Renae De Liz Expands "Womanthology" Into "Space!"

Shortly after the hotly anticipated and beautifully produced "Womanthology: Heroic" hardcover started arriving at the doorsteps of fans who'd backed the Kickstarter campaign, IDW Publishing announced that the all-female-produced project would return as an ongoing series, beginning in September. Spearheaded by "The Last Unicorn" artist Renae De Liz with "True Blood" editor Mariah Huehner, the "Womanthology" project captured the attention of the comics industry and a readership eager for more female creators, and the Kickstarter was met with such enthusiasm that it more than quadrupled its $25,000 goal, ultimately raising nearly $110,000 from 2000 supporters. The creative lineup included more than 140 women, including Barbara Kesel, Gail Simone, Ann Nocenti, Fiona Staples, and Devin Grayson. The first five-issue arc of the "Womanthology" ongoing bears the subtitle "Space!" as each story relates broadly to this theme.

CBR News spoke with De Liz about the hardcover's release, the continuing goals of the project, and the first-issue creative lineup for "Womanthology: Space!"

CBR News: First, Renae, congrats on the success of the hardcover! Now that the book's finally in people's hands, how do you feel about the whole experience?

Renae De Liz: It's been overwhelming in many ways. Hugely positive in that I always wanted this book to be fun, positive, supportive and inspiring for people, and happily that is what most have taken away from it. The best part for me is seeing the effect on young aspiring creative girls at conventions (and seeing their photos and comments online about this book).  From what parents are telling me, their daughters love seeing other women in comics they can relate to, and really enjoyed seeing other kids and teens like them who are just starting out. Part of the reason I really wanted to include all experience levels was to show people that everyone starts somewhere, and all it takes is hard work, time, and confidence in yourself to move forward.

It's also been overwhelming in that, well, it's a lot of work! I am a mother of two, a full-time comics artist and now project manager of a great project that unintentionally turned into a big deal. For about 10 months "Womanthology" has been a daily task that takes most my time, and it has no signs of slowing down yet as the final batch of Kickstarter Rewards are finalized and "Womanthology: Space!" picks up, but it's a wonderful end result and worth it. The project means more than just a book to many people, and the contributors are proud of their work and many have newfound confidence, I really couldn't have dreamed to hope for more!

As you've said, the Kickstarter for "Womanthology" was extraordinarily successful -- did the additional funding there help get the new series off the ground?

This new series, "Space!", is all IDW, and I'm so grateful for them. Not only have they helped me in many ways with "Heroic," but then they came to me wanting to further extend the positive message of "Womanthology" and what it had to offer to the female comics community. They are providing a page rate, while still being creator-owned, and [a] portion of sales going for charity. I will be involved in many ways still, but IDW & "Womanthology" writer/editor Mariah Huehner is the editor, and Asst. Project Manager and "Womanthology" writer Laura Morley will be an assistant editor.

The first arc for the series is subtitled "Space!" -- what led you to choose this for a theme?

Mariah Huehner came up with that idea! Incidentally, "Heroic" was her idea as well. It was going to be "Hero" but she felt "Heroic" would be even better suited, in which she was very correct! She is the Queen of Themes!

I feel "Space!" is a bold, open theme, much the same as "Heroic" but still different. "Space" could mean so many things even beyond the universe, and I can't wait to see what the ladies come up with for it! I myself am hoping for a good amount of horror stories ("Aliens" is my favorite movie). And I'd like to see a space superhero of some kind, but no matter what these women come up with, it will be awesome!

Will the theme/subtitle change as the series goes on?

This will be a 5-issue series under the "Space!" theme, then collected into a graphic novel. The overall theme for all 5 issues will be space, however each issue will also have a sub-theme, to break up each issue into its own chapter. The first issue will be "Moon." The second will be "Alien," followed by "Star," "Ship," and "Comet." Each of the sub-themes can be interpreted in as small or big a way as the creators want. For example, if they have "Alien" as their sub theme, it could just be an alien doll a character carried around (so a small side prop) or the characters could be alien if they choose (a much bigger part of the story).

If everything is successful with this series, I'll just hope it continues onto the next, in which case we have more ideas for that one too. There are hundreds of women still really wanting to be a part of "Womanthology," and further series would ensure more and more get their chances.
Aside from the themes and sub-themes, do you expect there will be recurring features in "Womanthology," or will each issue feature entirely different material?

Each issue will be "Space"-themed but I feel each one will be different just as each creator can vary wildly from one to the next. The creator bio bars (which I hear people really enjoyed) and comic along the bottom of pages will continue into the series, as will pro-tips. How-to's, interviews, and other features will continue, though on a smaller scale, of course.

I know the debut issue is still a ways off, but is there anything you can tell us about the creators and shorts that will be included in early issues?

Here is the roster to date for the first issue for you to see!

As you can see, there are many returning from "Heroic" for this issue, but every issue will be a mix of current "Womanthology"-ers and new [creators] that have signed up. When someone is chosen to write or draw one of the stories,  I send them straight to the sign up lists on Digital Webbing to pick someone they feel they'd like to work with. This ensures every professional on project works with partners that are still looking for that big chance in comics.

You have said you're hoping to get some young and unknown female creators into the series, as well as established talents. Are you looking to recruit during the current convention season?

I'm always on the lookout for interested women in comics. I especially try to find those women that have been in the industry for awhile, but maybe not had the appreciation or acknowledgement I feel they should have had. Or young aspiring creators that are too shy to even ask how to be involved. I see so much more opportunity to offer support and encouragement there. But everyone is welcome to sign up to participate, it doesn't matter if you have just picked up the pencil or have been at it for decades and have worked with every publisher. "Womanthology" isn't about producing and packaging something to create mega profits, it is about the female comics community and the individuals that make it up, and the awesomeness we can create.

A hardcover book is a single event, and can be easy to get people excited about and to rally behind, but an ongoing series is a bit different. How do you plan to keep the enthusiasm going month after month?

I never like to plan on ways to create enthusiasm, or find ways to convince people to like something. I like to create things that are important to people and put my effort and passion there. It's then I feel enthusiasm and success will naturally follow. With "Womanthology," I never focused on producing a book that would "sell" or be successful (in fact, all proceeds for "Heroic" are going to charities through GlobalGiving.org). I made it to mean something to the women involved. Since then it has become a project that belongs to everyone in many ways, and I feel if they would like to see it continue, then we will all work together to ensure that it does.

The same I feel can be said about mainstream comics, which I have a deep care and respect for. The female audience is something everyone has been trying too hard to connect to. I feel like there's too much trying to create and package something that is supposed to appeal to women. Instead the publisher could be putting the effort into opening their minds up beyond what has always sold, and truly listen to what women want to read. It's false that women don't like superheroes; many love them.  A lot of female readers are raring at the gates to not only love superhero comics, but buy them as well, which would only further strengthen this industry we all love. I have a deep wish to be able to make a difference there sometime soon if I can. I have a lot of input and ideas I feel that can help.

I want to thank everyone involved with "Womanthology," everyone who has supported it, and the amazing women who are already signing up to be a part of further series and have shared their awesome talents with me. We started this whole thing because we love comics, we love creating stories and art, and you have all helped in so many ways to create this amazing outlet to do so. So thank you!

"Womanthology: Space!" goes on sale in September.

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