Comics superstar Mark Waid is working hard to make comics better. He always has been. But when he started the digital platform Thrillbent comics, it was meant to increase readership across all genres of comic books. It's a subscription based service that brings people the best in comics, curated by Mark Waid and his team.
His company has recently launched a book that seems more and more important to the genre as days go by. It's called Everstar and it has as its protagonist an 11-year-old girl who carouses about the galaxy in her very own spaceship. Comics geared at all ages and featuring females in the lead are few and far between, and this one is about as adventurous as they can get. But more than that, it's an all female creative team behind the story. Writer Becky Tinker and artist Joie Brown work hard to bring a feminine realism to a story so fantastical.
As the father of an 11-year-old daughter, I'm constantly on the lookout for books she's going to like and this is one that grabbed her immediately.
To learn more about Thrillbent and Everstar, I spoke to Mark Waid (who has just been announced as one of the new writers of an ongoing Star Wars series for Marvel Comics starring Princess Leia.)
What made it important for Thrillbent to branch out in this way, with Everstar?
Mark Waid: Becky's pitch lured me in right away. I'd been wanting desperately to do more kid-friendly comics on Thrillbent, but you'd be stunned at how clumsy and transparent those efforts can be if they're calculated rather than spontaneous and sincere.
How does a book like Everstar fit in with your overall subscription model?
MW: It's an enormous plus. The wider our range of content--both in tone and in age-appropriateness--the more readers we'll have. The thinking behind Thrillbent from the first was always cross-pollination. It's hard to discover new comics on the web because there's so many of them. By creating a platform where we can bring in fans of all different story genres and let them see what else we're offering--that's how our subscriber base grows.
This isn't the only whimsical-kids oriented comic, my daughter's already a fan of Aw Yeah Comics, do you have plans to further expand offerings like this?
MW: Absolutely. Nothing would please me more. In a perfect world, I'd like to start running comics for kids BY kids. Give us time.
What attracted you to this series in the first place?
MW: The idea of a preteen girl who ends up being a starship captain hit exactly the right notes for me. I hate stories where the female characters are simply adjuncts to the male leads or they're just props, and I reject the idiot notion (especially in a post-HUNGER GAMES world) that girls can't star in adventure comics.
What makes you feel like this is the way we're going to get more girls reading comics?
MW: I don't know that this is "the" way, but it's "a" way. By coincidence and not design, Everstar is written and drawn by an all-female creative team, and it makes me smile to think that there may be young female readers out there, future writers and artists, who get to see that comics doesn't have to be a "boys' club."
Becky Tinker, writer of Everstar, had plenty to say about the book as well. I asked her to tell me about where the series came from:
Becky Tinker: It came from a combination of wanting to write a story for kids and a passionate love for science-fiction. In order to come up with an idea that would appeal to kids, I decided to focus on an extreme case of wish fulfillment--that wish fulfillment being exploring outer space on your own spaceship. It seemed like such a fun idea to play around with that Ainslie and the rest of the characters came naturally out of the woodwork. The setup for how that comes to pass, with Ainslie and the lighthouse, came directly from my own childhood growing up in New England.
What got you interested in comics in the first place?
BT: I've been a passionate fan of comics since I was in high school. I loved the adventure, the larger than life characters, and how visual the storytelling was. It was such a different way to tell a story that I immediately became engrossed in comics as a medium.
Why is it important for there to be characters like Ainslie in comics?
BT: Characters like Ainslie are important because, simply put, there aren't enough female heroes out there for kid, and that was something that I certainly grappled with when I was younger. When girls are featured, it's often only in a supporting role. When I came up with the initial "kid in a spaceship" idea, I immediately wanted it to feature a swashbuckling girl to help balance things out a little and hopefully provide young girls with a protagonist that they can relate to. Ainslie is courageous and confident, and throughout the series we'll see her having to make very difficult choices as she faces various threats. I wanted to include that process not only to give kids a heroine close to their own age but to also show what comes with being a leader all through the eyes of this adventurous wild child.
To read a complete interview with Becky Tinker about Everstar and Thrillbent and comics for girls, check out Big Shiny Robot!
Everstar comes out with new chapters regularly on the Thrillbent comics website.
Bryan Young is the author of "A Children's Illustrated History of Presidential Assassination," the editor-in-chief of the nerd news and review site Big Shiny Robot!, and is the co-host of the Star Wars podcast, "Full of Sith."