Interview: Women of BOOM! – Nimue Brown
It’s Thursday which brings us a new interview and our 21st “Women of BOOM!” feature, spotlighting the many kick-ass women that work at BOOM!, Archaia and KaBOOM! We’re focusing on everyone, editors, designers, writers, artists, you name it! We’re making sure to include the hard-working folks whose contributions are often overlooked in the process.
BOOM! (and KaBOOM! and Archaia) has given us unprecedented access and the chance to ask questions to their staff, and creative teams, to find out why the publisher is so successful in hiring women and their experiences in the comic industry as women.
Nimue Brown is a writer who has worked on the Hopeless Maine graphic novel series published by Archaia.
Graphic Policy: How did you get involved in the comic book industry?
Nimue Brown: I was lured in by my artist, Tom Brown. Although I loved Sandman, I wasn’t much of a comics person, had grown out of capes and superheroes and didn’t really see it as a space for me. It took him a long time to persuade me to have a go, and it was the alternative nature of Tom’s art work that convinced me there could be a space in comics for the kinds of stories that interest me.
GP: Did you read comics growing up? Do you read them now?
NB: I grew up with Batman, a bit of Superman and some exposure to X-Men. In my teens I found and fell in love with The Sandman, and then I fell out of comics entirely. However, trying to write them it seemed only sane to dive back in, so I read all sorts of things, sometimes just to try and understand technical aspects, sometimes out of love. I like webcomics a lot, I like the immediacy and the sheer diversity.
GP: How did you come to work with BOOM!/Archaia?
NB:We asked nicely and Archaia said yes! We came along with an existing webcomic, and were taken on as a property.
NB: Being the writer doesn’t take long. A couple of weeks of intensive work from me can keep Tom busy for months, so I feel a bit like an absentee landlord sometimes. I love what I do though.
GP: For people who want to pursue a career in what you do, what advice would you give them?
NB: The webcomic was great for us, it allowed us to build an audience, and it made us keep working. It’s no longer the case that putting things in the public domain rules out getting a contract – often the reverse. A readership is a real asset, however you go. It’s not until you jump in and really do it, putting the work in front of people, that you find out if you can, and if anyone likes it. Knowing you have readers is a great motivator, finding that you don’t is a great teacher.
GP: Did you have a mentor to help you break into the industry? Do you mentor anyone yourself?
NB: Tom had a lot more comics experience than me, which has helped a lot. Donna Barr gave me a lot of advice about what I might run into as a woman in comics. Other people have picked my brains along the way.
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?
NB: I think the industry is still assumed to be stories for boys, and that stereotype needs breaking down further. However, publishers are getting savvy to the fact that women generally read more than men, and are 50% give or take of the population, and that’s a big potential market to break into. So, I think things are getting easier. There are still too many places where women in comics as characters are either highly sexualised eye-candy, victims to rescue, or prizes to win, but the indy sector is delivering much more engaging female characters all the time, and I think that will knock on to inform how accessible the industry as a whole is for women, both as readers and as creators.
GP: We notice that when it comes to women in the comic industry, BOOM!/Archaia has a lot of diversity present. Why do you think have they succeeded when so many other publishers struggle with this?
NB: Archaia doesn’t do superheroes attired in something dangerously close to fetish gear. It’s not afraid of stories that go outside the usual bounds of ‘comic’ and this means it is more attractive to women, more likely to get female creatives knocking on the door in the first place. There’s no sense of some ‘old boy’ network at Archaia, there are women on the staff, in the editing team, so there’s an openness to female participation I don’t think you get everywhere. It’s a culture thing, and culturally, Archaia is excellent.
GP: We’ve heard horror stories concerning women in the industry, have you ever seen or been discriminated/harassed and if so, how did you handle it?
NB: I’ve not had any first-hand experience, I’m very glad to say, but we spend more time at Steampunk and Druid events (very female friendly spaces) than we do in the specifically comics gatherings, and I don’t bare my skin. I think all women should have the freedom to dress as they please and be free from harassment, but at the same time, I don’t feel any desire to wear that kind of kit myself, so I doubt I’d attract that kind of attention. Archaia is the only comics publisher I’ve ever worked for, and gender just isn’t an issue there, except in so far as I suspect Archaia of wanting to court the potential female comics reading market, which is fine by me!
GP: What advice do you have for women looking to break into the comic book industry?
NB: Tell your own stories on your own terms. Whatever those are. There is no need to replicate what already exists, or to conform to assumptions about what comics mean, and require of us.