SPX Spotlight 2015: Isabella Rotman

It's another entry in Panel Patter's SPX SPOTLIGHT series! We've been highlighting creators, publishers, and comics related to SPX since the site opened in 2008, but 2015 marks our fifth year of extensive coverage that is unlike what you'll find elsewhere! It's a great way to create your own personal guide for the show onSeptember 19th and 20th, 2015, in Bethesda, Maryland. Don't miss it! You can find all our SPX SPOTLIGHT posts here.

The ability of comics to educate is an undeniable thing. The pictorial nature of comics allows them to bypass the dryness of textbooks, and the magic of tangential learning makes it even easier to educate yourself while enjoying something you love. In my perfect world, this would be common knowledge and comics would be commonly used in classrooms or for personal knowledge gain, but alas, not yet. Luckily, we have Isabella Rotman to help us get there. Rotman saw a gap in education when it came to something very important – sexual health and violence prevention, and decided to use her vast knowledge and beautiful artwork to help change that.

Most important to education (and really, storytelling in general) is the ability to be able to express things in a way that is clear, concise, and engaging. Rotman’s work is a fantastic and wonderfully drawn combination of all these things. She does not solely produce educational comics, however. Included in her body of work are touching stories that are both fictional and not, excellent art, skateboards, and much more. She often deals with themes of loneliness and primarily LGBT+ romance, with a healthy amount of marine and astrological imagery among a clear love for nature. I have personally never picked up a comic, or anything else, from Isabella Rotman and been disappointed in even the slightest. She is very obviously pushed by a passion for the medium, and it comes out in her work in the best way possible.

Every time I have seen Rotman at a show she has had a pretty wide selection of things to choose from. Her books Not On My Watch and You’re So Sexy When You Aren’t Transmitting STD’s both deal with health issues. Not On My Watch is a bystander’s guide to violence prevention – essentially what to do when you see sexual assault, or what could later become sexual assault, or domestic abuse. It includes information on consent, strategies for intervention, and ideas for what to do if you suspect your friend is in an abusive relationship. You’re So Sexy deals with, as you might have gathered from the full title, sexual health and safe sex techniques. Her comics Dig and Fireworks are eloquent and beautiful – Dig discusses the feeling of being cast out after major life changes, and Fireworks talks about dealing with a break up. Two of Rotman’s other educational comics, Gatherer and Good to Know are super convenient pocket sized books full of great knowledge – Gatherer about foraging and Good to Know being full things that are, well, good to know.

If there is one thing that I can take away from simply browsing through Isabella Rotman’s art, it’s that she is an excellent example of why comics are important. Her easy to consume style and vast knowledge combine into an almost perfect educational tool, addressing topics that are necessary to talk about. She is an important and necessary part of the comics community, and I look forward not only to the work that she will produce in the future, but also watching as she gains the success she so thoroughly deserves.

You can find Isabella online on Twitter, Tumblr, and her website, where she has a nice selection of free comics to read. She will be at SPX at table D13.