Marguerite Bennett had a spotlight panel on Friday, July 21, at the San Diego Comic-Con. She was interviewed by Ryan North, writer of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.
When asked how she got into the business, Marguerite said she always wanted to to be a writer. When she was little her father would bring home computer paper, back when it was perforated, and staple it together to make little books for her to write on. Her gateway into writing comics was Batman: The Animated Series from 1992, “I thought it was for adults because it was so dark.” She also stated she never thought she could live up to the expectations of what Disney princesses were, “…But Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Harley Quinn — they could be themselves.” Marguerite also said, “The opening was so scary. I thought that Batman was a bad guy.”
The Great Recession of 2008 also contributed to her being a writer. “I graduated during the Recession. It was a major crisis moment.” Nine hours after she graduated from college she realized that now was the time to write. Knowing that there would be greater burdens later in life, since she was still young, this was the time to be a writer. “I thought to myself, ‘You have to do this now.'” She started work on a novel and wrote it while holding down three jobs. Marguerite knew she had to take college classes to improve her craft, but “The programs I wanted didn’t accept sci-fi or horror writers.” Sarah Lawrence College in New York did and they accepted her. “They wanted genres.” Scott Snyder was an instructor there and she became absolutely focused on writing. “I stayed home and did my work.” After a year in the program, Scott told her she was ready. He set up an audition for her at DC Comics. Marguerite was quick to point out, “This is not a career if you’re going to tell one story. You’ve always got to have more.” Five years ago her first story was published in Batman Annual 2.
Ryan asked how she comes up with her stories. “I use audio books to make me focus…I have a word document. If I think something is interesting, I’ll write a paragraph and save it.” She’s had this document since she was seventeen. However, “Comics is not a solo thing — It’s a team. If you don’t like people, write a novel.” Marguerite went on to say, “I don’t have a one size fits all answer.”
In regards to DC Comics: Bombshells, Marguerite said she had a bit of an advantage in writing that series since her parents and step-parents are all history professors. “Bombshells is kind of a cheat for me.” She came in to DC with an eighteen page document on what she wanted to do with the series, which surprised the editors. She fells incredibly lucky to be on the book because “I’ve got my own sandbox, with all the heroes and all that history.” She didn’t have to worry about previous continuity or crossover events.
Animosity, her first creator owned series, published by AfterShock Comics, is “super over-the-top” in her opinion. The premise that all animals on Earth “wake up” and have intelligence and know how they’ve been treated by humanity. The book has a “sincere emotional undercurrent” with the dog, Sandor, helping his young human, Jesse, trek from the east coast to the west, though he only has two more years to live. When asked if she knows where the series is going, Marguerite nodded her head with a smile. The spin-off series is set in San Francisco and deals with how society, under animal rule, tries to survive, since animals can’t eat meat any longer. She feels the spin-off “Is the Star Trek to Animosity’s Star Wars.” She told the audience that she didn’t go to church when she was a child, but her dad wanted her to have moral grounding. He would shows her Star Trek episodes and ask her how she would have solved the problem.
Ryan went on to ask what her writing process is and Marguerite became very animated. “I love it! I spend a lot of time percolating. I’ve got a busy brain.” She also went on to say that she’s very disciplined. “What I have now is time and energy and I should use them.” She suggested for those who want to become writers to “Read philosophy. History. Get ideas. Read outside your industry. Get inspiration from a variety of sources.”
Writing Batwoman is terrifying for Marguerite. A character of such strength and strong stories gave her this feeling. Luckily, “taking her out of Gotham and working on lost history” was a boon. She said that she’s enjoying writing the character’s “blackout year” to create her past. Marguerite added that she’s very proud of Issue 5.
For InSEXts, another creator owned series, she spent years trying to find the right artist. “Ariela Kristantina’s stuff was so sincere, not schlocky.” The theme of the series is “Where to feel powerful? What do you get if you get (power)? How do you get it?” Additionally, “I wanted a story where women owned their bodies and took control of their bodies and took revenge with their bodies.” Moving between genres of stories keeps Marguerite honest as a writer. “InSEXts was a release from pressure after doing PG-13 books. I needed to create something else.”
With the panel close to ending, Marguerite told the audience, “For a six month period I was writing two hundred pages a month — Don’t do that!” Ryan humorously added, “I’m tired after thirty pages a month.” This had everyone laughing.
After the panel ended, several cosplayers, sporting the attire of characters from Bombshells, went to Marguerite to ask for a picture. She obliged several people inside the room and out in the hall. She was nice enough to allow me to take a picture to accompany this story.
Marguerite Bennett is an exemplary writer, capable of writing honest emotions, stunning heroics, and terrifying horror. She is a writer’s writer and I hope she continues her craft for a very, very long time.