Women In Comics Month: Interview with Stephanie Heike

In honor of Women in Comics this March, PREVIEWSworld talks with executive editor Stephanie Heike!

PREVIEWSworld: Tell us a little bit about yourself! What are you currently working on?

Stephanie Heike: Born in New Orleans, I have a Bachelor's in English from the University of Southern Mississippi, the alma mater of Jimmy Buffet and Brett Favre.

I’m probably among the last generation of kids that can say they bought a Fawcett or Dell comic brand new off the racks. I read stuff like All-Star Squadron and Uncanny X-Men until crap like Crisis and Secret Wars happened—then I dumped the Big Two in ‘86-’87. I read a ton of indies throughout the 80’s as a teen like AC, Blackthorne, Comico, Deluxe, Eclipse, First...

I was a typical disgruntled Gen X comic book fan who happened to be female. 

I'm currently the Executive Editor at AC Comics in the Orlando area. I freelanced for them in the 90’s. After a long term working correspondence through the mail and over the phone, I married my editor and inker, Mark G. Heike.

I’ve been working full-time in comics for fifteen years. I write and edit scripts, pencilling, inking, coloring covers, pre-press—the usual stuff that editors do—doing every job that needs doing to get the book to press.

PREVIEWSworld: How long have you been working with sequential art? What titles, companies, and creators have you worked with over your time in comics?

Stephanie Heike: My first published comic book work was in Dec. 1987/Jan. 1988—I still think of myself as a newbie—I haven't been published as long as most people I've known in the industry. Most comic creators know how to do their one thing, be it scripting or art ”and then the magic happens” and it becomes a comic book. They have no idea of how much work is still involved to get the book to print!

I got into Golden Age comics back when I was a kid and that’s how I happened to gravitate toward AC and Big Bang Comics. I ended up being published by Image Comics and other 90’s indies. 

My main work has been for AC Comics. I’ve done a lot of freelance stuff for other publishers like Dark Horse, BOOM! Studios on Garfield and “ghosting” for other artists. I’m proudest of doing the Calgary Stampede Adventures comic for the Calgary Stampede.

I'd probably like to be best known for my creator owned, self published color superhero series, 21st Centurions.

PREVIEWSworld: Did you have a mentor or hero in the industry that inspired you to pursue a career in comics?

Stephanie Heike: Current comic shop people look at me blankly when I talk about my favorite creators. Most of the people whose work I grew up admiring are struggling to get by these days, in and out of the comics biz. 

It’s like the 50’s, where we had a generation of talented creators unable to get work and the comic publishers would only hire those people who would work for peanuts. I wish I had more financial resources to hire talented people.

PREVIEWSworld: In your opinion, how has the comic book industry evolved in terms of gender?

Stephanie Heike: I think most of the writers in the popular media have gone too far in making the characters, no matter what gender or orientation, have the “same voice” or being puppets to reinforce agendas that the author wants to push. It’s not fun to read.  I’d like to see more variety in characters having different opinions and viewpoints.

PREVIEWSworld: What stereotypes do you see surrounding women in comics? How could people of all genders go about breaking those stereotypes?

Stephanie Heike: Sure, there's been editors who were interested in artwork from "a girl doing comics" until they found out my style was "doing that typical superhero crap," then they weren’t interested in my work. 

If you drew badly and couldn’t write, then they’d like your work, because that’s what “girls” did in comics. You draw and write well and it isn’t fun to pick on you anymore.

Some of the worst treatment I've gotten, oddly enough, is open hostility from women outside the comics field.  It’s like they think it’s a schoolyard and by bullying and putting you down they can feel better about themselves.

We can all learn to work together to make better comics.

PREVIEWSworld: How do you want to see women represented in comic books 10 years from now?

Stephanie Heike: What I don't want to see more of is the current marketing strategy of having female characters drawn modestly and covered completely from the neck down being billed as “female friendly,” that’s actually a ploy to pacify extremist religious groups. 

Comics (and tv, from what little I’ve seen, post-2000) seem to be suffering from being turned into what we used to call “soap operas." It’s all convoluted and inaccessible to the casual reader/viewer. I’d like to get away from that.
There’s too much cynical, nasty comics. I’d like to see more happy and fun comics! Kid-friendly that aren’t stupid comics! Fashionable people having extraordinary adventures comics!

If there's still comics being published, I'm a happy camper! 

PREVIEWSworld: If you could give advice to any aspiring editors, executives, writers, or artists, what would you tell them?

Stephanie Heike: Don't do it! Get out of comics while you still can! It’s a trap! 

Okay, seriously? Get off social media. Check in on your friends, post an update and be done with it for a week or two. You’ll be more productive and less stressed out.

Quit being a fan of everybody else’s comics for a while and become the biggest fan of your own work.

If you can’t appreciate your own creations objectively over other books you’d rather read, you need to make it better. Inversely, if it’s too easy to love everything you create, you’ve got bigger problems! Step back and be more critical.

PREVIEWSworld: And lastly, are there any up-and-coming women creators who you would recommend readers check out?

Stephanie Heike: I've been reading Lumberjanes from BOOM! Studios; it's pretty freaking awesome!

Check out more Women In Comics Month interviews in our special section on PREVIEWSworld!

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