Aminder Dhaliwal’s Woman World gives us a glimpse into a world where men have gone extinct from a genetic condition causing only-female births. In this debut graphic novel, Dhaliwal tells a misanthropic story about the extinction of men, which is followed by redeeming, compassionate storytelling about the surviving women in Woman World.
The citizens of Woman World have their own form of governance; they worship Oprah; and they contemplate the complexities of gender; all while trying to make sense of the remnants of 21st-century man: the “pec pockets” on men’s shirts, “mechanical male genitalia” AKA dildos, and Father’s Day, which is celebrated in a ceremony to honour male ancestors.
We had Aminder answer a few of our questions about the story of Woman World and possibilities for the future.
Elysse Cloma: Can you tell me about your Instagram account and Woman World?
Aminder Dhaliwal: Woman World started on Instagram as a biweekly comic for my close friends. I posted the first comic on International Women’s Day in 2017 and used the hashtag to add to its discovery to a larger audience. As I kept updating biweekly, more and more friends would tag other friends and I had a slow and steady audience growth resulting eventually in what it is now—a printed book!
EC: How did your relationship with Drawn and Quarterly start?
AD: From middle school to college I lived in the greater Toronto area, and most of the graphic novels I read were published by Drawn and Quarterly. I’ve grown up associating their name with good quality. I love everything they put out. Even if it’s not ‘for me’ there’s a care and artist-authenticity to it. When I started to think about publishing the comic into a book, Drawn and Quarterly was definitely my first choice. After the contracts were signed and the book was finished up formatting, placing the final “D+Q” on the spine felt incredibly special.
EC: How’s touring with Woman World been?
AD: It’s been really fun and exhausting, I love meeting fans and doing live readings, but the traveling takes its toll!
EC: How did you conceptualize the characters in Woman World, and how did you make sure to account for such a broad spectrum of what “womanhood” can look like?
AD: Honestly I drew characters that I naturally found appealing. I didn’t overthink it or try and hit any particular checkboxes. My natural instinct is to create a broad spectrum of designs. I still feel I could have pushed the envelope further with some characters, but I’ll probably always see various shortcomings in my own work. Overall, I’m glad they’ve been received well.
EC: At the end of the book you share the screenshot of a group thread with Megan Dong and Maha Tabik, who are in the book's acknowledgements. What influence did those folks in particular have in the creation of Woman World? Also, I love a good group chat. Do you have anything to say about the power of group message threads?
AD: Friends are great to push you to do things you’re nervous about, and I was genuinely nervous about posting the first Woman World comic, so they gave me the push I needed. Megan and Maha were great behind the scenes cheerleaders. My husband, Nikolas Ilic, did the colour for the book (he’s so good!) and my friend, Kenneth Hung was always available for spell-checks, during the initial run on instagram. Everyone needs a good support team of friends and loved ones.
EC: Side note—Is the grandma character trans? I’m not sure if I picked up on what was meant on the panel where the elderly character is explaining the meaning of transgender.
AD: She is. I wanted to write it in a way that made sense for a grandmother to tell her granddaughter, rather than a character revealing themselves to an audience.
EC: I noticed there was a panel that says “that’s what this movie’s about?” Can we expect a motion picture version of woman world in the near future?
AD: Wouldn’t that be amazing? But honestly, I’m so happy with just the book! I don’t want to think of the book as a stepping stone to other things, I want to thoroughly enjoy having created something that’s been resonating with people! (But if someone wants to talk to me about a motion picture version—cough—feel free to contact me—cough)