Gamer Girl & Vixen is a new comic on Kickstarter from the creative team of writers Kristi McDowell and Sean Ian Mills, artist Gemma Moody, and letterer Taylor Esposito. Billed as "a lesbian supervillain love story," Gamer Girl & Vixen is a comic about costumed criminals with bright, vibrant art and a focus on characters, friendship, and relationships. Kristi and Sean stopped by The Outhouse to tell us all about it, and were patient enough to sit through one of my interviews. Give it a read below, and then check out their Kickstarter page and consider backing it and preordering the first and second issues.
Welcome to The Outhouse, and our apologies in advance for any damage appearing here does to your careers.
Kristi: Joke's on you, pal. We don't have careers for you to damage.
Sean: And my mom will still think I'm cool, regardless.
Kristi: No she won't, Sean.
Sean: Hi, Mom!
Give our readers a brief description of Gamer Girl & Vixen, to get them up to speed.
Kristi: Gamer Girl & Vixen is, as we've been fondly referring to it as, a lesbian supervillain love story. It's about two costumed criminals who meet on the rooftops of New York City, in a world filled with superheroes and villains. They're a couple of street-level wannabes who hit it off and decide to get into super-crime together, only to fall in love as they're planning the biggest heist of their careers.
You've chosen to make Gamer Girl & Vixen "costumed criminals" rather than superheroes. Why bad girls?
Sean: Because it's different, because it's potentially more fun. We knew going in that trying to make an indie comic about superheroes was going to be a challenge, because as far as the comics industry goes, superheroes are pretty well taken care of.
Kristi: Besides being more fun, the story potential is just endless. With heroes, you mostly know what they're going to do in any given situation. They're going to make the right decision to save the day. With villains, even street-level ones like Gamer Girl & Vixen, you just don't know where their moral compass is going to direct them.
On your "about us" page, you specifically mention Sex Criminals, Captain Marvel, and Batgirl as titles in a new wave of female-centered comics of which Gamer Girl & Vixen aims to be a part. What do you think are some of the defining characteristics of this movement, and what will Gamer Girl & Vixen add to that?
Kristi: I think this is my favorite question we've been asked. What books like Sex Criminals and the rest have brought to comics are fresh, new ideas that stem from treating their main characters like more than just costumes that happen to have an interchangeable body inside of them. The characters being developed in books like these are complicated and nuanced, taking some of the more common comic book tropes and exploring them in ways that couldn't be done if they were following the same prompts that comic book writers have been using forever. They emphasize the people part of these super stories, and Gamer Girl & Vixen does the same thing - Liz and Bianca are just as important as Gamer Girl & Vixen.
Sean: I think the bond between our main characters is going to be something really new and fun. Not only is it a romance, but it starts out as a really great friendship. Strong friendships and strong relationships between female characters still aren't that common, especially not as the lead characters.
The comic is aimed at readers 13 and up. What exactly is in this thing that would totally wreck a 12 year old's life?
Sean: Absolutely nothing, as far as I'm concerned. I believe that kids can handle grown-up literature just fine. But we do drop some f-bombs in the comic, and I wanted to be safer than sorry when I put that age thing on the Kickstarter page. The more details and information on the page the better.
Kristi: And studies have shown the resilience of 13-year-olds to adult language. 12-year-olds, on the other hand, spontaneously combust. It's weird, but that's science for you.
Will Gamer Girl have any run-ins with GamerGate?
Sean: That's actually something I thought a little bit about last fall when GamerGate was at its peak. But I quickly decided that the last thing our comic was going to do was jump into that hornet's nest. And especially now, the last thing we'd want to do is stir it up again and give them any traction. Let them fade away, while the women they fought against continue on as leaders in the community and industry. If anything, I hope that by publishing Gamer Girl & Vixen, we can do our tiny part to say that these are the kinds of characters and these are the kinds of comics that people want to read.
Kristi: Yeah, while we are in a unique place to address GamerGate as a concept, I think choosing not to says more than making it a point to fit it in somehow. They're not worth the panels we'd try to squeeze them into.
Assuming everything goes well and you're able to keep working on this project, where would you like to see things go in the future? Are we talking movie deal? Merchandise? Theme park?
Kristi: Gamer Girl & Vixen would be a great TV series. With shows out there like Agent Carter and Supergirl, I think our story would fit right in with audiences looking for a great action story featuring women.
Sean: As for merchandise, if I understood Etsy better, I bet I could go broke a hundred times over hiring people to make custom Gamer Girl & Vixen action figures or tea cozies.
Kristi: I'm learning how to knit right now. I'm going to make a million GG&V tea cozies.
Sean: We should get an Etsy page.
Kristi, you've written for Women Write About Comics (great site, by the way), while Sean, you're a newspaper reporter. Why not just shamelessly self-promote on those outlets? That's totally what I would do, if I had a comic. I'd probably write a new article praising it every day.
Sean: You ask that like we haven't already tried! I did mention it to my boss at the paper a few weeks ago, and he seemed OK with it, but then I think he forgot. So I've got to decide between bringing it up again or asking for a raise. Though newspapers do have a problem when it comes to weblinks.
Kristi: Women Write About Comics is a great site! I did ask my editor over at WWAC a long time ago when my other comic was coming out and she had expressed concern about potentially showing any bias. After thinking about it, I came to find that I agreed with her in the fact that I want Gamer Girl & Vixen to be able to stand on its own merit without the concern that my relationship with a website swayed the reviewer on any level.
Sean: Though some of our friends in the comics blogging community are helping out.
Kristi: Oh, definitely. If any of my peers came to me asking for a review copy, I'd happily oblige. But I think asking for it from them has the potential to be seen as asking for favors and we're not about that.
Um, yeah... me neither...
The artist, Gemma Moody (great name, by the way), lives in England. How did you all get together, and have you ever met in person? Is your collaboration done over the internet? I'd love to hear about how that works.
Kristi: Gemma Moody is, if you can believe it, even cooler than her name implies. We put out some advertisements looking for artists on a few different websites and among the multitude of responses, Gemma's really stood out.
Sean: Watching her skills grow and improve while working on our comic has been a real treat! She's amazing. We haven't met in person yet, but a potential stretch goal of our Kickstarter might be buying her a plane ticket to a US comic convention. Everything we do is over the Internet. We have a weekly meeting together on Skype where we go over everything that needs to get done in the week ahead, then we break and get to work. When Gemma was drawing the pages, she'd upload them to our Google Drive, and those were magical days seeing new artwork show up out of the blue.
Kristi: I think those days are still magical. It's probably because I love her more.
Finally, Taylor Esposito is doing the lettering, and he's done a lot of work for DC Comics recently. Does he have any nasty gossip about the company that can be revealed in this interview? We could go really viral, depending on how bad it is, and just think about what that would do for the Kickstarter!
Sean: It's incredibly tempting to hit him up for every bit of insider info he might have, but then he probably wouldn't like us anymore. We're trying to be cool bosses here!
You're already (at the time of this writing) about 1/3 of the way to your $6,750 goal. What are some of the best rewards to convince people to back it and bring you the rest of the way there? Got any tricks up your sleeve for the remaining $4000?
Sean: Yeah, this Outhouse interview. It's all on you and your intelligent, good-looking readers, Jude.
Kristi: You mean besides providing a quality comic book that genuinely embodies the spirit of "Comics are for everybody"? We have a great reward structure that has a lot of options for collectors and fans alike. There's Gemma Moody art, which no one can say no, too. And semi-professional editing services provided by a semi-professional editor. And heck, someone can be in the comic. You could be in the comic, Jude!
Sean: I think the cameo tiers are going to be really fun. My brother has already snagged one of them up, and he's already talking about making sure his cameo character has a big face tattoo.
We just witnessed the spectacular failure of the Archie Comics Kickstarter, which suffered from a rather remarkable public backlash and failed to raise more than a tenth of its $350,000 goal before being canceled. As independent creators, how did you feel about an established publisher using Kickstarter to raise money? Does it take away from smaller comics like your own?
Sean: I don't think it takes away from what we're trying to do. There are people out there who browse Kickstarter looking for projects to support — a few of them have backed us already — and I don't think those fine people are going to judge a project like ours against a big production like Archie's attempted Kickstarter. I don't think someone already interested in supporting smaller comics is going to be swayed away from that goal by bigger, flashier publishers.
Kristi: I kind of disagree with Sean. Not that I don't think that Kickstarter is a great tool that shouldn't be used by anyone who can find value in it, by any means, and if the guys over at Archie really need to raise funds in order to achieve their goals, I hope they can. But what Kickstarter offers is so valuable to the creators like us who don't have 75 years of established characters and publishing history to help get our project off the ground. We're already trying to compete with just a story and a dream; having one of the only other options allotted to us utilized by someone with the clout Archie has feels a little like having the step stool we've been using taken away and being added to the top of someone else's cherry picker.
What made you choose Kickstarter as opposed to something like submitting to Oni Press?
Sean: Truth be told, we absolutely planned to submit to Oni Press when they announced their new open submission program — but then when they revealed the guidelines, they specifically said 'no superheroes', so that was out. We'd always hoped to get a publisher interested in Gamer Girl & Vixen, and we tried pitching to a few of them late last year, but we didn't have any luck. Rather than quit after that, we were determined to get this comic made, even if we had to publish it ourselves. We didn't get into this just to pitch to publishers. So we saved up some money to make the first issue, then started looking into crowdfunding to see what kind of help we could get there.
Kickstarter is a great way to get a new comic noticed. People pay attention to Kickstarter campaigns, and backers really get invested in helping make a new comic happen. It's also a great way to set up a pre-ordering service for our comic. We can see if there's any interest in our idea, while simultaneously raising the money to make it happen.
Would you let Frank Cho draw sexploitive pinups of your characters? Why or why not?
Kristi: Gosh, Frank Cho's art is incredible. It really is. And if he was inclined to draw any of our characters, I think I'd be super thrilled. That said, 'sexploitive' is definitely not really one of our core values and that sort of thing won't be appearing in any of our comics. There's a place for everything, but Gamer Girl & Vixen isn't about the sexiness of the characters or their situation. I think we can tell a story about two women who love each other without the sex being the focal part of the story, even in the art.
Who's cooler? The Outhouse's Jude Terror, or Bleeding Cool's Rich Johnston. Think carefully about your answer - Uncle Rich might want to do an interview next.
Kristi: Which one of you has the van full of candy and puppies?
Sean: Can we answer that after the Kickstarter is over and we see which interview brought us more pledges? Our favoritism can be bought.
Kristi: With candy and puppies.
It's definitely Rich. Is there anything else you'd like to say to our readers to convince them to back Gamer Girl & Vixen?
Kristi: Gamer Girl & Vixen is an alternative to mainstream titles that still have to cater to a wide audience and, as such, might be slow to integrate diversity into their lineup, whereas we embrace it. Supporting GG&V is a show of support to the diversification of comic books.
Sean: Also, our prices are so low you'd think we were going out of business!
Kristi: So, no pressure or anything, but if you don't back us, we're going out of business.
Thanks a lot for stopping by, and I hope our readers will consider backing you. It looks like a fun comic.
Check out Gamer Girl & Vixen on Kickstarter, and if you like what you see, consider contributing. Every reward tier features at least a digital comic. Share a link to it on social media as well and help spread the word. You can find out more about Gamer Girl & Vixen at their Tumblr. The Kickstarter page is here.
And if you'd still like to know more, our friends over at Rhymes With Geek did an interview with these two yesterday as well, and our buddy Steve Morris has an interview over at Comics Alliance. Wow, these two are really making the rounds!