Jeanine Schaefer on "Girl Comics"

While women creators have been part of the comics industry pretty much since its inception, if you ask a random sampling of comic fans to name their favorite creators there's a good chance that most, if not all, the names given would be male. Part of the problem is exposure, or the lack thereof, leaving many readers of mainstream comics unfamiliar with the works being produced by female creators.

Marvel Comics is hoping to help change that. Declaring 2010 to be a year-long "Women of Marvel Celebration" at the House of Ideas, Marvel will be publishing "Girl Comics," a three issue anthology series wherein a host of female creators, both established and rising stars, tell stories featuring a number of Marvel's most popular characters. CBR News spoke with editor Jeanine Schaefer about the series, the first issue of which hits stores on March 3.

CBR News: Jeanine, how did this project come about and how did you get involved?

Jeanine Schaefer: Because 2010 is the 30th Anniversary of the first appearance of She-Hulk, we got together to brainstorm some ideas for a celebration of women at Marvel Comics, much like we did for the 70th Anniversary celebration. We knew we wanted a large part of this to be focused on female creators as well as characters, and I was most excited to create a project that could spotlight some of those women as well as give us all the rare opportunity to work with each other.

Once you came up with the idea for the project, you had to give it a name. Why was the title "Girl Comics" chosen?

When the other editors on the project and I decided we wanted to go with "Girl Comics," we were ready for the extreme polarizing effect it would have, especially on the internet. It was one of the first titles we thought of (the actual first one, I think), because it pulled double-duty: not only was it the name of an old Marvel romance title, it has a word in it that we could take back. I use the word "girl" all the time, and no, not all women are going to be comfortable with that, but it's not coming from a place of trying to marginalize anyone, or to put anyone in her place (I think we've all had enough of that). Why can't we call ourselves girls? Why can't we have fun with something that we all love to do? Just today we were joking that we should have called it "People With Careers Who Are Also Women Tell Stories." That way, we could have made it the least fun possible, but hopefully not have offended anyone.

In all seriousness, I know how that word can be used against women, but hopefully the talent attached to the project will be the proof that this is not the weapon it looks like.

Is "Girl Comics" a series designed to showcase just the work of female creators, or is it also meant to showcase Marvel's female characters as well?

The creators. We have other projects on the horizon that will celebrate our characters, although I can't give anything away now! "Girl Comics" will not only feature stories by women working in comics today, it'll also pay homage to the women who helped to lay the foundation for the industry as we know it. We wanted to educate people about the fact that there have always been women working in comics, and they've helped to shape the industry as we know it.

How did you go about recruiting creators for "Girl Comics?" Judging by the solicits for issue #1, it seems like you enlisted industry vets as well as new and upcoming creators whose works Marvel readers may not have been exposed to.

We wanted it to be a mix of women who worked in mainstream comics, indie comics and webcomics, and every day more people at Marvel would send me names of people they wanted to see contribute. So the list grew and grew and grew and I just kept reaching out. We didn't even really crack the surface of all the women who are currently making their livings making comics, but really, how could we in a three-issue series? The creators involved are some of the most talented working today, across a number of genres.

Speaking of genres, what types of stories can readers expect from "Girl Comics?" Are these stories as diverse as the creators you enlisted to work on the series, or are you only interested in telling certain type of stories in the anthology?

The stories are definitely diverse, and I gave no edict as to what kinds of stories anyone could tell, or what characters they had to work with. Most anthologies have a theme, and so you know what kinds of stories to expect from them when you open them up. "Strange Tales," for example, gave prominent indie creators a chance to play with our characters, and although they all have diverse tastes, there's a definite vibe to the comic that you innately understand when you see the cover.

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"Girl Comics," on the other hand, is something totally different. We've got Valerie D'orazio and Nikki Cook working on a Punisher story, while Trina Robbins and Stephanie Buscema are doing one about Venus, set in the Golden Age, while G. Willow Wilson and Ming Doyle are taking Nightcrawler back to Germany for an adventure. There's no common thread here other than being women in comics, and that's not a thread with which you can weave any kind of expected tapestry. That's one of the thrills of it.

At this point, "Girl Comics" is a limited series. If it does well, is there a possibility we might see more issues on a regular or semi-regular basis?

This is a celebration of these women, shining a light on creators who are already doing amazing work in comics, so it's sort of fulfilled its purpose simply by giving them a chance to work together and keeping the conversation about women in comics going. This is not Marvel saying this is the only place we'll allow them to be published; so while we could fill plenty more anthologies like this, since many of [the creators] are already working here on a regular basis you could check them out every month in the shops if you want more. Especially since this is just the kick-off for the Women at Marvel event. We've got much more in store.

The last, and maybe most important, thing I'd like to talk about is that this anthology is going to be awesome. We're celebrating women in comics, we're giving ourselves an opportunity to work with each other in a way that we won't be able to do anywhere else in the mainstream industry, and we're doing it by putting out something kick-ass that we're passionate about. What else could you ask for?

"Girl Comics" #1 hits stores on Wednesday, March 3.

Tags: marvel comics, jeanine schaefer, girl comics

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