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The Mary Sue Interview: Amy Reeder Talks About Rocket Girl, Designing The NY Super Week Brooklyn Defender Logo

Defend beer!

Defender2colors Every year the brewmasters over at Brooklyn Brewery unveil a comic book-themed beer called “The Defender” just in time for New York Comic Con—and this year, the Defender mascot is a woman for the first time, designed by Batwoman and Rocket Girl’s Amy Reeder. We got the chance to talk to the comic artist about beer, Rocket Girl, the harassment policy logo she also designed for REEDpop this year, and her Sailor Moon cosplay convention plans.

Victoria McNally (TMS): This is the first time in the Brooklyn Defender’s three year history that the character has been depicted as a woman. Did Brooklyn Brewery have that in mind when they first got in touch with you, or was that an idea that you brought to the table in the designing process?

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Amy Reeder (AR): I think it was kind of their idea. They said “You know, if you really don’t want to that’s fine, but part of this is that we would love for you to do a female character.” So that’s kind of how it was sent up.

TMS: What kind of process do you go through in creating a character based on beer? Did the brewmasters have an idea of what her personality should be like? What kind of backstory does a character that’s a liquid get?

Reeder: I know, right? That’s kind of a funny thing. So I tried to focus mostly on the Brooklyn side of it and this idea that the Brooklyn Brewery is craft beer. There’s this whole flavor out there—and I actually don’t live in Brooklyn, but going out there, it’s incredibly clear that there’s kind of an artistic movement out there in a lot of ways. A lot of new ideas happening, and most of them having to do with being homemade in a sense, which I think definitely goes in line with the whole craft beer concept, too. But I also think that a lot of times when people talk about Brooklyn as a borough, they’re usually talking about the part of Brooklyn that’s gentrified, too. So I guess I was trying to be aware of the whole existence of Brooklyn and wanted to have somebody who seemed ambiguous in race, but also had that homemade flavor to kind of make it so that everybody feels they have a stake in this character.

So that’s what I was trying to bring across, and the thing I’m saying about the homemade thing is that’s how her costume looks. She seems a lot like this homemade vigilante type like in Kick-Ass or whatever. Even her cape is really simple, it’s just fabric tied around her neck. You can totally see the parts and how they could be made. And part of the motivation behind that was one fault that I have when I design characters—like, for instance, Madame Xanadu [the redesign] or Rocket Girl—is I seem to come up with characters that are really difficult to cosplay. Like, way too complex. So with this character, I actually wanted it to be something that people could easily cosplay. And I kind of wanted her to come across as a fighter, which is typically what happens with the vigilantes out there. You know, they don’t have superpowers, they’re your every-person. So in my mind I was thinking that she was a boxer of something.

Defender1colorsTMS: So have you seen anybody cosplay her yet? I know Brooklyn Brewery’s been to a couple of events with the beer.

Reeder: I haven’t, and I really hope to see somebody at NYCC or something dressing as her. But not yet! I know a couple people who are intent on it, but I don’t know whether they were able to put it together for this year or next year. You know how cosplayers are—they plan things a long time in advance.

TMS: Did you have to drink a lot of beer while you were coming up with this?

Reeder: No, but they had me try a few while I was out there. My secret about all this is that I’m not really a beer drinker. I like ciders, but I usually have a difficult time with beer. So that was their goal, to prove to me that beer is good. So they gave me a tour of the brewery, which was really cool—partially so I could get some inspiration—and then they had me try all these different flavors. And there were some that I liked, and most of them that I could drink, which is unusual for me. I especially really like this one called Weisse that was almost like white wine. And then they had this other one that was fire and ice, which was smokey-tasting. And I think that the Defender beer is actually pretty good, and I’ve had a couple glasses full of that when I go to all these pint nights. Luckily it’s something that I can drink! But I was actually really nervous about doing it at first because I was worried that they would think somehow I wouldn’t do a good job because I wasn’t as much of a beer drinker. But luckily they were really nice about it.

TMS: Did you feel like a “fake beer girl?”

Reeder: Yeah! I was afraid because I was like, I can’t pretend because they’re going to figure it out. ‘Cuz I literally do not know much about how it’s made, and they were gonna give me a tour of the whole thing, and I was like, there’s no way that I can fake through this.  So I just told them the truth and they were nice about it. But I brought a friend along so she could be my moral support —I didn’t think I would do a bad job, but I was nervous about how they would handle it.

TMS: I know nothing about beer either, so I’m totally with you there. People say stuff like “this has notes of chocolate!” and I’m always like, “It just tastes like beer.”

Reeder: Okay, good! Yeah, it’s a whole thing, right? I guess there’s hops and yeast and… I feel like they all taste pretty different, but I know what you’re saying. They’d be like, “Oh, this is sweet!” And I’m not “That’s not sweet! You know what’s sweet? This pear cider over here. It’s like drinking fruit juice.”

TMS: So if you were going to make up a cider-themed character, what would you come up with?

Reeder: Well, obviously I’d make her pear-shaped! [laughs] That would actually be really awesome. It’d probably be a lame character, but I would enjoy it. But I think beer’s a lot cooler, and [Brooklyn Brewery] definitely opened my eyes. And they were unbelievably cool to work with and were really excited about doing it! To them, it wasn’t all about a business transaction. They think comics are cool, and they were really excited about it. I think it’s something they look forward to every year.


TMS: So the last time The Mary Sue spoke with you about Rocket Girl, it was in July before the series came out. What’s the past year been like for you? How’s the response been?

Reeder: It’s been really awesome! Luckily I kind of got a taste for how it might do because that’s the beauty of Kickstarters. You know, you get a really good taste of how people are going to feel about something. But it was a relief to see how excited people were about it. The first issue came out in October right before New York Comic Con, so it was very insane that year. And it felt really good. I remember we were just wishing we had more arms so that we could sell more books.

The thing that I’ve seen from it is that it hasn’t been making hand over fist or anything like that—I would always hope that we can increase our audience and put the word out there. But the people who have read it? What’s really nice is that they’re really emphatic about how they like it, which makes it really rewarding for me because I spend a lot of time on it—I pencil it and ink it and color it and letter it. It’s my baby, so it’s really nice that people make that sort of a possibility for me, where I can actually do that and yes, that’s what they want. It’s a great world to live in where you can do something you really want to do, and have something to say that you really want to say, and people want to consume that. It’s a good life.

TMS: I noticed that the sixth issue, the new arc, is starting right before New York Comic Con again.

Reeder: Actually Rocket Girl is a little delayed, and we’ll be announcing the new schedule at NYCC. But the second arc is going to come to a pretty impressive culmination that we’ve been leading up to this whole time, and I’m going to be posting lots of updates on my work. Hopefully people will be involved throughout that, and we’ll keep you guys updated, for sure.

TMS: Speaking of which, what do you have planned for New York Comic Con? You’re going to be there all weekend.

Reeder: There’s one panel that I’m on Saturday night that’s about the artist/writer collaboration. Amy Chu put it together, and it’s something about certain writer and artist combos that seem to work, as I’ve been working with Brandon Montclare on several projects now. I know I’m in an Image panel. And I’ll have a table. Basically our focus now is trying to get the [Rocket Girl] trade in the hands of as many readers as possible. I’m trying to get a new t-shirt going, so that’s going to be fun. What’s nice about New York Comic Con is that it’s always a pretty big, pretty successful city show.

TMS: One more dumb question: I’m sort of the resident Sailor Moon nut at TMS, and I noticed you mentioned at your Special Edition NYC panel that you were a big fan of it growing up, so I wanted to ask you who your favorite character is.

Reeder: My favorite Sailor Moon character? Oh, man. Yeah, you know, that’s tough. Ami’s so—I love water, so she kind of makes sense, but she’s kind of boring. I like that she’s smart and all, but you know. That’s tough—I like them all in their different ways, like all the colors of the rainbow. So I feel like my favorite is Sailor Moon herself. Which is funny because she’s so obnoxious and everything, but I guess I can really identify with that because I’m really obnoxious and I’m always having to control that. And I also really love how every season, they’ve got all these crazy villains of the week and then they fight ’em, and it’s, you know, a vaccuum lady, it’s always so random. But you can’t skip it! I’ve tried to skip [episodes] before, but you have to toil with Sailor Moon through all of this to get to the end, because the endings of all the seasons are heartbreakingly beautiful and make you cry. And they’re always about the power of friendship, which is just so amazing. I love that so much. And they’re usually about Sailor Moon’s own loyalties to her friends. It’s hard for me to like anybody more than Sailor Moon, herself, because that’s so exciting.

But it’s funny: I’m actually pretty sure I’m going to be a weird version of Sailor Moon at Comic Con. I don’t cosplay, but I’m going to this time. I’m afraid to commit but I know I’m going to do it: I’m knitting a Sailor Moon sweater vest right now. I don’t normally cosplay or dress up for Halloween because I really like making clothes, and I don’t like the idea of not wearing those clothes day to day. But I would totally wear a Sailor Moon sweater vest over something, that’s fine. So yeah, I guess I’m going to be something of a hipstery Sailor Moon somehow. I’m even growing out my hair so I can put it in messy buns. I don’t know which days I’ll wear it, though. Probably more than one. But I’m really excited about it, I love knitting interesting things. Hopefully it’ll look good!

TMS: Is there anything you wanted to let our readers know about that you’re working on, or about NYCC or Super Week? 

Reeder: Yeah, as far as Super Week goes, for the Brooklyn Brewery thing I’m gonna be doing some extra pint nights. They had a Defender release party, but there’s still these pint nights you can look up online at various bars. You go there, you get the beer, and I think you get a free pint glass with my design on it for showing up. I won’t be at all of those, but the Brooklyn Barcade is having one closer to the show. And I believe you guys are the ones working with NYCC with their anti-harassment policy? I also worked with them to make this image for it [below]. So that was cool, and I tried something new so it doesn’t even look like my style. It was a very enjoyable thing to work on.


See if you can spy The Defender in there, too.

You can find Amy Reeder on Tumblr and Twitter; she’s also scheduled to speak at the Story Collider Does Science Fiction event at the 92Y during New York Super Week and will be a panelist at both the Image Comics I is for Infinite panel at NYCC on Friday October 10th and the Collaborating in Comics panel on Saturday October 11th. 

Rocket Girl is also available at Midtown Comics, Comixology, and at your local comic book store. You can find out more about the Brooklyn Defender and any upcoming pint nights on the Brooklyn Brewery website. Thanks to Amy for taking the time to speak with us!

Previously in NYCC

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