Real Interviews: Kelly Turnbull Part 2

Part 1 of the interview can be found here.

Nerdcenaries: Now you are also a comics person. You did those Justice League redesigns with the characters in Wonder Woman style costumes which were to quote Chris Sims “a hoot”.
Kelly Turnbull: Ahaha, man, that really blew up, it started as just kind of a back-and-forth between a friend and myself. He was lambasting people airing their grievances with Wonder Woman on the cover saying that DC fans were always going to find something to complain about (which is true enough, honestly) and I did that to illustrate what exactly it was that people had the problem with regarding Wonder Woman on that cover. With both got a ton of shit for that one, he had people telling him he was a sexist pig and a misogynist and all sorts of things like that (which couldn’t be further from the truth, he’s a really nice guy) and I had people telling me I was exploiting gay men and sissy shaming and hating on women who wanted to be effeminate and all that.
N: That is the nature of the Internet and even parody.
KT: Really, I just wanted to convey the idea that it was a silly pose by comparison to the dudes she was posing with. I think enough people got that, though. A lot of people asked why there was so much complaining over Wonder Woman, saying that she was far from DC’s worst handled character. I think she tends to be put under the microscope in respect to this sort of thing because she’s kind of historically been treated like a barometer for DC’s attitudes towards feminism.
N: I think the problem is really with one guy’s design of her. Jim Lee does some really poorly thought out designs that lack aesthetic qualities.
KT: Oh, I’m just saying why I think people tend to set their sights on Wonder Woman above all others.
N: Ironically though I keep hearing that the Wonder Woman series is one of the more solid comics that DC is doing.
KT: She gets more scrutiny because DC has proven that they’re not afraid to meddle with her character to make her more of an “empowered woman”. I saw a documentary on the company once saying that she was briefly depowered because DC thought women would be more impressed by a female character who didn’t need magical Amazon powers to stand with the boys. Then promptly changed her back when they realized people were upset to see the most recognizable female super hero of the day gone average mortal. I’ve seen this kind of waffling with the character cited as the reason that her story and personality aren’t as solid and iconic with the average Joe off the street as Superman or Batman’s are, but I couldn’t prove or disprove that for you.
N: Well Superman is Truth, Justice and the American Way. Batman is Justice Through Fear (Somewhat). Wonder Woman is nobility and honor through bravery (or bondage) but I don’t think she has an easy to classify ideal like Superman or Batman do, though neither do most of the other characters. I think that Wonder Woman just suffers more because she is the female character and with no established, or at least heavily established, characteristic, she becomes “the female”.
KT: Exactly. Well, here’s an observation of the character from The American Scholar in 1943; “Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”
N: And yet that is a heavily Eurocentric view. Though I would love to see a stereotypically mythological/godly Wonder Woman using her powers to just mess with people, sort of like the Kate Beaton Surly Wonder Woman.
KT: Heh. As Marston, I think he was her creator put it “Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world” I feel like from the get-go there was a lot of pressure put on her to represent feminist ideas and, as you said, “be the female” in a boy’s club. Kate Beaton surly Wonder Woman is great because “surly” is more of a personality than “girl”
N: Now, what print comics are you reading these days?
KT: I actually just got my hands on the Major Bummer collection Dark Horse recently put out. It was kind of an AU DC thing from back in the 90’s. As in, DC originally published it, but it has nothing to do with the DCU. It is probably the best super hero comic I’ve ever read
N: Some of their best work has nothing to do with it. I personally love the Elseworld’s stuff.
KT: Alien college students are doing a thesis on the effects of introducing super powers to a closed environment like Earth. They select a group of people they feel will do the most good for humanity, but accidentally send the “Mr. Incredible” type frontman hero superpowers to a 98lb nerd who works in an electronics repair shop instead of the teacher-lawyer-humanitarian they’d originally intended. So the skinny nerd kid wakes up out of the blue as a seven-foot musclebound super human and the story basically follows how much it sucks for him to have super powers. The aliens want the device that gave him the powers back so they can give it to the man it was intended for, but the only way to take it back requires tearing his heart out. He has absolutely no desire to be the hero they want, but he has no plans to relinquish any organs. Needless to say hilarity ensues, but I don’t want to give the whole thing away.
N: That sounds pretty solid. And there is apparently a trade for it as well.
KT: I’ve also really been trying to turn people onto European comics a lot lately. I’m honestly surprised they didn’t explode on the scene stateside the same way manga did.
N: I think it is the mentality of “the mysterious east!” vs “where my smelly grandparents came from” to a degree. Though we have the Tin Tin movie coming out which might help.
KT: It might have something to do with the sparse updates or companies being more apprehensive about something that needs to be printed in colour on quality paper VS something they can print in black and white on newsprint. I think most comic fans are familiar with Blacksad, it certainly seems to be one of the most highly acclaimed and widely recognize European comics making the rounds in the states. Even Blacksad has met production hiccups when it came to translation because the producers were worried it wasn’t selling enough copies in America
N: With that said though look at Oni Press – Scott Pilgrim exploded, The Sixth Gun is being optioned as a series and so are a lot of other nonhero books like Chew.
KT: 2:29:23N: I think part of it comes from the Superhero Only mentality in American comics and the fact that manga has a wider variety and a lower price.
N: Sales is definitely another thing though.
KT: European comics have been translated by Heavy Metal for years, so I wonder if that might have something to do with people forming some preconceived notions about it. Like, the idea gets around that it’s inherently trashy or X-rated because of the reputation Heavy Metal has.
N: A lot of the industry is negatively affected by what people incorrectly think about comics.
KT: I’ve heard comic distributors air their frustrations with the way Heavy Metal manages their translated material as well, though, so their poor track record of publishing collected paperbacks could be another nail in the coffin. I’m going to throw out Skydoll as an example because it has hands down my favourite art in a comic to date. Up until recently, the only way to obtain translated Skydoll was by buying the Heavy Metal back issue that ran it a few summers ago. So it’s this gorgeous comic that by all rights you should be enjoying in a big luxurious hardcover or something like that, but the only way to get your hands on it was in a magazine full of ads with an unrelated airbrushed pinup girl on the cover.
N: I worked in a comic shop and it was always a weird thing placing Heavy Metal for that reason. Though if nothing else we’d cover up Guns and Corpses with Heavy Metal.
KT: I was so happy that Marvel acquired the rights to publish the translated version in the States, they’ve finally got it out on shelves in the collected edition it deserves. So everyone can go buy it now and show their support and we can maybe get more stuff like it…
N: As we start to wrap up, is there anything you’d like to plug?
KT: Hm, I think the only American comic I’m still keeping up with these days is the Goon, all of my love to the things that come out of the mind of Eric Powell. He is a credit to Indie comics. And on a webcomic front, I’ll urge everyone to read the Meek. I’m sure most people have heard of it by now, but if you haven’t read it yet, go at it. It’s probably my favourite online comic to date.
N: Well Kelly, thank you for your time and I’d definitely like to get you back on to talk more.
KT: No problem! It was definitely a pleasure!

Luke Herr

Luke is a writer and an aspiring professional comic writer who is also the editor in chief of Nerdcenaries. He currently is working on a graphic novel called Prison Spaceship.