On May 6th, Gail Simone’s big Dynamite crossover special, Swords of Sorrows kicks off. She has gathered together women from across comics to pen new stories of the women of the Dynamite universe. Besides a wild slice through time and space for these heroes of magic and skill there is a conscious effort to bring in women writers for characters who have only ever been written by male characters. We continue Comicosity’s exploration these books by talking to the creators of this groundbreaking event.
One of the most powerful women in this universe has also been the one shown with the least amount of clothing: Dejah Thoris from the Warlords of Mars series. Thrown together with Victorian set Irene Adler in Swords of Sorrow: Dejah Thoris & Irene Adler, these women have served in many roles in their lives. Now they are thrown together to fight while coming at life from very different cultural perspectives. The writer behind this culture clash is Leah Moore, who has penned tales from Doctor Who to Witchblade, Sherlock Holmes and more. However, before we dive in to talk to Leah, lets take a quick look at our protagonists.
Jessica Boyd: Dejah Thoris has traversed many stories from the role of damsel in distress to warrior. What is it like contrasting this Martian queen to the enterprising Victorian, Irene Adler? Should readers expect any culture clash?
Leah Moore: Well both characters are quite well heeled, Dejah being a Princess, and Irene an Opera Prima Donna turned adventuress, but Victorian London is a far cry from Barsoom. When i was researching the story, i found out that Barsoomian children learn about Earth from an early age, because they have the technology to study us from afar. Also she is married to John Carter, who has filled her in on ‘Jasoomian’ life a bit, but no Barsoomian has ever been to Earth itself, so London is a big shock to the system. its cold, and wet, and people seem quite rude to her. Luckily, you dont get to be Princess of Mars by being timid and retiring. She is undaunted, and is soon putting London in its place!
JB: Both women are keen hunters, Dejah seeking justice for her world and Adler, now a bounty hunter, using her wits to seek fiends out. Despite their dramatic fashion differences these characters have similar motivations: justice. Is this a theme that comes into play with this Swords of Sorrow tie-in?
LM: I think both woman are keenly aware that in order to achieve some goals, you have to get your hands dirty, you can’t sit and wait for the world to change for the better, you have to get in amongst it and be the change you want to see. That is something i think the whole of the Swords of Sorrow event really resonates with. The women in SOS are not there to lay down the law, or to enforce a whole raft of rules on anybody, they are much too busy fighting their own fights, and figuring out the moral path as they go. Adler is a fixer, and has the power to take a case or turn it down. Dejah is a Princess with a whole world to lead. Both women use their own moral compass to do this. neither of them answers to anybody. I think at first their personalities will clash, but maybe they’ll figure out their common interests?
JB: How closely do Irene and Dejah’s adventures connect to the main adventure in Swords of Sorrow? Any prerequisite reading, or can people interested in these characters just dive in?
LM: I think Gail has set it all up so the mini series are great on their own, but if you want to go crazy and buy the whole event, each miniseries you read adds richness to the main story, and the event as a whole. I think if you want to go back and read back issues of Dejah Thoris, then that would give you an idea of the world of Barsoom, but I plan to fill in the details for a first time reader too. Nobody should feel like they can’t just grab the series and start there. I’d obviously recommend the Dejah Thoris / Irene Adler miniseries first, but yeah, the other stories are going to be excellent, so I wont sulk if you buy them too.
JB: Now, you have a chance to explore these characters being thrown together in this mystical scenario through three issues. How does that allow you to sift through the Dynamite universe or these characters that you cannot do with just a single issue?
LM: Oh wow, well for the record, a single issue is no space at all, but that frees you up to take a single idea and just run with that. you can use your 22 pages to bring it full circle and bam, you are done! Three issues is longer, but weirdly it still feels like no space at all! I have been so loving writing these characters, that its tempting to get carried away, but the space restriction has kept me focussed and concentrating on the thing in hand. I have loved being back in the world of Sherlock Holmes, it has been a while since i wrote that world, and I am so happy romping in the fantasy world on Barsoom. Doing both is just heavenly. I hope people really enjoy this because i want to write more!
LM: Yes. I got some flak myself when I announced the project from people disappointed by the cheesecake nature of the covers. I think people might assume Dejah is empty headed and whose sole purpose is to decorate mars. This is not the case in my series, or in the previous Dynamite Dejah series. I think also, they are missing the point. In comics, just as in movies or gaming, women are so two dimensionally represented, and so disproportionately under-used as creative talent, that this event is a massive step in the right direction for comics.
Dynamite are known for their covers, and their sales are driven in part by people out there buying cute, sexy cover art. This fact is presumably why they have worked so hard to build a stable of great classic female characters, and now they are able to put that whole team of great characters into one big event. That’s just good business on their part. I myself very rarely wear a chain-mail bikini, or a red bathing suit with a turned up Dracula collar. The weather is not that great over here, and its not practical for looking after the kids, but if I did, I don’t think that would make me morally redundant as a female, or as a feminist, or as a person.
I don’t think the characters costumes are very practical, but they look great, they really convey the brand of the character, and they rather vitally point out that the character is female. If every cover of every comic is covered in women, fully clothed or less so, its still better for women than if there are no women at all on those covers. The stories are still enjoyable, even if the women in them are also incredibly sexy and scantily clad. its not an either/or question. you can have both.
If the people who buy them for the covers alone, sit and read them, and they are full of great stories written by women, and are all really fun, interesting and compelling, then that is a win for the reader, a win for the company, a win for the writers and artists and of course for the characters themselves. I fail to see a problem with it.
JB: Is there anything else you’d like Comicosity readers to know?
LM:The SOS event is to showcase that women characters are great to read, that women writers can really really write, and women artists can really really draw, that Dynamite as a company is willing to do things that none of the bigger companies would dare to do, and that Gail Simone is a stone cold badass genius.
JB: Thank you so much for your time.
LM: Thank you! 🙂
If you’d like to make sure your store is getting copies of Swords of Sorrow: Dejah Thoris & Irene Adler #1, out June 17 2015, reference Diamond Code: APR151329.