Comics

Women’s History Month: Writers Roundtable

Kate Leth, Amy Reeder, and Kelly Thompson speak out on several subjects!

Image for Women’s History Month: Writers Roundtable

We continue this month’s celebration of Women’s History with a roundtable discussion consisting of some of Marvel Comics’ most talented creators: Kate Leth (PATSY WALKER, A.K.A. HELLCAT!), Amy Reeder (MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR), and Kelly Thompson (HAWKEYE). We wanted speak with these creators not only to know who influenced their work but also to get an idea as to how and where they see women affecting the industry as a whole.

Marvel.com: To kick things off, I’m curious who you think are the most significant female super heroes in the Marvel Universe and why?

Kate Leth: I think that right now, Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, and America Chavez are probably the most influential, at least to the women I know. I have personal favorites, of course—She-Hulk tops the list—but I think each of those three and their respective titles—including YOUNG AVENGERS—have really pushed Marvel in a new and better direction. None of them are cookie-cutter bombshells or plot devices; they’re all fully-realized and reflective of the real world.

Amy Reeder: Historically, I’d say Storm is pretty significant; talk to any random person on the street and they’ll know who Storm is. And that’s not nothing! Something about her has clearly made a lasting impression on the world, and I’m not sure if that’s her amazing design, cool powers, or just general command of presence. I would love for her to come more to the forefront than she already is. She is a true leader.

On a current note, I’d say Ms. Marvel has kicked off a whole new era of comics at Marvel, that is focusing both on the importance of representation, and the originality of story and art. It feels like we’re experiencing a renaissance.

Kelly Thompson: I think Captain Marvel is undoubtedly one of the most important characters out there for Marvel and with good reason. Storm, She-Hulk, and Black Widow are also super iconic and powerful to me. I also think some of the more atypical super hero cult favorites like Jessica Jones and Nico Minoru of Runaways, especially with TV shows—or upcoming TV shows—have the potential to leap to the front of the line. One thing I love about all of those I just listed is the variety; there’s no type there, they’re all very different characters the same way Wolverine and Spider-Man are different and that’s both important and a big change we’ve been seeing in the last five to ten years; enough female roles to see some real variety in the characters. In the end though, I think it’s impossible to understate the importance of Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel. The impact of that character is massive. She’s a game changer, and I hope it’s a permanent change.

Marvel.com: Of course, you are all currently working on female-led titles for Marvel. I recognize it’s difficult to look at your work from a historical perspective since you are in the moment as we speak. All the same, how do you think your respective titles are affecting the shape and creative direction of the Marvel Universe?

Kate Leth: I hope HELLCAT is picked up again in years to come by people who realize just how queer it is. Not just in its characters, but its sensibility. I absolutely think straight people can write gay characters, but I think that Brittney and I, who are both queer, made this book something authentic and genuine in between all the puns and crime-fighting. As our book is ending, I look to others to pick up the glittering, rainbow torch. [Laughs]

Amy Reeder: Seeing as I created Moon Girl, it’s hard not to have high hopes on that front; I hope that she will be a solid mainstay in the [Marvel] Universe and our team has been working hard to see that happen. She is currently the smartest person in the Marvel Universe! So, it’ll be interesting to see how long she can hold onto that title. She’s now featured in three video games, and I do truly hope she can find her way into film or television, if only because this would be a great opportunity to have a young black girl hero on the screen. And past that, I hope that the success of our book sets off many more titles that keep representation in mind, and I wouldn’t mind seeing more young characters as well.

Kelly Thompson: I mean, obviously, Kate Bishop should be ruling the world, right? [Laughs] More seriously, I do think you’re right that it’s really hard to know what something you’re doing will mean to people or the market in a year, let alone five or 10 years. I’d love for Kate to not only continue being a fan favorite but to also level up to solid super-star A-list status—she’s obviously well on her way to that; and I hope we’re helping to make that happen, but she’s got a ways to go before she’s a household name like Storm or Captain Marvel or Black Widow.

More broadly I’d love to see more books like HAWKEYE that are allowed to have “smaller” stories. I love a good world ending apocalypse as much as the next guy, but sometimes I want something that stands on its own a bit and feels a little more personal. Those can be tough in this cutthroat market, but I think they’re really important stories, and also happen to be some of the best—and most critically acclaimed—stories we’ve seen in recent years.

Marvel.com: Taking things in a more personal direction, which women in comics have had a significant effect on you as comics creator?

Kate Leth: I would not be in comics if it weren’t for independent creators like Kate Beaton, Jess Fink, and Emily Carroll. That’s where I found my start and inspiration, through women who did it themselves and built a career on their own terms. There are the big names, of course—Kelly Sue [DeConnick] and Gail [Simone] have been incredibly supportive and inspirational to me—but Kate and Jess and Emily gave me the guts to just get out there and make the thing.

Amy Reeder: Ai Yazawa’s Paradise Kiss made a very early and lasting impression on me and how I think comics should be. Sophie Campbell has probably affected me more than anyone else, male or female—her love for creating unique characters echoes her passion for people in general. I’ve learned a lot from [SPIDER-MAN] artist Sara Pichelli—my sketches have gotten more life in them from looking at hers.

Also, MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR artist Natacha Bustos has been blowing me away with her art. I’m floored by her ability to draw all the crazy things we’ve asked for, and at an amazing pace. I’m learning from her how to stop myself from doing too many details, all while making panels look better and with more focus.

Kelly Thompson: Kelly Sue DeConnick. She’s not only written some fantastic and hilarious comics, super hero and otherwise, but she was certainly the driving creative force behind Captain Marvel’s book, and the character becoming a definitive A-lister at Marvel comics. And from where I’m sitting that pushed the needle forward in a really important way, both for Marvel and for female characters and super heroes more broadly. I also think not enough can be said about [editor] Sana Amanat and G. Willow Wilson’s work with MS. MARVEL; that’s some once in a lifetime magic there—a perfect pairing of creators and character. Kathryn Immonen’s WOLVERINE & JUBILEE and her JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY run are so great—wild and creative and fun and unexpected. Gail Simone is obviously a legend, she paved the way for so much, made so many things possible for those of us that have joined her in comics.

And if I start listing artists that have inspired and affected me we will literally be here all day: Becky Cloonan, Fiona Staples, Sophie Campbell, Tula Lotay, Meredith McClaren, Jordie Bellaire, Stephanie Hans, Annie Wu, Brianne Drouhard, Jillian Tamaki, Amanda Conner, Babs Tarr, Pia Guerra—so, so many.

Marvel.com: Which women working in comics today do you think are really pushing the medium and industry forward?

Kate Leth: I’m gonna get real self-serving for a second and say that the Valkyries, the group I founded years ago—that is now nearly-700 members strong and much larger than me—for women working in comics retail, are making a huge difference. As the group’s evolved, members have moved into publishing and creating, but those working on the ground in shops and libraries have made a huge difference. As a unit, they’ve got power, and influence, and their concerns are being listened to. For publishers to see this and realize they need to address it and cater to it is something that didn’t exist five, 10 years ago. That matters!

In terms of creators, I think the biggest change is coming from outside the Big Two. Nobody’s made an impact like Raina Telgemeier or Kate Beaton. I think that indie creators, people making webcomics and graphic novels, are the ones to watch. Spike Trotman, Taneka Stotts—with Sfé Monster—are publishing anthologies that traditional publishers might never have wanted to touch and are seeing huge success. I mention these names quite often, but I honestly think they’re crucial to this industry. While there are lots of indie creators I’d like to see tackle Marvel stories, I’m happy to see them flourish with their own work.

Amy Reeder: Dare I say it: I think most instances of the medium being pushed forward right now is through the work of women. We have women who are making major headway in the book market, like Kate Beaton and Raina Telgemeier. Steven Universe’s Rebecca Sugar has perhaps unintentionally inspired swaths of comics hopefuls with her art style; it’s all I see with art students. Most of the books with buzz surrounding them involve women creators and/or characters.

A lot of the up-and-comers are exciting, too. This gal Hannah Blumenreich recently did a short backup story in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #25, based on her awesome webcomic Spidey Zine. She’s someone to look at. I’m also really excited about this young writer-artist Tillie Walden—she tells stories in a way I never knew I needed, but the fact is, I do.

Kelly Thompson: Anyone that can move the needle like Kelly Sue DeConnick has and sort of permanently change the conversation, is an icon and a legend as far as I’m concerned. We’re all benefiting now from a lot of hard work she put in at Marvel and continues to put in elsewhere. Her creator-owned Bitch Planet, to me, is probably the most important book in comics right now. It also happens to be fantastic. And being both important and legitimately fantastic at the same time is no easy feat!