Living her Dream: Kristi McDowell Chats About Gamer Girl & Vixen
What do you get when you combine a long time dream and a love of comics and fanfiction with a great writing partner and creative team and a desire to see more diversity in comics? You get Gamer Girl & Vixen, an up and coming comic about two super villains (because super heroes are dull!) whose romantic relationship blossoms in the midst of their daring crime wave. With a Kickstarter for issues #1 and #2 in full swing, Gamer Girl & Vixen promises to deliver a fun, diverse story for everyone. I got a chance to ask WWAC’s very own Kristi McDowell all about this amazing opportunity to make her own dreams come true.
You’ve been collecting comics since you were a child and have shaped your life around writing and the comic book industry. How do you feel now that you finally have this opportunity to live your dream of being a comic book writer?
Making comics has been everything I always imagined it would be. It’s a twenty-four hour, seven day a week labor of love, and it’s been incredible. I feel like all the hard work has been 100% worth it. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy, honestly. It still feels kind of surreal.
What comics, characters, and creators have influenced you?
You know, for as long as I’ve been reading comics, I’ve got to say some of my major influences are coming from what I’m starting to see as a comic renaissance. Kelly Sue DeConnick, Gail Simone, Kate Leth, and Noelle Stevenson are all phenomenal and make me feel like I can do anything. I grew up with the 90s X-Men cartoon, so Rogue will probably always be my first love, as far as characters go, but when I got back into reading comics in my late twenties, I was instantly drawn to Batwoman. And it’s through Batwoman that my desire to write something like Gamer Girl & Vixen really grew.
With your eyes so firmly set on the target of writing comics, what steps did you take along the way to get to where you are now? Submissions, workshops, insider advice, anything like that?
I started with deciding to go back to school in my late twenties. UMass Lowell offered some really great courses, including a comics as literature course, among my creative writing classes. While working on my writing, I’ve spent the last couple of years attending comic conventions, where I make it a point to be at any panel covering the craft and the business of comics. I can’t tell you how invaluable some of those panels can be. In addition, the advice and encouragement of fellow indie writers like Jennie Wood (Flutter) and Tyler James (Oxymoron, Comix Tribe) has been overwhelmingly helpful, above and beyond the call of duty. The indie comics scene, such that I’ve had the privilege of being part of so far, is so supportive. What a great community.
Gamer Girl & Vixen isn’t your first stint as a comic writer. Tell us a bit about your self-published book, A Planet’s Cry, and how Eden Park Tales came about.
A Planet’s Cry is a story I’ve been wanting to tell for almost a decade, but had no idea how to do it. One day, a great friend of mine and I were lamenting how we never made time for our creative projects when it occurred to us that we could use each other as motivation. I helped Jay Mooers with his own Autumn Grey while we put together APC. It’s a fantasy/sci-fi epic that pulls heroes from across time as they embark on a quest to save the world. It’s a huge project and one that I will definitely get back to. Eden Park Tales is a vessel through which Jay and I could play with classic fantasy elements while making them feel current and interesting. Jay really pushes the boundaries of visual storytelling to its limit with paintings, children’s novels, and comic books. It was super great to be a part of.
Gamer Girl & Vixen stemmed from a long time co-fanfic writing friendship with Sean Mills. Have any elements of those stories morphed into what we see now? Are you still writing fanfiction?
There are definitely some elements of my fanfiction with Sean in the book, though it’s really evolved from its initial form. Sean and I seemed to find a similar dynamic to explore, that of two friends who fall in love over the course of their adventures together, and manage to balance having a healthy civilian life (though not without its drama) and a wild costumed life. So we took that, applied it to our love of likable villains, and Gamer Girl & Vixen was born. As for fanfiction, not anymore, though not for lack of trying. I’ve been super busy lately, and Sean’s always been my favorite writing partner, so I get the fix through our comic.
Are any of the characters in Gamer Girl & Vixen based on yourself or people you and Sean know? Are either of you gamers and/or cat burglars who are writing from personal experience?
I wish I was more of an actual gamer, but I’ve been playing almost nothing but Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas for almost five years. Sean’s far more inclined to gaming than I am. And as for the cat-burglary, well, Sean and I have had a long time to plan the perfect heist.
We’re on day ## of the Kickstarter campaign. How has this first time experience with crowdfunding been for you?
This is the first Kickstarter for Sean and me. Our artist, Gemma Moody, has done one prior to this campaign. It’s been an incredibly positive experience. I’ve been blown away by the initial response, but it feels great that there are people out there who believe in the kind of story that we’re trying to tell with Gamer Girl & Vixen. On the surface, it’s a silly costumed adventure story, but at its core it’s about learning to accept yourself for who you are, not what’s expected of you. And the Kickstarter gives us a platform through which to engage the audience that wants more from a superhero book.
Where do you see yourself heading next? Will your focus remain on Gamer Girl & Vixen for the long term? Or are there other ideas brewing already?
There are always ideas brewing! I can foresee several volumes of Gamer Girl & Vixen, should we be fortunate enough to be able to make more. I mentioned before that I’ve not abandoned A Planet’s Cry and want to give that another polish from all that I’ve learned in the process of making this latest comic. And I’m definitely seizing the amazing opportunity that is Oni Press’ open submission period that’s going on right now. Now that I’ve really gotten to know the feeling of producing a comic like Gamer Girl & Vixen, I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I have to keep writing.