I was excited when my instructor presented us with a project in which we had to interview anyone from the publishing industry.
My very first interview, I thought, exciting! Around this time, I was also researching articles on misogyny in comics for another project, and I stumbled upon one of
Sam Maggs' amazing articles. Of course, that lead me to look more into Sam and her work.
Sam Maggs is a comic book and TV otaku who writes for several geek culture sites such as
Televixen, Tdotcomics, Dork Shelf, and
Geekosystem where she is currently an editor. She was very kind as to sit down with me and talk.
I sat down with Sam to talk about her career thus far, misogyny in comic books and being feminist in geek culture. She also gave me great advice on how to handle a creative career. I think any
aspiring writer/artist (or any other profession which enables you to create) can benefit from what she told me. Here's a condensed version of my interview with Sam. Enjoy!
complex-chan: [You wrote a letter to Tony Harris]
What’s up with him?
Sam-chan: He, I think, is not all that unusual in the comics world, unfortunately. It’s kind of an old school point of view where mainstream geek culture has forever been a boys’
club, and the guys feel that they have to gatekeep their fandom so that there’s a proper way to like something, and an improper way to like something, and if you’re not liking it in the way they think you should—which is being a man, and being super knowledgeable
of every single thing, then they don’t want you invading their personal bubble which they fought really hard to construct. So they lash out against the fans who don’t fit into that bubble, and often times that’s women, queer people, or people of color.
Are you upset about that? How do you deal with it since you chose to have a career in this industry? Because I had read an article about this girl, also a writer, who stated that if this
is the way things are going to be, then maybe she didn’t want to read comics anymore.
I think that’s a very defeatist way to approach things, I understand people who try to get involved in this world and are feeling shunned and just feel like walking
away from it all. But if we all do that, then it will never be a safe space for people like me, and if I’m passionate about this form of art—and art and text should be available to everyone— the only way to make that more probable is to fight for it. Somebody
needs to put a voice to the fact that people like me like to read comic books, and when I do, I don’t want to see a lot of tits and ass.
Last year, 50% of people who bought video games were women, and similarly, a lot more women are buying comic books now. We not only have to say that we like these things, but we can put physicality to our voice by using our money to
buy the things that we think are right, and not support the things that we think are misogynist or disgusting, like the
New 52 Catwoman: the cover is Catwoman leaning over backwards with her boobs out, spilling diamonds out of a phallus-shaped bag. It was awful! So maybe don’t buy New 52 Catwoman, make a point about it, someone’s going to read
it and maybe the right people are going to come into power at
DC and Marvel. Or,
indie comics are going to get bigger because more people are going to start putting their money there [since] they draw the things that we want to see. So, I think it upsets me. I wouldn’t be so vocal about it otherwise, but the wrong thing to do is
shut yourself or be equally as exclusive in another form. Use that anger to try to make a positive change—which is easier said than done, because it’s hard!
Do you feel women need to have a hub for themselves and eventually integrate into the entire geek culture?
The Internet has been great for people getting together to create communities—worldwide communities! So I think it is important to form these gangs, but ultimately if you want to make a change,
that does have to disseminate into the greater culture. If you want your voice to be heard, it’s better to be a collective of voices, and I think
Twitter & Tumblr are really great places to do that. A lot of great comic artists who I really admire like
Kate Leth, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and
Gail Simone have very pro-active Tumblr followings, and they can mobilize fans like that (snaps fingers).
Why did you choose writing as your medium to express yourself?
Uh, ‘cause I can’t draw for shit, basically [we both laugh]. No, I’ve always loved writing. I started when I was 7. [I was writing] short stories, then I moved onto fan fiction, which is why I
think it’s wonderful even though it’s terrible [blushes]! I’ve always loved writing, reading, and I’ve always loved television. I’ve loved storytelling in an unusual medium, and I never wanted to be a novelist. But I’ve always found screenwriting really appealing,
and journalism, which is what I do now. The reason why I think comics are really interesting is because comics are written in the same way that Hollywood screenplays are written: you write them in the exact same format, and then they’re transferred onto a
page instead of onto the screen.
So, [writing is] your full-time job now, type of thing?
Yeah, it’s all I do now. So, I write for Dork Shelf where I write about women in the comics industry, I write for the
Televixen where I talk about TV shows, and I’m an editor for
Geekosystem, where I talk about… everything!
How do you juggle all those jobs?
When I was working full-time, and doing all those things on the side it was very difficult. Toronto has a very vibrant nerd scene… and I really like to be part of the community, so I like to go
to events [and] screenings… but that takes time out of your life, so how did I balance everything? Poorly. It was really hard. I’d go to my full-time job, then I would go to an event, and then I’d come home and write for several hours to make sure that I was
on top of my deadlines, then I’d go to sleep, and I’d do it all again.
You’d sleep in?
Yeah, and try to maintain my relationships with friends full-time. It is tough.
I think you have to make a commitment in a creative field to really dedicate yourself to it because it’s never going to pay the bills in the same way that [being a lawyer] is going to pay the bills. You have to integrate yourself into
the community and get to know people. There are a million other people who want to be in comics. There are a million other people who want to be writers. Everybody can be a writer now because of blogging and in my experience the only difference between people
who want to do it, and people who do it, [is that they’re] just doing it. Do you know what I mean?
If you really want to do it, you have to make a commitment to the fact that you’ll probably have to do it on top of your job for a while, it’ll be exhausting, and there probably won’t be a lot
of reward at first because no one’s going to read your stuff and you’re going to feel bummed [about that]. You’re going to be self-promoting it to the only 200 people who follow you on Twitter, it’s going to be terrible for a while. But if you’re really passionate
about it, you just have to do it, and it’ll work out.
Aside from writing, do you have other hobbies?
I have a
YouTube series with a friend of mine called the
c_ntrollers, and we [make videos about] playing video games. And I really like to see movies. I just saw
Thor yesterday. One thing I will say though is that the women are poorly treated in the movie. In Thor, which I thought was a wonderful movie as a whole, the women are saved by the men in every single instance. Thor’s mother
is fridged… you know the term women in refrigerators?
This is a comic book reference. It was a DC comic, and the main character comes home to find his girlfriend chopped up in the fridge.
Dead. And that’s what motivates him to go on his grand adventure as a superhero. Gail Simone wrote a piece about women in refrigerators, and how women traditionally serve as the motivation for the male superhero to go on whatever self-fulfilling journey
he needs to go on, and it’s usually the female’s death. So, they’re basically objects that die for the sake of the male hero to go on his journey. That happened in this Thor movie.
On my blog,
I wrote about one of the characters in Naruto Shippuden…the difference between misogyny in anime and manga, and western comics and animation is that at least the women [in anime/manga] have a really
powerful role and have character development.
That’s definitely different. We just die a lot.
The issue I had with this character, she was the chief of her village. But she was the type of woman [who was a stereotype created by the media], who chooses her career over marriage and
children—you know the typical route society wants us to take? She keeps saying that she missed her chance at the altar, and she’s really bitter about being single. I argued that...and I’m sort of questioning my argument now, but I argued that because I really
like the fact that Catwoman has sex appeal and commands it…
She’s in charge of it.
Yeah. And I felt if Mei, that’s the name of the character, was going to have sex appeal she could use her sex appeal in that way too.
That’s a totally fair argument. It’s okay for women to be sex workers, it’s okay for women to be strippers, it’s okay for women to wear a bra on the street in the middle of the day.
That’s kind of the point of Feminism. Do whatever you want to do, and own it, and run with it, accept yourself and love yourself. Be you, whether that’s wearing a turtleneck and long boots because
that’s how you feel comfortable, or you love your size 14 body and you want to do burlesque dancing. No dude can tell you what’s okay and what’s not. You shouldn’t feel [uneasy about] if it’s ok for [Mei] to use her sexuality, and if men are going to be okay
with that. When you look at it from that perspective, power is still with the man.