The Woman Behind Marvel's Newest Team Of Heroines | KUOW News and Information

The Woman Behind Marvel's Newest Team Of Heroines

Feb 22, 2015
Originally published on February 23, 2015 11:02 am

Fasten your seat belts, true believers. If you haven't flipped through a comic book in a while, you might be in for quite a surprise come May. The entire Marvel multiverse is collapsing.

Forget about seeing the Wolverine we knew any time soon. And the current Ghost Rider? Before long, his current story line will be gone like, well, a ghost. In the new Marvel universe, coming in May, characters and continuities will be reimagined.

Soon, even the Avengers, that A-team of Marvel's heaviest hitters, will be all but unrecognizable. For the first time in history, the group known as Earth's mightiest heroes will be composed entirely of women. And they'll be going by an entirely new moniker: the A-Force.

Writer G. Willow Wilson is behind the big restructuring. She's a heavy-hitter herself, having made a huge mark on the comics world with her graphic novel Cairo and the comics series Air. Just last year, she was responsible for another big superhero transformation, creating the new Ms. Marvel, an American Muslim girl. As an American Muslim herself, Wilson regards that character as a particular point of pride.

She sat down with NPR's Arun Rath to discuss the new characters, and the creative license she's gotten in bringing it together. "It's just been a blast," Wilson says. "We really got no directives besides 'Pick your team and go nuts.' "


Interview Highlights

On the characters in A-Force

So this is going to be the first time that you have, say, She-Hulk and people from the X-Men and all of these different characters together on the same team. So it's very exciting. There's also a brand new character who's going to be on the team who has been a real fun thing to create named Singularity.

On creating the genderless character Singularity

I thought, "You know, this has been a great couple of years for women in comics." We've got Captain Marvel who's been doing really well, Ms. Marvel has been doing really well, there's an all female X-Men team. So I thought, "Let's not create another Amazon." If we're going to have an all-female team, let's really push the envelope and talk about what gender means. Let's have a character on there who is not human, who has no natal gender and who, through various circumstances that readers will see as the book unfolds, chooses to kind of manifest as a woman.

So what does that mean? Can you choose to be human? What is gender? Is it a fluid concept? So that was kind of the thought behind Singularity, who has really become a character that I've loved building and loved creating ... her personality and the world around her, because she's experiencing our world through very fresh eyes.

On her representation of a Pakistani-American superhero in 'Ms. Marvel'

I spent a lot of time talking to colleagues and friends of mine who have grown up with those hyphenated identities, who come from immigrant backgrounds — Arab or Pakistani, South Asian, African — and sort asking them, what was it like? What did you have to go through in high school, you know, growing up, that maybe is not as obvious to me or somebody who is not from that background?

So I feel very strongly about these things and about the need to create space in which it is okay to talk about them. Because by the time my own children are old enough to begin to start grappling with these things, I would love for there to be a canon of literature there that they can turn to to see that they are not alone. That there are people that came before, and not only survived, but thrived, and hopefully went on to make the world a better place.

On the community of female comic book writers

I think now more than ever, the voices of women in comics are really coming to the fore. So when I need guidance or just to kvetch or to bounce ideas off of people, I go to Gail Simone, who is very much kind of the den mother of all of us who are working comics. She's been a voice not only for women comic creators, but for female comic book characters for years now; Kelly Sue DeConnick, who has written the absolutely iconic Captain Marvel series; Marguerite Bennett, who is going to be my co-writer for the beginning part of the A-Force series. There's really kind of been a little mini-renaissance in like, the last five years or so — I mean, really recently.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

This is not news to comic book geeks, but in case you haven't heard, the Marvel universe is coming to an end. Say goodbye to the old Avengers. The new Marvel universe will appear in May. For the first time in history, the team known as Earth's mightiest heroes will be composed entirely of women.

G. Willow Wilson is behind the restructuring of the Avengers, who will now be called A-Force. Wilson has already made a huge mark on the comics world with her graphic novel "Cairo" and the comic series "Air." She created the new Ms. Marvel, a Muslim American girl. As a Muslim American herself, it's a particular point of pride. With the new A-Force, Wilson is relishing the chance to bring together some of Marvel's best female superheroes.

G. WILLOW WILSON: And so this is going to be the first time that you have, say, She-Hulk and, you know, from the X-Men and all of these different characters together on the same team. So it's very exciting. There's also a brand new character who's going to be on the team who's been a real fun thing to create named Singularity. And it's just been really a blast because we really got no directives besides pick your team and go nuts.

RATH: And this new character Singularity, who is - she is more of a cosmic event, really, than a person. And then the other thing about her is that this is an all-female team, but technically Singularity has no gender, right?

WILSON: That's right. Yeah. I thought, you know, this has been a great couple of years for women in comics. We've got Captain Marvel, who's been doing really well, Ms. Marvel, who's has been doing really well. There's an all-female X-Men team. So I thought, let's not create another Amazon. If we're going to have an all-female team, let's really push the envelope and talk about what gender means. Let's have a character on there who is not human, who has no natal gender and who, through various circumstances that readers will see as the book unfolds, chooses to kind of manifest as a woman.

So what does that mean? Can you choose to be human? What is gender? Is it a fluid concept? So that was kind of the thought behind Singularity, who has really become a character that I've loved building and loved creating sort of her personality and the world around her because she's experiencing our world though very fresh eyes.

RATH: You mentioned the new Ms. Marvel, and we've got to talk about her because I love the new Ms. Marvel. It plays to my biases because she's South Asian...

(LAUGHTER)

RATH: ...But, you know, she's Pakistani-American. And I have to say, you really nailed a lot of the subtleties of the kind of subtle racism that immigrant groups encounter, but you're not a Pakistani extracting yourself. You're, I believe, of European background, so how did you nail it like that?

WILSON: So I spent a lot of time talking to colleagues and friends of mine who have grown up with those hyphenated identities, who come from immigrant backgrounds - Arab or Pakistani, South Asian, African - and, you know, sort of asking them what was it like? You know, what did you have to go through in high school, you know, growing up that maybe is not as obvious to me or somebody who is not from that background.

And so I feel very, very strongly about these things and about the need to create space in which it's OK to talk about them because by the time my own children are old enough to begin to start grappling with these things, I would love for there to be a canon of literature there that they can turn to to see that they're not alone - that there are people who came before and not only survived, but thrived and hopefully went on to make a better place. So if we can contribute even a little bit to that dialogue, then I think we've succeeded.

RATH: Now, comic books are not something that we traditionally associate with a lot of female characters and female writers. Now that these characters are starting come up, is there more of a community now of female comic book writers and people that maybe you check in with?

WILSON: Yes, absolutely. I think now more than ever the voices of women in comics are really coming to the fore. And so when I need guidance or just to kvetch or to bounce ideas off of people, I go to Gail Simone, who is very much kind of the den mother of all of us who are working in comics. She's been a voice not only for women comic creators, but for female comic book characters for years now. Kelly Sue DeConnick, who has written the absolutely iconic Captain Marvel series - Marguerite Bennett, who is going to be my co-writer for the beginning part of the "A-Force" series - there's really kind of been a little, mini-renaissance (laughter) in, like, the last five years or so - I mean, really recently. So it's been great to see all the stuff that's been coming out.

RATH: That's G. Willow Wilson. Her latest comic book project, "A-Force," comes out in May. Willow, thank you for all the great comics and great conversation. I appreciate it. Thank you.

WILSON: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.