Blast from the Past - Kelly Sue DeConnick Interview from 7/4/14

:::About a year and a half ago I was EXTREMELY fortunate enough to speak with Kelly Sue DeConnick....as my second professional comic-book-journalist interview. She was a sweetheart and answered all my inane questions with candor and care, and it was a real testament to how great she is with her fans; she didn't HAVE to do this interview, but she delayed a dinner with the Bendises (I kid you not - I felt/feel like such a dinkus) to patiently talk creating comics with yours truly. The original interview can be found HERE. Enjoy!:::

 

After the Civil War event several of years ago, Carol Danvers has been inching towards the spotlight in the Marvel universe. Then, under your watch, she’s gone to the front of the class. Did you feel intimidated at all by continuing the string of solid work used to get Danvers to the forefront?

I wasn’t – it didn’t occur to me, really. I didn’t think it’d make it past the sixth issue, frankly. In the beginning it was Dexter Soy, me, and Emma Rios, and Dex was supremely talented by new, and I was a mid-level writer. Carol still wasn’t at that “A” list level yet, and there actually wasn’t much pressure just because she was coming off of Civil War where she was arresting her friends, and that does not a heroine make. A lot of people were actually turned off by her during that time, so expectations weren’t really high. Looking back on it I don’t love the opening arc: I love Helen’s letter, I love Helen, but my pacing was a little off.

 

How much research did you have to do for the character? How far back did you read? 

I went back to her first issue. I haven’t read her every appearance, but I’ve read most of her individual issues… Almost everything where it was a solo issue for her. The Essential Ms. Marvel, and a bunch of New Avengers with Bendis writing. A fair bit, really. However, there are fans that  retain a bit more than I do in terms of her past history, people who had gotten to know Carol over the years better than I did.


With all the references to planes and aerial combat, did you have to study up to get models, moves, and jargon correct?

Not too much – though there have been some pilots who wrote in to tell me where I was wrong. Thankfully, I have a friend who’s an air traffic controller, and my dad is a civilian pilot and an air force master sergeant. I grew up on military and air force bases, so I’m a flight-history nerd. It was VERY fun.


I’ve read in one of your AMAs that you wanted Grace Valentine to be a prominent villain for Captain Marvel. How important was it for you to gradually build her up as a threat, and did you ever feel pressure to speed up the process?

I mean, she’s pretty bad right away – she brains a dude! The critique I read of that character was that she was too melodramatic, and I don’t disagree. She’s a very smart lady, incredibly ambitious, and I wanted her to be villainous, but to a point where you think if one thing went differently in her life she could have been a much different person. I call her Evil Oprah, and I wanted her to be a Lex Luthor or a Norman Osborn, and I wanted her to be a threat where you can see where she’s coming from.

Carol doesn’t have an arch-enemy, and her main villains have been Rogue and Mystique, and both have moved on in the X-Men world. I wanted to develop this character for her to have it out for her personally. It’ll take a while, that’s for sure. All the best characters you can empathize with their perspective, even if they’re a villain and you can see where they went wrong.

That’s the thing with Osborn – he thinks he’s doing the right thing, when he’s well-written. He thinks if people leaves him alone he can go about doing his thing.

Wow, is that some left over empathy from writing the Osborn mini? 

(laughs) Mmmmaybe. I just really get where he’s coming from, like, “look, if you’d just get out of my way I can do this and make things better!”

 

For Pretty Deadly, you and Emma Rios remind me of a great compliment I heard about Brian Azzerello and Eduardo Risso’s run on 100 Bullets, “They worked so well together that I swore it was one person doing the writing and the drawing.” You two have a wonderful thing going. Did you have to search Emma out, or when you conceived the plot was she right at the top of your list? 

We built it together. This started from, “Hey Emma, I want to do a creator-owned book with you!”

“Okay!”

“How about a ‘70s heist book?”

“Nah.”

“How about a western?”

“Okay!”

It was actually her idea to do the western theme. I had wanted to do a western years ago, but I knew that “westerns don’t sell” aside from Jonah Hex, and I really thought this was going to fail as well. I thought we’d lose money on the singles and make the money on the trades and break even. But, it did way better than we ever expected. I love that it’s such a complex book and that people have really gotten int it.

 

I have to admit, it was a pretty, I don’t want to say ‘dense’ book, but it definitely made the reader think. I had to circle back a few times to make sure I made the right connections. 

It’s definitely not for everyone – you have to really enjoy how heavy it is and how layered it is. The art and the writing can sometimes be confusing, but it tied together well and I’m so happy people loved it. Now I’m scared of going into the second volume.

 

Johnny Coyote seemed like an intriguing, humorous, and complex character. Will we be seeing him in Volume 2?

All the reapers come back in the second volume, which is a bit of a spoiler. It’s spelled out if you read it carefully – it clearly says the reapers can’t die, they just lose their form. The one spoiler I’ve been giving out is that Cyrus, the boy under the table from the very opening of the story when Sissy sings the song, we’ll see him as a grown man.

 

For your manga translation, how did you first get into something like that? 

I lied initially! I went to a book signing for Neil Gaiman, and I felt like I was just dumb at the front of the line, so I wrote him a note, gave to the owner, and had him give it to Neil. I thought that’d be it, but then when Gaiman finished his book tour he reached out to me. I was living in New York at the time, and I gave him my resume and told him that I had worked in an office setting before and that I’d be a wonderful assistant for him, and he said he already had a great assistant and asked if I was a writer. We struck up a correspondence, and he let me do a little bit of research for “American Gods” (author’s note: DAYUMMMM)  – really minor, just two phone calls. It was cool, and I had to figure Slavic mythology out, and then I told everyone I knew that I had worked with Neil Gaiman. Which isssss kind of an exaggeration.

A while later Jamie Rich was doing manga adaptation, and they were looking for someone to do Demon Diary at Tokyo Pop in a Gaiman style. Jamie said he had a friend that had worked with Neil, and from there I got a tryout, got the book, and soon I was getting work. I told Neil about all this later and he had a chuckle.

He's sooooo dreamy

He's sooooo dreamy

Do you feel that now is a golden age for not just women creators in comics, but the female audience in general?

I don’t know if it is so accessible to women. I think that comics in general, or rather shared universe in general, are not as accessible to everyone. We act like women reading new comic books is a new thing, and it’s not it’s not IT’s NOT. Comics used be enjoyed by both genders in equal numbers, and then shit started happening and superhero comics became more hostile in the market, and then the shops became more hostile towards females, and you don’t want to go where you’re not wanted.

The idea that women reading comics is strange is a fallacy, and it’s destructive. There’s nothing inherently masculine about the idea of heroism. There’s nothing  inherently masculine about pulp fiction, science fiction, nothing. We ventured deeply into the 90′s where comics — superhero comics specifically — were geared specifically towards a male audience. It’s not shocking women didn’t want to read those books, y’know? The new comic films, I think, have been part of the story of women coming back into comic shops. It’s not a revolution, it’s a restoration.

 

Stylistically, and this is something that’s been curious to me for years, what is the draw of using a first-person narrative when writing a script? Do you think it’s more challenging and edgy to try third-person narrative, or is that just an outdated technique?

I’m sure somebody could do it – it’d need to be…man, it’s hard to think of anyone doing that right now.

From what I’ve been reading recently, I think Rick Remender in Uncanny Avengers is using it, and he switches from third- to first-person narrative throughout the story.

The problem with third person is that it distances you from the action. Ideally the role of a third-person narrator is what you should be doing with the visuals: if you can’t convey the action with the pictures and need this voice instead, it will suggest that what we are experiencing is in the past and at a distance. With first-person you get the feeling that someone will survive the story, that there’s someone at the end who lived through it and is recounting it. That’s kind of the way Bunny and Butterfly work: it distances you to the story, but you know who’s speaking.

That’s a really good question, actually.

(Author’s note: /chest puffed out, smirking at my cat.)

Although strictly speaking, you’re not getting first person narrative, you’re getting a caption box balloon. Someone could use narrative voice in comics, but it’d give you a sense that someone else is telling the story. Instead of ‘I’m watching this’ it’s ‘I’m being told this.’ In all honesty, when I do it in Captain Marvel I rely on it too heavily, because I think that I’m very good with personal dialogue, and I can cover a multitude of plot sins with pretty prose. I tend to use it more than I should… I’ve talked about wanting to do that less, but my husband teases me by saying, “I’m good at this so I won’t do it!”

We refer to them as caption boxes, but they’re thought balloons. There’s a very definite throwback when you do that. I used to use them when I wrote Supergirl, but I don’t know if anyone really read that… I like it, it’s fun, but it is a choice. It’s more standard to use the caption boxes – it’s not narration, it’s interior monologue.

 (Author’s note: /slightly slouching, cat smirks back.)

 

As a parent, I wanted to end on this one: What’s one kids’ movie you simply can’t watch one more time or you’ll flip out and burn the house down:

I sorta hate “Winx.” It’s a fairy-thing, and I just don’t like it. We try not to let them watch too much TV — bad parenting and all — but I hate it. When they were littler we’d go through a period where we’d watch “the Jungle Book,” specifically the elephant scene, and we’d watch it over and over again. I love that movie, and I can honestly quote every line from that scene, but I just couldn’t watch it anymore after a hundred times. Thankfully now they watch what we watch, which is “Adventure Time,” “Gravity Falls,” and “Teen Titans Go. It’s just that “Winx” show… I just can’t stand it.

 

::::Thanks again to Kelly Sue for her patience during that interview! If you're more interested in bettering your life, check out her creator-owned books 'Pretty Deadly' and 'Bitch Planet,' both published by Image Comics. You can also check our her Tumblr and follow her on Twitter, and if you meet her at a Con, ask for a Duck Face Selfie. True me, it's worth it.::