While superheroes are so hot right now, the stories that we’re currently seeing tend to fall short of heroic for many. Inside and outside the panels, the fight for representation continues even as diversity is blamed for comics’ downfall. For readers who grew up loving cape comics, it’s disheartening to hear too many creators repeat the same, tired excuses and retell the same old stories.
Weekend Warriors Comics Magazine is born from a bittersweet relationship with the superhero genre. This diverse group of creators want the genre to be better than it is and are carving out their own space in order to make it so. With the launch of their Kickstarter campaign this week, the Weekend Warriors team hopes to fund the print run for its pilot issue, which is a 36-page installment featuring five comics and one prose story, as well as an exclusive interview with cartoonist Michel Fiffe. Here’s what editor Mark O. Stack has to say about this project.
Weekend Warrior Comics Magazine works on the premise that superhero comics have failed the many readers who grew up reading them, but have drifted away from a genre that actively alienates them. How does this magazine seek to mend that relationship?
The message I most want to send through this magazine is simple: your love wasn’t misplaced.
Often, the relationship readers have with superhero comics gets torn up by the actions of people within the superhero comics industry. I’ll speak to my own experience here: I came into the medium of comics through superheroes not that long after 9/11 and my parents (both members of the Navy) being away from home for long intervals. I latched onto reading Spider-Man and Superman comics during that time. Those characters were really important to me and the comics went everywhere with me in my backpack.
But I got older and eventually childhood heroes of mine, the people making these things, were trying to fistfight my friends for calling one of their books racist. It gets a little harder to love your favorite superhero comic after the writer does that. I found out that some of these publishers were employing and shielding sexual harassers. It gets difficult to keep your love for the superhero genre going when you encounter the moral and ethical rot that exists in parts of the industry. For every marginalized creator who is doing their level best to transform these places (we see you and appreciate what you’re trying to do), there seems to be another reveal waiting about bad actors being enabled. It legitimately hurts to think that everything you grew up believing was bullshit being pedaled to you.
That said, that’s not my or your fault. We were kids, teenagers, young adults … Whatever! We put our trust in these institutions and, y’know, it didn’t quite work out. That doesn’t mean that we have to give up something that we loved. Disney and Warner Bros. don’t get to say that they own the superhero any more than they get to say that they own the sky. Their bad behavior doesn’t mean that you have to forfeit the memories you have and the positive feelings they gave you. You own that. This belongs to everyone. And we get to decide on our own terms what our relationship with the superhero is going forward.
For the people who might have a frayed relationship with the superhero genre, I hope this magazine shows you that the concept is so much bigger than what we may have grown up with. That people who are like you and, so importantly, the people who are nothing like you in such wonderful ways because they’ve followed their own unique path in life can do whatever they want with it when we stop thinking of it as a monolith. Everyone is invited in and you don’t have to compromise with a gross corporate culture to participate.
What is the significance of this particular format?
I grew up reading MAD Magazine, but I never really considered it as part of my comics diet even though it’s obvious to me as an adult now that I was drawing an arbitrary line between that and the Spider-Man I was consuming. But after the news about it closing, I realized just how formative that was to me as a reader. In addition, I was always consuming gaming and music magazines like Game Informer, Wired, and Alternative Press and I loved them in a different way from traditional serial comics because there was just so much. I’d read them all the way through or skip around to whatever features looked the most interesting. The magazine is a more obviously (to me as a reader) curated experience that the reader gets to define their unique relationship to as opposed to just reading a regular floppy from beginning to end. The curation is the experience.
When I thought about doing a comic in the superhero sphere, I was overcome with a feeling that there was some kind of stigma against the creation of independent superhero comics. Now, obviously there are a lot of important and long-running indie superhero comics, but there’s still a question that pops up for me when I think about doing one. Why replicate the dominant genre when you could do anything else? This magazine is my argument for why. We’re not replicating what already exists over at Marvel and DC. It’s not the same product.
With our mixture of comics features, prose, and interviews, we’re providing a spread of what this genre has to offer when it’s not beholden to corporate masters who often squash the best of intentions from many of the diverse and talented body of creators who are trying to make it work at this very moment. Weekend Warrior has to be a magazine. It would be disingenuous of me to present just one thing as what superhero comics still have to offer.
What was your curation process? How did you come to work with these particular creatives?
It started simple enough with me posting a Google Form on Twitter asking creators of all stripes if they had a story in the superhero genre they wanted to tell. I got quite a few responses from a variety of people whose ideas ranged from vague notions to fully developed stories. I sat on the submissions for a few months while I worked on other things, but I came back to them when I had a clearer notion of what I was looking for.
A lot of the people in this magazine are people who either were friends or people I would become friends with during the process, but they were chosen because they were the creators who I thought would make the best fit together while creating an inclusive environment. I wanted to provide readers with a lot of texture.
Julia Cartales and Beth Barnett both have what might be called “indie” styles, but they look nothing alike exactly because of their fiercely independent visions. Even the more traditional superhero work, like the feature I did with Anne Marcano or the collaboration between Colt Hoskins and Rachel Stevens, look nothing alike. Chris Jones’ prose piece coming into the magazine after our first two comics features immediately challenges the perception that might be brewing in readers’ heads about what this is going to be. And Chase Magnett’s interview with Michel Fiffe (who was very kind in lending us his time and insights when we told him we wanted to interview him for a Kickstarter magazine) brings us over from reading fiction to exploring what goes into making it. Thankfully, Nick Hanover’s design did a lot to make the presentation of everything feel cohesive.
Looking at a particular team, though, I’m really happy about getting Ten Van Winkle and Francesca Lyn together. I had worked with Ten previously on a pitch and really got to know her strengths as a cartoonist through that process. She’s fantastic at conveying immediate character through expression and costuming. I thought that made her a great fit with Francesca, an academic and comedian [Ed. note: and WWAC contributor!] who made her comics writing debut with the wonderfully understated Flower Girls. Editing them together was a very rewarding experience that has already made this project a success in my eyes.
Weekend Warriors Comics Magazine is running on Kickstarter until September 19th.