While at San Diego Comic-Con, I got the chance to sit down with acclaimed (and newly out!) writer Marguerite Bennett, the mind behind the delightfully queer DC Comics Bombshells.
While writing Bombshells, Marguerite has also been working on InSeXts for Aftershock comics, an erotic horror series set in Victorian England that revolves around Lady Bertram and her maid/lover Mariah. It is dark, twisted, and NSFW. Needless to say, I’m obsessed.
AfterEllen: When you were growing up, were there any queer characters/artists/role models that inspired you to start writing?
Marguerite Bennett: Oh God yes! Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy were like—people always ask me who my favorite heroines were growing up, was there a comic character that I had a particular identification with, and they’re always asking about these heroines, and I didn’t really identify so much with them. I didn’t have a certain kinship with Batgirl the way that my friends did!
I loved Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley because they didn’t have to be aspirational; they just got to be themselves. And it was so fantastic because, even before I really understood what queer was, I knew Harley and Ivy were in love, and I have memories of them being together in the animated series. I mean, Batman: The Animated Series was like my gateway drug. I saw it when I was five years old, and it was so funny— all the media and TV for little girls is this hyper-saturated, hyper-sanitized, bright pink, everyone’s cheerful and happy all the time, no one has problems. And [Batman: The Animated Series] had such a noir vibe. It was like, “Oh, I’m not supposed to be watching this show, this is for grown ups!” And I was just so in love with it and it’s been honestly the largest influence on my taste in the DC Universe. Those three ladies were my triumvirate!
AE: You can absolutely see that influence in Bombshells, and you can really see it in InSeXts too, which is such a cool series as well. Can you talk a little bit about how that got started and what turned you onto that subject matter?
MB: InSeXts has sort of an angry origin—it’s definitely my angry book. I was the subject of a hate mail campaign. So it started as a short story for this horror anthology called In The Dark (IDW). So I got pummeled with hate mail, my home address was leaked online, and it was my first solo comic. So I wound up driving to my father’s house and just left New York and drove for seven hours, and as soon as I got there I was like, “Why did you run?” I was just alone in the house, thinking about it, and just produced this story—like I’d been punished for my gender with my gender, so I decided to write a story about that. It was my place to be messy, to be sort of unapologetically angry.
When I was an undergrad, my concentration had always been Victorian literature. So I loved the era, and as much as I love the classical text, this idea of everyone being white/straight. You know, the BBC Masterpiece version of Victorian England wasn’t—it was one of the most diverse cities in the world! Queer people were not invented in the 1980s. So I wanted to do something to subvert the vision that we have of that time. We talk about symbols of imperialism and colonization, and how people turn that into a weapon and discover agency with it, and also turn into horrifying bug monsters. So it’s pretty fun.
AE: Going back to Bombshells, how did you go about creating the Batgirls (young women in the series who, inspired by Batwoman, start patrolling their own neighborhoods and fighting crime) and especially Alysia, who is a trans girl?
MB: It actually started last year at Comic-Con. Bombshells wasn’t out yet, and I had a lot of parents talk to me and ask if the series was going to be all-ages, and it was a tricky question to answer. It’s still a World War II story, so I wasn’t sure how age appropriate that would be, but I wanted it to be inclusive, so I kept thinking about it, and I went to breakfast with our wonderful editor Jim Chadwick, and we went for Nutella and banana crepes.
AE: Excellent choice.
MB: And I told him about this idea that I’d like to do, between the arcs, have these one-shot, all-ages adventures about these girls who are inspired by Batwoman, you know. So you have this ongoing idea of Batman as a symbol, Superman as a symbol, and it was like, but Batwoman would be too, she’s the American Heroine for them. And just having the Batgirls defending the homefront, like this is their fight too. One of the wonderful things about having it be an alternate history is you don’t have to deal with the historical accuracy of Kate and Maggie being closeted or the characters living in fear or for there to be segregation…I just want to read a story about them being damn heroes! I don’t want to open up a book and be like, “Well, in the spirit of historical accuracy, you’re gonna watch your favorite characters get treated like crap first.” No. I want to have fun. We deserve this. We deserve to have a story about heroines, so I hit the ground running and pulled in my favorite characters who had ever been least associated with the symbol of the bat, and the sky is the limit!
AE: So what’s your writing process like? Do you have any writing rituals to inspire you?
MB: The ritual is to talk trash to myself for awhile. [laughs] And be like, “You gotta be better than you were last week!” Like honestly, I know a lot of people talk about needing inspiration, but for me, my butt has to be in the chair, I have to turn out a certain number of words every day. It’s like turning on a faucet—the tap might run muddy at first, but if you run it long enough, it’ll run clear. So you just put out the words until they are good and practice until you get it right. That’s my only good ritual.
AE: Okay, so imagine if Bombshells becomes a movie. Who is your dream casting for Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer?
MB: Oh Lord. I haven’t actually thought about this; that’s sort of terrible. Oh, crud. Actually, hit me up on Twitter if y’all have answers!
AE: For me, it’s Jessica Chastain/Emily Blunt as Kate.
MB: Those arms.
AE: I know, right? And maybe Yvonne Strahovski for Maggie.
MB: I would love to hear everyone’s ideas for this.
AE: I will put it out into the queer Twittersphere. They got opinions!
MB: Fuck yeah!
Thanks to DC Comics and Marguerite Bennett for taking the time to talk with me. Tweet us your dream Bombshells casting @ChelseaProcrast and @EvilMarguerite DC Comics Bombshells and InSeXts are available on Comixology and your local comic book stores.