NYCC 2015: Lumberjanes Panel

Michael Moccio ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor-in-Chief
Official Description: Pack your bags, bring your s’mores kit and get your badges ready! Join the brilliant minds and collaborators behind the breakout hit Lumberjanes, from the BOOM! Studios imprint, BOOM! Box! Shannon Watters, Brooke Allen, Riot Media’s Swapna Krishna and Special Guests discuss what’s down the pipeline for the Mal, Molly, April, Jo and Ripley and the importance of hardcore lady types! Moderated by Raina Telgemeier (Drama).
Raina Telgemeier opened the panel to moderate and introduced the panelists. “Raina’s a rock star,” said Shannon Waters. Raina introduced Brooke Allen first, followed by editor Waters. “I consider her to be one of the great movers and shakers in the comic book industry,” said Telegmeier. Last up introduced was Swapna Krishna.
For anyone not keeping up with Lumberjanes, the series won two Eisner Awards, was nominated for a GLAAD award, and won a Harvey Award. “Better late than never!” said Watters, after being asked what she thought about well-made lady comics breaking down barriers. “The readers have always been there and publishers haven’t been putting out content towards them. I was just at a panel where someone was talking about how they’re go down to the drugstore and get these superhero comics that were all ladies. They were the worst skimpy costumes, but it was all ladies! And so she was in middle school and was picking up these books. So the readers have always been there and weren’t necessarily being served. We’re excited to be a part of the group attempting to serve them.”
“I remember one of the first books I picked up was an Ashley Wood book and I thought Ashley Wood was a girl!” said Allen.
“I thought Terry Moore was a girl for years,” said Krishna, joking. “It depends on the comic book store,” said Krishna about comic book stores for young girls. “It has to do with the book market and online sales. A lot of women have harassment stories and proving their cred as a comics nerd. I don’t like it. What I love about comics like Lumberjanes is that you don’t have to know everything to enjoy this comic. It celebrates women and says, in a world that tells women to sit down and shut up, no.”
“Mal and Molly makes everyone happy,” said Telgemeir. “And then Jo came out as transgender. Was there a way you planned to have this develop, especially since it was originally a limited series?”
“We were lucky,” said Watters. “We knew the book was extended by issue 3. We knew we weren’t going to have to stop at 8, which is great! We had a lot of backstory stuff that was just for fun and would never have fit into 8 issues. And so it was cool to be able to say, ‘We’re going to let all of this breathe.’ Grace and I gave a talk that Lumberjanes came out. We attended A-Camp, a feminist retreat for queer women, and a trans woman asked about trans representation. We decided it was really important to us and I’m glad we had the room and freedom at our publisher to do what we wanted. It was essentially a non-issue.”
“Brooke and I were talking about butch role models yesterday,” said Watters on characters they looked up to when they were young. “We were looking for something!”
“I remember in Blue Monday,” recalled Allen, “when Blue has a dream that Clover kisses her and I freaked out!”
“My parents had a Xerox machine,” said Watters, “and I would make blown up copies of Clover from Blue Monday all over my room!”
“This is really embarrassing, but I got her haircut!” said Allen.
“Queer representation is so important,” said Krishna. “When you don’t see yourself in stories, you wonder if you’re not the hero of your own story. You know what you think and what you feel matters when you see yourself in media.”
“I grew up reading Archie,” said Krishna. “I didn’t know Archie was published in the United States, because it’s so huge in India! I’ve read comics on and off my entire life, but it’s only been recently that they’ve been doing awesome things with ladies. And now I read them all the time! We’ve waited thirty years to cosplay a character that looks like us, so I’m so glad for characters like Khamela Khan. If you look at the prose market, aout 80% of the readers are women.”
“We focus a lot on the direct market,” said Watters. “But YA comics in the mass markets… the amount of people that have bought our very moderator’s book is about four times the entire direct market’s readership. Ladies are already the majority of comic readers! This illusion that ladies just showed up is a fallacy. We have to change the narrative in a big way.”
“Being thrust into a writer role and creator role is scary,” added Watters. “When you’re an editor, you’re everyone’s champion and I like that role a lot. It’s weird to be in a position where you have to be your own champion. It’s really challenging and hard to balance, because Lumberjanes is so personal to all of us. It’s a very challenging book to do because it’s a big creative team. So, I love it so much—it’s our baby. I want it to be the priority, but editing is my life! It’s my world. I don’t know that I’ve figured out the balance yet, but I’m willing to keep trying.”
Watters talked about how hard it was sometimes to do Lumberjanes, mostly because of how important it was. The conversation turned to friendships and how Abigail and Rosy’s relationship was something tough to go through. In the most recent arc, April learns something about friendship when seeing another one just fell apart, which is something Watters talked about as well.
With recommendations for Lumberjanes fans, the panelists got the chance to say theirs. “I would say Swirl Girl, Ms. Marvel,” said Allen.
“I’d say anything by Raina,” added Krishna. “Gotham Academy. Princeless.
Batgirl!” said Watters. “Giant Days, too, also from BOOM!”
The panel then wanted to reveal “a new collaboration.” Allen invited a couple onto the stage where one proposed to the other. Considering Watter’s recent marriage, it was no wonder why she was in tears. For a creative team that promotes acceptance and love, there was nothing but that in the room during that.
With that, the panel turned to questions from the audience.

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