Interview with the creators of WE Comics: Comics for Everyone Else
After being frustrated for far too long with the comics companies writing to a young, male audience, Jason Enright and Mairghread Scott decided to do something unexpected, they started their own comics company, WE Comics. Long-time supporters of geeky gals everywhere, Jason and Mairghread are both extremely talented and extraordinarily passionate. I was lucky enough to sit down with them to discuss how WE Comics got its start, what they think about the current state of the comics industry, their first few projects and finally, how they’re planning on taking the industry by storm in the future. Read on and make sure to check out their new website and follow them on FB and Twitter
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
First off, congratulations to you for the release of your first comic, How I Spent My Summer Invasion (available online and in stores) and the upcoming Jimmy Brass: 2nd Grade Detective (a 5-page preview is available online now). They are both incredibly charming and made me laugh out loud multiple times. Tell me a little bit about how WE Comics got started.
Jason Enright: I manage a comic store and comics are pretty much my life. It had started to annoy me that a majority of the comics seemed aimed at 18-34 year old males and pretty much no one else. I have a lot of female friends and a lot of friends with children, and I felt like there was very little I could recommend to my friends to read. Then this awesome book, Womanthology was announced, it’s like 300 pages of comics created by women, and although it is a great read for everyone, it is kind of aimed at women too. At a Womanthology Panel at Comikaze, I was stating my concerns to the panelists. Bonnie Burton just looked me dead in the eye, and said “Stop complaining and make your own comic!” It was tough love but it inspired me to create WE Comics.
Mairghread W Scott: Growing up, my mother used to buy books for everyone, no matter who they were or what the event. She said there was no such thing as a person who didn’t like books, they just hadn’t found the right book yet. When I started reading comics in college, I kept coming across stories that I knew my mother would love, but she insisted that she just wasn’t a comic book person (something I hear a lot). Well, I refused to believe that and (after years of trying) my mother is a devote Wednesday comic book woman, but with less and less diversity on the shelves (in terms of story-type, characters, art style, all of it) I could see why she felt locked out for so long. WE Comics is our way of getting more stories (and more kinds of stories) out there. Our motto is: there’s no such thing as “not a comic book reader,” they just haven’t read our books yet.
It never occurred to me to even enter a comic book shop until a couple of years ago. Why do you think that comics and gaming have been so focused on men?
JE: I think it’s because the comic business is so tough right now. Print books are dying and comics are one of the last mainstays of the print industry. I think it’s considered good business by the big wigs to look at what is currently selling and only make more books like that. They are dead wrong. Sure, for most of comics history grown up men have been your readers, but with all these comic movies and TV shows coming out, there is much renewed interest in comics. The main problem right now is when a woman or a mom who just took her kids to see the Avengers, walk into a comic book store, there’s very little on the shelf for them. We hope to change that.
MWS: This may sound harsh, but I don’t care why, and frankly it’s not my job too. It’s not any woman’s job to and I am so frustrated as a female reader with having to explain over and over why I matter. My job is to read good comics, write good comics and sell good comics and if someone’s business model wants to give up on the over 70% of the population that isn’t men 18-35, then more for WE. I’ve learned to speak with my dollars. I loved Womanthology so I hired/begged Candace Ellis, a wonderful Womanthology artist, to draw my book. If you like it, buy it; tell your friends to buy it. Dress up as Opal from Jimmy Brass and tell the world you love our books. I can’t say what other companies will do in the future or what they think of your opinions, but I can guarantee at WE Comics if enough people buy a book, we’ll print more and if people tell us they have a problem, we’ll do everything we can to fix it. Period.
What comics to you have in the works right now? Are you going to have more adult-oriented products?
JE: Right now, we are working on 3 books. “How I Spent My Summer Invasion” written by Patrick Rieger and illustrated by Mark Sean Wilson, is a crazy story about two kids on summer break who stumble upon a vacation resort run by aliens. “Jimmy Brass, Second Grade Detective” written by Jake Dickerman and illustrated by Jason Pruett, is about a 2nd grader who solves mysteries for a dollar and his best friend Opal, a kindergartner who keeps him out of trouble. These two books are All Ages stories meant to be for kids, but also very entertaining to adults. Mairghread is doing our first, I guess, grown up book. I’d say it’s for teens and up. Mairghread do you want to tell them about your book?
MWS: Thanks! Triage is the story of a Los Angeles EMT who gets sucked into an underground, super-powered gang war. But it’s also the story about how a woman named Cassie (who’s pretty average) goes from 9-5 job to wanted vigilante, because that’s such a crazy life-choice, I had to explore it. Candace Ellis brings a wonderful expressiveness with the art of Triage and her panels really suck you in. It brings a realism to the story that helps ground it. Good thing too, because you won’t believe how crazy things get.
How have you been choosing your writers and artists? If someone is interested in working with you, are you accepting submissions?
JE: Well, right now we’ve mostly been working with friends. Jake went to school with Mairghread. Patrick, we know through some writers’ groups we’re a part of. Our artists we’ve found at conventions, or through Twitter.
MWS: As a new company, it’s been really important for us to start strong and we’ve been blessed to know some dedicated, wonderful people who’ve shared our dream.
JE: Eventually I’d love to take submissions. We really have to see how this first round of books goes. If all goes well, we will be expanding the line. My plan is to do 5 issue story arcs, then have an off season. Sort of like a TV show. So we’d do Jimmy Brass for 5 months, take 2 months off, and then do another 5 issues. So that way, we always have product out, though I will need to shuffle the series, so as Jimmy is wrapping up, a new series will start. Then as that ends the new season of Jimmy Brass will come back. Right now, other than the 3 current series, we only have one other in the works. So I guess I will have to take submissions eventually.
What are your short-term goals and if those go well, what are some of your ultimate, long-term goals?
JE: Well, right now we are putting out one issue of each book and testing the market. If those go well and get a fair reaction, we will probably have to turn to Kickstarter to fund the rest of the first arcs. My hope would be that each of these series go at least for 5 issues and a graphic novel collecting the 5. Our long term goals would be to write comics for the rest of our lives. I know Mairghread has much more Triage to tell beyond the first 5 issues, and Jake and I have plotted Jimmy Brass stories for at least 3 graphic novels, maybe more.
MWS: Okay, my secret long-term goal: write a holodeck story. I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve loved the idea of a fully explorable, immersive story since I watched Next Generation on my mother’s knee. Honestly, with video games and digital/animated comics, I really think we can do it fairly soon (not the hologram part, though, that’s above WE’s pay grade). I’d love to do the third arc of Triage on an app that lets you see the story from multiple character’s viewpoints or change the ending. I’d love to make a Jimmy Brass issue that you can color in on your iPad or solve the mystery on your own. These things are possible and I (or should I say WE) intend to do them.
I’ve been hearing from long-term comics’ fans that even they are starting to purchase most of their comics digitally. How is your new company going to adjust to this new digital sales realm?
JE: For right now we are selling digital comics digitally through our website. Eventually I’d love to get on Comixology, the iTunes store and everywhere else. The thing that I find interesting is that we actually release our books digitally first. As a small company, if the printer is going to take 2 weeks or more, and I can start making money on the comic now by selling it digitally on my site right now, then why would I wait? So for now, digital will be a strong part of our future and we hope to make our digital selections better and offered on more apps and formats as we grow.
MWS: There will always be a place for print at WE, especially with our kids lines (because I’d love to add activities on our kids books and I can’t read my iPad in the tub), but digital is truly our best friend. It lets anyone in the world try out our books instantly for a minimal fee. It saves paper; it saves us money and if everyone bought WE Comics online, we’d be happy as clams.
What do you think the major comic companies could do to attract more women readers? Are your comics going to be aimed specifically at women and children or just at a broader base than most mainstream comics?
JE: If DC and Marvel want more women readers, they need to hire more women, and write better women characters. DC has a few great female-friendly books right now in Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Batwoman, and Supergirl, but that’s 4 titles out of 52. That’s 7%, not good enough. Also, why not give Justice League to fan favorite female creators like Gail Simone and Renae de Liz? Don’t just let women write or draw women, let them work on the guys too.
Our tagline is Comics for Everyone Else. So maybe you are not a child or a woman, maybe you’re like me, a 26 year-old dude who wants something new to read. I consider myself part of Everyone Else. I hope eventually we’re writing tons of comics, but for now when we had to pick 3 ideas to produce, we chose to focus on women and kids. We even had another funny tagline we didn’t go with, what was it Mairghread? Women and Children First? But it sounded like what they’d yell as the Titanic sunk.
MWS: I know that when we looked into it, we found that the biggest thing women wanted in comics (besides physically possible body types) was thought-out, character-driven stories where people changed and actions had consequences. They responded much more to stories about people dealing with each other, rather than just fighting random monsters, and they hated being ret-conned every six months. Honestly, (and maybe it’s because I’m a woman) this is just good story-telling to me. For kids, the feeling was that they wanted a story that was single-issue sized, but didn’t talk down to them. So that’s what we’re doing. Our children’s comics are aimed at children in the sense that a Pixar movie is aimed at children. Obviously, there are stories that are not appropriate to tell, but the stories we do tell are still going to be told in the best way possible and we think everyone can related to them. As sad as it, is our “female-focus” is us writing 3-dimensional women and having more than one of them per title. Cassie in Triage is like Ripley in Alien: an awesome woman in an awesome story that anyone can enjoy. The only thing we’re doing especially for women is reaching out to them and letting them know WE Comics is here. Like I said, there’s no such thing as “not a comic book person” and WE wants to help everyone find the right book.