It all started with a Tumblr post by my friend and colleague Charissa, who extracted a quote from my interview with Astonishing X-Men writer Marjorie Liu last year. The post eventually caught the eye of Kelly Sue Deconnick, currently writing the acclaimed Captain Marvel and Avengers Assemble series, who also posted it on Tumblr (You can see the full post here).

Kelly Sue Deconnick, Marjorie Liu

Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Tumblr post with a Marjorie Liu quote.

So of course, I just had to reach out to the divine Ms Deconnick, and this interview is the result.

As many of us will know, the 42 year year has been working in the industry for about a decade, as a manga translator and on projects such as Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm and Osborn: Evil Incarcerated.   She’s also married to fellow high-profile writer Matt Fraction (Hawkeye, Fear Itself, Invincible Iron Man), whom I interviewed for The Straits Times when he came to Singapore back in 2010 for the Singapore Toy Game and Comic Convention.

With her dog Claude whimpering in the background – she had just made chicken and he could smell it on her hands – Kelly took a little while to warm up. But speaking from her home in Portland, Oregon, she was lively, engaging and down to earth. We had a long discussion, so I’ve split the interview into two. Here’s part I of our conversation, where we discuss the things that drive Carol Danvers, Kelly’s burgeoning partnership with Spanish artist Emma Rios and how chemistry with an artist works.

I wanted to start off with your most recent project, the Avengers/Captain Marvel crossover. I know it’s only coming out in May, but how has the build-up to that been going?

God, I feel like I’ve been so busy, I haven’t really promoted it, so I don’t know if it’s going to have its intended effect. But I’m excited about our story. I’m interested in the direction that we’re going with it.

Are there any specific details that you can tell us besides what’s already been released?

It’s an old Marvell foe, and someone with an axe to grind against Carol, and it’ll have big repercussions on Carol and Jessica’s relationship.

Tough times ahead for Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel ©Marvel Comics

Tough times ahead for Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel ©Marvel Comics

Generally, what are your thoughts on crossovers? Do they help to boost sales on books, or can it turn into a hassle for fans?

I’m still relatively new to the superhero comic market, so I presume that the people who have been doing it for years and years know better than I do. It seems very confusing to me, but that said…I presume that the people who are trusted with the decision-making process in a multi-million dollar company know what they’re doing better than I do. They have been at this a lot longer. I am excited about the story, I like the idea of the two books crossing over, meaning I like the cast of Avengers interacting with the supporting cast of Captain Marvel a lot, I think that’s fun. My dog is driving me crazy. Claude, get out of here, I’m not giving you any chicken. Wow, that worked. He literally just turned around and walked out.
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You have a commanding voice. 
I guess so.
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When you say that it seems confusing, do you mean in terms of the storylines coming together and maintaining that consistency?
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No, I mean, it starts in a book called Enemy Within #1, and then part two is in Avengers Assemble #16, and then part three is in Captain Marvel #13. That seems confusing to me.
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You’ve said that you one of your goals was to give Carol back her swagger and her Chuck Yeager-ness.
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Thank you for doing your research!
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Well, it was just a matter of a Google search. Do you feel you’ve succeeded in that? And is that swagger going to be affected in any way by the events of the crossover?
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I do think I’ve been effective in it. Yes, it will be affected. Carol’s status quo is going to change. It’s going to be rough on some people (pauses). But I wouldn’t wanna do it if I didn’t think it was an interesting choice and good for her, you know?
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In terms of the storyline, you started off with Carol going back in time and meeting a group of all-female pilots, in my mind, sort of the female equivalent of the Tuskegee Airmen. Was it important to you to start off with a statement about what Carol is inspired by, what she is aspiring to become?
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Yeah, I wanted her to, as she was taking the title of Captain Marvel, choosing to bear that mantle, I wanted her to really consider the shoulders on which she stands. (at this point, Claude returns to the room and starts whimpering again)  
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Carol is still living in the shadow of her father, says Kelly Sue Deconnick  ©Marvel Comics

Carol is still living in the shadow of her father, says Kelly Sue Deconnick ©Marvel Comics

So in that sense, is that her driving force, to live up to the legacy of Marvell?
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No, I don’t think so. I think the only person Carol now has anything to prove to is Carol. I think it’s living to her own high standards. I always say that I think she is…I think there is a shadow of her father that hangs over her, and I think that there is some aspect of – Claude, get out of here. Excuse me, I’m gonna get the dog out and close the door. (walks off and returns) I think she’s always still trying to prove something to her dad, or impress her dad, but her dad’s dead now and that’s not possible. But I think that’s a part of her.
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Let’s move on to your other works. I’m sure you’ve been asked this many times, and I’m sorry to have to bring it up, but does Pretty Deadly have a release date yet?
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No, we’re not going to solicit Pretty Deadly until we have three issues completed, so that we don’t get ourselves into trouble. Because neither Emma Rios nor I are particularly fast, and we’ve never misled anybody about that. And this book is…we’re both very devoted to this book, and we’ve both spent a great deal of time working it out. When you see her art, you’ll see there’s nothing rushed about it. We’ve just completed the first issue, so I expect that we will solicit it in the late spring. Some time toward the end of summer would be my guess for the release.
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But nothing is set, and that is shift-able. It took us a lot longer, I think, than would be normal to complete the first issue, even for a labour of love like this, just because we had a lot of stuff to work out. Now that we have our characters fleshed out, I expect it will go a bit faster, but I don’t wanna promise anybody anything.
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Pretty Deadly

Pretty Deadly, about a female assassin in the West, is a labour of love ©Kelly Sue Deconnick and Emma Rios.

I see. But can we expect to see more creator-owned works from you? Or will you perhaps eventually branch out into movies, or novels?
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Movies, probably not. Novels, absolutely. It’s something I very much want to do, and definitely more creator-owned works.
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Let’s talk about the writing process itself. You just mentioned Emma, and the two of you are starting to look like one of those very dynamic writer/artist teams like Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, or Andy Diggle and Jock. How difficult or rare is it to find an artist who is on exactly the same wavelength as you are?
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You know, I got lucky so fast. That was only my second big project that I worked on that paired Emma and I (Osborn: Evil Incarcerated). I didn’t know her before I worked with her, but she was just so extraordinary, so gifted. And we like so many of the same things, and we have so many of the same priorities. It was dumb luck, but she’s amazing. She can make me tear up just with the art, which is extraordinary.
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I saw an interview with Agent M where you said that watching Emma work with another writer is like watching your girlfriend date someone else. Have you gotten over your control issues yet?
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(laughs and claps hands) Well, she’s working with me now, so I’m perfectly happy! You can ask me again the next time she’s working with somebody else!
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Emma Rios

“Look Kelly, I already told you, I can’t work with you all the time. Now, please put the knife away.”

You mentioned before that you want to write more for your artists. Has it been the case before that, in working with other artists who may not be on the same wavelength as you are,  it’s frustrating to try and get across what you’re trying to achieve in the story?
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There’s always a learning curve where [it’s like] ‘Oh okay, that’s not quite what I meant’, and then you have to kind of adjust the story a little bit. I love that this is a collaboration, and I think that that, I’m sure this sounds goofy, but I think that that…gap leaves room for some magic to happen. Sometimes, somebody misunderstands something, and they come back with something that’s even better that what you were going for.
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Yes, I’ve certainly had that thing happen where I just can’t communicate what I mean, where you try getting on the phone to help, and it just doesn’t….But it’s never the end of the world, it’s never anything I take particularly personally, or something I hold particularly personally against the artist. It’s a collaborative art form, and every collaboration is going to get smoother over time, so they’re all going to be a little awkward in the beginning. And some are just better fits than others, whether it’s you and your artist, or you and the material.
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For the most part, I have been very lucky. I think there have been times I have not been able to crack the code of how to write perfectly for a particular artist. But when I look back at my body of work, the only thing I can think of that really makes me squirm, is one time in one story, I killed a dog because it was sort of easy shorthand for me to prove how evil a character was. That’s the only thing where I’m like, ‘Ahhhh, hated that I did that’. Any time somebody brings me that one to sign, I’m like (grimaces and shakes head).
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But are there any artists whom you particularly to work with?

Sure, but that would be like an embarassing thing to list publicly. I donno, it would be like asking somebody to the dance in front of a bunch of people. Yeah, there are lots of artists I want to work with.
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Watch this space as I bring you the second and final part of my interview with Kelly Sue Deconnick this Wednesday, where she addresses how female comic writers often get pigeonholed, how important social media is in engaging fans, and of course, the Carol Corps. 
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You can read part II of the interview here
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A Chat With…
A Chat With…is a regular series where I speak to comic creators about their latest projects, the comic industry and their advice to aspiring creators.

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