SDCC 2015: Lumberjanes Creators Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters on Barney and the Future of the Series

Michael Moccio ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor-in-Chief

Emertainment got the amazing opportunity to sit down with Shannon Watters and Noelle Stevenson of Lumberjanes at San Diego Comic Con. Because we had such a great interview, with so many great answers, there was enough for two pieces on this one interview! You can check out our first part of the interview on the site that covers the origins of Abigail, the antagonist of the current Lumberjanes arc.

One of the characters we didn’t expect to see again so soon that’s turned up in this arc is Barney, a member of the Scouting Lads. The Scouting Lads appeared in the first arc of the series and are parallel to the all-female Lumberjanes camp. In this arc, Barney stumbles on the group in a snow storm and aids them in rescuing Jen.

“We had planned pretty early to have Barney come back,” Watters revealed during the interview. “And be a foil to Jo in ways that are going to continue to be revealed, especially over issue #17.”

“Barney is looking for his place in the world and in life,” Watters said. “There’s something about Lumberjanes that really is special to him and important to him. He sees something in the Lumberjanes as an entity that he wants to be a part of. We’re going to be exploring what that means for Barney as a character and what that means for the girls and their friendship. I’m very excited in the next few arcs to tell his story.”

Since the main cast is all female, Barney presents a unique shift in how ensemble casts usually work. Typically, it’s often you’ll see a team of all males and one female. This wasn’t lost on Stevenson, who said, “It was fun for me, because whenever you see a book that has mostly a boy team with one girl, she ends up becoming this ‘exceptional girl’ who knows everything. Barney is our foil for that as the ‘exceptional boy’ that knows everything! Jo’s the meta one who always reacts in the way we would: ‘Why would you know how to build a snow shelter? You know what, sure!’ It’s about gender and his relationship to gender and what his gender means to him and how the others treat him because of his gender. It comes back to Jo and how she feels about her gender.”

There’s a lot to unpack in Stevenson’s comments on gender and how it relates to Barney and Jo. Lumberjanes, as an all ages comic, has addressed topics like same-sex relationships that adults of the past generation would have considered inappropriate for children. To see such progressive tendencies in the past, we can’t help but wondering what these comments mean for the cast going forward. Could there be plans to further the already spectacular diversity, inclusion, and representation Lumberjanes has already shown since the first issue? “It’s the responsibility of the industry to keep up with creators,” Watters said reflecting on how this year’s Eisner Awards turned out and how that’s a signal for a shift in the industry.

“Barney’s that kid out in the world you want to protect and save from the burdens of traditional masculinity. He’s figuring himself out, but he’s not threatened by the girls,” Stevenson said. ““He doesn’t have any qualms about wanting to be like them or looking up to them.”

The Lumberjanes certainly have a lot to tackle in the coming arcs, both internally and externally. “The woods have changed people like the Bear Woman and Rosie,” Watters said, talking about where the series will progress. “There’s something weird about these woods.”

“Are the woods choosing people?” Stevenson added. “Woman made a reference to that with Molly. The Bear Woman wasn’t always the Bear Woman. Could the same thing happen to the girls?”

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