Welcome to GAME CHANGERS, an interview series at Comicosity looking at female protagonists in comic books from the last decade or two (or more!) — and the original creators who brought them to life.
Here with the second of two features this week, narrowing in on the new crowds of women populating DC’s Vertigo Comics imprint, is Effigy, a brand new title circling in on child stardom, science fiction, and fandom.
Rounding out the book is a set of fascinating female protagonists in the form of Chondra Jackson, her mother Ginger, and Edie Chacon, the woman who is very likely Chondra’s biggest fan. Creator Tim Seeley once again took time out to chat about the book, whose second issue arrives in shops today, and the characters that are just beginning to populate this brave new world.
Who are the women of Effigy Mound?
Name: Chondra Jackson
Alter Ego: Bebe Soma of the Star Cops
Name: Ginger Jackson
Alter Ego: None
Name: Edie Chacon
Alter Ego: None she’ll answer to
First Appearance (all): Effigy #1 (2014)
Created by Tim Seeley and Marley Zarcone
Published by DC Comics/Vertigo
It’s not easy being a child actor, and no one knows that more than Chondra Jackson. Co-star of the long-running, Saturday morning, live-action children’s show Star Cops, Chondra spent years in the public spotlight as young, outer space police officer Bebe Soma — and never worked in acting again. Now an actual beat cop in her home town in Oregon (with a sex tape and a lot of interviews on record about how hick Effigy Mound is), Chondra isn’t finding adapting to real life all that easy.
And her mother Ginger isn’t making it any easier. While Chondra is putting her best effort in to be in the moment of her new career, Ginger is still wistful for the life she built for herself and her daughter in Los Angeles. Stage moms take it as hard as the actors, it seems, when things don’t go as planned. And it seems she bent a lot of rules along the way to get to nowhere in the end.
But don’t believe there’s not still people out there worshiping (literally) the work Chondra did on Star Cops — chief among them is Chondra’s best friend from childhood, Edie Chacon. Now a sex worker in Effigy Mound, Edie is also Bebe Soma’s biggest fan, that is, unless you count the dead body that just showed up with a Star Cops tattoo on its back. Chondra is going to have to reconnect with Edie and seek out answers to discover the real truth behind Star Cops, the people who created it, and why her die-hard fans are being sacrificed to it.
A few words from their creator
Matt Santori-Griffith: In developing the character of Chondra Jackson, where did the interest in the childstar phenomenon come from?
Tim Seeley: Being a comic book artist for a certain amount of time, you do a lot of conventions and often share them with actors from these genre, cult favorite TV shows. In the last ten years, I’ve met people from all kinds of backgrounds, like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Doctor Who, and seen what becomes of their lives after becoming famous for something people really love — but often becomes sort of faded.
It seemed like a perfect way to talk about our culture’s fascination with celebrities. And I can occasionally show scenes from a crazy, science-fiction TV show that involved a dog-headed man and a villain made out of pudding.
MSG: And with different scenes from Star Cops popping up as we go along, you’re really writing a narrative within a narrative. How do you manage that structurally in the writing process?
TS: It has to be led by the real world and then I can create parallels with the crazy TV show. I can be unlimited in my creativity, but the focus has to be on the real people, the grounded stuff. But it’s nice to have a little rein to be able to show something that’s really without rules, but can add a new level of story to our story by having these parallels to a weird science fiction show that was inspired by an occult writer’s religious beliefs.
MSG: In parallel to what Caitlin Kittredge is doing with Coffin Hill [also at Vertigo], your main character decides to become a cop after a childhood of something really quite different. In Chondra’s case, is this about blurring the lines between her and her character Bebe Soma?
TS: I think she saw her life as one indication of how much effect she could have on the world, by being a celebrity. At a certain point, Chondra is looking to be more generous, to help the world.
When she was working on the show, they had actual police officers on set. I think she over-idealized what a police officer could do.
MSG: Effigy is really unusual for the comic market today as it headlines a woman of color. What factored into that decision process for you?
TS: One of my decisions early on was, that if I was going to make creator-owned work, it just wouldn’t star a white male. There are just so many books out there that already have that. And those came out of a whole historical reasoning that I don’t agree with. I truly believe that if you are going to invent something, it should be more representative of the world, taking in a bunch of different perspectives.
In my mind, I never really stopped to think about it. There just aren’t enough Black leading lady characters. It’s just one way to show different people that they can be represented in a comic. For part of the story, Chondra’s race isn’t super important, but we will see that you can’t escape that if you are a Black woman, you will be treated a certain, different way. It does affect the story, although isn’t a huge focus.
MSG: Chondra’s mother also takes center stage right in issue #1. Can you talk a little about her role in the title?
TS: Ginger is someone who lost her chance maybe, and is living a bit through her kid. We’ve seen that so many times these days — for good or bad, someone wanting something better for their children than they had, and almost enjoying what their child has more than they should.
She’s definitely someone who cares about her daughter above anything, but the way that she goes about it can lead to her looking like a horrible person. I think that’s an interesting dynamic, that stage mom phenomenon. The “Momager.” It’s a creation of modern celebrity culture that I really wanted to dig into.
MSG: There’s this parallel between Effigy Mound and Los Angeles (also known as the real world to Ginger) throughout issue #1. You’re focusing on a small town in Revival as well. What’s the motivation for this setting for you?
TS: It’s really just the opposite of what Hollywood sells as its image. It’s not really true, of course, but we see Los Angeles as just the land where celebrities live, and it’s all creative. And that rural America is the opposite of that. They’d have you believe that all the dreams are out west and you have to go there to make it happen.
I think it’s an interesting parallel to put her back in a place that’s opposite to that experience. She grew up being surrounded by stars, and part of her job was to get closer to the biggest stars. Now she’s in a place that’s as far as she can get.
MSG: How did the process of developing the series work with artist Marley Zarcone?
TS: I had been talking with [editor] Shelly Bond about working on something for Vertigo, and we just kicked around a lot of ideas. I would come in with a pitch, and she would say, “How about something like this?” and we’d kick back some stuff. And that eventually became Effigy.
And Shelly had this really great idea that she had six artists that she wanted to work with, as well as six writers. We all did our first issue scripts and sent them out to the artists, to see who would bite, to see who really wanted to work on this one. And I got really lucky that Marley felt Effigy fit her style and her interests. I think she was totally right, because Marley has a beautiful style and draws beautiful people. Everyone is kind of young and hot the way Marley draws them. So, it was a perfect match for the characters of Effigy.
MSG: What has it been like bringing in a transgender character with Edie having such a prominent role?
TS: I really wanted to bring in Edie, because of the way transgender people are treated in this country — which is very much that they are one of the most discriminated-against minorities still out there. They have trouble getting jobs. People are sort of embarrassed by someone who is unhappy with their gender, and the desire to change it confuses people.
But on the other hand, transgender people are one of the most exploited as far as pornography goes. I really wanted to highlight the hypocrisy of that, and even look at the way celebrities are treated. We demand that they are these moral compasses or role models, but we also want to see them naked or caught on sex tape.
The character Edie really represents all of those things about our culture. She’s a very important part of the story in that she’s also a herald of the future. She shows the way our world is changing in our ideas of gender and identity. We’ll get to deal with a lot of issues, but with a very fun character who is obsessed with Star Cops, and knows everything about it. You get to see that fandom from her.
MSG: With issue #2 out today, what can you tell us about the overarching storyline? We’ve only seen a little taste of the characters with issue #1.
TS: The first story arc deal with finding the first sign of this larger conspiracy and how it relates to the crime discovered in issue #1. Issue #1-4 are one tight, little story, the beginning arc. It’s worth checking out, because although we are building toward a larger story, we have this nice, self-contained narrative. If you like the first arc, you’ll like the rest of it.
We are trying to keep these arcs a little shorter, with the second one just being two issues with #5 and #6. I like to have a story that gives you a chance to jump in every 3 or 4 months.
The idea was to build up a world and then peel back the layers. Once you start to meet them, you get to find out what’s really going on at the same time they do.
“What Seeley constructs is a genuinely flawed character, and not romantically flawed either. Chondra’s personality, her relationship with her mother, her ambition, and misguided thoughts about her own infamy are all a big swirl in this issue, and it serves a pretty strong introduction to her character.”
– Matt Santori-Griffith, Comicosity
Where can I read more?
- Effigy #1-current (2014)
Courtesy DC Comics, preview pages for today’s Effigy #2, available everywhere DC and Vertigo Comics are sold:
For a full list of Comicosity’s Game Changers, please visit our index.