In this new age of diversity in comics, we’re seeing a lot of new writers and artists emerge on the scene with exciting new projects featuring all different sorts of heroes starring in their own books. Recently, it was announced that ‘Young Avengers’ writer Kieron Gillen would be returning to Asgard with ‘Angela: Asgard’s Assassin,‘ a limited series about the mysterious Marvel Universe newcomer that first appeared in ‘Age of Ultron’ courtesy of Neil Gaiman after being established as a long-time ‘Spawn’ character. However, Gillen will not be traveling alone on this journey into mystery spotlighting the angel/daughter of Asgard/Guardian of the Galaxy. He will be joined by up and comer Marguerite Bennett, a relative newcomer to the comic book industry that has already made a splash by writing iconic DC characters like Batman, Lobo, Batgirl, and Lois Lane.
On the first day of this year’s Baltimore Comic Con, I had the immense pleasure of chatting with Bennett after an amazing panel called “Sexy or Sexualized” featuring Adam Hughes, Christina Blanch, Dave Gibbons, Gail Simone, and Thom Zahler. We covered a plethora of topics that spilled over from the panel such as the new approach to Barbra Gordon and the recent ‘Spider-Woman’ and #FireRickRemender controversies, but we quickly dove into her career and her upcoming projects, especially when Scott Snyder came up. It turns out that the acclaimed ‘Batman’ writer was the one who really got the ball rolling for this rising star, so I asked how it all happened. From there, we venture into her upcoming work with Angela, her love of Neil Gaiman, and the new trend of diversity in the comic industry that she’s a part of. You can check out our conversation below:
SF: So what was it like working with Scott Snyder in your big debut on ‘Batman Annual’ #2? How did that come about?
MB: He’s wonderful. Scott’s my older brother and one of my best friends in comics. He was my professor at Sarah Lawrence, where I took a class on comic book and graphic novel writing with him, and I brought him this project that I had been working on for a few years. He responded to it very positively and we kept in touch for about a year. Then, in January 2013, he reached out to me, told me that he honestly thought that I was ready to do this professionally, and asked if I was interested in helping him out on the ‘Batman’ annual. He actually said “help” for the record. I’m gonna throw him under the bus. You can’t ever say that to another human being! “Do you wanna help me on Batman?” [laughs] I mean, it was one of the happiest days. It really was. I adore Scott. He’s such a remarkable, incredible creator and a humble and kind person. He’s a doll.”
SF: Scott is a fan favorite, but you’re also working with another one at Marvel in the form of Kieron Gillen. Comic book writing is a collaborative medium to begin with, but ‘Angela: Asgard’s Assassin’ is even more so with two writers and two artists. What are some differences working like this?
MB: It’s a lot of fun really. We got to loop into the Marvel retreat several weeks ago and got in on a roundtable with me, Kieron, Phil [Jimenez], and Will Moss, who’s our editor, and just bounce things off and throw ideas out. As we were talking, Phil’s pen wasn’t still the entire time. He was sketching and going over ideas for costumes and covers. He worked so quickly and it was all so harmonious and so productive. It’s just a great sense of community supporting this character as opposed to sitting at your laptop at two in the morning wanting to die and being like, “I can’t think of a line for page 18. What am I going to do?!”
It was really great, especially working on a character that’s so stark as Angela that she’s so self-contained, self-determined, and self-defined that she doesn’t… well not necessarily that she doesn’t want or need anyone, but she doesn’t want to be that person. She’s sort of imposed that on herself to the point that she’s never opened up or analyzed herself to see if this is what she wants because she’s decided that this is her predetermined course in life. Part of the exploration of character is going to be breaking down those walls and seeing her develop relationships with others like people she obviously loves, whether or not she admits that to herself. It was like having that place of familiarity and friendship to push that character through is going to be really effective, I think.
SF: You mentioned these relationships that she’s opening up to. Will you be touching on the relationship between Angela and Gamora from Brian Michael Bendis’ ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ in your book?
MB: I can’t spoil anything, but her relationships will be very crucial in defining her as a character in this series.
SF: No worries. I get that. Anyway, you’ve worked with some very established characters at both Marvel and DC, but Angela is fairly wide open in the Marvel Universe. Do you find it easier to work with a character like her where you can create more or do you prefer those other characters that have a history to look back on?
MB: More intimidating than writing Batman was writing Lois Lane because of all the continuity that came before her. With Batman, you have a sense of his personality. With Lois Lane, she has been different things in different eras. It wasn’t like the consistency where you pick up an issue of ‘Batman’ and you know what his personality is. With Lois Lane, she was the bumbling girlfriend or the hard-boiled reporter. She was the lovesick bridezilla or she was the war journalist. That put me under more pressure than any character that I’ve ever written.
So with Angela, it’s sort of a double edge sword. Everyone knows the character, even if only for the legal controversy. At the same time, they don’t necessarily have an idea of her personality. It’s an iconic character, so in that way you’d think that there would be a specific thing that she’s known for personality wise. But introducing those relationships is both going to define who she was originally and then also as she moves along her journey of self-discovery who she’s becoming. It’s difficult because she’s an iconic character and the fact that she’s a Neil Gaiman character and the fact that she came from a different universe where she wasn’t originally a Marvel property, you feel like you’re walking a very fine line, but you also don’t want the character to become fixed. Stasis is the death of characters. With Batman, he’s iconic, but his personality is so compelling that he’s sustained 70 years of being unchanged. I know it’s sort of a rambly answer, but it’s often easier to work with characters that are less established just in terms of pressure and there’s less anxiety about performance and living up to fan expectation. Angela sort of walks the border between the two.
SF: Has Neil Gaiman seen anything that you guys have worked on yet?
MB: God, I hope not. I’m not speaking for Kieron. I’m just terrified. I don’t want Neil Gaiman to know that I exist yet. He’s my favorite comic book writer. I read ‘Sandman’ when I was 13 and it just blew open my mind. He was such an influential person in my life and I don’t want him to know that I exist yet. [laughs] I need to be a lot better before he knows that I exist.
SF: Finally, in keeping with the vein of your panel from earlier, what do you think about the comic book industry as a whole becoming more sensitive to being more progressive and diverse?
MB: DC has made vast steps as far as hiring female creators, which I’m a part of and I appreciate. At the same time, Marvel is releasing a fantastic slew of books about solo female characters. It becomes an issue where you don’t want to only focus on their presentation of women. You want to focus on people of color. You want to focus on the queer community. You want to focus on representations of different faiths and different cultures. So I think that honestly it will get better with the more creators that you bring in whether it’s writers, artists, editors, or any part of the artistic team. You’re going to have a stronger cast for having a more diverse cast so that it no longer becomes hyper-selective and, in a lot of cases, repetitive. If you line up all the Robins, you start to see a certain pattern. I love the Robins! [laughs] No one take that out of context!
If you couldn’t tell from that conversation, I had so much fun talking to Marguerite Bennett. I’ve done a lot of interviews in my career, but few were as easy to conduct as this one thanks to her bubbly personality and well-spoken answers. I look forward to checking out all her upcoming work, especially ‘Angela: Asgard’s Assassin’, and I hope you do as well.
Are you a fan of Marguerite Bennett? Do you have a favorite project of her’s yet? Are you looking forward to her work on ‘Angela: Asgard’s Assassin’? Let us know in the comment section.