Kelly Sue DeConnick is a relative newcomer to the Big Two, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been around. After years of adapting manga for Tokyopop she moved to writing her own comics, notably 30 DAYS OF NIGHT: EBEN AND STELLA with Steve Niles at IDW. Today, she’s writing and co-writing books for Marvel like CAPTAIN MARVEL, AVENGERS ASSEMBLE and the CASTLE graphic novels. She also writes GHOST for Dark Horse and has an upcoming creator owned series with Emma Rios called PRETTY DEADLY on the way from Image Comics. I interviewed her about past, present, and a sprinkling of future.
You adapted manga for Tokyopop for several years. How did that prepare you to write comics professionally?
Several ways, I expect — working to frequent deadlines (still not a thing I excel at, honestly–though I got crazy fast at my adaptations after 7 years. About 3 years into my ground-up comics writing I’m moderately faster than when I started, but not nearly as fast as I’d like to be. And I am DEATHLY slow on the creator-owned book I’m doing with Emma Rios. Everything about that book is ten times harder than I expected. Except working with Emma — she’s such a gift.), economy (every word on the page means covered art), a focus on dialogue… And it forced me to analyze how the stories were being told in pictures.
And I am now overly fond of ellipses.
Two of your earliest assignments were the Rescue and Sif one shots for Marvel. Was it challenging to tell a story that both ended in twenty two pages and fit between issues of the parent titles (Iron Man and Thor)?
Not particularly. I’m more comfortable with one shots, anyway. It might be too early to make the other assessment. I hope so, anyway. I feel like things are just starting to click.
In his most recent issue of CAPTAIN MARVEL Dexter Soy had someone else color his work instead of doing it himself, which made for an interesting adjustment to the style of the book. Did you have a hand in that decision?
I did not, no. I honestly thought Dex had just brightened his palette for the new arc until I saw the issue credits. I wasn’t in contact with the colorist at all. They complimented each other well though, didn’t they. Those 2 issues are really lovely.
Dexter Soy and Emma Rios have been some artists you’ve worked with for extended periods of time. How did the collaboration grow and change as you became more comfortable with each other?
With Dex, after a while I started to tailor my scripts to what I thought he would have fun with. His joy is so visible on the page. I don’t think there’s a single interior shot in all of the Monica Rambeau arc.
With Emma it’s effortless. She’s my favorite collaborator because there’s no dance. She lives inside my head. It was that way fairly immediately too.
Beginning with Issue #7 Chris Sebela has been listed as a co-writer of CAPTAIN MARVEL. How did that partnership start and what kind of changes has it brought to the title?
Chris is one of my closest friends. When the opportunity to do Avengers Assemble came up, I knew I still had Ghost on my plate and I wasn’t going to be able to pull it off. I talked to Marvel and one of the suggestions they made was a co-wrtier. I hated the idea until it occurred to me to ask Chris.
I don’t know that it’s brought much of a change to the title and that’s actually to Chris’s credit — he knows how much this book means to me and he and I work together closely to make sure the tone is consistent.
He and I have another project together in the works and if that happens you’ll hear his voice much more clearly there.
You should also check out his upcoming HIGH CRIMES from Monkeybrain.
Filene Andre is solicited as the artist of CAPTAIN MARVEL through #12. Is he the new ongoing artist?
I think so…? I’m loving his work, so I hope that’s the case, but I don’t know how this all works. Check with Sana.
Sana Amanat, editor of CAPTAIN MARVEL, adds:
Yes, Filipe Andrade is meant to be the new ongoing artist, though we will be alternating artists to help keep the schedule and give him a break—notably with issues 13-15.
Carol Danvers seems to be becoming your signature character at Marvel, with you having written her in her solo title as well as other books like AVENGING SPIDER-MAN and AVENGERS ASSEMBLE. Reminds me of Bendis’ history with Luke Cage. Is there a certain mark you hope to leave on the character?
I suspect Carol is leaving more of a mark on me than I am on her, but I don’t know.
AVENGERS ASSEMBLE originated as a gateway Marvel title, timed to be released coinciding with the Avengers movie. Is there still a push to keep it accessible, and do you consider new comic book readers who might have jumped on the title when you write it?
I’m certainly trying to match the tone of the movie. And consciously choosing shorter connected arcs, rather than one long extended one. I’m having a lot of fun so far; I think the style suits me.
Between Dexter Soy on CAPTAIN MARVEL and Phil Noto on GHOST you work with multiple artists who do it all (pencil, ink, color.) How does having less members in the creative team change the dynamic of making a comic?
It makes sense that it would–right? It seems as though it would be more…what? I want to say “intimate” with a smaller team, but that sounds weird. Thing is, that hasn’t been the case in my experience. Every team is so different and it doesn’t seem to correspond to the number of people involved. Sometimes a really big team is tight and chatty, sometimes a small team is surprisingly quiet. I think the individual personalities have more to do with it than anything.
You know one mistake I made early on? I didn’t engage the letterer. It wasn’t that I wasn’t aware of their contribution, I think it was more about the fact that they don’t come in to the process until the tail end of the issue. But recently — very recently — I’ve started addressing the letterer (and the colorist) by name in the initial script rather than just treating it like a note just to the artist and editor. I don’t think it changes the the page–I work with professionals who don’t need to hear from me in order to do their jobs–but it adds a certain pleasure to the scripting process for me. It reminds me that I’m working with a full team of *artists,* not interchangeable macros.
Does that make sense? It’s how I want to work from here on out. I want a relationship with every artist who contributes to the book. (Cue people reading this and putting me on their own personal blacklist. Joe Caramagna — vouch for me! Joe? Joe…? Helloooooo…. ?)
You really do a good job giving each issue you write weight, the most recent issue of CAPTAIN MARVEL being a good example of a comic that feels like its own thing instead of Part Whatever of an arc. Is that a major goal for you?
Sure. I want to make sure not just every issue, but every panel is there for a story or character reason. No filler. I don’t know that I’m always successful, but that’s certainly the goal.
Your workload seems to just get heavier and heavier. Other than enlisting a co-writer on CAPTAIN MARVEL, how have you adjusted to more titles per month?
It’s hard to articulate. I’m probably never going to produce on the schedule that a Fraction or a Bendis does, but I am also still really new to this. Fraction’s got 5 years of monthly comics on me, Bendis has 10, I think? And what’s that phrase, “compare and despair” I think?
I rewrite my initial draft a lot. I don’t outline well, so often I’m at page 14 and I realize I’m bored or I’m not buying it or whatever and I have to go back to page 8 where I took a wrong turn and scrap everything after that. It’s time consuming and labor intensive. It’s not the best way to work on monthly comics. My husband says I try to write comics like a novel and he’s not wrong.
That said I do feel myself getting better, getting faster. Things are clicking. Nothing I have time to articulate for you in great detail right now, but literally in the last month I feel like I’ve been having a lot of AH HA moments about how I work. A growth spurt, kind of.
Also: my workload sounds much worse than it is. I’m set at 4 books a month MAX, including my creator-owned work. It’s on par with the industry standard, I just complain about it a lot.