NYCC 2015: Marguerite Bennett on DC Bombshells and What’s Great About Being a Woman in Comics
Marguerite Bennett is one of the busiest women in comics, jetting between publishers like DC, Marvel, BOOM! Studios, Dynamite, and AfterShock Comics. At New York Comic Con this year, she was all over the place—at her own table in Artists’ Alley, on a Women of Marvel panel, and preaching the gospel of DC Bombshells.
I had the chance to catch up with the busy bee at the NYCC 2015 DC Entertainment booth where, in an exclusive interview for The Mary Sue, she talked about writing alternate histories, what’s great about being a woman in comics right now, and which underserved female character she’d love to see more of—whether or not she gets to write her herself.
Teresa Jusino (TMS): How did you get involved with DC Bombshells, and what drew you to the project?
Marguerite Bennett: It really started with the variants and the cosplay! I loved [all that] so, so, so, so much. And I’d been sort of vocal about it on Twitter. Then after last August, when we had the month of DC Bombshells variant covers, there was such an enormous fan response that it really got DC’s attention, and they were interested in maybe seeing where this could go, and seeing if there was character potential while staying true to the design. And so [I was approached by DC], and I made no disguise of how much I was a fan of these, and that I was highly interested in working on this project. I put together this enormous outline—I really think that I might have kind of steamrolled [them] where [they] were expecting six pages…and I turned in, you know, an outline for eighteen issues? [laughs] And we’ve just been rolling since!
We started out with Marguerite Sauvage on the first three chapters, and from there it’s been a rotating cast of artists, who’ve largely stayed with their own character. Like, Laura Braga staying on Wonder Woman and Marguerite Sauvage staying on Batwoman, and we’ve gotten to jump around to all different characters and countries. We’re just having a lot of fun, honestly.
TMS: Beyond the look and the cosplay, what is it about setting these characters in this specific time period that makes for a great story?
Bennett: Well, it’s an alternate history, so I was never looking to do straight realism. It’s an alternate history of World War II. But I think there’s just so much potential for each of the characters—there’s the retro charm and the aesthetics—but there’s also the idea that suddenly ‘women became capable since Women’s Lib?’ Like ‘suddenly people of color were invented in the 1960s!’ That drives me crazy! So I think having a lens that’s focused on a period that has been associated with, ‘Oh, it was a white war. It was a man’s war’ is a chance to flip that the bird, essentially. And to really have fun while doing it.
So, to reference not only the historical ways in which folks contributed who don’t fit the definition of the white, male cis-het hero, but to also have some fun with it as far as putting these constraints on them. It drives me crazy when I’d watch period pieces, and half the characters that I love—can I cuss on this?
[Ed note: I assured her she could cuss all over this mamma-jamma.]
Bennett: ….get shit on to prove that they were allowed to be heroes. Whereas no, I don’t want to watch Batwoman and Maggie in fear all the time. I just want them to have a healthy, loving relationship. So I did away with that. I don’t want it. I wanted it to have the feel of the era, but I didn’t want them to have to prove that they were human beings before we begin. We have enough just dealing with ‘Oh, we have Nazis.’ [laughs] So, any place that I didn’t have to deal with that straight out, I just didn’t.
TMS: There’s a lot of alternate history stuff going on right now. Obviously we’ve got DC Bombshells, and we’ve got A-Force, which is rad. We love seeing female heroes come to the fore in this way. Is there an underserved female hero that you would love to get your hands on?
Bennett: [without hesitation] Oh, my God, America Chavez! Oh my God! Sorry. I know. But in a lot of ways I don’t feel like I need to be the person to write that book. I think she needs a young female of color. But yeah, she’s one who’s really underserved, but I don’t necessarily need to get my grubby little fingers on her.
[Ed note: In the opinion of this Latina comics reader, while I totally think that a female writer of color should be top priority, I also think that if it were Marguerite Bennett doing the writing, that’d be cool by me. Thoughts?]
TMS: It’s easy to get down on sexism and racism in the comics industry and in comics fandom, but what are some positive things you’re seeing in the industry, with regard to comics pros or among female fans, where you see that things are changing?
Bennett: They’re more confident, honestly. There was always this level of apology when we went into a comic book store, like ‘Oh, I’m sorry. I’m just getting my stuff, and I’ll be going!’ And it’s like, you’re [now] allowed to take up space, and you’re allowed to have opinions. And we understand that the horrible experiences some women have function as a way to threaten all women. You don’t all have a horror story, but you know your best friend did, and that makes you go like, ‘Well, that could’ve happened to me.’ So, I’m really liking this level of confidence. You can be bold. You can show up. You can wear what you want.
And just the way the community is functioning. Like the Cosplay is Not Consent banners that I’m seeing everywhere, and it’s like ‘Good! You’re finally getting it!’ So it’s really wonderful, we’re really starting to make it a welcoming thing. And seeing, like, girls in high school coming here—and I’ve seen a large number—bringing their own comics out, or getting into web comics, who are being fearless essentially. Growing up, it got better, but I definitely didn’t believe that I could do this. So many people were negative about it. Like, not only ‘you’re not equipped to do this,’ but ‘why would you want to get into this anyway? They’re just gonna hate on you.’ So, it’s really great to see all this strength and courage. You can feel it, and I’m really enjoying it!
DC Bombshells is out right now, and Issue #3 just came out this week. Check it out!
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