Gregory, Roberta 1953-

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GREGORY, Roberta 1953-

PERSONAL:

Born May 7, 1953, in Los Angeles, CA; daughter of Robert (a cartoonist) and Betty Gregory. Education: California State University—Long Beach, B.F.A., 1978.

ADDRESSES:

Home—P.O. Box 27438, Seattle, WA 98165. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Fantagraphics Books, Seattle, WA, production artist, assistant art director, 1989-95; Cinemaria, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, model designer/script consultant, 1998—. Also worked as textbook illustrator, grain elevator worker, and census taker. Exhibitions: Misfit Lit: Contemporary Comic Art, traveling exhibition, 1991-92.

MEMBER:

Cartoonists Northwest.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Nominated for several Harvey and Eisner awards for "Naughty Bits," including Eisner nominations for best cartoonist and best serialized story; "Naughty Bits" named to Time.com list of Top-Ten Comics, 2000.

WRITINGS:

GRAPHIC NOVELS

Winging It, Solo Productions, 1988.

Sheila and the Unicorn, Solo Productions, 1988.

GRAPHIC NOVELS; "NAUGHTY BITS" SERIES

A Bitch Is Born (originally published as Naughty Bits, numbers 3, 4, 6-8; includes story "Weekend Condition"), Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1994, 2nd edition, 1996.

As Naughty as She Wants to Be, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1997.

At Work and Play with Bitchy Bitch, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1996.

Bitchy's College Daze, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1997.

Bitchy Butch: The World's Angriest Dyke, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1999.

Bitchy Strips, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 2001.

Burn Bitchy Burn, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 2002.

OTHER

Created "Feminist Funnies" comic strip, 1974 (first published in California State University's Women's Resource Center newsletter), and "Dynamite Damsels" comic series, 1976, self-published from Nanny Goat Productions collective; created "Naughty Bits" and "Artistic Licentiousness" comic series, 1990s. Contributor of comics to Uncle Jam, Wimmen's Comix, Tits and Clits, and Gay Comics; contributor to anthologies, including Graphic Story Monthly, Drawn & Quarterly, Aesop's Fables, and Real Stuff; contributor of illustrations to Dignifying Science: Stories about Women Scientists, G. T. Labs, 1999.

ADAPTATIONS:

The "Naughty Bits" comics series was adapted for three stage productions and for the animated cartoon Bitchy Bits on the Oxygen cable television network.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

"Mother Mountain" trilogy, "best described as a non-heterosexual humorous novel set in a rapidly changing world that is not our own."

SIDELIGHTS:

The daughter of Disney cartoonist Bob Gregory, Roberta Gregory grew up reading comics and as a child created her own comic strips featuring animal characters. While an art student at California State University, she drew her first published cartoon strip, "Feminist Funnies," for the university's Women's Resource Center newsletter. This strip grew into the series "Dynamite Damsels," which addresses feminism and lesbian attitudes toward the movement and made Gregory the first woman to self-publish her own title. She continued to profile the gay experience in Gay Comics, the first such publication giving exposure to gay and lesbian comics artists.

Since that time Gregory has created the "Naughty Bits" comic book series, collected into seven graphic novels, and has also produced two other graphic novels, Winging It and Sheila and the Unicorn. Gregory's characters in the "Naughty Bits" series, Bitchy Bitch (whose real name is Midge) and Bitchy Butch, reflect the modern working woman's world and that of her lesbian counterpart. Gregory has also created the self-published series "Artistic Licentiousness," in which she explores her ideas about gender identity. "Naughty Bits" has won critical favor and awards and has been translated into German, Chinese, and Swedish. It has also been adapted for the stage and for animated cartoons.

In an interview with Alan David Doane for Comic Book Galaxy, Gregory said she was influenced by Robert Crumb's underground comics of the 1970s, in which men were always abusing women in a humorous way. She said, "So I thought, 'Okay, how could he have gotten away with it for so long?' What if a woman did a really goofball, screwball comic book about women abusing a guy, would they think it was just as funny?" The resulting experiment was a story about women who sexually abuse a man, and Fanta-graphics Books loved it, said Gregory. The "Naughty Bits" series grew out of that idea. In an interview with Lisa Andreini for the Independent Reviews Site, Gregory said the original Bitchy Bitch "was just a little throwaway character who was depressing and cranky, but very fun to draw since she was so cartoonish. I started writing stories about her and she began to flesh herself out as a real human being."

A reviewer of the series for the Progressive concluded that it "lays to rest the idea that men have a monopoly on catharsis through naughty pictures." Richard Gehr, writing in the Voice Literary Supplement, called Gregory "a feminist Patriot searching and destroying Scud-boy aggression." Rosaline Warren, in New Directions for Women, called "Naughty Bits" "a powerful, graphic vision of pure female rage."

Gregory told Doane that some of the story lines are semi-autobiographical. For example, in one story, Midge is "really ticked off about how modern culture's basically geared toward people with lots of money which really ticks me off too, being a person that does not have a lot of money at all, you know," Gregory said. She said she gets fan mail from men who enjoy learning what really goes on in some women's minds. She told Doane, "I think the point of my story is not that the world is a horrible, grim place but if you're a person like Bitchy Bitch that sees the world as that kind of a place, it will be."

The graphic novel Bitchy Butch: The World's Angriest Dyke finds Bitchy Butch involved in a gay rights demonstration at a church, where a budding lesbian falls in love with her from a distance. Butch is so preoccupied with her perception of the world's wrongs, however, that she fails to notice. Butch meets Bitchy Bitch on a city bus in an encounter that Andreini called "priceless." The reviewer wrote, "Gregory's deceptively simple drawing style has an energetic, hurried density that matches Bitchy Butch's incessant anti-everything monologue perfectly."

In a review of Bitchy's College Daze for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J. Stephen Bolhafner noted that Bitchy's temper tantrums are "often precisely the kinds of overreactions many of us have fantasized about." This is the story of how young Bitchy goes off to college in 1970 and joins the sexual revolution.

Gregory was quoted by Etelka Lehoczky in an article for the Advocate as saying that her main character in "Artistic Licentiousness" "is basically trying to prove she's still lesbian even though she's had some experiences with a guy. It's basically a story about how you can't take anybody's sexuality for granted, including your own."

Speaking about her frugal lifestyle as a creative artist in an interview with Allana Taranto for Digress Online, Gregory said, "I have always tried to believe that somehow I am supposed to be doing my creative work, and a friendly universe wants me to continue, so doors will open when I need them to. Well, at least I am still doing it, so something seems to be working. This is about as opposite of Bitchy's world view as one can get!"

Gregory told CA: "I have always created the books I wanted to read myself, but which seemed not to exist. I have always seemed to create work that is very different from what exists in the marketplace. Many of the themes I write about have been with me for decades, and the characters as well, in various incarnations. I write what I seem to have a very strong internal drive to create, and on a very spotty schedule, but above all, I create characters that I feel very deeply for."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Advocate, July 18, 2000, Etelka Lehoczky, "Bitchy's Brew," p. 48.

New Directions for Women, May, 1991, Rosalind Warren, "To While Away a Summer's Day …," p. 19.

Progressive, September, 1991, review of "Naughty Bits," volume 1, p. 43.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 8, 1995, J. Stephen Bolhafner, "A Soldier in the Sexual Revolution: Naughty Bits Takes Bitchy Bitch into the '70s," "Get Out" section, p. 26.

Voice Literary Supplement, July-August, 1991, Richard Gehr, review of "Naughty Bits," pp. 20-22.

ONLINE

ComicBookGalaxy.com,http://www.comicbookgalaxy.com/ (March 3, 2000), Alan David Doane, interview with Gregory.

Digress Online,http://www.digressmagazine.com/ (August 7, 2003), Allana Taranto, "Behind the Bitch: A Question and Answer Session with Roberta Gregory, Alternative Comics Diva."

Fantagraphics Books Web site,http://www.fantagraphics.com/ (August 7, 2003), "Roberta Gregory."

Independent Reviews Web site,http://www.theindependentreviewssite.org/ (July, 2003), Lisa Andreini, review of Bitchy Butch: The World's Angriest Dyke and interview with Gregory.

Lambiek,http://www.lambiek.net/ (August 4, 2003), "Roberta Gregory."

Roberta Gregory Home Page,http://www.robertagregory.com (August 4, 2003).*

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