NYCC CatchUp: Intellectuality with Marguerite Bennett

Image: Karen Walsh
Image: Karen Walsh

One of the first things they tell you not to do in an interview is fangirl all over your interviewee. However, one of the reasons I wanted to interview the very articulate Marguerite Bennett was because I had listened to her back at the NYCC: Special Edition in 2015 and was smitten by her intelligence and thoughtful approach to comics. Upon meeting, we exchanged a mutual admiration for the other’s NYCC style. Hers was a lovely black lipstick, dress, and matching nail art. Mine was the Joke inspired blazer, recently side-shaved hair complimented with blues/purples/pinks, and comics inspired nail designs. My inability to contain my squealing at being complimented by one of the most fashionable comics writers couldn’t be contained. Back in 2015, one of the most memorable moments was Ms. Bennett sharing her thoughts that just because she worked in comics didn’t mean that she couldn’t be fashionable. This idea of being a woman who is geeky, smart, and fashionable had stuck with me and informs the sense of multifaceted woman that is Marguerite Bennet.

However, lest you think that Ms. Bennett is nothing more than a well-dressed, pretty face, I need to tell you that I am enamored of her approach to comics. Ms. Bennet does an excellent job of elevating the medium by incorporating complex song lyrics for some of her books as well as untranslated German into your DC Bombshells. With this in mind, I asked her about her intellectual approach to a fictional format that many feel is “low” culture in a society that seems to devalue intellectuality. Without missing a beat, Ms. Bennett responded, “I think it’s about write the book you want to read. It’s about the books I imprinted on. I loved having puzzles. I loved Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore and the lyricism. The rhythms and cadences. Even in places where it wasn’t a poem or a song. There was a delivery to it. That made a strong impression on me. As ways to focus, I was always reciting songs and poems to myself. Even when writing dialogue I say it out loud and listen to the cadence and rhythm and it has to be very pleasing to me. If you ere going to excise anything, take it out of context, if it’s still beautiful, that’s always what I was striving for.” The author’s response to my question about the intellectuality of her work reinforced my belief that for her, being esoteric is a state of being as opposed to something that requires effort. Ms. Bennett’s discussion of her writing process and the lyricism with which she writes segued perfectly into my next question.

Often, one of the condescending comments people make about comics and graphic novels is that they are “low” culture. Low culture is defined as popular culture while “high” culture is considered the culture of the educated. However, as works such as Maus or Sandman have increasing expanded the position of graphic works in the sphere of literature, I wanted to know how Ms. Bennett felt she negotiates the intellectualization of what many consider a “low culture” in a way that keeps the media within its genre. “These are things that I enjoy. I love comics. I love having fun. I’m not sitting down with an intention to do it.My parents were history teachers. When we ran out of fairy tales, my dad turned to mythology. When we ran out of mythology, he turned to Alexander of Thebes, then the siege of Leningrad. So from a very early age, I was getting a broader view of the world.” What’s most inspiring about her response is that she engages in these pursuits without realizing the impact she’s having on the genre. Bringing in people who provide this high culture voice in an accessible way is just one way that Ms. Bennett is changing the face of comics.

At NYCC, DC announced that Ms. Bennett would be working on a new Batwoman series. When asked what Marguerite Bennett twist she plans to bring to make the character hers, she responded, “we’re really going to be delving into places we’ve never really seen Batwoman going. We’re exploding out of Gotham city, and sending her on globetrotting mission.” She continued to tell me that Batwoman will be using her military training to seek out individuals who have fled Gotham and the US. Part of that is that we’ve got these lost years. After she left the military and of course became Batwoman, but there are years where we don’t know what she was up to. We know they were very damaging. Those years start trickling back into her life.” This means that all of these different stories will bring in the international elements of