Ahead of Free Comic Book Day Saturday, we talked with local geek girl Jamila Rowser, the author of “Wash Day,” about her super successful first comic, illustrated by Robyn Smith. The slice-of-life comic follows 26-year-old Kimana, a Bronx resident, through a day of caring for her hair, and everything that happens on the sidelines of that – girl talk, rent stress, catcalls.
By day, Jamila runs social media at a cancer organization. By night the Bronx-born SoFlo resident is passionate about writing comics with women of color at their center. “There were stories that I wanted to read that were not out there, stories that featured women who looks like me, women of color, with experiences I could relate to,” she said.
“Wash Day” killed its Kickstarter goal (but you can still pitch in until 11:59 p.m. Friday!) and it’s been featured in places like Ebony, Essence, and Buzzfeed Cocoa Butter. And it will soon be translated into Spanish as well (Jamila is Afro-Latina, and so is one of her characters). Here’s what you should know about this geek girl:
HOW SHE ENDED UP WRITING HER OWN COMIC
Jamila’s been in the geek culture scene a long time. She used to run a blog called Girl Gone Geek and she founded the international meetup group, Geek Girl Brunch, as a place to “geek out away from all the misogyny and hate that’s online and at comic conventions.” There are Ft. Lauderdale and Miami chapters.
“I love comics and I had all these different ideas for stories, but I never really considered it. I didn’t have the courage, didn’t feel like it was something I should do. [I finally said] forget it, give it a shot. If it’s bad, it’s bad, at least I tried.”
WHY START WITH “WASH DAY?”
“I really love slice of life comics and I wanted to create a slice of life story that could relate to a lot of women,” she said. “Washing natural hair is a lot of work and we have a whole day catered to do it. We devote hours of our life and time and money devoted to our hair. I wanted a story that showed that ritual and make women of color who experience this ritual feel like they’re being seen,” she said.
Jamila also hoped it would draw in people who think comics aren’t for them. “It’s still a very white male dominated culture, so by creating “Wash Day,” created by and for women of color, I wanted to disrupt that,” she said. “The reason I thought it might not do well – because it was so niche – is the reason it ended up doing up really well.”
HER FAVORITE SCENE IN “WASH DAY”
“When the character Kim is detangling her hair for two pages. I feel bad that me and Robyn gave her so much hair. I’m like, ‘So sorry, girl, I know how much work it is’.”
HOW SHE HOOKED UP WITH THE ILLUSTRATOR
Jamila first saw Robyn’s artwork when someone retweeted some of her work. That’s why it’s important to keep the credit there when you share people’s work, Jamila says.
HOW SHE GEEKS OUT LOCALLY
Geek Girl Brunch meetups, obviously. She also goes to all the conventions she can and has a membership to the Frost Museum of Science. But mostly it’s her hanging out at home, watching all the anime she can.
FAVORITE LOCAL COMIC BOOK SHOP
COMIC SHE’S CURRENTLY OBSESSED WITH
The anime comic, “My Hero Academia.” “I am obsessed. It is a story about a world where most of the population develops superpowers, but what I love about it is the pure goodness of a lot of the characters,” she said. “I’m very heavily invested in these teenage kids and their superpowers.”
BEST COSPLAY COSTUME EVER
Her African Sailor Moon costume for New York Comic Con in 2016 – she made it out of kente print, and put an ankh on her forehead instead of a gem.
WHERE TO MEET HER AND TALK COMICS
She’ll be at Florida SuperCon in July and the next Geek Girl Brunch. Plus, hit her up on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. If you want to find out when “Wash Day” merch is available, you can sign up to be notified here.