Interview: Marjorie Liu Talks About Her Latest Book, X-MEN, and Harassment In Comics
By Amy Ratcliffe on April 24, 2014
You may know Marjorie Liu from her novels such as Tiger Eye and The Iron Hunt and her work on comics like Astonishing X-Men and X-23. The prolific and talented writer was a special guest at WonderCon, and we had the chance to sit down with her and discuss her current projects, what it’s like to switch between writing comics and novels, and about issues with harassment in comics.
Nerdist: You’ve worked on several cool stories for Marvel and written novels – what are you working on right now?
Marjorie Liu: Actually, right now, I am revising a novel. It’s a mystery novel about an elderly dominatrix who has found herself in the middle of a murder mystery, and she ropes in her Iraq veteran granddaughter who might help her solve it. It’s going to be a very quirky mystery, very offbeat, and that’s what I’m focusing on right now. And then on the side, I am working on some creator-owned projects.
N: I’m glad there are some comics projects in there.
ML: I love writing comics too much. I will never be able to give it up, but I’m taking a little break to do my own thing.
N: What are some of the challenges of going back and forth between writing novels and comics? The pacing has to be different.
ML: It’s so much fun. I would say in the beginning it took me a while to separate the two because I would work on novels during the day and write comics in the evening. But now I’ve been doing it long enough that having the opportunity to write graphic novels has opened up so much for me, because there were stories in the past that I would think about, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to turn them into a novel. These same story lines are perfect for a comic format. It’s given me so much freedom.
And it’s true, it’s very different. A novel is 400 pages, it’s an endurance race. There’s no artist, so I have to describe everything. It’s all prose. Whereas with comics, I can rely on the artist. It’s really wonderful to have that collaboration and to not always feel the burden of describing everything myself and also just to have someone who can paint the world. It’s really wonderful. They’re very different, but at this point it’s just become this beautiful smorgasbord. I’m really blessed.
N: When you were writing on Astonishing X-Men, you handled some rather big events. Who were some your favorite characters to write, and what were your favorite story lines you got to put out there?
ML: Well, it goes without saying that I loved writing Northstar and Kyle’s wedding. That was a true pleasure, and it was wonderful to have that opportunity. But, I have to admit I also loved writing Warbird. She became – I didn’t expect this in the beginning… When I first started writing the book, I didn’t know that she was going to be my favorite character to write. She really rose through my mind, and I kept thinking of all these different ideas and stories I wanted to write for her. To be honest, I sort of had an embarrassment of riches. I had Warbird, I had Iceman – I loved writing Iceman. I wish I’d had more time. I had story lines I really wanted to write and just didn’t get a chance to. But that’s the way it is.
N: There has been some recent controversy about how some men talk to women in comics [Note: You can read that post at Janelle Asselin's Tumblr]; You wrote about it on your blog, and I feel like certain events bring harassment into the conversation and we’ll talk about it, but then it gets swept under the rug again. How do you think we can keep the conversation going?
ML: It’s really hard because there almost becomes this exhaustion factor that sets in – it’s like fatigue where people just start getting tired. I think the people who are pushing this issue get tired, too, because there’s only so much you can keep saying and bringing it up. But, I think that we – as artists and as readers – must be mindful. Publishers, too. We can keep having these conversations because we will keep having them because this will not go away [unless we do]. But in the interim, we need to stay mindful of the situation and not have this amnesia that seems to fall over us each time the conversation goes away.
I think the only way to keep it going even if we’re not talking about it is to keep pushing it. As creators and as readers, we need to always be pushing it – by looking for the books, looking for the artists and people and stories to support what we feel to be a better representation of all women. Of real women. I think that it’s going to be a long term struggle.
When this latest controversy came with up with Janelle and everyone was like “what?” for a moment, it made me feel tired. It was disheartening that we actually had to explain this [how men respond to women in comics] again, and that people were still acting shocked. And I think that people get defensive because they think we’re saying that all men are evil or we’re saying that the industry is corrupt, and that’s not the case. But there are flaws, and they’re important flaws that need to be addressed. And I think the best way to address them is through action. By saying, this is how we’re going to change things, and we’re going to be thoughtful about it. The fans have a responsibility to be aware of their own prejudices and their own lack of awareness. And it’s not a matter of being evil or good or right or wrong, it’s about being aware.
See a chat with Marjorie on Nerdist News during our WonderCon coverage by clicking here.