Yesterday, we talked about the amazing series of comics by Shea Fontana and DC comics called DC SuperHero Girls, which just released its latest title, Search of Atlantis, earlier this week. We had the immense pleasure of speaking with writer Shea Fontana about the series and the impact it has created for young girls in comics.
The Mary Sue: While there have been more female comic book writers in the industry, we are still dealing with a lack of representation behind the panels. What is it like to not only be able to create something as beloved and successful as DC Super Hero Girls?
Shea Fontana: It such an honor to be a part of this incredible brand that strives to empower girls and women both as readers and creators. We are seeing a huge change in society at large, which is reflected in the comic industry in regards to female representation and how women are viewed. I am grateful to be part of something that is part of this paradigm shift.
TMS: That ties into the great aspect of Out of the Bottle which has all the characters making their own comics and learning how to come up with their own stories. We see each person struggle (or excel) in the creative process and I realized how these stories are really teaching young readers to learn to be creative in their own way without needing anyone else style. How do you realize what you want to frame each larger story around?
Fontana: Part of that was inspired by a time when I was at a signing and a girl had made a drawing for me, but then didn’t want to give it to me because it “wasn’t good enough.” For some of us, it takes a superhero amount of courage to share our art and our creativity with the world. Courage isn’t only facing a bad guy, but it can be the courage to express ourselves. For me and most people, artistic self-expression is integral to mental health but it’s not always easy! So, the basic themes of the story came from that experience and it was always a really fun way to let our artists have total freedom to incorporate their own styles, which is one of my favorite things about this book.
TMS: I loved the ending of Out of the Bottle, because of all it had to say about therapy and the importance of it. It was revealed that both Harley Quinn and Wonder Woman goes to therapy, and I thought about how important that would be for young girls to know that even Wonder Woman needs help sometimes and that’s okay. Why did you want to tell this story in comics using Harley and Enchantress/June Moone?
Fontana: In the main canon, we know that Harley is a psychologist and I thought that would be fun to add that interest to her character here. The June Moone/Enchantress angle was because June Moone has to have complete control of herself and deny her emotions to prevent becoming the Enchantress.
A message that a lot of girls get is that they shouldn’t be emotional—never be angry, never raise your voice, and never cry! Girls are shown that they should be compliant, always in control of themselves, and to be a “cool girl” everything should just roll off your back. But that’s not healthy! We can’t survive like that. The trick is letting those emotions out in a positive way instead of a destructive way. So, that’s what June Moone learns through the process. She doesn’t have to “bottle up” her emotions. When she bottles them up, they just explode out into the destructive Enchantress. But if she can healthily express her feelings as they come, she is empowered.
TMS: Search for Atlantis was such a fun story to read because it deals with female jealous within friendship groups which is something so timeless. It was also amazing to see Bumblebee in a lead role around that story. How did you decide you wanted to work on this with Bumblebee, Wonder Woman and Mera rather than say Supergirl and Batgirl?
Fontana: It’s funny—I never thought of Bumblebee as jealous, just hurt and confused by this change that is happening around her. I guess I see all of my characters in a compassionate light! From the very first short, Bumblebee took Wonder Woman under her wing, and they developed this wonderful friendship that really comes out in the Summer Olympus story. Having grown up in Themyscira, Wonder Woman is used to having lots of women around her, and being extroverted, she is good at having lots of friendships.
When Mera comes to school, Wonder Woman really hits it off with her—they’re both from strange worlds, very enthusiastic, but take themselves seriously. Bumblebee wouldn’t be the first to criticize or immediately tell Wonder Woman that she’s feeling left out. Bumblebee just keeps that to herself, trying to deal on her own. Of course, Wonder Woman really loves Bumblebee and would never want her to feel left out—she’s just a bit oblivious to Bumblebee’s feelings. Both of them contribute to the rift in their friendship because of lack of communication.
TMS: Leadership also comes up in this story, with Beast Boy doubting if Miss Martian can lead because she was too “quiet,” and it was great to see her in the “Teen Titan” leadership role instead of Robin and also learning what different kinds of power look like. Why was it so important not just showing women in power, but different types of women?
Fontana: As a card-carrying quiet kid, I know that everyone underestimates the quiet kid! But often, those are the people who are observing and know best what’s happening in the situation. I want all types of kids to see themselves portrayed and empowered. There’s not one ideal type of superhero or one ideal type of leader. We all have the power and potential to excel in leadership positions.
TMS: Mera also joins our High School squad this issue just in time for Aquaman. What are some characters we can look forward to seeing join our roster in the future? Are there some dream characters you’d love to work on?
Fontana: Spaced Out, the graphic novel that’s out next year, stars Jessica Cruz, who is just an awesome character! She has an anxiety disorder, but shows that doesn’t stop her from being heroic. She is braver because she’s dealing not only with Super-Villains, but that scary voice inside her head that tells her she can’t. I have been so lucky that all of my favorite characters have gotten the spotlight in this series.
TMS: Body diversity in comics is still something we are working towards, with characters like Faith, who is known for being one of comics’ first “plus-sized” female heroines. There are still a lot of stigmas around weight, women, and value, especially for younger girls. Is that something you plan on exploring in the series at some time?
Fontana: Body diversity and body acceptance is absolutely a huge theme that I’d love to explore in the future. It is so important for kids (both boys and girls) to be seeing a wide range of body types in the media they consume.
Search for Atlantis is out now!
(image: Warner Bros. Animation/DC Comics)
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