Kathryn Immonen Gets Cosmic with the Heroines of ‘Heralds’ [Girl Week]
Kathryn Immonen — whom you may remember from such comics as “Runaways” and “Patsy Walker: Hellcat” — is stepping up to the plate again at Marvel Comics with artist Tonci Zonjic for “Heralds,” a five-issue miniseries about an unlikely group of superheroines who team up to save the world from a female Herald of Galactus who has returned from the dead and landed on Earth looking for revenge.
Part of the year-long Marvel Women initiative highlighting the work of female creators, “Heralds” features Emma Frost, She-Hulk, Valkrie, Monica Rambeau, Abigail Brand, and of course, Hellcat. ComicsAlliance talked with Immonen about the new book, and the collection of kick-ass ladies she’s about to take into cosmic battle.
ComicsAlliance: So, we’ve got a team of superheroines that includes Emma Frost, She-Hulk, Agent Abigail Brand, Hellcat, Valkyrie, Monica Rambeau. They come from some pretty diverse backgrounds — how do they find themselves thrust together on this team?
Kathryn Immonen: They were set up, or at least Emma was, by someone who should have known better and will probably have to pay for it later.
CA: Were these characters ones that you chose personally for the team — and if so, why these women?
KI: Because they are capable of both fantastically avenging and defending! At the very beginning, [editor] Jeanine [Schaefer] and I were putting together a master/wish list which really covered a huge range from the obvious to the obscure. There were characters whose powers fit with some initial story ideas and character combinations that provided conflict and balance. And I really wanted Hellcat and Emma. Ultimately, we ended up with a group that, I think, is really interesting. They don’t really know each other. Even Hellcat and Valkyrie, one of my favorite relationships from times past, can no longer rely on what they once knew about each other. And seriously? this group has proven to be a hell of a lot of fun to write.CA: What makes them uniquely suited to deal with the cosmic challenge of a Herald, as opposed to say the Fantastic Four or the Avengers?
KI: It’s a choice that, initially, is made for them by circumstance, but this particular Herald is a girl with some major personal hangups which make her reluctant to talk to just anybody.
CA: Your editor Jeanine Schaefer mentioned that one of the biggest challenges these women face is just learning to deal with each other as teammates. What are their issues?
KI: Something I’ve been banging on about from the start, is that there’s no consensus based solely on gender. They are all very different characters with very different ways of dealing with conflict and crisis. The way they relate to other women is very different as is, certainly, the way they relate to men and children and small dogs and machinery and large plates of food. And even the ones that should know each other, like Hellcat and Valkyrie, are challenged by their histories and their expectations.
CA: Assuming that they work it out, is this particular team something that we might see persisting beyond this particular crisis?
KI: Not if they can help it.
CA: We’ve got a female herald of Galactus coming down to wreak destruction, and a team of kick-ass women coming to fight her — is this a book that you’re hoping will have some crossover to a female audience? Do you see a difference between marketing to women specifically or just making a book unisex but female-friendly? What do you think characterizes a “female-friendly” comic book?
KI: I’m going try to answer all of this at once and I’m sure, fail miserably. The short answer is “I have no idea.” From my perspective, I can only write the way that I write and write the stories that I write. It’s really up to editorial to make the good matches with creators and projects and marketing to decide how best to sell the results. I will say that I do try very much to write something that I want to read which I guess, by definition, makes it female-friendly. I have no problem whatsoever with demographic targeting, although I think there’s some room for refinement if we want to keep talking about marketing to women. Not everything is for everybody, nor should it be and the extent to which I’m okay with that is incalculable. I was at a signing a while ago and this 50-something guy wanted to have an in depth whinge about how he didn’t like “Marvel Divas” but somehow thought that it should have been a given that he would. Dude, I guess it just wasn’t your thing. And that’s okay. Also? I didn’t write it. The amazing Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa did, so stop having a go.
CA: Particularly given that “Heralds” is part of the Marvel Women initiative, what was your reaction to the complaints that Marvel Women or “Girl Comics” was “ghettoizing” lady creators?
KI: First, I really (honestly) actively avoid many many parts of the internet including reviews and commentary on projects that I’m involved with. So, with that caveat… I have read some of the reaction and the objections performed, I think, exactly to expectation. I don’t think any explanation of intent or demonstration of content is apt to change anybody’s mind if they’ve decided that this is a ‘bad thing’. Which is not to say that I don’t get it. I do. Promise. I went to grad school. But how anybody can NOT get excited about Ann Nocenti making comics is so far beyond me that I can see it in the rear view mirror. And it’s exhilarating to see that, on balance, I think the YAY!-sayers are winning. At the risk of inverting a hoary chestnut, this is not about claiming a difference, it’s about making a difference. And making that difference for comics means engaging an incredible collection of creators working on a dizzying array of characters. That’s not ‘ghettoizing’, nor is it stunt casting. For me, one of the most charming and cogent things anyone has said on the matter is [videogame producer] Robyn, who observed that the only people who think “girl” is a problem are people who say things like “you throw like a girl.”