Memoirs Of An Occasional Superheroine

By | Wednesday, April 08, 2009 4 comments
Memoirs are a tricky category. Strictly speaking, they're actually a subset of autobiographies, focusing more on the feelings and impressions of the writer instead of simply a factual accounting of their lives. Because of that, it seems to me, that it's easy to come across very egotistically and self-aggrandizing. After all, the writer is specifically trying to showcase his/her own view of experiences. "Look at me! Shine the spotlight over here!" Valerie D'Orazio's new Memoirs Of An Occasional Superheroine, despite the title, comes across much more intimately and humbly, and really invites readers into her life.

I first "met" Valerie in much the same way a number of comics folks did, through her "Goodbye to Comics" narrative on her old blog. I got to know her both through her writings there, as well as from the fact that she started dating my buddy Dave soon afterwards. I know she's been trying get something like Memoirs published for a little while now, and she finally dove in to just do the damn thing herself.

The book covers, not surprisingly, Val's life up to about a year or two ago. And, given that she's been a "fangirl" for her whole life and worked at two comic publishers as well as a retail shop, it's hardly surprising that a lot of the book also covers her experiences in/with/around comics. What is surprising, though, is all the twists and turns her story takes. I knew bits and pieces of it, but there were still plenty of, "Oh my god, Val! I had no idea..." moments.

She had a writing professor back in college that told her, "Valerie, when you write, it's like you put your arm in front of the table and saw it off for everyone to see." True to form, she does that in her book. In every chapter. But it doesn't come across as pitiable or grotesque, but as strengthening. It's her own memoir, so you know she comes out all right in the end, and to see her battles -- going back at least as far as when she was eight -- and see how she's able to survive them (in a very literal sense) at all, much less progress forward is astonishing. I was honestly doubting for a while whether she would make it out of high school. My respect for her has grown a thousand-fold since I picked the book up this morning.

But reading the book to learn more about who Valerie is and how she got to where she is today is only part of the book. The other part is an "inside scoop" of some of the goings-on at Acclaim and DC. There's very little in the way of Editors-Changing-Writers'-Stories and How-Such-And-Such-Event-Was-Planned, but there is a great deal to provide a sense of the overall culture within those "hallowed" hallways. Val actually focuses on two aspects of that culture in particular: the seeming lack of a fundamental understanding that DC editorial seems to have for their own properties, and the permeation of sexual harassment and discrimination in the offices. Neither of which speak well at all for the company, and goes to explaining a lot that readers have seen in the stories the past several years.

But the book, ultimately, is about Valerie. There's sex, and violence, and drugs, and stalkers, and larceny, and illicit affairs, and lesbianism, and witchcraft, and everything else Fredric Wertham was afraid of. But somehow... somehow Valerie overcomes ALL of it; maybe with more than her fair share of battle scars and war wounds, but she overcomes it nonetheless. It's an extraordinary tale of the can't-put-it-down variety. (Seriously. I couldn't get any work done today because I kept going back to it.)

I don't know what prompted Val to take up the "Occasional Superheroine" pseudonym in the first place, but that's not really accurate. Val, might I suggest "Overtime Superheroine"?

Valerie's book can be purchased here in an e-edition for $10 currently, and I understand she's investing options for a pulped wood hardcover edition. It really is a powerful story, the likes of which I don't think I've EVER seen in comics before.
Newer Post Older Post Home


Joe S. Walker said...

"Egotistical and self-aggrandising" are exactly the words for the writer in question. "Windbag" fits pretty well too.

clatterboot said...

The memoir is about her and her life? Gasp! That is "egotistical." Oh, wait... that's what a memoir is. Geez, internet idiots.

I too got to "know" Valerie through her "Goodbye to Comics" and have frequented her blog since. I don't know why exactly she's attracted the vocal hate, but she's a good and powerful writer and I hope that she finds success with this enterprise.

Anonymous said...

Pay Pal link not working. Can you set up a link to the e-publisher’s website?

I've updated the link to go to Valerie's site so that if/when she has to change the link, it doesn't impact this post.