ways," she added. "I would love to inspire people to be more comfortable with who they are, to come out in whatever way that would make their lives more fulfilling."

Forney is an illustrator as well as a cartoonist, and here too her commitment to feminism and issues of sexuality is evident. She has illustrated three books, The Mother Trip, Real Girl, Real World: Tools for Finding Your True Self, and Surfergrrrls, for Seal Press Feminist Publications, and a fourth, Men like Us, for the Gay Men's Health Crisis. She has also done illustrations for mainstream organizations such as the University of Washington and the Seattle Repertory Theater.

Among the many books that Forney has illustrated is Sherman Alexie's novel for young adults, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. The book, which received glowing reviews, tells the story of Junior, an Indian teen who aims for a better life by enrolling in a white high school off the reservation so that he can obtain a good education. Junior is tormented by his friends on the Rez, as well as his new classmates, but he perseveres. One of the ways he copes with the pressures in his life is by drawing cartoons—rendered in the book by Forney. Roger Sutton, writing in Horn Book, observed that Junior's "unquenchable" spirit and "inimitable" style are expertly convened through these illustrations. And a Publishers Weekly writer concluded that the book's "jazzy syntax and Forney's witty cartoons examining Indian versus White attire and behavior transmute despair into dark humor."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Austin Chronicle, December 15, 2006, Cindy Widner, review of I Love Led Zeppelin.

Horn Book, September 1, 2007, Roger Sutton, review of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, p. 563; January 1, 2008, review of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, p. 10.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2007, review of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.

Kliatt, September 1, 2007, Paula Rohrlick, review of the Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, p. 6.

Publishers Weekly, November 8, 1999, review of Monkey Food: The Complete "I Was Seven in '75" Collection, p. 59; August 28, 2006, review of I Love Led Zeppelin, p. 38; August 20, 2007, review of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, p. 70; September 3, 2007, Emily D'Amour, "Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla.," p. 8.

School Library Journal, March, 1999, review of Real Girl/Real World: Tools for Finding Your True Self, p. 221; September 1, 2007, Chris Shoemaker, review of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, p. 190.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 8, 2006, Winda Benedetti, "Love Thy Freak."

ONLINE

[email protected],http://blog.newsarama.com/ (May 2, 2008), "Q & A: Ellen Forney."

Blog Critics,http://blogcritics.org/ (May 2, 2008), Gina Ruiz, review of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.

Comic Book Resources,http://www.comicbookresources.com/ (July 5, 2000), Beau Yarbrough, "A Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition: Ellen Forney."

Funny That Way, http://www.funnythatway.com/ (October, 2000), review of Tomato #1 and Tomato #2.

iComics, http://www.icomics.com/ (July 12, 2001), Greg McElhatton, review of Monkey Food.

Metro Times,http://www.metrotimes.com/ (May 2, 2008), Sean Bieri, "Graphic Sex."

Seattlest,http://seattlest.com/ (May 2, 2008), interview with Ellen Forney.

Seattle Weekly,http://www.seattleweeky.com/ (May 2, 2008), Mairead Case, review of I Love Led Zeppelin.

Teen Reads,http://www.teenreads.com/ (May 2, 2008), Jana Siciliano, review of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.

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