Five months ago, comics creator and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power showrunner Noelle Stevenson shared a deeply personal series of comics on her Tumblr page, detailing her struggles to maintain her mental health in 2018. The post followed a tradition of posting “year in review” comics, which Stevenson has done every year since 2011. Now, she has announced her graphic memoir, The Fire Never Goes Out, which includes those comics as well as several unpublished ones, via an interview with io9.
“Over the last about seven or eight years, I’ve been drawing comics just as they come to me. About things in my life, my feelings. For me, they’re just ways of exploring my own feelings and my own sense of self. I really just did them for me. But over those years, I’ve really created a lot of these personal comics, and it’s become a tradition every year that I would combine them together into a little retrospective…” Stevenson told io9. “I had seven or eight years of these, and my amazing editor at HarperCollins last year reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in publishing these as a collected comic memoir. So that’s what this is.”
“All of these are sort of drawn in the moment, from the time I was 19 years old,” she explained. “[They’re] in-the-moment reflections on my internal life. My life changing…growing up…I think the narrative becomes sort of about those changes. It starts with, you know, sort of being out in the world for the first time, being on my own. And these comics became the best way I could express that. I hadn’t figured out yet who I was and who I was trying to be, and the comics were a way of exploring that.”
Among the comics included in The Fire Never Goes Out, Stevenson said, is “one of the most raw comics” she’s ever made, a “stream-of-consciousness creation” called “Holy Ghost.” The comic is about the first time she ever walked out of church when she was a teenager, and she told io9 that she has “never been sure how to share it before, so I’m glad it’s found a home in this book.”
“I drove out into this park and went up on this hill and stood on this hill for an hour, looking for God and not finding him,” Stevenson said. “I created it the first Easter that I didn’t go to church, because I was wrestling with the conflicted feelings of that, and that was the comic that resulted from that. It was pure. I was just drawing, and not even sure what I was doing with that.” She added, “I think that was a big turning point for me, just creating the comic and realizing I could talk about these things, even if it was just in a way that made sense to me.”
She told io9, “These comics are…honestly, I treat them like therapy. I’ve kept drawing them no matter how busy I got, because it’s a good way to wind down and sort of spend a little time with myself. I didn’t make them with the expectation that they would be published—that was something my editor brought to me. Working—especially on She-Ra—working on these properties that are so labor intensive requires so much of yourself. You start to lose touch with yourself as a person, and your own body and your own mind. So these comics became about a way for me to start establishing that I was still this person, that I still have this life and I still had this body. It was something I was doing, even when things were the most hectic, just to keep myself somewhat grounded.”
In addition to The Fire Never Goes Out, which is slated for release Jan. 7, 2020, Stevenson’s She-Ra returns to Netflix for season three on Aug. 2. The series is also getting a graphic novel spin-off, based on stories she’s written. As Stevenson noted in her Tumblr post earlier this year, 2018 was a big year for her — professionally and personally — which made her question whether or not she should continue posting her year-in-review comics at all.
“The posts encouraged a narrative that I disagreed with as much as I desperately sought to live up to it: that my accomplishments and my youth gave me value, that I was always on the upward climb, that burnout was an easily-resolved footnote, that I was young and sharp and fine, I was fine and I would always be fine,” Stevenson wrote on her Tumblr earlier this year.
Publishing them on her blog and in a physical collection, she told io9, is a way of reaching out and establishing connections. “I hope they make the reader feel less alone,” she said. “I suspect quite a lot of people feel these stories. I’m sharing what’s in my heart, but asking for people to relate to those, and relate them to their own struggles and their own lives.”