I got a chance to have a brief conversation with comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick. We talked about the comic book industry and how it’s changing. We also talked about how she got to write for Marvel’s Captain Marvel. Check out our interview below.
What are you nerding out about?
My most intense and upsetting nerding is about Tormund Giantsbane. Because they have either killed him off panel or they are going to have to like play with plausibility, because if he was at the top of that wall when it came down, there is no way that my boy is still around.
Where do you see the world of comic books going in the future?
If I knew I’d be making investments. I am concerned for the longevity of the direct market. I’m going to interrupt myself to tell a story and then I’ll comeback.
There’s a bookstore in Kansas called Rainy Day Books. It is a small bookstore, but people who are very passionate about what they do run it. When common sense was saying that Borders and Barnes & Noble and Amazon combined with what they could do price wise, we’re going to bury all of the independent bookstores. Rainy Day Books was providing services that none of those places were. Rainy Day Books had book clubs going morning to night. They did presale events where they presold books and bring in big authors to give talks. They would presale copies of the books with event tickets. It was worth John Irving to come for the release of his new book because he was going to sale several hundred copies the weekend it came out. That would help his best seller rating. He would just spend a couple hours talking to a group of people that adored him. Rainy Day Books had one author event a month and book clubs. The people who worked there had specialties in the areas that they loved. So if you went in looking for a crime series book, it wasn’t just like the kid who worked at Barnes & Noble trying to help you find the title of the book that you were looking for, instead of being a concierge for you. These were booksellers. People who were like, “what do you like? I’m going to match make for you. If you like this, you’re going to love this and I love this so let me share it with you. And Rainy Day Books thrived and outlived Borders and I think they do better than the local Barnes & Noble. It succeeds because they understand that it can’t beat Amazon at Amazon’s game, but none of them can be Rainy Day Books. None of them are offering that personal community hub and matchmaking service that Rainy Day Books has. And I think the same thing will happen with the direct market.
The comic shops that are one’s where you have the androids dungeon stereotype, the gate-keepery dudes in sweatpants who smell like pot who won’t get off their chair, dude that’s great for your fucking garage sale, but this is a business. Those dudes aren’t going to last. The shops like Third Eye Comics, that do what Rainy Day Books doses, that has a real community and have a real passion for this and act as a community hub and has matchmakers, those bookstores will survive and thrive I think. What’s going to happen to our distribution model, I have no idea. I am concerned about various monopolies in our industry, I don’t know what to do to fix that and I don’t know where we’re headed. Comics won’t die. Comics will never die, as long as you can tell stories with words and pictures there will be comics. What our industry is going to look like, how profitable it will be and what the avenues of distribution will look like, I don’t know.
Do you think that aspect of the change disrupts how you write story or are you adapting now to the new market?
It’s interesting. I was having a conversation with my husband, Matt Fraction, and Warren Ellis about this the other day. I’ve been toying with pitching a graphic novel and I have a very limited window where I can take on a project. My workload is fairly intense as it is and I probably shouldn’t do it, but there is this story I want to tell. I was thinking about the difference for me and writing a graphic novel is significantly less work than writing the same number of pages and issues because of the way you need to deliver your issues. Each issue needs to have a beginning, middle and end. And each has to add up to a larger story. Whereas with a graphic novel, you can approach it more like a novel, a very short novel. So you don’t have to have a complete story every sixteen to twenty-four pages. You don’t have to have to have a beginning, middle and end every sixteen to twenty-four pages. It’s a very different structure. It’s a very different rhythm. So what ends up happening, in effect from my mind, I’ll end up planning five stories to do a five issue collection that becomes a trade, but if I’m doing a graphic novel that’s the same number of pages, I’m only planning one story, and it’s a significantly different workload and that was interesting to me.
How did the process of you writing for Captain Marvel come about and where do you see the story going?
The first series came out in 2012 and I started pitching it in 2010, at least I opened a document in in 2010, so it took about two years before it came. The pitch process was really slow. It took about six months and then I did some development, so the first issue came right at 2012. Steve Wacker gave me the gig. He’s since moved on to Marvel Animation. He really championed the project and championed me as well, and I am very grateful. It was Steve’s idea to put Carol in pants and make her Captain Marvel. Those are two things I’m often credited with, that was not me. I thought there was no way I’m gong to get more than six issues, so I planned a six-issue story. The first arc where we did In Pursuit Of Flight story where we did time travel, because I was like ‘I’m only getting six issues and I want to talk about lady aviators, so time travel it is.’ Then you can tell I had no idea where I was going. So I did a two-issue Monica Rambeau story to buy myself some time. The book did better than what was expected, so they gave us an opportunity to relaunch with a new number one. I understood why they were doing it. I was glad that they believed in the book and wanted to give it that kind of marketing bump, but I was also heartbroken because Filipe Andrade, Dexter Soy and Emma Ríos, and everyone that worked on that first run, we spent so much time building up this cast of supporting characters of Carol’s life on Earth and then we had to do something to make it new for the new arc and they really wanted her to go to space. But then they paired me with David Lopez and I loved him and we had a wonderful time. We changed the tone and made it much lighter. It was modeled after the old Buck Rogers television show. I don’t know where the story is going in the future; I haven’t kept up, not for any lack of love for Carol. But it’s like when you break up wit someone you have to put everything in a box for a while. I’m glad she’s doing well; I don’t want to hear about how well she’s doing with other people.
For more information on Kelly, check out her website here.