Spotlight Interview with Kelly Sue DeConnick
Kelly Sue DeConnick is one of the more interesting creatives working in comics today. She came onto the scene and instantly made a huge impact. From her work on CAPTAIN MARVEL, which made her a household name, to her creator owned work on projects like PRETTY DEADLY and BITCH PLANET, she is a force to be reckoned with.
Her work transcends her writing though, she is also started the #VisibleWomen movement on Twitter in March 2016 "to disabuse folks of the notion that women comic artists are rare, to get eyes on said artists & to get them work." She helps lead the pack, so to speak, for showcasing some of the amazing female creators working in comics today.
She's currently working on AQUAMAN at DC and continues to work on fan favorites PRETTY DEADLY and her upcoming HISTORIA (a Black Label Wonder Woman book). More importantly she continues to be a strong role model for young girls. No matter what she does she continues to be one of the most badass women in comics. This interview was probably one of my favorites and I hope you guys enjoy this spotlight on DeConnick
RYAN: First off, I just wanted to ask how you’ve been staying busy during the quarantine?
KELLY SUE: I’m exceedingly tired right now. Rather than finding myself with time to fill, I'm about three times busier than usual. Distance learning, added responsibilities around the house that we usually hire out, that sort of thing.
Everyone has their own natural reactions to stress and mine is I just need more sleep. So I’m tired.
But I'm also exceedingly blessed in that I continue to be able to work, my employers continue to be able to pay me. My family is healthy and safe. I have nothing to complain about.
RYAN: Speaking of that, you're still working. What books are you currently working on right now?
KELLY SUE: Let’s see… I'm working on HISTORIA. Which I think is coming out in tandem with the Wonder Woman movie, whenever that is now. The project is oversized – in scope, and literally: the pages are oversized. Each issue is 64 pages.
I've got, I think, two other books that have not been announced yet, that I can't talk about and a short project that I can't talk about. And a handful lot of small things I'm trying to help with here and there to do some service during this time.
RYAN: I'm a fan of both your Indie stuff and your work for hire. PRETTY DEADLY and AQUAMAN would probably be my favorites. What would you say your favorite project to date has been so far?
KELLY SUE: It’s like picking a favorite kid. My daughter is in the room and she's like “And that's very possible.”
My favorite project is the one I'm not allowed to work on right now, and my least favorite is whatever is due today. That’s kind of a joke but also kind of true. You're always smitten with what you wish you could be working on. Then when it comes time to actually get in the trenches, it's scary and you wish you were working on something else.
The real answer? They're all special to me for different reasons.
CAPTAIN MARVEL and BITCH PLANET are the best known. I'm very proud of CAPTAIN MARVEL, and if I die tomorrow it will be in the first line in my obituary. And I’m fine with that.
BITCH PLANET is powerful and I’ve learned a lot from working on it. (It's actually still ongoing, believe it or not. Everyone thinks we're not coming back but we are. We just need to get it right.)
PRETTY DEADLY is probably the most personal thing that I do? The third volume was the one where Emma and I were like, “Okay, this is where we found it.” We've got two more volumes of that to come. In the interim, while we’re on hiatus, Emma is going to be doing a project of her own which I'm really looking forward to reading.
Then AQUAMAN was this book that… the reason I took it was because it was just the weirdest casting in the world. It was not an obvious choice for me.
RYAN: Yeah. It kind of shocked me as well. It wouldn't have been the DC book I thought you would have taken if you went there. But at the same time it also intrigued me when you took it too.
KELLY SUE: Thanks! They ran a couple things by me. I said no for different reasons and then Bendis was like, “what about Aquaman?” and I kind of laughed. I thought he was kidding and then my husband [Matt Fraction] said “Hold on, there's a couple things here. First of all, I have no idea what you on Aquaman looks like and that's exciting to me. And then also Jason Momoa.” I was like “you make a good point, sir.”
RYAN: Going back to Captain Marvel, you are largely responsible for catapulting her popularity so much. What has it been like for you seeing the growth of her character? Being widely well-known whereas before she was only known in the comic book community.
KELLY SUE: First of all, I should say, I get a ton of the credit, but I was actually a part of not only one team but *4 teams* that made the iteration of Carol that became the basis of the film. I worked on that character with Dexter Soy, Emma Ríos, Filipe Andrade and David Lopez as main artists, as well as others -- Marcio Takara, for instance. There were a number of people involved. I'm incredibly grateful and very lucky to get as much credit for it as I do, but it was a team effort. (Editors Steve Wacker and Sana Amanat were also driving forces. And I haven’t even gotten into colorists or letterers or assistant editors – there are a number of people who make your monthly comics happen.)
It was an incredible experience. You know I got to work on the film in addition to getting the cameo? I told my kids I had to sell them to the circus because I’d peaked as a mom and that was as good as it was ever going to get.
It’s funny too, because initially I was suspect. I have a tendency to kind of doubt the integrity of Hollywood and I didn't think I would be valued or heard, but in fact, I had an incredible experience. The filmmakers, the producers, the screen writers, the actors -- all tremendous artists and all with a shared mission. It was really wonderful.
At the first convention I did after the film opened, the number of little girls in my line increased by about a factor of 10. It was the coolest thing. I would talk to them about what their favorite parts of the film were, and the flerken gets a lot of love. But it was really neat how many of them responded to the moment where Carol says to Yon Rogg, “I don't have to play by your rules. I don't have to hide my gifts to meet you on a field of your ability. I can do what I am best at. My gifts count too.” These little girls actually responded to that moment and understood it. It was just mind-blowing, powerful and humbling. It's been nothing but a tremendous experience, beginning to end.
RYAN: I have a daughter myself. I love that she has such strong female voices in comics to look up too. I love the representation that women get in comics today. It wasn't as prominent when I was a little kid. I was wondering, do you see more female creators coming in or, “making” it year after year?
KELLY SUE: Absolutely. When I started, Gail [Simone] was the only really big name woman working. There were certainly other women who had been prominent in the industry. But she was really the sole high-profile woman. I can only imagine what it was like for her… She was incredibly welcoming of everyone who came after, which is really important.
The story I always like to tell, is the first time I did the New York Comic-Con “Women of Marvel” panel. Now we can argue about the term creative because I actually think all of those positions are creative. But in terms of the high-profile creative role, the writer/artist/colorist and letterer, I was the only one on that panel. By the time I did my last New York Comic-Con “Women of Marvel” panel, we were in the biggest room. We were standing room only. There were so many women creatives on the stage I literally had nowhere to sit, I sat on the floor of the dais.
That progress had been made in just like five or six years? Phenomenal.
RYAN: I know you're a “friend of Bill’s” and I am as well. I find it very inspiring when people that I look up to and respect are in the program also. I've often wondered if anything you've learned in the program has influenced or shaped your writing in any way.
KELLY SUE: Yeah, the program influences everything. Most importantly it’s responsible for the fact that I’m alive. That I'm a functioning adult, in relative terms anyway. It's part of my everyday practice. I choose to break my own anonymity because we're a program of attraction not recruitment, you don't go out trying to bring people into the rooms. But to be visible as a sober artist, I think is important, because there’s such a powerful mythology around creativity. It was such a huge fear for me--I have a friend who's a musician and it was a huge fear for him as well--that he wouldn't be able to write sober. That it would somehow take his edge off or hamper his creativity. This is absolutely not the case. It's a myth. There are so many myths around creativity and that is a huge one and a really destructive one.
To be able to make a living as an artist and to be visible as a sober person, I think is a way for me to give back to everyone who has allowed me to see their success as a way to keep me clean.
RYAN: I was wondering what's your antidote regarding creative blocks?
KELLY SUE: Creative blocks are always fear based. The best thing to do, in the face of fear, is to try to make yourself relax. The three things that I find to be the most successful things for me are, to go for a walk, go for a drive or to take a shower. These are the places where I get the best thinking done. The hardest part is making myself do that and not just sitting at the computer grinding or sitting at the computer distracting myself with something I’m pretending is work.
I can't tell you how to make yourself do it because I'm not successful at it a hundred percent of the time. I know what will help, but I don't get up and make myself do it. I don't know what that's about. Maybe I'll figure it out someday, and I'll let you know.
RYAN: What trick or piece of advice do you wish you'd known earlier?
KELLY SUE: It's that thing where we “do not regret the past or wish to shut the door on it.” I am who I am today because of who I was. And that is what it is. I love my life and I love my family and I love my job.
With those things said, I wish I had done more, sooner. I think before I had children, I didn't quite understand how much time I had on my hands. I didn't know what busy really was. So I wish I had some of that time back. I wish I had been more frugal with my time.
I think if there's a piece of advice that I would have for a young artist it would be, don't waste time. Start. It's scary to do your first work, first work isn't very good and that sucks. It's hard to not be the artist that you know you could be. I mean, I feel that still today, but it gets easier once you start to see progress. There's no shortcut, you don't get to skip the bad stuff you have to do it. You have to write the bad pages or, make the bad painting or whatever it is that is your art.
You have to have to answer the first question, the first most obvious and stupid questions before you can start getting to the real meaty stuff. So start, because lamenting that and wasting that time--you're just stealing from your future. It’s not gonna get any easier. If you wait it out, you don’t get to skip that stuff. It's still there. You still have to do it. So begin. That's the thing.