I had the chance recently to talk to Hope Nicholson about her new book from Quirk Books, The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen. We discuss some of the heroes she writes about, what her research process was like and more.
Check it out and if you want to learn more about Hope, visit her on Twitter @HopeLNicholson.
Rogues Portal (RP): What was your favourite era of characters to research for The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen?
Hope Nicholson (HN): Hmm. I think the 1970s were a lot of fun because SO MUCH was going on and changing in the comics industry at the time! Underground comics, the convention scenes, direct market, comic shops, women’s lib, they all really happened in this decade and changed comics significantly.
Comics before and after the 1970s were so different it was almost like a different medium altogether. Though the 1990s and 2000s were an interesting challenge. They were a particular time when histories haven’t been written about the eras yet, but old enough that most of the webpages at the time have gone dark. So it’s a lot of relying on interviews, press articles, etc. for information.
RP: The book goes into quite a lot of detail for the characters (and it’s great!). How long did it take you to compile the information you found and turn it into the book?
HN: It depends on the character! By and large I tried to stick to only a day of research for each character in order to complete on a decent timeline. But some characters like Ms. Tree, I ended up spending much longer on since it took me some time to read a good amount of their adventures. Overall writing the book took me about four months.
RP: Who was your favourite character that you discovered while doing your research?
HN: I don’t think I have any favourites! It was pretty cool to research Olga Mesmer though, a superheroine of sorts (she has super powers, but isn’t a crimefighter per se), who predates Superman.
RP: What are some of your hopes that come with the publication of a book containing all these characters that people may or may not know about?
HN: I hope that people understand that history isn’t a straight progression. While in some ways we’ve advanced significantly, other ways we’ve gone backwards. By showing strong female characters and just as important – weak female characters, that have been published through each decade I hope it gives everyone a better connection to their past.
RP: Who is one character that you think should’ve lasted longer than she did and who is one character that you don’t understand the popularity of?
HN: I think Jetta was a really cool character who should have lasted longer! The gist was basically “Archie meets the Jetsons” she was cool and popular and fashionable, and could have lasted for a while I think. I’ve toyed with the idea of bringing her back. Maybe one day!
I’ll be honest I never really empathized with the connection people have to Wonder Woman, and I discuss this in the book. If you get something out of her though, that’s great.
RP: What draws you to the research aspect of these characters? What makes you want to dive into the history behind them?
HN: I think it’s the high of the rare moment when you discover something that no one has known before. Being able to showcase Survivalwoman comic strips by Margaret Atwood for example was really nice.
RP: Were there any particularly common traits that came up between the characters you researched? You know, other than they’re all women.
HN: Ehm. No more than there is anything common that binds male characters!
RP: Why do you think The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen is an important book to readers and why is it important to you?
HN:I think that we are often limited in comic history when we talk about the golden/silver/bronze/modern age. Breaking it into decades instead allows us to see more clearly that our history is happening now. It was important to me for example to include a section for our current decade, the 2010s because SO MUCH has happened in the last few years already! history is always being made.
RP: Based on your research, is there any advice you can offer to other writers out there attempting to write female superheroes? Other than, as Kelly Sue DeConnick says, write them like they’re people.
HN: Don’t be afraid to make an ugly character who’s a hero. And you don’t need to have other characters tell her that she’s beautiful on the inside. Physical attractiveness doesn’t have to be related to heroic deeds!
RP: Are there any plans for a sequel or any other big research projects like The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen coming from you and Quirk Books in the future?
HN: I don’t know! I haven’t heard anything yet.