Women In Comics Month: Interview with Elizabeth Amber Love

In honor of Women in Comics this March, PREVIEWSworld talks with writer Elizabeth Amber Love!

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

Elizabeth Amber Love: For 2015, I'm spending a lot more time writing prose than comics. I wrote a mystery novel in 2014 in late fall and want to work on getting that edited and published. I'm still writing short stories. One of them should be out in 2015 in a Dark Horse Sequential Pulp collection if all goes according to plan. Otherwise, I'm still podcasting and blogging at AmberUnmasked.com

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

Elizabeth Amber Love: My first comic, Slim & Posh was in 2011 with Thomas Boatwright. I've had a lot of help from friends on making short comic stories so I owe them a lot—Mark Stegbauer, Jay Fife, Thom Zahler, and Thomas Boatwright. In 2012, I co-authored a short story in Red Stylo Media's Shakespeare Shaken anthology with Kristen McHugh and we were fortunate that our publisher Enrica Jang picked Jhazmine Ruiz to illustrate it because she really grasped what we were going for in terms of the style.  One of the most fun things I've done in comics was guest writing for the Subculture webcomic by Kevin Freeman and Stan Yan.  My latest comic work will be in Rise: Comics Against Bullying #2 (MAR151438), where I got to work with one of my favorite cartoonists, Carolyn Belefski. 

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

Elizabeth Amber Love: I had wanted to learn about how to make comics for years, but it wasn't until I took the Intro to Comics Writing class online through Comics Experience that I actually learned how to write scripts. Even though, like most American students, I had several years of Creative Writing in school, I didn't know anything about script writing or how to leave things out so that artists can do what they're experts at doing. Through Comics Experience, I found the best support and made friends who have really made a huge impact, like Paul Allor, Joe Sergi, George O'Connor, Gannon Beck, Joey Groah, and, of course, Andy Schmidt, the founder.

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

Elizabeth Amber Love: It's not only the comics industry, but the country as a whole, finally awakening to the understanding that gender is not binary. That's not something I was ever taught in school or at home; and most check boxes are still M or F on forms. Non-binary gender is new to me and has become extremely important to my work and my entertainment consumption. 

If you can understand how difficult it is to get female characters written and drawn in ways that are appropriate for that character and not only for hetero-male gaze, it's a million times harder for people to get it right with transgender characters if they know nothing about that experience. As a reader, I find characters like myself comforting and relatable, but it's also boring if I never ingest the experiences of people not like me.

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

Elizabeth Amber Love: First, having to constantly be identified as “women in comics” is a problem. Why aren't more women hired? Why aren't more women on the “regular” panel discussions? There's a reason women like Amanda Conner refuse to ever participate on those panels. It's because we're constantly some “other” rather than included. Sometimes you need to take the bull by the horns and start organizing your own panels. There's a fear that we're pushing some kind of man-hating agenda. Wanting to see equality is not man-hating. 

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

Elizabeth Amber Love: Regarding content, I want a believable variety. I'm not the same size as my friends. I'm not the same orientation as them.  I'm also childless. I want to see more artists like Gary Erskine, who understand what different body types are for women and men of all ages. 

#ProTip: if you want to write characters you don't understand, ask Twitter and find people who will share their stories and answer your questions.

Regarding hiring practices, I want to see more women and marginalized groups given the opportunities white men have had. If you think about it, before the abundance of conventions and the ease of social media, fans wouldn't necessarily know the ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or even gender of a creator except what could be assumed by their names. A real world example of the importance of role models is my friend Jamal Igle—he got to meet Dwayne McDuffie and that experience changed his life because he saw that an African-American man could be successful in comics. So in ten years, when some queer teenage girl unsure of herself is looking for a home in a creative industry and comes up to a comic pro at a con, I want her to feel like there's a place for her whether that's writing Batman or drawing her own webcomic.

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

Elizabeth Amber Love: Expand your networks. If your Twitter/IRL network is only a certain type of population, you need to broaden that ASAP. 

Who do you socialize with at the “bar con” after convention hours? Is it more dudes who look like you or are you getting to know other people? Being social is HARD for many people, but if your job requires you to network, then at least make the effort to leave your group of friends and get to know new people.

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

Elizabeth Amber Love: I was blown away when I saw Irene Koh's illustrations in my friend Paul Allor's romance comic, XOXO. She's gone on to work on Batgirl. I have no doubt she'll be kicking all kinds of ass in the industry. (@_PromKnight)

There's also Afua Richardson who drew Top Cow's Genius (MAR150534). From what I understand, she's already very busy because people recognized her abilities and relevancy immediately. (@AfuaRichardson)

My friend Jennie Wood has found a lot of indie success with her comic book Flutter and there's a new volume on the way from 215ink. She's my go-to person with questions about writing and working with editors and publishers. (@JennieWoodNDid)

Marissa Louise is a stellar color artist and illustrator. She's going to breakout every which way in indie comics. (@MarissaDraws)

And, it's already happening for Claire Connelly who has a style I would call “Edward Gorey on Adderall.” I can't get enough of Claire's work. She's illustrated the series, Animals, written by Eric Grissom, and co-created and illustrated The Unauthorized Autobiography Winston Churchill: A Documentary with Erica Schultz. (@CkConnellyDraws)

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

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