Noelle Stevenson is making her mark in the world of comic books.
She's just 23 and already a writer and illustrator. She has co-authored a series for Boom! Studios, called Lumberjanes, and she has written for Marvel's new female Thor. But it's a tough world for women to be a part of, whether they're creators or fans.
Stevenson remembers the first time she went to a comic book store. She tells NPR's Audie Cornish that she was just 11 years old, "and there's that Princess Leia cutout, in the metal bikini, and she had a sign taped over her belly button, advertising the deals of the day ... you get a message from that, you know? You get a message very loud and clear, and no one was throwing rocks at me and saying, girls can't shop here, get out of here. You just kind of know when you're not supposed to be somewhere."
Stevenson eventually did find a welcoming place — Tumblr, where she began writing an original webcomic called Nimona. It caught fire, and is now being released as a book.
On inventing Nimona's look
I was kind of inspired by the fact that I never really wanted to cosplay as a lot of the female characters out there — cosplay is, you know, dressing up in the costume of a hero, or a comic character or a movie character. I wanted to dress as guys. And I felt that I wanted to do a costume that people who weren't interested in looking particularly buxom or sensual might want to dress as. You know, she's stocky, and she wears pink but is still very kind of butch ... I just wanted to see a character that I haven't necessarily seen before, especially as the protagonist.
Noelle Stevenson has also written for Lumberjanes and Thor.
On Nimona's relationship with the not-quite-villainous-enough Lord Blackheart
He was a bit of a disappointment to her. His rules are kind of getting in the way of him getting anything done. ... I've always been very interested in villains, you know, they're kind of flamboyantly over the top in the things that they do, and there's not a lot of ambiguity there. Thinking that we're too different, that villains are almost a different species than we are, that tricks us into a false sense of security, I think. I think almost anyone is capable of doing things that are evil, or hurtful or harmful.
On perspective and being a woman in comics
I am very interested in female characters, and bringing a new perspective to mediums where not necessarily that's been valued at all. Like a lot of young women, I went through an entire period where I hated female characters — I didn't want to read about them! I thought I was going to be the cool girl who was not like other girls. And that's so harmful — I want to break down all the stereotypes that say, this woman is this way, these are her flaws and that's why she'll never be as good ... I was doing that, and now I want to figure out why I think that way, and why a male character could be celebrated for negative traits while a [female character] is crucified for those same traits, and how that reflects back on real women, living their lives in the world day to day.