Interview: Women of BOOM! – Stephanie Hocutt
It’s Thursday which brings us a new interview and our 32nd “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.
Stephanie Hocutt helps with the company’s marketing as the PR Assistant, that means she gets to work on ALL of the comics!
Graphic Policy: How did you get involved in the comic book industry?
Stephanie Hocutt: I studied animation in school, but during that time I realized that my real passion was for comics. I was a freelance artist for a while, and when I heard about the internship at Archaia, I packed my bags and moved across the country in one epic road trip. After the internship, I started working at a comic shop, and now I’m here at BOOM! It’s been a wacky, winding road!
GP: Did you read comics growing up? Do you read them now?
SH: I was a voracious reader growing up, but I was kind of a late bloomer when it came to comics. My parents didn’t read them, and I grew up on military bases that didn’t really have comic shops. Instead, I was watching Batman: The Animated Series, The Adventures of Tin-Tin, Justice League Unlimited, Batman Beyond, and the 90s X-Men all the time. I started reading manga late in high school, and in college my friends started inviting me to conventions, which is where I picked up American comics. Around that same time, I studied abroad in France, where I fell in love with bande dessinées. I got hooked on European and American comics around the same time, so now my pull list consists of a wide variety of comics, and I have a library that is quickly outgrowing my apartment!
GP: How did you come to work with BOOM! or one of its imprints?
SH: I interned at Archaia a while back, and once it was over I just sort of dug my claws in and refused to go back to Virginia. I got a job at a comic shop, kept in contact with the Archaia crew, and when I found out that BOOM! was looking for a marketing assistant, I jumped at the opportunity.
GP: How would you describe your job for people?
SH: I pretty much get to talk about how awesome comics are all day! It’s incredibly exciting and I always have to think outside of the box, because there are a lot of awesome comics out there that all want to be noticed. I set up interviews with creators, work closely with press sites, host the Buzz on BOOM! YouTube show, and do everything I can to get people excited about BOOM!
GP: For people who want to pursue a career in what you do, what advice would you give them?
SH: A big part of working in this industry is knowing the right people, so get out there and mingle! Go to conventions and talk to people face-to-face, and snap up internships if you can. The most important part of an internship is the connections you make, so keep in contact with them. You’re not gonna get your dream job if you’re hiding in the shadows! It is a balancing act, though, because you also don’t want to be harassing industry professionals and come off as overbearing. Just remember to be friendly!
GP: Did you have a mentor to help you break into the industry? Do you mentor anyone yourself?
SH: I’ve had a lot of people in my life who have been incredibly supportive and helpful! One in particular is Mel Caylo, who was the Marketing Manager at Archaia when I was an intern. He taught me a lot about marketing and helped me realize that it’s a pretty rad job! Now, several years later, he’s the Marketing Manager at BOOM! and I get to work with him. Full circle!
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?
SH: Comics have been a male-dominated field for so long that it really can be difficult for women to get involved. There’s this archaic idea that inviting the girls into that treehouse is just gonna ruin it for everybody, and there are a lot of people out there who are just so afraid of change that they don’t even want to recognize it’s already happening. Women are all up in that comics biz!
So that being said, I’m going to look on the bright side and say I think it’s getting a little easier every day. It’s an awesome time to be a woman in the comics industry. Yes, there are a ton of problems that still need to be fixed, but we’re actually talking about them. People are speaking up and recognizing the problems, comic forums and conventions are creating safer spaces for women, and we’ve got awesome campaigns like “We Are Comics” that support equality and diversity in the industry. It’s an open conversation, which is the only way things will actually change.
GP: We notice that when it comes to women in the comic industry, BOOM! and its imprints have a lot of diversity present. Why do you think they have succeeded when so many other publishers struggle with this?
SH: This is actually a really difficult question to answer, because I don’t know why it’s harder for other publishers! BOOM! just works with awesome people, and those awesome people come from all walks of life, so our comics tell a wide variety of stories. It’s a great big world out there, so why would you limit yourself to working with only a specific group of people? Broaden those horizons!
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?
SH: I’ve been pretty lucky in that I haven’t been the target of a lot of harassment. When I worked in a comic shop, I would occasionally get a guy who didn’t think I actually read comics, or was really surprised when I asked if I could help him find something, but that was pretty rare because my LCS is open and inviting. Conventions have traditionally been the worst places for women, so I’m really glad people are stepping up and changing that. If I’m ever bothered by something a guy or gal says, I just call them out on it. They’re either being jerks or they didn’t even realize what they said was offensive, and now they’re learning.
I know there are a lot of women out there who haven’t been so lucky, so the most important thing is to stand together and shut that mess down. Silence kills progress, so speak up and don’t let it slide!
GP: What advice do you have for women looking to break into the comic book industry?
SH: Figure out what you want to do in comics, and do everything you can to be the best person for that position. Be persistent, friendly, and positive!