A few months ago Marvel announced that 2010 would see a big push for some events built around women — as characters, as creators, and as readers. Here’s one of the first projects out of the box, GIRL COMICS, a three-issue anthology miniseries much in the spirit of STRANGE TALES, featuring comics created exclusively BY women. And that means writing, lettering, drawing — everything. Contributors include Kathryn Immonen, Marjorie Liu, Devin Grayson, Ann Nocenti, Trina Robbins, G. Willow Wilson, Stephanie Buscema, Amanda Conner, Jill Thompson, Louise Simonson, Valerie D’Orazio, Colleen Coover, Molly Crabapple, Nikki Cook, Ming Doyle, Abby Denson, and Carla Speed McNeil. The book is edited by Jeanine Schaefer, and we’re happy to debut the cover of the first issue, by Amanda Conner, colored by Laura Martin.
The first issue is planned for March to tie in with Women’s History Month — 2010 is both the 30th anniversary of the founding of the National Women’s History Project AND the first appearance of She-Hulk. With all the talk all the time about what women want to read or write or smash, we couldn’t wait to talk to Schaefer and find out where this anthology fits in the scheme of things:
THE BEAT: GIRL COMICS — comics starring girls or comics FOR girls? Given all the hoohah about comics from the Big Two reaching female readers, what kind of content are we looking at?
SCHAEFER: It’s actually comics BY women—and I mean, top to bottom: written, penciled, inked, colored, lettered. The logo is by a woman, all the interior design, production, proof-reading and editing is all by women.
Although some creators have gravitated towards their favorite female super hero, it’s not specifically focused on our female characters, and I’m not trying to generate content that I think will appeal to more women. I don’t want to give away all the stories, but we’re really running the gamut of Marvel characters, from Punisher to the FF to Mary Jane. We’re making great comics by great women, period—when given the opportunity to create a story about whatever they wanted, the pitches I got back from everyone have been hugely diverse in tone and characters.
That said, I definitely think women and girls will pick this up but not because we’ve hit upon the combination that will make all women like comics. I’m hoping it’ll be encouraging to see so many women who are making their livings in comics, that the idea will be reinforced that comics can be (and already are) as much for them as they are for men.
THE BEAT: How does it fit in with the whole Women of Marvel promotion? I know at the retailer summit David Gabriel mentioned an event built around Marvel’s female characters and some programs to spotlight female talent.
SCHAEFER: This is actually in addition to those projects—once we started talking about celebrating the women of Marvel (both the characters and the creators), this was the project that I was dying to do. Once some of the other women in editorial and I started talking more about it, it took off like a shot. As for the other projects, we will definitely be highlighting our creators who are women as well as our female super heroes, but I can’t comment more on either of those until the projects themselves are announced.
THE BEAT: Although there doesn’t seem to be any doubt that there is a sizable female readership for the comics format, creating material for this market at Marvel and DC seems to have run into some problems. Perhaps the largest one is that it is perceived that men won’t pick up something that might appeal to women/girls. Was that a concern in putting this book together or did you see it as simply reaching a different audience?
SCHAEFER: My original hope with this was to show that women in comics are already creating just as diverse a range of stories as men. I think the characters and the stories will draw in just as many men in as women, and will get people thinking that good comics aren’t about the gender of the writer or artist, it’s about where what you like to read intersects with what they like to create.
THE BEAT: Do you think that there are specific Marvel characters that have a higher female readership and if so what factors into that? I know the X-men has traditionally been a bridge book in that way.
SCHAEFER: X-Men was totally my bridge book! I honestly have no hard numbers and no background in this (beyond being a woman and liking comics), so I can’t say with any certainty. But hopefully without looking like a total hypocrite after talking about how there is no one story or character or book that all women would like, I would hazard a guess that the X-Books are top sellers with women and girls right off the bat because there are more female characters. There are naturally more points of view in a huge team/family book, making it easier for more readers, and specifically women, to get personally invested.
But I hold to my belief that there just isn’t that magical combination of character and theme that will make women read a specific book. There are so many more women interested in super hero comics and genre entertainment than most people think (and this isn’t new, it’s like me saying I’ve just cracked the case of comics getting popular in the mainstream, but everyone likes to talk about it like it’s new every time women are vocal about something they like in popular entertainment. Oh, my god, women read comics! Oh, my god, women watch television! Apparently, they even go to the movies and read books that aren’t made specifically for them! Shock! Horror!), and as the community grows, the pull list of “what women like” becomes just as sprawling as any control group.
I talk to my friends and women at cons and the answers seem to range from X-Men to Runaways to Spider-man to Captain America to Hulk, which sounds just like what any reader in any shop would say. Whenever you see a large concentration of women reading one series in particular, it’s less that there’s something specific there that women gravitate towards and more that they’ve found something that doesn’t have an implied sign on it saying “no girls allowed”.
THE BEAT: What were some of the fun opportunities you had in putting together an anthology by female creators?
SCHAEFER: It’s been amazing seeing the list of women grow and grow—almost every day someone says, oh, I want to call so and so, and we add them to the list. It’s also been incredible to be able to talk to creators about writing stories about characters they’ve created—for example, I’m so stoked to be working with Ann Nocenti on a Typhoid Mary story!
THE BEAT: Now that we’ve answered the question “Who is stronger, She-Hulk or Iron Man?” will the internet be torn apart?
SCHAEFER: Man, I hope so! Torn apart by sheer awesomeness! (cue the 80+ comments only discussing this one point and ignoring the rest of the article.)