What Went Wrong With Friends of Lulu? A Postmortem Interview
Once I was told that Friends of Lulu was dead, I was curious to know more about what happened. Kynn Bartlett, one of the interim Board of Directors members who attempted to resuscitate the group after the then-president’s abrupt public departure, agreed to answer my questions. I want to get this published, not to dance on the group’s grave or wallow in a very sad turn of events, but to capture publicly what happened for historical and educational purpose.
Q: So what happened, Kynn?
Last year, Valerie D’Orazio (now Gallaher) announced Friends of Lulu would close down. Several of us who cared about the organization’s continuing existence were alarmed and volunteered to try to help save it. We became the “interim board”: Gemma Adel, David Doub, Richard Caldwell, and me.
Then Valerie stopped working on Friends of Lulu earlier than we expected, bailed from a convention that she was supposed to attend as a Friends of Lulu representative, and announced her new project about inclusion in comics.
Q: Are there any plans to continue Friends of Lulu as an organization?
I don’t have any, and nobody on the interim board has any. We’ve discussed it, and we don’t know how we could even continue if we wanted to, or why that would be a good thing to do.
Q: What will happen to the group’s records? Where are they now?
I have no idea where the group’s records are. The interim board never got access to those, nor to the Friends of Lulu website, nor to the finances. You’d have to ask Valerie D’Orazio, I suppose. She was president when everything went missing and when the organization failed to maintain our non-profit status with the IRS.
I have a stack of books that were part of the Friends of Lulu convention table kit. No banners though. I have no idea what happened to the originals of the books Friends of Lulu published over the years, nor how we could have republished any of them in the future if we were so inclined. I also have a box of lucite awards for last year’s Friends of Lulu awards that were ordered with the wrong year on them.
Q: What do you think could have been done differently?
I don’t know.
By the time any of us on the interim board had volunteered to help, the organization was in shambles. I’ve been a member of Friends of Lulu for a very long time myself, and I’ve seen transitions from one president to another, from one board to another — from a member’s perspective, of course. The organization, like any non-profit, was designed to be self-perpetuating, but also assumed that things would be handed off and there would be a tidy succession process. Somewhere along the way, that went wrong.
Q: Is there still a need for a “women in comics” organization?
There is definitely a need to focus on women in comics. Just look at how few of the creators on the upcoming DC line-wide reboot are female.
The good thing is that there are many new and exciting projects underway to increase the visibility and participation of women and girls in comics as readers and as creators. There are numerous websites and tumblr feeds which say that comics are for girls, too. The first Geek Girl Con will be held this fall in Seattle.
The women comics creators and fans who founded Friends of Lulu in 1994 were pioneers in raising awareness, and today’s increased involvement of women in comics at all levels is a result of their hard work. Sadly, there is still more to be done, and regrettably the Friends of Lulu organization will not be there to help do it. But the spirit of Friends of Lulu will never die!
Johanna again — given history, I will not be able to follow up with Valerie Gallaher to ask about the status of the records, but since I think they need to go to an appropriate archival venue, I will be happy to help fund that transfer if someone else can reach out for the arrangements.