Women Making Comics: An Interview with Emet Comics Founder Maytal Gilboa
Emet Comics is an upcoming imprint of comics by women for women. Founded by Maytal Gilboa late last year, Emet Comics currently has six comic books in production to be sold digitally through Comixology around June this year. The website launches in a few weeks, where you’ll be able to read previews of all their new comics.
What kind of work are you doing at Emet Comics?
While I was working in development, I realized that there was so much talent out there that nobody was really doing anything with, and there were all these stories that were inspiring and exciting to me. But because film and TV is such an expensive venture, they were more conservative about what they picked up to produce, and they needed to see what the real audience might be before they took those big risks.
About six months ago, I realized there were some real gender biases in our industry, and I don’t know if you’re familiar with the statistics in Hollywood, but something like only thirteen percent of all films are written by women and only six percent of films are directed by women. As this phenomenon of comics being turned into TV shows was playing itself out over the past five years, I realized that women were really excluded from that whole phenomenon because they weren’t writing comics and they weren’t illustrating comics and they weren’t producing comics, and as a result on the film and TV side, they weren’t being hired to be the showrunners and writers and directors of all that content. And it’s not blatant discrimination, it’s because they don’t live and breathe those genres, so they don’t seem like the obvious candidate to adapt those genres.
Many of the women I’ve spoken to never really read comics, and it’s not because women don’t like graphic novels and comics, it’s because there aren’t that many comics that are developed for women. And so five months ago as I was having all these epiphanies and talking to all these filmmakers and writers, we realized that we had all these stories to tell, and instead of going out to studios and networks and seeing if they’ll pick them up for TV shows and films it was a much lower barrier of entry to just go and raise the money to start producing these comic books.
It’s proven to be such a fun medium and everyone has embraced it fully. We currently have six comic books in production in various genres and I’m hoping to get four more in production over the next month, so I’m gonna have ten comic books in production, and we’ll probably create a store on Comixology and start selling them in 3-4 months.
What were some of the challenges that you faced in starting your own comic book company?
You know, it hasn’t been that challenging. There’s a lot of talent out there. There’s a lot of very, very talented writers and artists that, for one reason or another, have not been given a chance to shine and to tell their stories. So I wouldn’t say it’s been very challenging because I started three months ago, and I’m going to be in production of ten comics by women.
That’s pretty fast, and I haven’t had to compromise on quality, and I haven’t had to compromise on development time. Everyone has kicked into full gear. They’ve been churning out great drafts of scripts, and artists have been pushing themselves and pushing the styles so we’re not really conforming to the traditional comic book look. We tend to be more illustrative looking, to have softer lines, to have more minimalist panels and designs. And we’re pretty minimalist on colors so far, not because we haven’t talked about doing full color, but because we almost use color as an effect and as a way to either give a page or a panel magic or some sort of a thematic function, as opposed to it being fully colored from A to Z.
These comics are definitely going to look different from anything the comic book community has seen before, and it’s because the people creating them are coming from different disciplines, and we’re not huge comic book fans to begin with. They’re creating comics that they want to see, that they want to read, so that people like them can be introduced to the potential of this really amazing medium.
How did you go about locating your writers and artists?
I was a development executive for almost four years, so I met with writers all day long. There is no shortage of great writers in Los Angeles. They’re everywhere, and they’re just looking for their first break, so finding writers was not an issue at all. My specialty is development so we developed these ideas from scratch and then I worked very closely with all the writers to get it to the quality it needed to be at. Then we brought on a comic book artist and editor named Mia Hernandez who’s been doing these weekend workshops with us to get everyone on the same page in terms of the actual formatting and things like how to give instructions to the letterer, and how to do the panel layouts. There’s definitely been a learning curve but Mia has been really helpful in getting us to a place where I feel that everyone is really professional.
In terms of the artists there are so many amazing artistic communities online whether it’s through DeviantArt, or Behance, or even posting on the UCLA, USC, and CalArts job boards and filtering through their students. We’re even going into our network of storyboard artists. There’s a lot of storyboard artists who have been interested in getting into comics and their style is a little bit different. There are a lot of artists out here who I believe have been afraid of comics because comics has represented one thing for a very long time, and it’s finally opening up. Amazing companies like Image have allowed for all these creator owned comics that are encouraging people to take risks, and to create more interesting content, and to take risks on design and style.
I feel like even though comics is not that young of an industry, it does feel like it’s been undergoing a transformation in the past five to ten years and really opening up to other styles and other types of storytelling.
You’ve mentioned trying to diversify and make your comics a little bit different than what has come before, and on your Tumblr you had listed a few rules that you want to follow for your imprint. What made you select those in particular?
Well, I can’t say that I selected them. We just started developing stories, and those are the rules that emerged.
Are they set in stone, or is it something that might change in the future?
I don’t like to be extreme about things, I like to let things evolve organically and come from an authentic place and a true place for the writers and the artists. If somebody came to me with great passion for a superhero story that resonated with me, and that I felt was a really unique way to explore the female experience, I would be very interested in that.
That blog entry was more about “this is what I’ve discovered women want to talk about.” These are the types of stories I have discovered come to life when you put a group of women together in a room and you say “there are no rules, there are not guidelines. You can create whatever it is that you’re passionate about.” And it’s emerged from that.
What kind of future do you see for Emet Comics?
All of our stories are very big stories, so there are going to be anywhere from five to ten issues per story. If I have ten issues in production in the next month, that means I have to create another fifty to 100 books over the next two to five years. My focus is on getting these stories out there, building a real audience base around the content that we’re creating, and seeing what happens after that. Our loyalty is to our storytellers and to our characters and our stories, and we’re just going to let it organically evolve from there.
You mentioned several trends within the comic book industry, and I was wondering how familiar you are with the rise of the independent/alternate comics and webcomics. Have these served as a source of inspiration in your endeavor, and could they be sources of potential partnerships in the future?
Yes. I think the rise of independent comics and even the rise of graphic novels has definitely been an inspiration to all of us! I had no idea I could love comics so much, but then I discovered Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising, Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals, Rutu Modan’s The Property, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis…I could go on and on. The effects of the long tail and the growth in the industry has been fun to watch and has really opened up a world of possibilities for creators.
You had also mentioned Image, and they recently made an interesting move where a couple of their creators, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction, are actually bringing some of their original stories to television. With your background in Hollywood is that something you might like to see in the future for Emet?
Definitely. Most of our writers are television and film writers so as they are writing these comics, it think most of them are also starting to think about what these stories would look like in other formats. My hope is that as we gain some recognition in the comic book space and as we develop audiences for these stories we’ll be able to start having conversations about adapting these properties to other mediums.
Do you have anything to say to potential readers?
I think feedback is very important when it comes to a startup company like ours. No one has really done what we’re doing, and the only way I’m going to know what’s working and what’s not working is if people reach out to me through my email or my twitter or my blog and tell me what they are and are not responding to and why. One of the most eye-opening things that’s happened to me over the past month is that dads have started to send me messages on twitter saying how excited they are for our comics to come out, because they have been looking for comics to buy their daughters so they can share their passion for comics. Then there are mothers who are hyper aware of the sexualization of female characters in many comic books who have basically put the kibosh on that, saying “you can’t buy our daughter that kind of comic.” They’re actually kind of excited to finally have that “women-approved” content that they can then turn around and buy for their girls. Once I started getting those messages I realized that there was a need for even younger content. We were developing very mature content and I think now we’re going to look into developing some younger, middle-grade content for middle school and even elementary school girls. That’s something I never would have started doing if I hadn’t received all that feedback.
If I could say one thing to readers it’s “don’t be a stranger.” We’re really trying to build a unique community that’s a safe place for women, that’s inspiring, and that resonates with the female experience. The only way we’re going to be able to do that is if we can get feedback, and we can have dialogue about the themes and the characters and the issues that we portray. Then we’ll do the best job that we can to continue to fulfill content wherever there’s a need.
Maytal Gilboa came to comics through Hollywood. After attending film school at USC, she worked in the talent department at the William Morris Agency then joined the development team at Reel FX Studios (Free Birds, Book of Life). She is now founder and owner of Emet Entertainment.