She Has No Head! - An Interview With Jeanine Schaefer And Lauren Sankovitch About All Things Girl Comics

When Girl Comics was announced on December 15th of last year I was skeptical...it's well documented, here and elsewhere.  In fact, my column the Monday following the announcement was an interview with IDW Editor Mariah Huehner about Girl Comics.  I knew Huehner felt more optimistic about the project than I did and I wanted her to talk me off the ledge.

For the most part she did.

I emerged much more confident and optimistic, though still a bit wary (and nothing's going to convince me to love the title).  It wasn't until I had the chance to read Girl Comics #1 for myself that I got fully on board.  I didn't love every story - I never do in an anthology, no matter how many geniuses are contributing -  but I found a lot to love in the book, and I came to embrace the opportunity to introduce (or in many cases re-introduce) myself to some great creators, and read some delightful stories.

So it's with great pleasure that I share with you an interview with Marvel and Girl Comics Editor Jeanine Schaefer and Marvel and Girl Comics Associate Editor Lauren Sankovitch all about the Girl Comics experience.

Kelly: So issue #3, the final issue of Girl Comics released this past week - how do you ladies feel about the project now that it's over?

Jeanine Schaefer:  I am so proud of it.  Everyone at Marvel was so supportive, and it was that support that really made me feel like we were hitting the right groove on this project – because it really is all about pulling back the curtain on the people who are already here.

Lauren Sankovitch:  Very proud and honored to have gotten the chance to work with some of the most wonderful talent in the industry, and you can quote me on that (in fact, you probably will!)!  This was one of those projects where we really got to open up our brains and not only have the entire Marvel U at our disposal but collaborate with a broad range of creators from a myriad of different backgrounds, lovely ladies all.  I feel that we really got to showcase an enormous range.

Kelly:  Which was your favorite piece and why?  I know it's like picking a favorite child - but we ask the tough questions here on She Has No Head! - so give it up!

Lauren Sankovitch:  Of course there are bits I love about all of the pieces, from Colleen Coover’s clever intro pages to Kathryn Immonen’s hilarious Shamrock interlude and Emma Vieceli’s eye-popping Thing centerfold, there truly was something unique on every page.  I have to say one of the most interesting challenges I had was putting together the clockwork Fantastic Four storybook tale with Robin Furth & Agnes Garbowska.  We wanted to push the boundaries of a traditional panel-by-panel comic story structure and blend it with the classic children’s tales of our youth.  Did we succeed?  You tell us.  We sure had a blast doing it though.

Jeanine Schaefer:  Ha! I can, without lying, say that I like every single piece in these issues.  Even when I try to single out one that resonates more with me, another will remind me of something that strikes a different yet equally as powerful chord.  And that's what's truly amazing about this collection, that it's a broad range of types of stories, characters, and tones.

Kelly: What would you say is the biggest success of the project?

Lauren Sankovitch:  Exposing not just our audience but ourselves to a whole slew of talent

Jeanine Schaefer:  Love it, hate it, think it was useless, it made people talk about women in comics, and engaged the community in a really important conversation.  Sometimes I think that we get so used to that debate existing that we forget to talk about it, or we hope that it's all just been solved.  So anything that gets us all recognizing the amazing women in the industry is a win in my book.

Kelly:  What would you consider the biggest failure, and if given the opportunity what would you do differently if you could do it all again?

Lauren Sankovitch:  The biggest failure in my mind is that we haven’t done more!! Yet!!  If we could do anything differently…maybe ask for a higher page count?!

Jeanine Schaefer:  There's nothing about this that I would consider a failure. Except maybe, as Lauren points out, that I didn't ask for more pages - there were so many more women I would have loved to include!  I think I would have made sure to include more of a peek into the women currently working at Marvel - especially those who worked on this book - and also made clear in the book itself what our message was.  There seems to have been a perception, at least on the Internet, that this was a book conceived and executed by the men at Marvel.  And while the entire company was amazingly supportive and involved, there are many talented women on our staff and it was a group effort to get this book made.

Kelly:  Can we expect to see more Girl Comics (Girl Comics Volume 2?) or other similar projects in the future?

Lauren Sankovitch:  If we’ve got anything to say about it, I sure hope so.

Jeanine Schaefer:  I would love to do something like this again!  We had so much fun getting to all work together.

Kelly:  So far for me, Marvel's "Year of Women" has presented some let downs but also some real surprises (as you know Heralds was an exceptional treat for me, and Black Widow is turning into a great series).  What do you see on the horizon for women creators at Marvel...and in a broader sense, mainstream comics in general?

Jeanine Schaefer:  Thanks for the kind words on Heralds!  That book was an absolute joy to work on - I absolutely loved working with Kathryn, Tonci, James, Nathan and the whole team.  And Marjorie and Daniel are kicking ass on Black Widow!  I think the more women are working in the industry and the more exposure they get, the more women will find comics, and the more we'll get a fresh influx of women to contribute.  There are women working in literally all disciplines and genres of the industry, and that will only grow.

Lauren Sankovitch:  Honestly, I see opportunities for talented female creators, at Marvel or otherwise, continuing to grow and expand.  We are always going to need new talent and want to continue to develop those we are already working with as well.  While there may be a feeling by some that comics is an overly male-dominated industry, the truth is, when you really look around, there are a lot of ladies out there, too, and the number is only going to continue to grow.

Kelly:  My biggest concern through all of this 'Year Of Marvel Women' was that we'd get some great little stories (including one-shots, minis, and anthologies) and good exposure for both female characters and creators but at the end of the experiment all those creators (and characters) would pack up and go home and things would kind o go back to business as usual.  Is that a concern of yours?  If so, how do we avoid it?

Jeanine Schaefer:  It's not something I'd call a concern, because there are currently so many women working regularly at Marvel, turning out amazing comics every month - most of the women on Girl Comics have worked or are currently working at Marvel, and everyone involved is a prominent name in the industry - and we hope to keep it that way.  Not only that, we're really dedicated to making sure the discussion doesn't get pushed to the back burner.  It's probably easier to be positive about it when I'm on this side, but I hope that the people in the community who are also working for women in comics will see this as a positive step for all of us.

Lauren Sankovitch:  Not a concern, not at all.  Of the ladies we worked with on Girl Comics, many of them, if they weren’t already, have done or are in the midst of other gigs around the Marvel offices and continue to be a strong presence.  And many of those female characters will continue to have prominent roles throughout the Marvel U, many of whom have their own series or minis or are key members of super teams such as New/Secret/adjectiveless Avengers, Young Allies or the X-Men.

Kelly:  Lastly, is there anything fans can do (other than voting with their dollars, obviously), to help you know how you're doing - let you know what's going wrong and what's going right?

Jeanine Schaefer:  We love to hear feedback, both at the comic shop, on our site and at conventions.  Talk to us, we're listening!

Lauren Sankovitch:  Yes, keep reading is definitely one of the best ways.  You can also post to Marvel’s message boards or ask questions at our many Q&A sessions during Con season.  And if you can find me, I’m always up for a good chat…so long as there’s pizza! Or cupcakes. Mmmm.

Kelly:  Thanks again for stopping by ladies.  I have thoroughly enjoyed Girl Comics, despite being a bit skeptical initially, so I thank you for bringing me so many great creators, and some great little stories. I hope you'll do it again sometime and come back to She Has No Head! to talk about it.

Lauren Sankovitch:  And thank you for having us, Kelly! Our pleasure.

Jeanine Schaefer:  Yes, thanks so much, Kelly. It was great for us to get to analyze a little too, and it was awesome to talk to you!

Girl Comics #3 is available in comic book stores now.

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