Before there was Kamala Khan there was Scout Montana: Sophie Campbell & Spike Trotman on the Shadoweyes Kickstarter

Back in 2010, Sophie Campbell published Shadoweyes, a riveting dystopian science fiction superhero comic about a young woman of color, Scout, who is unexpectedly imbued with superpowers and sets to making the city she lives in a better place for her community. With stunning, gritty art and queer and social justice themes, Shadoweyes rocked the framework of what superhero comics could be when it was first published. It was radical—and it didn’t get half the attention it deserved. Now Sophie Campbell has partnered with C. Spike Trotman of Iron Circus Comics to bring this comic back in full color with the Shadoweyes: Volume One Kickstarter campaign. WWAC had the opportunity to chat with Campbell and Trotman about why they’re so excited about Shadoweyes, how it’s still making important strides for diversity in comics, and why you should support it.

Thanks so much for chatting with Women Write About Comics about the Shadoweyes Kickstarter! Could you two give our readers some background on the comic by describing Shadoweyes in five sentences or less?

Scout and Kyisha discussing Scout's newfound superhero mantle by Sophie Campbell
Scout and Kyisha discussing Scout’s newfound superhero mantle by Sophie Campbell.

Sophie: Shadoweyes takes place in the dystopian desert city of Dranac, and follows seventeen-year-old aspiring vigilante Scout Montana. After a mugger hits her in the head with a brick, she wakes up days later and finds she has the ability to shapeshift into a weird superhuman blue creature, but then later loses the ability to turn back into her human form. The story is mostly about Scout and her efforts to help people, while figuring out how to live her new lonely life as Shadoweyes. There are social justice and queer themes in the comic and issues that are important to me.

Spike: Shadoweyes is an utterly unique superhero story about a teenage girl whose body gains the power to mysteriously shift into a monstrous, super-powered form. She uses this ability to fulfill her dreams of being a crime fighter, but her life takes a chaotic turn she loses the ability to become human again. She’s forced out of her home, and has to rely on her friends for support. And the more time she spends in the field, the more often she’s confronted by—and a participant in—the greyer, less comfortingly black-and-white aspects of trying to change her home for the better.

Sophie—you have several creator owned comics under your belt. What was it about Shadoweyes that made you want to take it to Kickstarter?

Sophie: The main reason is that I wanted to work with Spike! I wanted to team up with someone who was excited about the book, I wanted to work with someone who actually cared and seemed enthusiastic about me. And that was definitely Spike and Iron Circus Comics; she has so much energy and it’s infectious. I didn’t specifically set out to do a Kickstarter campaign, but it was the natural next step, since Spike funds many of her projects through that. Plus, Shadoweyes seemed to work really well for Kickstarter too, since I already had almost 400 pages finished.

Why did you feel Kickstarter was the right platform for Shadoweyes?

Spike: Honestly, Kickstarter has always been a no-brainer for me when it comes to funding comics. Used correctly, it’s promotion, a pre-order system, and a great way to determine how large the initial print run should be. There’s no better way to gauge demand for a book.

Scout/Shadoweyes is a young woman of color who is unexpectedly imbued with superpowers, like an underground, indie comic proto-Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel. Is it exciting to be bringing Shadoweyes back?

Sophie: Definitely! I wasn’t happy with how things went back in 2010; it broke my heart because I was so excited about the comic and it’s really personal to me. It’s probably my most personal comic, but it seemed like everything went wrong. Re-printing it with Spike is like getting a reset button on the series; it’s really exciting and makes me so happy. I’ve never had the opportunity to start over on a project and set things right. I also got to work with Lost Pieces creator Erin Watson on the colors; she’s awesome and she loves Shadoweyes. Getting to work with people who love the comic and who are excited about it is amazing. It makes me feel energized; it’s super cool having such energy around the project this time.

Spike: Speaking for myself, I’m SO pleased I not only have an awesome opportunity to work with a creator of Sophie’s caliber, but to publish a book like Shadoweyes. It hits all my buttons. Underrepresented characters, beautiful artwork, fantastic dialogue, fabulous story. I strongly felt it wasn’t getting half the attention it deserved.

Sparkle and Shadoweyes from Shadoweyes in Love, by Sophie Campbell
Sparkle and Shadoweyes from Shadoweyes in Love by Sophie Campbell.

Shadoweyes was published previously in 2010, but not in the gorgeous full color that the Kickstarter will be bringing to print! Will the Shadoweyes Volume One printed through the Kickstarter include the material from both Shadoweyes and Shadoweyes Volume 2: Shadoweyes In Love?

Sophie: Yeah, it’s both volumes put into one giant book! It has some extra tweaks and additions and errors fixed; it’s like a director’s cut.

Spike: And the Iron Circus Comics edition will feature all kinds of bells and whistles! Cover enhancements we’ve been discussing include holographic effects. It’s going to be a beautiful book.

Sophie: Yes! I can’t WAIT to see the cover effects! I’ve gotten a little jaded over the years about my books being released—I’ll be honest—but I am super excited about the new Shadoweyes book coming out and seeing it all put together. It feels like I’m back in 2003 again holding my first book in my hands.

Spike—on the Kickstarter page you mention that Iron Circus is “so in love with this comic.” Can you tell our readers a little more about that?

Spike: Ha ha, more than I already have? Well, lemme set the scene for you. It was several SPXs ago—I forget exactly how long—but I was crashing with a friend so I could attend, because the forty-minute drive back to the suburbs every night was worth not paying for a hotel room on-site. While I was at the con on Saturday, Sophie had gifted me a copy of Shadoweyes, the edition put out by its previous publisher. I decided to read it while lying in bed that night, let it lull me to sleep? No dice. I sat there and read THE WHOLE BOOK despite needing to be up early the next day. Despite being really, REALLY tired. Whole thing! One sitting. And if you measure your affection for a comic the same way I do—by how much you’re willing to let it ruin your life—Shadoweyes was among the best things I read that year. Seriously. I already knew and liked a lot of Sophie’s other work, but Shadoweyes GRABBED me.

Sophie: Aw, thank you, Spike! I was actually worried, because I wasn’t sure what you’d think about it. I want to say it was the 2012 SPX because Wet Moon Volume 6 was out that year, and I had a few copies of it at the show. I’m so glad I had ended up bringing some Shadoweyes copies! It was fate.

Noah & Shadoweyes above Dranac - Sophie Campbell
Noah and Shadoweyes above Dranac by Sophie Campbell.

Sophie—Shadoweyes is such a unique take on the superhero genre. I feel like it was way ahead of its time when it was first published in 2010 with the diversity of the cast and the grit of the world it’s set in—Dranac. Can you speak a little about what influenced you in your creation of Scout/Shadoweyes and the world her story is set in?

Sophie: A lot of the visuals in the comic are inspired by things from my childhood, like Alien and the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics. Scout’s design is an updated version of a superhero character I made up in middle school, and Shadoweyes is basically an adorable combination of the Alien and a Ninja Turtle. Her fictional city is similar to the look of the Nostromo in Alien and the prison colony in Alien 3; pipes and pistons everywhere, and everything looks worn and gross. The cast and the diversity weren’t inspired by anything in particular; they just felt natural and real. I wanted to take the down-to-earth realness that my writing usually has and combine it with a more stylized fantasy setting. I also wanted to have sociopolitical stuff in the comic, and a lot of sociology essays I was reading at the time were influential too.

Sparkle & Shadoweyes by Sophie Campbell
Sparkle and Shadoweyes by Sophie Campbell.

Shadoweyes was one of the first comics I remember reading that featured a cast predominantly composed of women of color, including Scout’s best friend Kyisha, an intersex woman of color! This comic is still pushing the boundaries of what superhero comics can be, largely because it’s a comic about a young woman of color who is a superhero amidst a predominantly POC cast. Are either of you surprised this is still unusual and even radical in comics today?

Spike: I guess this is kind of cruel, but … not really? “Diversity” is a handy buzzword, and a few publishers are patting themselves on the backs for considering making stories about underrepresented groups—a few have even taken another step and made a comic or two. But to be honest, I DREAD the mainstream approach to “diversity.” Its application in a lot of places feels like the result of a monogendered, monotone board of directors somewhere going, “You know what’s hot right now? Diversity.” And everyone nodding in tandem. If feels like, in three years, publishers will go, “Comics starring brown people and women? That’s very 2015. We already did that.” And go back to how they’ve always done things. They tried the Minx line, they tried a manga imprint, and now they’re trying this. And how long did that other stuff last, right?

Sophie: That’s pretty much how I feel about it too. I don’t know if it’s cynicism or realism, but like Spike said we’ve seen steps forward in the comics industry before only to see them fizzle out or get kicked to the curb later on. It seems reasonable to expect the same thing here.

Iron Circus has had seven successful Kickstarter campaigns. That’s quite a track record! How do you two feel Shadoweyes fits with the other Iron Circus Kickstarter projects?

Spike: Perfectly! Iron Circus is about The Strange and Amazing. It’s right there in the tagline! And Shadoweyes is nothing, if not strange. Poor Scout.

Sophie: She is definitely strange, but also amazing maybe? I couldn’t ask for a better home for Shadoweyes.

She’s definitely amazing. Does a successful Kickstarter campaign for Shadoweyes Volume One mean there will be more Shadoweyes in the future?

Sophie: I hope so! I’ve been working on the script for the next volume for years, ever since the second book originally came out in 2011, and I’m still super excited about it. I hope I can do that one with Spike too.

Spike: I’d love to have the privilege of helping to tell Shadoweyes’ whole story, from beginning to end. And I’m thrilled Sophie thinks I’m worthy of helping her with this!

Sophie: Looks like you’re stuck with me!

Thanks so much you two. I can’t wait until this project is funded. I’ve already backed it and can’t wait to have a beautiful full color copy of Shadoweyes in my clammy little nerd hands.

The Kickstarter ends on November 27, so don’t wait! If you want to support this fantastic project, head on over to the Shadoweyes: Volume One Kickstarter page and get to pledging.

LB Royal

LB Royal

LB Royal is a project manager that spends a lot of time thinking about gender representation and intersectionality in geek media. She holds an MBA and an MA, and tries to use her powers for good (mostly). You can find her on twitter @laurabeastly