With the upcoming release of Sif, Charles Webb sat down with writer Kelly Sue DeConnick to get a firsthand look into the One-shot set to release April 14th.
Charles Webb: How did this project come about? Why Sif?
Kelly Sue DeConnick: My understanding is that this book is part of a larger initiative to spotlight some of Marvel’s iconic women characters with a series of one-shots starring each of the chosen heroines.
Why Sif? Again, I can only speculate as to why Sif was chosen — the project existed before I was attached — but I can tell you why I would have chosen her: because she’s awesome. C’mon. She’s a sword-wielding Nordic goddess. What’s not to love?
CW: It’s been a rough couple of years for the character — her body stolen by Loki and her consciousness locked in a dying woman. Where is she at the start of this story?
KSD: Lost. At the beginning of this story, Sif’s in Broxton fighting with the voices in her head to get back in touch with her identity as Sif the Warrior. She’s been cowed, you know? What she’s been through… she’s got a certain amount of Asgardian PTSD. She has to find a way to face it and stand tall. It’s cliché, but there’s a phrase that I love: “the only way out of the woods is through the woods.” At the beginning of our story, Sif is lost in the woods and the story we tell is how she finds the strength and the courage to make her way through.
Or, if you want the short pitch… Sif gets her groove back.
CW: How closely is the story tied into Siege?
KSD: Not terribly. We’ve made an effort to make this a stand-alone. If you know what she went through with Loki and if you’re familiar with her history with Beta Ray Bill, you’ll catch absolutely everything.
However, if you’ve never read a Marvel comic in your life and you understand left-to-right, top-to-bottom you should still be able to follow the story, have it make solid sense and, hopefully, enjoy it for the ass-kicking tale of restoration that it was intended to be.
CW: To what degree is the Sif in your story a reflection of the figure from Norse mythology?
KSD: She’s got dark hair and a grudge against Loki…? I focused most of my research on the Sif of the Marvel U. (I’m a huge Walt Simonson fan.)
KSD: I dug through a lot of back issues, yes, and I did talk about my take on Sif with Fraction to make sure it jibed with his plans. I also talked with him about some of the practical concerns of writing superheroes, as this is my first foray into the genre.
CW: The month that Sif launches, Marvel is also spotlighting their female characters. What kind of impact do you think this has in terms of focusing on female creators and characters?
KSD: Well… March is National Women’s History Month, right? In the larger political picture may I say bluntly that I couldn’t give a damn about National Women’s Month? I would happily trade a dozen National Women’s Months for one Equal Rights Amendment, thankyouverymuch. If Congress would like to show that they give a damn about treating women as equals under the law, would they please be so kind as to put it in writing? What the hell happened? Did we abandon this fight 40 years ago? Congratulations, ladies! It’s 2010 and you’re creeping up on making 80% of what men make! Yippee.
Okay, back to comic books.
What kind of impact do I think the March initiative will have? Man… in the big picture? Probably not much. But at the same time, I started reading comics when I was somewhere around seven or eight years old. If there’s a girl out there who reads one of these iconic women character comics and it reinforces for her the idea that every woman is the protagonist of her own story and not just a prop or a prize and that there is nothing inherently masculine about strength or heroism then hot goddamn, THAT IS A GOOD THING.
And if there’s a young writer or a young penciller (or letterer or editor or colorist or inker or media magnate-in-the-making) who loves comics but thinks that it’s such a male-dominated industry that it’s just not worth the fight and she sees that no, in fact, there are quite a number of accomplished professional women in this industry and that Marvel is actively embracing the idea that there could and should be more, well… again… Ain’t that a good thing?
CW: If you can kind of step back from your role as a comic writer and fan — do you think the industry is accessible to new fans (female, young, minorities)?
KSD: Yeah… I do. I mean there are still the Android’s Dungeons of the world, for sure. But there are also stores like the Star Clipper in St. Louis that are like mini-Barnes & Noble with their nice lighting, professional and attentive staff and — at least when I was there last — nary a pair of sweatpants in sight.
And then there’s, you know, a Barnes and Noble in (seemingly) every mall in America with ever-expanding graphic novel and manga sections.
Are there comics out there that horrify and embarrass me and alienate people? Oh my, yes. But there’s also, you know, Pat Robertson television. Do people stop watching TV if they see a show they don’t like? No. They turn the channel. I think comics are broad enough that if you like to read and look at pictures, we can find you something you’ll like.
The trick for our industry over the next few years is going to be maintaining and expanding on that diversity in an economic environment (and a distribution model) that seems to have a kind of Darwinian push towards turning a MEDIUM into a GENRE.
CW: Moving away from Marvel a bit, I was a big fan of your translation of Sexy Voice and Robo — it was actually one of my first reviews for the Comics Bulletin. To what extent has your own work been influenced by manga?
KSD: Oh, yay! That’s so great to hear! I love that book too.
To what extent has my work been influenced by manga? Hm. For some reason, that’s a much harder question to answer than maybe it ought to be.
I mean, really, you’re asking how comics have influenced my work in comics, you know?
“Manga” just means we’re talking about comics made in Japan. And I’ve worked on everything from Matsumoto’s incredible Blue Spring to Shinjo’s ultra-camp Sensual Phrase — with books like Kare First Love and Portus in between. Comedy, adventure, sports, romance, erotica, horror — I’ve done more than 15 different titles, some of which have run 20 volumes or more. It’s hard to make sweeping generalizations about “manga” that are true of all these books, you know? They’re Japanese. That’s about as far as it goes.
If you put a gun to my head and forced me to come
up with an answer, I can see two possibilities:
A.) I don’t know if it’s a result of cultural differences or differences in the way Japanese comics and American comics are produced, but one sweeping generalization that I do feel relatively comfortable making is that I seldom know where any manga plot line is going. The Western constructs, the rules of the game that we’re all used to and comfortable with, over here seem to go right out the window when you sit down with your first tankoubon. I’m more often surprised reading Japanese comics than I am reading American comics. Broad generalization, sure. But it feels true to me.
As to how that’s affected my own work… well, I may not be in a position to say whether it has or hasn’t, but I hope that it’s broadened my perspective on what’s possible, encouraged me to keep exploring past the signs that say KEEP OUT! WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T FOLLOW THE STORY DOWN THIS WAY!
But, you know, some days I’m more courageous than others.
B.) The other, more obvious (and self-aggrandizing!) option is to say that when you spend six years or so almost exclusively writing dialogue, you start to get kind of good at it. I think I’m good at it. I hope I’m good at it, anyway. I keep getting work so someone must agree.
CW: What do you have coming after Sif?
KSD: As of this writing, I have two upcoming projects for Marvel that are confirmed and one in the pipeline that I’m crossing my fingers on. I’ve got a couple of anthology projects coming from different publishers — both of which partner me with the righteously awesome Chuck BB, as it happens. (Well… it happens that way because I’m a big Chuck BB fan and I begged. It wasn’t exactly serendipity.) Unfortunately I don’t think any of these projects is announced yet, so all I can say is keep your eyes peeled.
And of course, I’m privileged enough to continue writing the English adaptation of Takehiko Inoue’s Slam Dunk for Viz. Such a great book and I’ve been with my editor over there — Kit Fox — for, uh… I dunno. Five years or so now, I think? He’s fantastic. It’s a lovely gig all around.