Vp Issue 8: “The Axis of Agitators: Diane DiMassa”

[Originally published in issue 8 by Kent Martin (2005)]

[Originally published in issue 8 by Kent Martin (2005)]

Back when Bush Senior was in office, writer and artist Diane DiMassa started comic sketches of Hothead Paisa: Homicidal Lesbian Terriorist as a therapeutic exercise in her journals. Years before Michael Moore wrote Stupid White Men, DiMassa’s creation was (literally) taking an axe to “white guys in suits,” gleefully incinerating misogynistic offenders. DiMassa was encouraged to make her stories into comic books and, when published, Hothead Paisan touched a nerve with scores of young dykes everywhere. A cult-like following developed around the comic books for a generation of lesbians coming of age in the ’90s. More than 10 years later musician Animal Prufrock turned DiMassa’s comic into a musical which premiered last summer at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

Velvetpark spoke with DiMassa right after the premiere. The lean, attractive, street-chic DiMassa shared her thoughts about the musical, her work, and gender politicking in the queer community.

So what’d you think of the musical?

I was really, really tickled. I think that the music was fantastic, the casting was spot on, there’s a lot of talent up there and I think it’s really going to go somewhere.

In terms of casting, what did you think about the choice of pairing the performer with the character?

I am amazed at the people that Animal came up with. Sharquee [played by Suhir Blackeagle] was unbelievable. When I first met her my jaw droped ’cause I thought it was really her standing there. Raz [played by Rhiannon] absolutely blew me away, looked just like her. I thought Daphne [played by Kate Wolf] was very, very sweet, but honestly I’d like to see a little more androgyny there, I mean, her voice and her personality were really very good but maybe the presence was a little…I’m not sure. 

You wanted Daphne to be a little less sweet, more androgynous?

Yeah, because Daphne is an indeterminate gender, and I’ve hinted that she’s going through some sort of transition, but I haven’t said what, and a lot of people have written their own interpretation into it, which caused a little bit of, hmmm, what do I say [laughter] dialogue?

It can be interpreted that she’s female?

We call her she, but I mean, that doesn’t mean anything anymore.

Right, because I think it’s been interpreted in the transgender community as FTM.

Absolutely and I can see why. I left many holes open. You know at one point I was getting so many questions about it that I thought, well, oh, you know, I might have her announce that she’s transitioning from butch to femme, or that she’s turning into a cat or something, you know, just to poke at it.

You’re trying to keep it non-specific?

Yeah. Just the idea of someone who’s different, who defies all categories and what they mean in the world. It kind of tackles that whole identity and labeling thing. 

It’s obviously an issue, especially in Michigan.

And, you know, this might just destroy the fabric of society that we don’t like right now. From the inside out, you know? I mean, what are the implications of a bunch of gender ambiguous people running around…? How is that going to rattle people? And it’s the young people that are going to be growing up into positions of power, hopefully, and positions of influence, really being visible within our culture and doing important things. And they’re like of like, “You don’t get it? Oh, what’ the big deal?” You know? It’s like not a big deal. Nobody can stop that. You can’t stop that.

Like Hothead being presented here and in Michigan? I mean, the characters carry a message and philosophy. Do you think it’s going to have an impact?

Well, that’s always the greatest hope. It could. I’d really like to see this get spread around as much as Rocky Horror did.

You haven’t actively been writing in a while.

Not in a few years. The few years I hadn’t been doing it was just sort of life, you know, but then after looking at my options, I came up out of the water and just got totally recommitted to it. This was last winter; I put my website back up.

I’ve had a lot of people approach me over the years to make this or that project out of Hothead, and 99% of the time it didn’t come to pass. And here Animal did it and is doing it, and I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that she’s going to keep going, and get bigger and develop it, and keep going. She just does not acknowledge obstacles.

I was wondering what was the creative process between you and Animal?

Well there was some, but not really a whole lot. The dialogue was lifted straight out of the book, and then she created the songs and then we had a few yak sections about it early on. We sent a lot of ideas back and forth to sort of see if we were in agreement, and it was really smooth-sailing between us. She was just so charged and so in control, and, I mean, she optioned it. It’s really her baby. 

You did the sets for the musical?

I designed the sets. I did the artwork, the backdrops, and the television, and Animal’s car door, and I did them to scale with a grid and everything. I sent them in and the Mich Fest crew came up with all the other props, you know, depending on what Animal needed. They did a kick-ass job. It looks exactly like the drawings I sent them.

That’s awesome….Is there anything else?

Um…just that, I’m back.


Velvetpark Magazine, Issue 8 (Winter 2005), 12-13.