Hire This Woman: Writer Emma Beeby
In the overwhelmingly male comic book industry, it has been a challenge for some editors and readers to see the ever growing number of talented women currently trying to make a name for themselves. With that in mind, ComicsAlliance offers Hire This Woman, a recurring feature designed for comics readers as well as editors and other professionals, where we shine the spotlight on a female comics pro on the ascendance. Some of these women will be at the very beginning of their careers, while others will be more experienced but not yet “household names.”
Emma Beeby has written various different kinds of projects including speeches, film, games, horoscopes, and audioplays. She wrote Risen 2: Dark Waters, a game that was nominated for a Writers Guild Award, as well as a Doctor Who audioplay. Her comics work includes Judge Dredd, making her the first female writer in the character's history.
ComicsAlliance: What’s your background/training?
Emma Beeby: I’ve always been a writer -- I’ve written as a journalist, a speech-writer and, most entertainingly (for me, anyway), a horoscope writer. So this comics writing thing was bound to happen eventually.
Screenwriting was my starting point on creative writing. I did a few training courses, and then it all took off really fast, but it can be a frustrating field as for every one thing that gets made there are many more that don’t, so while you might be working, there may be no end product. I then moved into audio drama, writing Doctor Who, then comics and game writing. A game I co-wrote even got nominated for a Writers Guild Award for its script, so I took that as a good sign I was going in the right direction.
CA: How would you describe your creative style?
EB: For a story idea to be really exciting to me, it needs to be a little unconventional. In Doctor Who there’s a tradition of dividing stories into being either "trad "or rad". I’m quite firmly in the "rad" camp.
If I’m working on an established character, I’ll often want to do something different with them, or break established rules. For me it’s been a way to find something new in it. In my first outing co-writing Judge Dredd (spoiler warning!), we completely removed him from existence -- and while he returned, it also meant there was more than a quarter of the series with no Dredd in it at all... and it’s his comic. That felt pretty bold. But the editor was up for it, and we got great fan reaction.
Subject-wise, it varies. I’m working on two historical set stories just now, one fantastical and full of demonic monsters, the other biographical and full of human monsters. That’s the great thing about comics -- there’s a lot of scope for different kinds and ways of telling stories.
CA: What projects have you worked on in the past?
EB: For comics, I quite often work with my co-writer, Gordon Rennie. Our first joint outing was a manga project -- a time-travel romance with just a touch of horror -- along with artist Yishan Li. We all ended up working on other things, but we’re hoping to pick that up again soon and find it a good home.
I then we did a one-shot called Primus Inter Pares, a satirical piece featuring zombie British Prime Ministers drawn by the very talented Eoin Coveney. Also the cover by Graeme Neil Reid of zombie Margaret Thatcher was genius.
More recently, I worked on one co-written and two solo-written Judge Dredd stories, making me the first woman to write Dredd in his 36-year history. The latest of these, "Jinxed!" will be published this year in a 2000AD summer special featuring new writers and artists. I ended up working with Eoin Coveney again on this, which has been great. Gordon and I also wrote a series called "Survival Geeks" for 2000AD, drawn by Neil Googe, about a group of dimension-travelling geeks who always land in the middle of some kind of apocalypse. We’re working on more of that now.
CA: What are you currently working on?
EB: Currently Gordon and I are doing final pages of a graphic novel called Robbie Burns: Witch Hunter, drawn by the incredible Tiernen Trevallion, which will be published by Renegade Arts Entertainment. I’m so excited about seeing it come out -- it’s been a lot of fun to work on.
I’m also working on a solo graphic novel, a biographical piece about a woman who scandalized most of Europe. Her story is as much about sex and scandal as it is about war and injustice, and I think will make for a stunning graphic novel. I’m hoping to find a female artist to work with on this and a good home for its publication. It’s the piece of work I’m most passionate about right now.
CA: Approximately how long does it take you to write a 20-page issue?
EB: I can do about five pages a day, but then there’s the redrafting and generally realizing you’re going to end up diverging from your initial plan, and having to revisit the plan, so it varies. I try to do as much as possible up front with structuring and planning the story so I can write fast. I am usually juggling a few things, so it depends on the needs of the project, but I work well with deadlines.
CA: What is your dream project?
EB: If my historical biog project comes off, that would certainly be one of them. As for established stories I’d love to work on - I’ve already written some Doctor Who, which was another, so that leaves Tomb Raider. Soon as Gail Simone and Rhianna Pratchett have had enough, I’m ready to step up! Lara Croft got me into games, games got me into Dredd, and writing Dredd has really opened the world of comics to me. I’d love to give something back.
CA: Who are some comic creators that inspire you?
EB: Too many to list, and always being added to! Just on the writer front I’d immediately say: Gordon Rennie (obviously), John Wagner, Joss Whedon, Gail Simone, Neil Gaiman, Greg Rucka, Terry Moore, Alan Moore, Glyn Dillon, Posy Simmonds, Brian K Vaughan. There are loads.
CA: What are some comics that have inspired you either growing up or as an adult?
EB: The Sandman was the first comic series I made the conscious decision to read all of. I’d read a few things before then, including 2000AD and some Batman, but Sandman was the series that led to my wanting to read more. When you start reading comics, if you’ve not read them as a kid, I think the conventions can be hard to follow. As such an inventive and varied series, it felt like I got comics after that and I set out to read more, get recommendations and even ventured into comics stores. As an older beginner knowing what to read is undoubtedly harder. That’s why I’m such a fan of digital. I think it allows more people to try them out, particularly female readers - I’ve converted quite a few!
CA: What’s your ideal professional environment?
EB: I work almost exclusively on my iPad so I can work pretty much anywhere. I set aside some time every week to go to a local place that does a cheap, vat-sized amount of good coffee, and is a nice environment for working for a few hours. But mostly I work at home, mostly from the sofa. My ideal place would be a large table in a shady courtyard, somewhere in a warmer country than Scotland!
CA: What do you most want our readers and industry professionals to know about your work?
EB: The only stories I’ll work on are the ones I’m passionate about, and I really throw myself into any project I take on. It feels like I’ve come quite far in a short time and that’s because I think I found something special in working on comics, collaborating with amazing people, and I’ve been able to tell different kinds of stories. Also, I want to work outside my comfort zone. I wrote Dredd stories mostly to prove to myself that I could, and doing things like that helps me find new and surprising things to enjoy in storytelling.
CA: How can editors and readers keep up with your work and find your contact information?
EB: I’m on Twitter and LinkedIn as well. Also folk can always drop me a line at emma.beeby ‘at’ gmail.com.
If there is a woman you’d like to recommend or if you’d like to be included in a future installment of this feature, drop us a line at comicsalliance-at-gmail-dot-com with "Hire This Woman" in the subject line.