The witty and engaging Kelly Sue DeConnick began her Emerald City Comic Con by stealing a quarter left behind by Ben Templesmith, who had vacated the same seat moments before. Immediately endearing herself to the audience, DeConnick spent the next hour talking about her current work on “Captain Marvel,” “Ghost” and her upcoming creator-owned project with artist Emma Rios.
DeConnick got her start in comics writing for review site Artbomb.net, which was founded by Peter Rose, Warren Ellis and DeConnick herself. The site shied away from superhero books, focusing on broad-genre recommendations, organizing itself like a bookstore so readers could find suggestions based on theme. The site only published positive reviews, so DeConnick wasn’t worried about critical backlash once she made the jump to working in comics.
“From a creator’s side, I really don’t take [criticism] too personally. Occasionally when somebody writes something that’s personal, it bugs me, but mostly I feel sorry for them because they’re jealous,” she joked.
DeConnick transitioned from writing reviews to translating manga by way of a chance project with Neil Gaiman. After attending a signing for “Neverwhere,” DeConnick reached out to the author offering research assistance. DeConnick did a bit of research for “American Gods” and was then approached by Tokyo Pop to do a Gaiman-esque translation for “Demon Diary.” Seven years later, she had over 11,000 pages of translation under her belt.
DeConnick’s first original comic writing was “30 Days of Night: Eben and Stella” in 2007, co-written with series creator Steve Niles. “Why Steve decided I’d be a good choice for this, I have no idea. We knew each other from the Internet!” she said. Niles gave DeConnick freedom over the material, and although she isn’t completely pleased with the comics writing aspect, she remains proud of the prose, themes and character development.
After working on a few small anthologies, DeConnick had her first child with fellow writer and husband, Matt Fraction. “I have this tendency to freak out about things, and babies are a thing that’s easy to freak out about,” she explained. DeConnick went from doing five manga adaptations per month to just one, instead spending time focusing on exploring her new identity as a mother. A few years later, DeConnick was ready to take on new projects in the form of Marvel Comic’s “Rescue” and “Sif.”
DeConnick was passionate about staying away from gender stereotypes as she moved into her next large project: launching a new “Captain Marvel” series. Recalling a conversation with Marvel senior editor Stephen Wacker, DeConnick said, “We were talking about Carol Danvers in the beginning and what we wanted from it, and we agreed that if she never sat on the couch eating ice cream in the entire run, however much we got, we would have won!”
The transition from “Ms. Marvel” to “Captain Marvel” began with a revamp of Carol Danvers’ costume. DeConnick fought for artist Jamie McKelvie to take the helm on the redesign, going so far as to offer to pay for his work out of her own pocket. “They were not going to go with outside budget for the redesign,” she explained. McKelvie’s design — a practical, military-inspired pantsuit — impressed the editors at Marvel, generated excitement for the new book and won DeConnick a bet that she, literally, couldn’t afford to lose.
“The old costume is classic and iconic — it’s just outdated,” DeConnick explained. She argues that seeing superhero costumes on real women, specifically at conventions and in films, made her realize the impracticality and indignity in the swimwear aesthetic. “I knew that I was going to be writing a funeral scene. Who’s going to a military funeral in a swimsuit and thigh boots?!”
DeConnick brought this same spirit of sartorial innovation to her work on “Ghost,” a reboot of Dark Horse’s mid-’90s character. “I looked at the old Adam Hughes corset and thing — yeah, it’s super cool, and super crazy dated. Did she die at a rave? She was a journalist! It worked at the time, it was dated, no shame in that.”
On the heels of her well-received miniseries, “Ghost” has since been picked up as an ongoing series. The series follows two paranormal investigators who manage to pull Ghost, a screaming wraith in white, into the living world, a concept inspired by brave female journalists who have put their lives on the line in their commitment to truth seeking.
Continuing her legacy of penning badass female heroes, DeConnick announced her plans to write Wasp with Marvel in the future, which had been a character she has wanted to work on for a while.
DeConnick finished her time discussing her upcoming Image Comics creator-owned project, “Pretty Deadly.” The western-style book features a female protagonist — the Devil’s daughter — as well as a man who may or may not be blind, a girl who wears a vulture coat, and a dead bunny narrator. Reuniting with artist Emma Rios, DeConnick says they are ready to do more than the five issues slated.
“‘Pretty Deadly’ is the hardest thing I’ve ever written in my life. Every time I think I know what its about or where it’s going, it changes on me. It’s a weird book.”
Fans can tentatively expect the book to hit shelves this spring, along with her “Captain Marvel”/”Avengers Assemble” crossover kicking off in June.