By Rachel Maurer

Femme Magnifique is more than just a title; the phrase itself inspired and eventually blossomed into a 50-story anthology, lovingly put together by over 100 feminist creators and Kickstarted into reality by 1,730 backers. Thursday’s panel – led by Kristy Miller and featuring co-curator Shelly Bond and contributors Paige Braddock, Che Grayson, Gail Simone, Megan Hutchison, and Tess Fowler – provided both background and insight into the development of the book from concept to completion.

Bond took us back to the beginning, explaining that she latched onto the phrase “femme magnifique” last summer during a period of heavy reading and writing. The concept later crystalized with the events of the 2016 election, which she saw as a huge missed opportunity for women. She was able to sell Miller on the idea for the anthology by explaining that she wanted to go further than simply celebrating amazing women – Bond wanted a book that emphasized the reasons for and personal stories behind these women being heroes, and specifically wanted to include male feminist creators as well. The two candidly described the common anthology experience as 90% great stories and 10% filler, saying they were excited to realize that FM was going to be a rare exception: every story submitted for this book is “astonishing, amazing”; every story is unique, and every story is personal.

Going down the line, each of the panelists introduced the subject of their story. It was clear that these were women who resonated deeply with each creator, and nearly everyone commented that having a 3-page limit was a struggle when they could’ve easily written hundreds of pages. The women selected range from comic strip artists (Dale Messick, chosen by Braddock) to science fiction authors (Octavia Butler, chosen by Grayson) to actual scientists (Ada Lovelace, chosen by Hutchison). True to Bond’s vision, each story is unique in the context of the writers’ lives and how they were affected or influenced both personally and professionally.

During a brief Q&A the panelists put emphasis on the ongoing need for variety, observing that while we’re at a point in time where there are visible women in comics – and visible comics about women! – the goal moving forward is to push past even more stereotypes, celebrating different types of women and all the different stories they have to share.

Femme Magnifique ships to Kickstarter backers in September.