This week’s Geek Speaks…Fiction! dips a toe into the comics world. GeekMom Mel asked author Delilah S. Dawson what inspired her while she was writing her new comic, Ladycastle! Don’t miss this exciting new comic featuring strong women and heroic fantasy, coming to a comics shop near you, Wednesday, January 25!
The great thing about comics is that, much like Skittles, what you see on the outside generally tells you what you’ll find on the inside. The cover for Ladycastle #1 shows Merinor, Aeve, and Gwyneff, three strong women, and that’s exactly what you’ll discover once you start turning the pages. Ladycastle is about flipping the Round Table and destroying the tropes of Fantasy in a way that empowers women and emphasizes friendship and working together to overcome grief and insecurity. Ladycastle is, above all, a comic about ladies of all ages, races, sizes, and abilities overcoming hardships to triumph, together. And here are five things that inspired it.
1. A Writing Women-Friendly Comics panel that didn’t have any women on it.
Back in 2015, I was a panelist at GenCon, one of the biggest gaming conventions in the world. I received a frantic email: Did I have enough comics knowledge to sit on a panel on Writing Women-Friendly Comics? Because they had only just noticed that it… had zero women. I agreed. The resulting panel included three guys and two girls and was moderated (and overtaken) by someone who began the panel by making clear that it was intended to be for men writing about women, not women doing… anything. It was one of the most exasperating hours of my life, and the women in the audience were not shy about their own frustrations. Luckily, a columnist for The Mary Sue was in the room, and her coverage was epic. The next day, I received an email from an editor at BOOM! Studios asking me if I wanted to pitch some ideas. Considering my experience on that panel, I knew the comics I pitched would be written about women, for women.
2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
When I came home from GenCon, I was desperate for a great idea to pitch to BOOM! As it turns out, I walked into the house while my husband and kids were watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail. When I heard the famous line, “Strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government,” the idea I needed arrived. Because… what if it WAS a great system of government? What if a woman was the one to take the sword—and not because she wanted power? Merinor was born in that moment: A strong, black woman in her 30s, she takes the sword because she’s professionally interested in the metal and furthering her art as a blacksmith. Turns out she makes a great king.
3. Disney, Prince, Hamilton, and Patton.
I wanted to begin the comic by turning over a Fantasy trope, so I started with Rapunzel/Sleeping Beauty in her tower, because that one always bothered me. Locking your kid away for years is not cool. That’s how Aeve was born, a princess locked in a tower who’s slowly going insane and fighting it every step of the way. She begins with a parody of a song from Tangled—that includes an homage to Terminator 2. I couldn’t help slipping in little hat tips to some of my favorite media, so you’ll find references to Hamilton, Prince songs, and pep talks from Patton and Braveheart. Ladycastle is set in a magical past, but it’s got a contemporary heart and an awareness of the tropes it’s flipping.
4. Mad Max: Fury Road.
My original vision for Ladycastle was more lighthearted and humorous, with art like Adventure Time, Lumberjanes, or Nimona. But once Ashley Woods came on board and designed the characters, the book morphed into something deeper and more serious, something with heart and depth, even with the duty/doodie and butt jokes I couldn’t help making. When it came to creating the armor, our editor Chris Rosa suggested a Furiosa slant, and it was brilliant. From that moment on, when I was writing, I often listened to the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack. In Mad Max: Fury Road, the women are reduced to things, and they fight that. In Ladycastle, all the men are gone forever, and the women must rebuild their lives. It makes sense that Merinor would craft their armor with uniqueness and ferocity. These women are definitely not things.
5. My 10yo daughter.
The first time I took my daughter into a comic book shop, I was disappointed. It was around 2013, and the shop’s shelves felt like a sea of muscled-up, violent dudes with a few superwomen thrown in as purely sexual objects. Then I found Saga, a comic with a grown woman breastfeeding on the cover, and I was so grateful that there were comics out there written, seemingly, just for me. My daughter found Adventure Time, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Transformers MTMTE, Cleopatra in Space. It’s getting easier to find comics written just for women, but I wanted to write something with particular appeal to women ages 9 and up, something moms and daughters could enjoy together and talk about. So far, I’m learning that dads and sons enjoy it, too. I included a younger princess, Gwyneff, age 11, so that the story has grounding for younger kids. All the fights in Ladycastle are solved by something other than violence. Ultimately, it’s about ladies lifting ladies, about ladies of all sizes, ages, races, and abilities coming together to rebuild their lives in their own way. It’s about grief, familial frustrations, and overcoming fears. It’s a comic that, were I to walk into a comic book store today knowing nothing, I would instantly pick up and start flipping through. And then I would give it to my daughter.
I hope you’ll feel the same way.
As of right now, Ladycastle is scheduled to have four issues, and you can find them all at BOOM! Studios, order issues digitally at Amazon or Comixology, or ask your local shop to start a pull list for you.
Delilah S. Dawson writes the Ladycastle comic series for BOOM! Studios. As a novelist, she’s the author of Star Wars: The Perfect Weapon and Scorched, the dark fantasy Blud series, the YA thrillers Hit and Strike, YA horror Servants of the Storm, various short stories, and The Shadow series, a fantasy Western written as Lila Bowen and beginning with Wake of Vultures. Her short story, “When Doves Cry,” will appear in the Hellboy: An Assortment of Horror anthology from Dark Horse later this year. She’s won three RT Book Awards and teaches writing online at LitReactor.com. Delilah lives in the north Georgia mountains with her family and hangs out online at whimsydark.com and on Twitter, @delilahsdawson.