A star-studded panel discussion officially launched “Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women” at San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum on Thursday, October 21. But not everyone on the panel agreed that the exhibit’s theme even made sense. Trina Robbins, one of the leading lights in comics and a noted “herstorian” and author, questioned why the show focused solely on Jewish cartoonists, noting that some of her favorite fellow artists — including the acclaimed Alison Bechdel and Phoebe Gloeckner — were overlooked because of their non-Semitic origins.
Despite the fact that “Graphic Details” also includes two of her own autobiographical works, “Out of the Closet and Into the Frying Pan” and “Big Sister Little Sister,” Robbins insisted she prefers telling stories about subjects other than herself— and even took younger artists to task for neglecting material of politics, fiction and history in favor of their own lives. Vanessa Davis, one of the newer stars of the medium, disagreed, arguing — compellingly — that as much craft, process and emotion goes into autobiographical work as into other genres. She did, however, take issue with the show’s “confessional” tag; the word, she said, implies that the artists want to share something lurid, when much of her own work illuminates the absurdity and hidden meaning of day-to-day experience.