The Women of Marvel is a popular Marvel podcast and on the final day of C2E2, with the help of host Judy Stephens, Marvel hosted a live episode — which turned out to be one of the best panels of the con. Creators Rainbow Rowell, Eve Ewing, Gail Simone, and Leah Williams spoke about their work, their careers, and the industry as a whole.
The panel started off by talking about Gail Simone’s train ride to C2E2 (apparently a lot of nerds work on trains, who knew?) and her journey before echoing that sentiment with a celebration of the journey of Marvel Comic’s female-led books and female creators. Judy Stephens showed the myriad of woman-led books and highlighted some in her powerpoint slides.
The conversation then transitioned to X-Factor. Leah Williams mentioned how excited she is for this book and talked about how it dealt with the team tracking down missing mutants. Rainbow Rowell then briefly talked about Runaways and Eve Ewing briefly talked about the Outlawed event before getting to the main part of the panel: advice. These women had a lot of great advice for the audience at the panel, and here are some gems that stood out:
On creating and breaking into comics:
Rowell: Something I try to remember is that nobody worked in comics until they did. So I was working as a novelist – I’d read comics a lot, and comics leaked into them… a lot. A Marvel editor reached out to me and I told them Runaways was my favorite book and asked if I could bring it back… and they let me.
Ewing, a sociologist by trade with a PhD: When people ask me that or what it’s like working in academia vs. comics, I say it’s kind of like eating cereal from a bowl vs. eating ice cream. There’s essential things about being a writer that carries over to different mediums. I think people really don’t truly know how important our editors are, and our mentors. There’s a book, Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, it really helped me when I was starting out.
Simone: Well first of all, thank you Marvel for having a screen with all the female-led comics. I think that is amazing. For me, everything I’ve ever wanted to do was scary. You just have to go for it when you can. The only time I thought about myself as a woman of comics is when I was interviewed and people brought it up. I was much more worried at the time about other things than being a woman in comics. So it’s so rewarding and delightful to see so many diverse voices, diverse stories, and always thought and said when I walked in the door “why would you want to cut out 50% of potential audience before you even put out a book?”
Williams: It’s still something I grapple with, to be honest. I’m learning the appropriate boundaries. It does feel like there’s been a significant shift in comics fandom discourse in comics in the past few years, as opposed to when I was first in comics. I think it’s largely a positive change so far. People on this panel are a huge part of it. I don’t know how not to be a weird fan goblin online. I was so scared at first when I first started writing at Marvel… so I kept trying to rein it in and be cool, but once I did start to talk about these characters, their history, and the goofy fandom, people were reckless with their encouragement.
On staying true to themselves and approaching their work:
Williams: My kind of saving grace in having no chill, I get excited about the possibility for them first. I don’t have time to freak out because I’m writing MJ. Instead I’m asked about writing an MJ solo, and I imagine all the possibilities. When I got the call about X-Factor, I didn’t believe it for about two weeks. I’m having a lot of fun, and that’s what counts. It kind of overrides my disconnect for it.
Simone: I don’t know any other way to do it. When I read Deadpool, Wonder Woman, Domino, I think about what’s gone on before, what worked and what didn’t land as solidly, and will those hold up to current readers. Then I start thinking about possibilities for stories, themes.. There’s a few things you’ll recognize from me; strong characters who don’t apologize for it, and have a varied cast. For so long, the industry was lacking that.
Rowell: I like to clean things up. I don’t want to touch a character unless I can keep them as good as they are or make them better. What I did is read all the previous Runaways comic again and again, and figured out what resonated the most.
On social media:
Williams: I worked in marketing for awhile. I learned a lot about the way platform works; Twitter is unique as it has an agitation feature built into it. So that’s why you’ll see stuff in your timeline from people you don’t follow that is designed to make you angry. They think it’ll promote conversation, and they’re right.
Simone: I’m just super quick at it. I started online in chatrooms that talked about comics, and that’s where I started – it wasn’t always this much of a trashcan. I think it’s important to block a lot of that, but let some show through to understand what’s going on. The honest truth, everyone, is when someone is super negative is they go for people that don’t have a support system. The way I always handle it is with humor.
Ewing: There’s bad things and good things. bad things is I’ve got a lot of racist and sexist stuff on Twitter. But my day job is as a sociologist and study racism, and I see it and go “huh, interesting.” I think it helped me realize how powerful, socially and politically, comics are. Some of the good things is being able to follow people like Gail, and seeing them step up and have some kind of community. It was and is meaningful. I love fan art on Instagram too. Also black nerd twitter is very important, and has been for a very long time. If you’re black, and a nerd, and a girl, in High school you wouldn’t have a cafeteria table. In early days of twitter, it was me fighting about Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers at 2:00 am. For me, that’s the Twitter I yearn for.
This panel will eventually be streamed in its entirety as part of the Women of Marvel podcast on March 12. I highly encourage you to listen to the whole thing, as it’s even more informative and a ton of fun.