When a new female comics writer starts getting buzz, she's too often assumed to be an expert at writing female characters. But Marguerite Bennett, the latest addition to DC's list of newcomers, isn't being pigeonholed into that arena at all -- in fact, she's already got a reputation at DC for writing villains and "creepy" stories.
Bennett gets the chance to further develop her "dark" specialties in two upcoming releases from DC: July's Batman Annual #2, which she co-wrote with Batman scribe Scott Snyder, and Justice League #23.2: Lobo, part of DC's Villains Month event in September.
The writer is among several new voices being featured in September by DC, and she's notable as a new female writer. (Sure, there are plenty of women who already work in comics, but the industry has been the target of fan outcry the last few years for its lack of female writers.)
As Bennett told Newsarama in part one of our interview, she started working on the Batman Annual with Snyder after he noticed her work as a student at Sarah Lawrence College. (Snyder teaches at the school; Bennett just received an MFA in writing there.)
Readers of that interview might have also noticed that Bennett has a pretty developed sense of humor. (As an example, the writer shared a couple jokes with us during the interview: "What is the great Gatsby’s favorite superhero? Green Lantern. What is his least favorite superhero? Deadpool!")
In part two of our interview with Bennett, we experience more of her unique personality as we talk about her Villains Month issue and why she loves writing Lobo.
Newsarama: Marguerite, we have to completely switch gears after talking about having Scott Snyder for a teacher. That explains how you got to the chance to co-write the Batman Annual, but how did you end up writing the Lobo story for September?
Marguerite Bennett: Bob Harras actually had me called up while I was in the DC Offices for a meeting. Evidently, what scripts and pitches I had turned into my editors had sort of made the rounds in the offices and had come to Mr. Harras’s attention. (For the full effect, please imagine me internally panicking during our meeting, because this man has been an authority in the industry since before I was born.)
He called me into his office, was lovely and personable, and finally said, “So, what I’ve heard about your writing — and it’s all been good things, very good things — is that your style is, in a word…creepy.”
Then he told me Dan DiDio wanted to speak to me.
Forty-five minutes later, Bob and Dan told me they had confidence in me, and I was writing g*ddamned LOBO.
Nrama: That's a fantastic story. So tell me about Lobo, as you see him. What appeals to you about the character?
Bennett: Lobo’s complete and unrepentant disregard for conventional morality is deeply appealing. He never apologizes; he is not beholden to anyone, let alone the writer, let alone the reader. He comes in like a force of nature, brutal, laughing, careless, enjoying himself to the utmost, and he leaves a force of nature’s devastation in his wake. He holds no responsibility; he is indifferent to consequence. He is absolute ego and absolute id, and who wouldn’t want to indulge herself to write a creature as casually vicious as that?
Nrama: As I'm sure you're aware, Lobo originally represented all that was "cliché" about comic book "bad-assery." Is he still that character at all? How would describe the character now, as you're writing him?
Bennett: The surest way to miss the mark of what is “cool” or “badass” is to focus on those words and concepts. If you miss a target in archery, it’s because you were thinking too much about the target, and not enough about what you were doing to hit the target.
I have no intentions to make Lobo “cool” or “badass." I will write him proud, vicious, indifferent, driven, and self-satisfying. If readers think him “cool” because of this, then I had no part in it. It is simply the natural appeal of Lobo as a character, not whatever tendentious trappings I tried to attach to him.
(But this is simply my own opinion. For my part, I hope you like him.)
Nrama: Can you describe the "set-up" for the story you're writing in the Lobo comic?
Bennett: Lobo is on the hunt. I won’t tell you for what or for whom, but I will tell you that he has been undertaking and executing very specific tasks for years, all to bring him closer and closer to an employer who can pay him with the thing he has been seeking.
Nrama: Since Lobo has had adventures in space and on Earth, what type of setting will we see in your issue? And how has it been writing that setting?
Bennett: You will see a few different settings — I would like to exercise Lobo’s versatility as a killer. Predators must shift with their environment; the trappings of power in the 1980s are not the trappings of power in the modern world. More vitally, we will see Lobo literally in different worlds and how he modifies himself to these challenges.
Nrama: Ben Oliver is a veteran of the industry from England. Have you gotten the chance to work with him at all, and/or are you aware of his work? And what do you think he'll bring to the Lobo story?
Bennett: When Rickey Purdin (professional sweetheart) told me I’d be working with Ben Oliver, my eyes got all swolled up in that half-terrified, half-exhilarated way kids’ eyes get when they finally climb to the top of the roller coaster and realize what they have actually signed up for by getting on the ride.
In English, I’m super freaking stoked.
I’ve actually been a fan of Ben’s for several years and followed his art through Ultimate X-Men; since then, his name, where I found it, was sufficient incentive to make me pick up a book.
As I said before, I really tend towards distinctive artwork, and the moodiness and atmosphere of his work will be terrific (in the sense of both wonderful and terrifying) in Lobo #1. Also, he doesn’t have enough followers on Twitter, so hit him up at @BenOliverArt and tell him who sent you.
(He also doesn’t bat an eye when I sign my messages “Yours in space dolphins,” which, frankly, is a reliable indicator of having an excellent personality.)
Nrama: As you can probably imagine, fans are surprised to hear that a woman is writing Lobo, since it's often expected that female writers would want to write female characters. What do you think of that assumption, and how does it apply to, or tie into, your experience writing Lobo?
Bennett: I think that assumption — women only want to write women — is deeply, deeply flawed. I think there is a natural exasperation when women see female characters written poorly, a frustrated inclination that makes me want to stomp across the sandbox and snatch a character away from the person writing her and say, “No, this is how it’s done. Also, jeez, why are we in sandboxes? We’re grown-ups, how did we get here.”
Honestly, I feel this way when I see any dear character handled poorly. There’s just often slimy, sticky suggestion of sexism to it when a male writer is given a female superhero and turns her into a sex prop. It becomes more than a poor display of craftsmanship; given the underrepresentation of our gender as creators in media, it becomes insulting.
I want to be in a position where I can write powerful, self-assured female characters, but I don’t make my decisions singularly on gender. Writing the one gender does not exclude me from writing another, nor would I want to write limit myself in such a way as a writer.
I don’t care if my character is male or female or genderqueer; I want a good character. I want a character that interests and inspires me, one to which I can do justice or one to which I can aspire to elevate. I am indifferent to the gender of the central character so long as I know my story will be good.
I’m thrilled to write Lobo and anyone who believes that I am going to tame him will be in for a very bloody awakening. I got Scott Snyder’s attention because I write villains, and I got Bob Harras’s attention because I write dark.
Readers may just have to get past my pretty polka dot dress and Disney princess shoes to realize that.