Sunday, February 21, 2010

influencing Comics #9: Elizabeth Genco’s Non-Comics Influences

5 Goddesses And One Campy Movie

Like those of most artists, my list could easily have been twenty times the length.  I’ve deliberately steered clear of the many living goddesses I’ve been blessed to know personally, because I would hate to leave anyone out.

Let’s start with the movie…

XANADU – I’ve always had a “thing” for Muses, and when you consider that my dad took me to see this movie something like 5 times, it’s no mystery as to why. The poignant tale of a Muse coming back to earth to inspire a roller rink suffers from, well, almost everything, but darn it all, some parts still make me cry.  I like my fantasy with a heavy dose of “the real world” and this movie was definitely the very first time I was exposed to such a potent combination. 

(Okay, so maybe Los Angeles in 1980 as depicted in that movie could hardly be called “the real world.”  You know what I mean.)

Kristin Hersh – As a teenager, almost all of my favorite musicians were British dudes.  (Or is that lads?  Whatever.)  Elvis Costello, Squeeze, all 7 members of Madness, that hot blond guy from The Specials… I could go on.  Kristin was a lone exception.  The lead singer of Throwing Muses,  Kristin has always been an inspiration as someone who followed her heart and stayed on the path against all odds (teenage pregnancy, divorce, madness).  Her visceral, screaming melodies capture the power and beauty of the feminine shadow like nothing else I know.  It would be fair to say that her songs are etched in my skin like tattoos.

Also? Back in the day, The Pixies opened for Kristin and her band.  Hello.

Pamela Coleman Smith – Tarot is a visual language, and if you’ve been at it for over a dozen years as I have, it can’t help but creep into everything.  And nobody but nobody has influenced the language of Tarot more than Pamela Coleman Smith, artist of the ubiquitous Rider Waite Smith deck (i.e., the one in the yellow box). “Pixie” was a rather tragic figure, an artist who never gave up or lost faith in herself in the face of a world that firmly turned its back on her.  When it’s time to honor the ancestors, I always set a place for Pixie. 

In other news, if I could go back to any place and time, it would be 1880’s-1890’s London, the heyday of The Golden Dawn.  (Pixie got to hang with the likes of Yeats, Bram Stoker, Algernon Blackwood, and all the hot occultists of the day, for which I will be forever jealous.)

Marilyn Monroe –I can’t remember when or where I first heard the name “Marilyn Monroe,” which I suppose means I can’t remember a time when she was NOT in my life in some way.  I guess that’s kind of weird, but there you have it.  While other girls had unicorns plastered all over their bedrooms, I had pictures of Marilyn.  I scarfed lurid biographies like Doritos from the 7-11 (did a lot of that, too). 
Marilyn had a bit of a Persephone thing going on, but thinking about her now, I can’t help but wonder if it was the people around her who handed her the pomegranate, and she nibbled a few of the seeds because that’s what she thought she was supposed to do.  It’s funny the way things can sneak into your subconscious.  

Madeleine L’Engle –  When my now-husband Leland and I were getting to know each other, we did that passing-each-other’s-books-back-and-forth thing.  He gave me a copy of West With The Night, I gave him a copy of A Ring Of Endless Light.  He said he couldn’t believe how much of me was in it.  Of course, it’s the other way around.

I can’t remember where I recently heard Neil Gaiman say that most of our influences come before we’re 20 years old.  Or something like that.  If that’s true (and frankly, I don’t believe that it is), I’d say I’d be in trouble but for Madeleine.  Madeleine makes a lot of things okay.

Anne Briggs – Speaking of later influences, I was deep in my 20’s when I really discovered old school folk music and the woman who became the muse of an entire movement.  Annie spoke for a tradition, a lineage… a bloodline, really; and her voice brought forth a thousand stories before she disappeared completely.  Over the years a few biographers and documentary filmmakers have coaxed her out of hiding and onto film, which I would have happily spent hundreds of dollars tracking down were it not for the gift of YouTube.

I rarely leave the house without Annie in my pocket because she can instantly snap me out of a trance and back to what really matters: hearts, voices, bloodlines, stories, souls, the land.

Elizabeth Genco’s work includes the graphic novel Blue (Desperado Publishing, 2008) and stories in such places as Comic Book Tattoo: A Tori Amos Anthology (Image, 2008), No Formula: Stories From The Chemistry Set (Desperado, 2008), Negative Burn, Weird Tales, SMITH Magazine, Endicott Studio’s Journal Of Mythic Arts, Popgun 4 (Image), and Awesomer! (Top Shelf).  Her next project is The Kiss, an original graphic novel to be drawn by John Bivens and released by Tor Books on their website,, beginning in 2010.