When you think of monsters, who do you see? Bela Lugosi’s Dracula? Godzilla? The cute gill man from The Shape of Water? Monster stories are typically dominated by men, but a new comic anthology intends to change that. Wayward Sisters, currently running on Kickstarter, is a new collection of stories about female monsters, all made by an intersectional group of non-binary and female creators. Featured monsters include mermaids, zombies, demons, even a T-Rex–monsters who are “indelicate, impolite, and irrepressible.” I asked Allison O’Toole (editor of the Toronto Comics Anthology, Life, Death, and Sorcery, and The Pitiful Human-Lizard) a few questions about Wayward Sisters, Kickstarter, and of course, monsters.
Editor’s Note: Allison O’Toole has previously contributed to WWAC.
Congratulations on the success of your Kickstarter so far! With Wayward Sisters shaping up to be your “biggest and most ambitious project yet,” what rewards can your backers look forward to?
Thanks so much! In addition to physical and softcover copies of the book, we have a set of six prints of monsters by artists including Joy San, Lacey Brannen, and Nic ter Horst. We teamed up with Creator Collab, a local designer, to create this beautifully spooky enamel pin. Our creators are also offering original art, so you can get an illustration of yourself as a monster!
This is your fourth Kickstarter. What have you learned over the years? What’s changed?
At TO Comix Press, we’ve improved our marketing each time, as we’ve figured out what strategies reach the most folks. We’ve also learned a lot about optimizing shipping. Mailing out our very first Kickstarter ended up costing about $5k more than we thought it would! We’ve since figured out some of the arcane mysteries of the postal service. Ultimately, our process has improved a lot. We make sure to critically review every project and identify where we could do better next time.
The Halloween season is an appropriately spooky time for this project. Why do you think monsters hold such a mysterious appeal for readers? What about the monster experience is so powerful for female and non-binary creators and audiences?
I think monster stories are appealing because of their potential to act as metaphors. The vampire can be read as all kinds of cultural anxieties about sex. The werewolf is all of our repressed (or dangerous) urges and desires. The zombie can be consumerism or mindless hordes of unthinking followers. Monster stories allow us to confront and explore not only parts of ourselves and each other that scare us, but general taboos in human nature.
For non-binary and women creators—for creators in any minority group, really—exploring the taboo can be empowering. The monster is the ultimate outsider, whose existence is a metaphor for something rejected by the majority. I think that monster stories can allow marginalized creators to turn those metaphors back on those who participate in their own oppression.
Monsters are typically associated with horror, but Wayward Sisters also includes humor, romance, and slice-of-life drama. Did you look for certain things in terms of different genres and art styles?
We definitely worked to include a broad range of tones, styles, and creator backgrounds. The common ties between the stories were that they surprised or delighted us; some were cute and sweet, some were horrifying, and many of them used their monsters as metaphors in an interesting or fresh way.
We wanted to represent intersectional and diverse creator voices most of all, but we also wanted to make sure we featured a broad range of monsters and that there would be stories in here to appeal to any reader!
And finally, if I could pretend to be a Buzzfeed Quiz for just a moment: what is your favorite monster?
I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED.
For general, archetypal monsters, my favourite has always been the werewolf. I’ve thought they were basically the coolest since I was young, and I have to wonder how much of that was anxiety about the restrictions that traditional femininity puts on young girls? Werewolves are everything young girls are not supposed to be; they’re huge and hairy and strong and scary. I was none of these things, and I think the idea of becoming something that seemed more powerful than I could ever be, was appealing. Plus they’re just really cool and badass, and I adore werewolf fiction from the 19th and early 20th centuries, it’s so weird and fun.
For more specific monsters, I love Frankenstein’s Monster. His tragedy is so fascinating, and his story can be read in so many ways; every time I read Shelley’s novel, I find a new way to think about it. Is it about anxieties surrounding unchecked scientific progress and the Industrial Revolution? Was it a way for Shelley to process her grief about her children’s deaths and possible postpartum depression? Or maybe the relationship she never had with her mother? Is it about politics, or family, or a hundred other things critics have argued in the 200 years since its publication? It’s all of those things and more! And it was written by a teenage girl! It’s amazing!