As the first female action hero, Miss Fury was ahead of her time. The Golden Age character first appeared in 1941, and her complicated real identity and her risque outfits sparked a bit of controversy for the time period. She was also created by Tarpé Mills, a pseudonym of June Mills, one of the first major female comic artists.
The character is getting a renaissance as a graphic novel on Indiegogo thanks to Dynamite Comics and Billy Tucci. But it is the eye-catching art of Maria Laura Sanapo that is most compelling. Sanapo is known for drawing women such as DC’s Bombshells as well as Dynamite staples Vampirella, Red Sonja, Dejah Thoris, and some of the Chaos! library, all of whom possess strength, beauty, confidence, and sensuality.
Sanapo chatted with The Beat about the Indiegogo campaign and how she approaches her art.
Deanna Destito: How did working on Miss Fury come about?
Maria Laura Sanapo: I was finishing a project for Dynamite and Archie Comics, and my editor Matt Idelson asked me if I wanted to jump on this fantastic project with Billy Tucci. I met Billy and Deborah [Tucci] at New York Comicon in 2017. They showed their appreciation for my work (which makes me feel so honored!) and said that sooner or later we had to do a project together. Now I’m so proud to say that it happened.
Destito: Why was it important for you to work on such a groundbreaking character in comic history?
Sanapo: When I learned that Miss Fury was drawn by a woman in the ‘40s I immediately accepted. World War 2 was a terrible period for the whole world. Being a cartoonist at that time was impossible for a woman, especially during such a difficult period when surviving was a priority. I really feel blessed to bring June Tarpe Mills’s character to life again. She was a strong woman, very ahead of her time. She didn’t bend to the prescribed role of the women of that time. She was free. She is still an example for every woman who wants to pursue a career without feeling wrong.
Destito: What have you brought to the character that is distinctly you?
Sanapo: I found a lot of myself in this character. Miss Fury is a woman who is not afraid to go against what society expects from her. She’s not afraid to break the tradition. Moreover, I often use myself as a reference and that’s why my feminine characters look like me sometimes.
Destito: You are known for drawing very strong women who are also very sensual in their own way. What attracts you to these projects and these characters?
Sanapo: I think that what attracts me the most is the combination between strength and femininity, and that is exactly what Marla Drake (Miss Fury) embodies. I like to see something besides a pretty face. I like to give a personality to the women I draw. There’s much more than a perfectly drawn figure. There are expressions, emotions, intentions, and it is a way to communicate with the reader. Thinking that ‘feminine’ and ‘strong’ are not related is outdated. Strength is highly connected with your self-esteem, how proud you are to be a woman.
Destito: Recently there have been some negative comments regarding some of the sexier characters in comics like Vampirella, Bettie Page, Red Sonja, Lady Death, Catwoman, etc. Some feel it exploits women but others defend it, saying these characters are actually empowering. As a female artist, what do you think?
Sanapo: If you work with the public there always will be someone who doesn’t like something. That’s the game. I think that nowadays women are finally playing their own role without being anyone’s shoulder or waiting a hundred years to be saved by some prince charming riding a horse. (I would prefer a motorcycle XD). I’m happy for that, but it doesn’t mean that now men have to succumb. Otherwise, we have the same situation of discrimination. I mean, equal rights for all.
Destito: What is your process when tackling a new character, especially one with a history like Miss Fury, the Archie girls, etc.?
Sanapo: I normally gather plenty of references. I study the historical period and the settings, [which are] very important for body language and mannerisms. I try to identify with the characters I draw to make them act in the most believable way.
Destito: How has it been teaching at the Kubert School?
Sanapo: It is a fantastic experience and I want to thank Anthony Marques, the director of the Kubert School for making it possible. I’m so lucky to be teaching with such great professionals like Fernando Ruiz, Sergio Cariello, Lee Weeks, Joe Prado, Erica Schultz, Amy Chu, Taylor Esposito, and Tom Mandrake. I really admire each of them a lot. This initiative made it possible to reach all the students inside or outside the school who couldn’t attend because of Covid-19. Anthony had a gorgeous idea and I’m really proud to be part of that.
Destito: What’s next after Miss Fury?
Sanapo: Who knows? For sure I’ll continue doing my best at my job, which I love so much!
Check out some of Sanapo’s work on Miss Fury below. To back the Miss Fury campaign click here.