Hello, and welcome to my fortnightly feature focusing on women in the comics industry – from the creators to the characters. Female influence is getting much stronger in the comics world, and our voice is finally getting louder, so I say it’s time to celebrate!
Where better to start than with (possibly) the most prominent female presence in comics at the moment; Kelly Sue DeConnick – the writer, editor, mother, manga-adaptor, and feminist who is currently making huge leaps for women in the industry.
DeConnick’s first paid comics work came in the form of writing reviews for artbomb.net, a site she founded alongside Peter Rose and Warren Ellis. Her profile quickly rose, and she now sports an impressive CV having written for all the big-wigs in comics, with titles such as ‘Avengers Assemble’, ‘Age of Heroes’, ‘CBGB’, ‘Ghost’, ‘30 Days of Night’, ‘Supergirl’, and ‘Osborn’ under her belt – just to name a few!
She is perhaps currently best known for her rebranding of Captain Marvel, letting Carol Danvers swagger into the spotlight to show that girls can kick as much ass on the superhero front line as the guys! Not to mention she’s an awesome fighter pilot. Working alongside Jamie McKelvie for the costume design, DeConnick put Captain Marvel in trousers, creating a practical uniform rather than a costume. This idea is added to by removing the iconic Captain Marvel mask and replacing it with a helmet and her Mohawk ‘helmet hair’ – something Kelly Sue likes to think of as her war paint. With the release of the Marvel Now Captain Marvel series approaching, I plan on returning to explore the character of Carol Danvers in the future.
In October 2013, DeConnick released her first creator-owned work through Image Comics. Heavily inspired by the likes of Lady Snowblood and her enthusiasm for “bad people getting shot in the face, [especially] when a lady does it”, Pretty Deadly combines the elements of a traditional Western with Eastern mythology as Bunny and Butterfly tell the tale of Death’s daughter. The story arcs are so detailed and cleverly written that it’s quite difficult to accurately and efficiently describe the series. Combined with Emma Rios’ beautifully haunting artwork, with simple lines and detailed backgrounds, the series is a delight to read. It’s a risky work in which DeConnick and Rios’ styles really complement each other just as the Western and Eastern tropes do, but it works; Pretty Deadly is certainly worth adding to your monthly comics pull.
DeConnick is currently working on Bitch Planet with Valentino De Landro – a story which will apparently feature a jail break in a woman’s penal colony in space. Interested? You should be! It’s women. In jail. In space! And it should be out this summer!
Although she enforces that she is never trying to write any kind of agenda, Kelly Sue DeConnick openly acknowledges that there (sadly) is institutional sexism in comics and is willing to work against the cultural tendency to demonise the feminine. She believes it’s important for young women who are interested in entering the industry to see that there are other women who have succeeded, and aims to break the notion that women can read “men’s books” but men won’t read “women’s books”, claiming that she doesn’t understand what a “woman’s book” is other than having a feminine hero. While she accepts that she cannot accurately portray everyone’s experience, she tries to write as honestly as possible, putting herself in uncomfortable positions in order to help open the industry to diversity, as well as allowing herself to work with a “fuller deck of cards.”
So with an impressive back catalogue, the creation of inspirational leading ladies, and her dedication to increasing diversity within the industry, Kelly Sue DeConnick is a fantastic role model for anyone interested in comics today.
And her advice from the 2013 Image Expo for writers wanting to create realistic female characters?: “Pretend they’re people.