Over the years that I’ve contributed for The Beat, I’ve gotten to preview some pretty-interesting projects in the making, as well as talk to their equally-interesting creators. A little more than two years ago, I had a phone interview with two women who called themselves the “Gibbs Girls.” They were working on a steam-punk inspired comic that takes place at the dawn of the 20th century and during the Industrial Age. The story followed a female, African American inventor named Ada Turner who creates the first flying machine. Last week, the Gibbs Girls reached out and informed me that the comic had finally come out.
Debuting this last March 30th, The Invention of E.J. Whitaker is a delightful combination of historical fiction and steampunk. The story’s Ada Turner wants nothing more to be an inventor in an age that is male dominated. Despite risks and dangers, she follows her dream, accepting the responsibilities and consequences that following her dream entails. In what she feels will protect both her work and herself, she takes on a male persona with the pseudonym “E.J. Whitaker.”
As a little side note, it’s interesting to point out that women taking pseudonyms to make sure their work is “taken seriously” is quite an old practice, especially in the literary world. A famous example of this is J.K Rowling (real name Joanne Rowling) who took on the now famous pseudonym by the advice of her then publisher. Rowling has also published under the name “Robert Galbraith.” One of the earliest examples of famous novelists who have avoided using their real name is Mary Shelley, who published Frankenstein, or: The Modern Prometheus anonymously.
In many ways, I can see the character of Ada Turner reflecting the stories of her creators, sisters Shawnee and Shawnelle Gibbs. Both work as producers in television, often regarded a male-dominated market. However, on their spare time, they choose to work on their own projects, writing and producing for comics, film, and animation. What the Gibbs Girls’ biggest inspiration for creating The Invention of E.J. Whitaker was the lack of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) based stories featuring female heroines. “We could count the amount of action and adventure stories about young black women in science and technology on one hand,” said the sisters in a press release.
I’m very glad to see that the Gibbs Girls’ comic is finally out. Over the five-years that they have spent on the project, they have poured in a great deal of work and love into it. Since its short release, The Invention of E.J. Whitaker has already been nominated for five Glyph Awards: Story of the Year, Best Writer, Best Artist, Best Female Character, and Glyph’s Rising Star Award.