In which I continue my interview with Captain Marvel and Avengers Assemble writer Kelly Sue Deconnick. In part II, Kelly and I discuss how female comic writers get pigeonholed, the importance of social media in engaging fans, and of course, the Carol Corps.
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You can read part I of the interview here.
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Avengers Assemble, Kelly Sue Deconnick

Kelly’s run on Avengers Assemble with Stefano Caselli has been praised. ©Marvel Comics

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After all you’ve accomplished, do you still find yourself being pigeonholed as a “female writer”, as opposed to a writer who just happens to be a woman? I’ve fallen into that trap myself, where I asked a female creator questions like, ‘do you feel that as a female writer, it’s your responsibility to represent?’
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Yeah, sure. Some people are going to do that. I think you just can’t…Occasionally, somebody will tweet something where they ask, ‘What book should such and such writer work on?’ I saw this one for a female writer not too long ago, it wasn’t me, but I noticed that every book that was mentioned was female-led. I was like: you knooww, we have imaginations! I get it, but at the same time it’s…Like, there’s a big deal made of how well a woman would write certain masculine characters.
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Like, it’s really weird to think of a woman writing The Punisher or The Hulk, or whatever. But dudes write female-led books all the time. Brian Reed did a fantastic job on the Ms Marvel series that preceded mine. Brian Bendis’ Alias is one of my favourite comic superheroes of all time, his Spider Woman series was fantastic. That never comes up, like (puts on douchey voice) ‘Wow, is a man capable of imagining what it would be like?’ It’s ridiculous.
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Not everybody does it, it’s sort of a default that we slip into sometimes, where you see like, people suggesting, for a woman writer, all of these different female characters that they should write.  And it’s okay, I like writing about women, but I also like writing about men. It’s the thoughtlessness of it that bothers me more than the actual…like, there’s nothing about writing any of those characters that I would find distasteful, it’s the assumption that our imaginations are particularly limited. The people who do that, even though I find it incredibly irritating, they’re not trying to. Sometimes, people are really trying to be supportive and they’re trying the best they can, and we just have a long way to go culturally. I donno. It depends on the day you catch me, I guess.
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Steve Wacker, who gave me the Osborn gig, made a joke about it. When he first called me about Osborn, he was like, ‘I know how you ladies love to write ladies’, and it was hilarious. And Osborn is a book about a bad dude in prison.
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In which a female writer manages the astonishing feat of writing a male character.  ©Marvel Comics

In which a female writer manages the astonishing feat of writing a male character. ©Marvel Comics

 
You and Matt are very active on social media, especially when it comes to answering fan questions. How important are platforms like Tumblr and Twitter and engaging the fans to you as a creator?
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I donno! I think that’s a really fascinating question. I think that’s something that Matt and I are very  interested in. I am a people person! (laughs) I’m fairly gregarious and social by nature, so it’s fun for me to engage readers, it’s not particularly a chore. What I need to be careful of is when I spend more time trying to sell the books than I do trying to create the books. That gets dangerous. Matt and I were talking about it too, just this evening.
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I don’t think there is any other industry where artists are asked to talk about the creation of their art during the creation of it. You are asked to analyse it and sell it while it’s being made, in a way that is difficult and I think, sometimes injurious. (pauses) It would be like checking in with a painter every half hour or so and asking them to tell you what the painting’s about. Well, the painting’s not really done yet, I don’t really know what the painting’s about, you know what I mean?
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In some respects, I feel dishonest talking about what my books are about in that kind of grand way. I feel like that’s for someone else to decide. I have the kind of blindness where it’s hard to see in a mirror. It’s much easier for me to talk about someone else’s work than it is to talk about my own. I actually asked Matt at one point whether…like, I can talk about Brian’s work, I can say themes that seem to be interest to him and ways to characterise his work, and I can do that about Matt, but it’s much harder to do that for myself. I wanted to make sure that that was just that kind of mirror blindness, and not lack of a unique voice.
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Kelly is much happier engaging fans on social media than promoting her works.

Kelly is much happier engaging fans on social media than promoting her works.

We’ll set up these events where, oh you’re doing a Q&A event, or whatever. And it’s like, I’m available for questions 24 hours a day, why is this Q&A event…why is it an event? And then you start thinking about things like websites and traffic and…I donno, you only have so much time in a day. And you need to spend some of it with your family, and you need to have some of it just to take care of yourself and feed your creative being so you have something to talk about. And then there’s a huge amount of time that’s involved in the working, and then there’s like the support stuff for the working.
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I think the thing people most don’t know about writing is how much of your work time is spent not writing comics. Like, lettering proofs, and layouts, and talking about designs, and pitching upcoming storylines.  The actual sitting down and writing a script is a very small part of your job. And interviews, you find yourself getting a surprising number of interiews. And then I keep up my Twitter feed and my Tumblr feed, and that 24 hours in a day gets eaten up really, really quickly.
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It seems sort of cold, but there’s just this sort of ugly: I need to sit down and figure out where I am getting the most bang for my time buck. I think in the beginning, early on, my policy was: I will talk to anybody who wants to talk to me, if anybody wants to talk about my books, I am there, let’s do it. Now, it’s just becoming, I have get to smarter about that, I think. And how I do that without being perceived as a slight to anyone? I don’t wanna cut myself off from my readers. So does it become a more direct thing. I donno. We haven’t figured it out yet. It’s very..(pauses and adopts Star Trek-like voice) it is very much a question for our time.
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How does it feel to have created the comic equivalent of the Kiss Army  in the Carol Corps?
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AHHHH!!
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Especially since you were a teenage member of the Kiss Army.
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Nicholas, I love you. I love you. You’re now my favourite. It felt pretty good before, but now that you’ve compared it to the Kiss Army, it feels GREAT.
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Are you a card-carrying member of the Carol Corps? Source: http://psychoandy.deviantart.com

Are you a card-carrying member of the Carol Corps? Source: http://psychoandy.deviantart.com

Just one of the many tributes to Captain Marvel. Source: Carol Corps

Just one of the many tributes to Captain Marvel. Source: Carol Corps

You were saying earlier that you feel like you’re being spread too thin in terms of the demands of promoting the comics, going on social media and all that. Of course, something like the Carol Corps is, I would imagine, very flattering for a creator, but do you ever feel like you’re putting too much of yourself out there? That again, you’re spreading yourself too thin and you need to cut back on it?
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Yeah, I do, but I don’t think that it’s the direct fan interaction that I need to cut back on. I hear like three questions in that question. Am I spending too much time on promotion? And I definitely think, yes. There are so many arenas. I am promoting on like 19 fronts. The direct interaction of like, Tumblr or Twitter, I think that those have a pretty high payoff for me. I think that that may be the best value for my time. There is also…I am a slow writer. I need time to muse. I need time to think, and I am running out of that. I sleep so little that I sort of try to set up my time to daydream about this stuff and work these things out, and I just fall asleep.
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This is something I like to ask every creator I speak to. As far as the writing process goes, what is your advice to aspiring comic writers? What’s the best thing they can do to refine their style? .

Write. And probably the hardest thing is just…People sort of have these fantasies about the work they wanna do, but they don’t wanna start working until someone’s paying them to work, do you know what I mean? No one’s going to give you a job of playing basketball until they’ve seen you play basketball, so maybe you should make sure you go out there and learn how to play basketball.  So you’re going to have to make yourself do it. And I know it’s hard.
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In a collaborative art, you’re going to have find someone to collaborate with, and that is difficult. But Matt is fond of saying, it’s not as difficult now with the advent of the Internet. He had like, posting boards at art school and coffee shops in which to meet artist. Message boards are amazing for that thing. Kieron and McKelvie, whom you mentioned earlier, they weren’t…Emma and I were paired up, they found each other.
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Until you have an artist to work with, start scripting anyway. Start reverse-engineering your favourite scripts. Pull one of your favourite comics out and reverse-engineer it. Analyse. When you read a comic, take it apart. Start looking at how many panels per page is it, where does that vary, where are they using double page spreads. Really start thinking about these things critically.
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Read, read, read, read, read. Brian Michael Bendis is probably the best selling, most succcesful  contemporary comic writer working right now, I would say. I don’t know everybody’s reading habits, but he reads more comics than anybody I’ve ever met, and I think that those two data points are not unrelated.
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So it sounds like your advice is: to just start writing, to read a lot, and also to think deeply about the stuff that you read and how these things are put together?
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Yeah, think analytically about it, and just start. Some of this stuff, you just can’t figure out until you’ve done it wrong a few times. There’s no way I can explain it to you, you just have to try. You have to find your way to write, you know.
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So it’s very much trial and error?
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I would say yes, absolutely.
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Will we ever see Kelly Sue Deconnick onstage at STGCC? ©incoherentboy.com

Will we ever see Kelly Sue Deconnick onstage at STGCC? ©incoherentboy.com
One last question: can we ever expect to see you in Singapore for the Singapore Toy Game and Comic Convention?
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 I would love that. I was so jealous of Matt the year that he got to go. I would love if I could make that happen. It’s hard with the family and the kids, it was a lot easier for him to go by himself.  (bangs table in mock fury) But they’re gonna get older, and easier.  Yes, I would love to see SIngapore. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful, wonderful things, not only about the beauty of the place, but the incredible graciousness of the people.

So which convention can we expect to see you at next?
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I am confirmed for Heros Con in June in North Carolina. I also have two store signing events in Anaheim and Durham between now and then, and I believe I’m going to be doing an event in Idaho in the fall. But I’m not sure if that’s going to be confirmed.
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You’re not going to be at Comic Con?
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I have no plans to be at Comic Con right now, but that said, I did not have plans to be at Comic Con last year until a couple days before when we were flown out as a surprise. So, you never know. But as of right now, I have no plans to be at Comic Con.
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Thank you so much for your time, Kelly. 
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Nicholas, thank you, it was a great pleasure. You are a delight. Thank you, sir.
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You can find out more about Kelly Sue Deconnick at KellySue.com. She can also be found on Twitter @kellysue and on Tumblr here. Many thanks to uber-fan Wayne Ree for his advice and input on this interview. 
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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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