Mairghread Scott is living a fan’s dream. Not only does she work on the cartoon television show of a property that she’s been a long time fan of, but she also gets to write the comic based on that television show. The property is Transformers, and Scott gets to work as a writer for Transformers Prime. She also made history by being the first female writer ever for an official Transformers comic book.
With all of that, we get to get our geek on, chatting a bit about her career and what it’s like being a woman in the entertainment and comic industry.
Mairghread Scott is the next person up for Graphic Policy’s “10 Questions.”
Graphic Policy: You write not only the Transformers Prime comic but also for the television show, how did you get involved as a writer? How would you describe your job for people?
Mairghread Scott: I was the Writers’ Assistant on Transformers Prime and got my first professional script from that show. Writers’ Assistant and Script Coordinator jobs are a traditional “breaking in” job for animation writers: you’re in the room, taking notes, reading all the drafts of all the scripts and helping keep track of everything. It’s a little overwhelming at points, but truly plugs you into your show’s universe. It was because of my “super-insiderness” (and Mike Johnson’s generosity) that I got to write on Rage of the Dinobots and when they wanted to do an ongoing comic series that plugged into Season 3 of Prime, it just made sense to do that too. Of course, this explanation doesn’t express the level of obsessive nerdiness and possessive love I feel toward the Prime brand, but it sounds more professional.
GP: Some sites have mentioned you are a long time Transformers fan. What was the version that got you interested in them and what was it about it? Do you have a favorite character?
MS: Beast Wars got me involved, hands down. I loved Airazor. I hated Blackarachnia. I wanted to ride Dinobot into battle and stab Megatron through the spark chamber. Such is the life of a Midwestern geek in the 90s.
GP: Did you read comics growing up? Do you read them now?
MS: I actually did not start reading comics until halfway through high school. I’d always loved superhero shows, but there wasn’t anyone in my life who could help me “jump in” to actual floppies until my boyfriend in high school (who used the Ultimates line as a starting point, so good job, Marvel – it worked!). Comics had felt, frankly, intimidating from the outside (Issue 376? Coming out every week, but really once a month? Which Spider-Man do I read first?), and they still seemed very, very male. But once I got in, it felt like the most natural thing in the world and I was able to reconnect with my childhood heroes on a new, more adult (not that adult), level. I was hooked and have been reading ever since.
GP: Did you have a mentor to help you break into the entertainment industry? Do you mentor anyone yourself?
MS: Yes and no and yes and no. I say that because the word “mentor” always makes me think of an old kung fu master who teaches you for years on some isolated mountaintop. That doesn’t happen. No one who has anything worth teaching you will spend all their time doing it and looking for that “magic guru” gets a lot of people in trouble. Instead, I’ve had a dozen different people help me at different points in my career: who opened a door, or mentioned a job, or read a script, and there are people like that throughout your life. I try to be that for some people now. But the only person who knows what’s ultimately best for you, who always sticks in your corner, has to be you. Otherwise, you’ll never make it.
GP: Do you think women have a more difficult time breaking in and making it in the comic industry, if so why? And if yes, how do you think that can be overcome?
MS: Yes, definitely. 50% of those problems are the result of BS, old wives tales the industry tells itself and that women tell themselves. The mere thought that we aren’t wanted is often enough to hold back very talented writers and artists. Why devote your energy to a career that everyone says you’re not welcome in? No one does comics for the money. The tragedy is that once you get in you find out how much BS it all was. Don’t get me wrong, companies (ALL companies) could be doing a lot more to go after the female market, but your editors, your artists, your peers – are often just as interested in promoting female characters as you are and the only thing they’re looking at is what talent you’re bringing to the table. The other 50% of our problems are just from the fact that it is REALLY hard to break in. Stores can be fickle with their ordering habits; you have to market yourself like crazy and there is a lot of rejection, missed chances, and failed starts to slog through. By the way, that’s true of any creative profession.
The answer to all of these problems is for women who want this to keep fighting for those jobs and for female fans to fight for their characters. Writing professionally requires a certain level of skill, but what most often separates professional writers from amateurs is sheer, unbridled endurance. Marketers may think a character won’t sell, but if they consistently make money, someone is going to figure it out. Eventually, talent (and profit) wins.
GP: We recently did some digging using Facebook stats and found that women make up about 41% of Transformers fandom. Does that surprise you at all?
MS: It’s more surprising to me that anyone actually researched it. But, no, female fans have been telling me how much they love the brand since before my first issue came out. And we do almost nothing to service them. There are literally three female transformers in all the IDW books on the shelf right now, period. Two of them are in Beast Hunters specifically because I put them there (there are actually several incidentals in Beast Hunters I wrote as female, but the average reader wouldn’t know that, so I don’t count them). What I’ve dedicated myself to proving is how much more this 41% would buy from us (and how many more women would join them) if we just paid attention to them. I think, I hope, that people are starting to understand.
GP: Have you done anything at all as a writer in an attempt to diversify what has been considered a “boy” franchise?
MS: Yeah. I added women. Not stupid women. Not every character being turned into a woman, but just having some intelligent, competent, clothed (I guess you could debate that one) women without acting like it’s a big deal. Because 41% of our fans are female, so it shouldn’t be.
GP: We’re coming up on the 30th anniversary of Transformers. Why have they endured for so long and any hints at some of the excitement we can expect to celebrate?
MS: I think they’ve endured because they are such great characters and there are so many of them. There’s always room to explore on Cybertron and there’s a great push-pull you can have as a writer with how alien these aliens really aren’t (or are). But in terms of spoilers, you’ve come to the wrong place. I can only hope Hasbro makes the wait worth your while.
GP: For people who want to pursue a career in what you do, what advice would you give them?
MS: Get your writing out there. If you want to write comics, make a comic, if you want to write TV, submit to contests, to fellowships, to managers. Even if your script isn’t completely perfect, it’s useless until people start reading it.
GP: What advice do you have for women looking to break into the comic book and entertainment industry?
MS: The same advice as the above but shouted a thousand times louder. Some women (myself included) have this idea that they’ll be ‘discovered’ and so all they need to do is hone their craft until the time is right and a Prince Charming-type editor turns up. That is not going to happen. Knock on the door, then kick down the door. Ask to be involved, then shout it. You are ALREADY NOT hired in the job you want, so the worst thing that can happen is that you will CONTINUE to not be hired. There is no downside. Remember that.
And, of course, if you (male or female) have any questions or comments (or funny GIFs, I’m a sucker for those) you can always reach me on Twitter at @MairghreadScott or Tumblr at http://mscottwrites.tumblr.com/