Tuesday Q&A

Wednesday Q&A: Jeanine Schaefer

The editor in charge of GIRL COMICS discusses the upcoming all-female produced three-issue anthology



By Kevin Mahadeo

It's all girls, all the time when the women of Marvel Comics come together next March for the special three-issue limited series GIRL COMICS, an anthology of stories produced solely by the fairer sex.

"After the success of Marvel's 70th Anniversary celebration, and with the 30th anniversary of the National Women's History Project coming up in March, we wanted to celebrate the women that have helped make Marvel what it is," explains editor Jeanine Schaefer. "And that's both the female super heroes and the female creators. So we put together this anthology and it is all women: writers, artists, inkers, colorists, letterers, everything."

The first of many projects planned as part of the Women of Marvel year-long celebration, each issue of GIRL COMICS runs 48 pages and features characters from across the entire breadth of the Marvel Universe. Schaefer took some time out from her busy schedule to talk about the project, some of talent involved and to share her thoughts on female characters in comics.


GIRL COMICS #1 cover by Amanda Conner
Marvel.com: How did this whole project come about?

Jeanine Schaefer: It was during the discussion of the celebration of 70 years of Marvel. Someone said that they thought it would be cool if we did something that focused on our female super heroes. I really also wanted to bring in the fact that we have a large number of women working here and [who have] worked for us and kind of spotlight that a little bit. There have historically been a lot of women at Marvel working both in the books and in the bullpen. Flo Steinberg, for example, worked with Stan Lee and is still here. It's a pretty big deal and we wanted to highlight all that and put that all together.

Marvel.com: And what's the origin of the name Girl Comics?

Jeanine Schaefer: Much like with the origin of the STRANGE TALES anthology, we combed back through Marvel's old titles to come up with a name that would be a little wink to our publishing history as well as tell people at first glance what the comic is. This was the first name we came up with, based on the old romance title of the same name, but I put everyone through the wringer coming up with every name possible just to make sure-and in the end, GIRL COMICS has the feel we're going for. I mean, usually the women in Marvel editorial are all "Very Serious Business," clearly, but we wanted to have some fun with the perceptions people would have.

Marvel.com: You said before it's all female writers, artists, colorists. Does that mean that all the stories focus on female characters as well?

Jeanine Schaefer: Not at all. The people that I've spoken with about doing stories, I asked for pitches like, "If you could do anything, what would you do?" Some women wanted to focus on female super heroes and some women didn't. We have a Punisher pitch. We have a Mary Jane pitch. A Nightcrawler pitch. Ann Nocenti is doing a Typhoid Mary story and she was one of the creators of Typhoid Mary. Not all women like the same thing. But this is a comic by women for people who like comics.

Werewolf By Night by Stephanie Buscema
Marvel.com: Can you talk about some of the creators involved and some of the stories readers can expect to see?

Jeanine Schaefer: Yeah, sure. Kathryn Immonen and Marjorie Liu, who are two really big writers for us right now, are both involved. I talked to Devin Grayson, Ann Nocenti, Trina Robbins, G. Willow Wilson, Stephanie Buscema is doing a story, Amanda Conner is doing a cover, Jill Thompson, Louise Simonson, Valerie D'Orazio-the list goes on and on. It's pretty amazing! I think people are going to be surprised at the material that we are covering. When given the opportunity, everybody has a character that they really want to write. It's not always what you think, but then again, why would I want to assume what anybody would want to write.

Marvel.com: Did some of the pitches you got surprise you? Like, you didn't expect a certain creator to pitch a certain character.

Jeanine Schaefer: The Punisher one; Val D'Orazio is actually writing that one. She sent in a bunch of pitches and it surprised me that that was the one I gravitated right toward. And when I talked to her, she said that was the one that was most fully formed for her and the one that she really was dying to write. I guess I wasn't really surprised, but it was definitely a standout on the page.

Marvel.com: Female characters and creators have been a part of comics for a long time, but sometimes women characters in comics aren't treated "fairly," I want to say. They're often dressed more provocative or act as plot cannon fodder.

Jeanine Schaefer: Right. I think that any woman who wants to write in super hero comics, there's a little bit of that: the sexualization part and the costumes and getting past that to make it about the women in the costumes. You can get into all that, but if a woman wants to create super hero comics, there must be something in the genre that grabbed her to

begin with. I'm not suggesting that all women need to be covered up and there can't be any raunchy stories with women, you know what I mean? That's not the genre we're talking about. There have always been the tropes of the damsel in distress and the sexy bad girl and whatever else. For me, I don't think those things have to go away for women to feel comfortable reading and creating comics-I'm not ashamed to see a woman's body in skintight spandex, I am ashamed when I see them not getting their own plots and motivations beyond being the woman in the man's story; I hate not seeing them being able to be heroes.

Marvel.com: I guess it's more of finding the right balance between it all?

Jeanine Schaefer: Exactly. There is being disrespectful to a female character and there's writing a female character who actually has a personality. Sure there have been portrayals of women that I would have done differently if I had been the one doing it, and portrayals that I loathe outright, but I think in general, you can't take a lot of tropes away because then the genre becomes something that it isn't.

Marvel.com: Is GIRL COMICS something you guys want to continue with in the future?

Jeanine Schaefer: Well, we have a pretty big roster of female creators here now, so I don't think this is something we'd want to do all the time because then it gets into marginalizing ourselves. We become "the other" and can only exist in anthologies where there are all women and that's the opposite of what I want to celebrate with this. We're not saying women can only work on "girl" things. I do think that have a good stable of female creators and I think they get a lot of screen time, or page time, if you will. Kathryn Immonen wrote the [PATSY WALKER: HELLCAT series], she's

writing the PIXIE limited series coming up with Sara Pichelli on art and it's gonna be a blast! Marjorie Liu writes DARK WOLVERINE right now, and it's fantastic. Would I love to see more women in comics? Sure I would. I think Marvel has a pretty good track record though, and as women continue to do high profile work in comics, more women will want to do it, more women will pitch, and then the cycle continues. 

Marvel.com: To close out, who are some of your favorite characters in the Marvel U, be them male or female?

Jeanine Schaefer: I love Rogue and Gambit. I love Jubilee. Huge. Love her. When I started working here, I worked with Tom Brevoort and I got to learn a lot about Bucky and I found myself really gravitating toward him as a character. He has a great history and a great character with so much potential. I like him a lot, too.

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I can't help myself. I have to ask. Will Dazzler be a part of this? I really want her to be. But ONLY if she's treated like a MARVEL super heroine worthy of the name and not a reject from [i] Archie Comics[/i] .

Dragonfly24 member

I loved everything Ms. Schaefer said in this interview. I especially liked her take on the sexuality of females in comics. It used to bother me a lot. (Not enough to put down what I was reading, though I admit) And I just chalked it up to being women in a man's game (ugh). But the more I really looked, the more I realized that the men really aren't that far off that same marker. I mean anyone notice that (this is back a ways) Charles Xavier had a perfect six pack while in a wheel chair? Now of course this can happen - there are some amazing athletes in wheel chairs, but this takes a lot of time and dedication - and frankly I think he was a little busy being the brains behind saving the world (at the time). So I guess it swings both ways (though I'm not about to join any Emma Frost fan clubs). Ms. Schaefer made a great point - the real discrimination would be women as bedroom fodder and achilles heels for men without having any real substance and depth of their own. Now, I don't claim to be an expert - but it seems to me that Marvel has always been ahead of the game on this one. I think that's what drew me to it to begin with. (Go get 'em Rogue!)

Zalanth member

Great interview and great points.Definitely checking this out.It's about damn time we got more equal treatment of women in comics.