Vertigo Comics is known as a bastion for mature, diverse storytelling, and now one of its architects has gone solo to honor, celebrate, and introduce some of the most game-changing women in history. Former Vertigo Executive Editor Shelly Bond's first post-DC project is a anthology profiling some of history's most iconic, game-changing women.
"I hope Femme Magnifique will become an evergreen book so that every father and mother can share it with their sons and daughters of future generations," Bond told Newsarama. "The ultimate goal is knowledge."
The hardcover comics anthology will have 50 individual stories about iconic women from history, by creators including Marguerite Bennett, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Tess Fowler, Brian Stelfreeze, Gilbert Hernandez, and Tee Franklin. A Kickstarter campaign for Femme Magnifique is currently underway, already surpassing its $40,000 goal and on the way to stretch goals including a second volume.
"I would love to see Femme Magnifique have an impact and make a difference in people's lives," said Brian Miller, whose company Hi-Fi Colour Design is publishing the project. "That change may be on a personal level, where a young person is inspired to pursue a career they are passionate about after reading the stories in Femme Magnifique. It could institute change on a larger scale where the book is used in a school to supplement outdated textbooks where women have been largely left out. The impact may be as subtle as introducing a reader to a creator who speaks to them and gives voice to their thoughts and concerns. As long as Femme Magnifique makes a positive impact in the lives of readers and the creators involved I'll consider it a massive success."
"The more people that can find a woman in this book that is an inspiration to them the better. The more women are celebrated the better. The more women are recognized for their amazing skills the better," added Kristy Miller.
Femme Magnifique was spurred by two unrelated events – a concert and an election.
"To be brutally honest, two pivotal events happened in early November that inspired a call-to-action. The first one is obvious: The missed opportunity for a female president in the White House. The second was somewhat more obscure: A concert by my favorite female singer/songwriter," Bond said. "I had a few days between the two events (i.e.. plenty of time) to roam social media with my colleagues in the comics community, and to soak in the shock and depression, especially in the areas that were about to be threatened regarding women's rights. At some point during the concert, between seamless on-stage costume changes that David Bowie would have applauded, from Christophe Coppens' masks that would be at home on a Dave McKean cover, it crystallized: it was time to move forward. The comics community needed to channel this anguish into inspiration. The crush of likeminded people sharing sentiments and goals can be and should be a loud, proud powerful fortress of positivity. And change."
Bond has worked with the Millers for over a decade as Senior Editor of DC's Vertigo Comics imprint, and when this idea struck she reached out to the duo to assist with the project.
"I reached out to Kristy and Brian Miller of Hi-Fi Colour Design because they're incredible people. We've had a strong working relationship for over a decade and a mutual dedication to the comics industry and its incomparable art form," said Bond. "I had hoped they would share my vision and help me entice over 100 creators to get involved. They had experience with comics production, and with Kickstarter, and although I'm a neophyte, they agreed to take on Femme Magnifique as my co-curators. I'm eternally grateful."
Kristy Miller said the project came together quickly following the November 2016 United States Presidential election, with the final book scheduled to coming out 10 months later. Hi-Fi Colour Design has published books in the past including Hi-Fi Color For Comics, and said this topic led them to commit to this larger-scale comics publishing effort.
"We were all upset with the election cycle and how women were being portrayed or talked about in the media specifically in politics. At the same time, Brian had decided to do something art-based to address these concerns; he just hadn't figured out what. A few days later when the 'pussy grabber' became president and it solidified everything. Within a week, we had firm ideas about the kinds of stories we wanted to tell and who we wanted to write and draw them," said Miller. "We all agreed that Femme Magnifique needed to be a book about the achievements of women as told by both sexes. Men cannot be excluded from the conversation. They're pivotal to the advancement of women, so we have an expansive list of male and female talents contributing to the project."
"As Kristy said, the election result came as a shock," added Brian Miller. "I didn't know what it would mean for my friends in the LGBT community and for women's rights, but like many I was concerned. Frustration and anger weren't the answer and I was wondering how I could use my talents to effect change in a positive way. When Kristy and I spoke with Shelly we knew Femme Magnifique could be the voice of positivity for women who are feeling threatened or oppressed by the incoming administration."
As a full-scale coloring studio, Hi-Fi Colour Design already oversees about 40 employees working on various projects – making this expansion to coordinating an anthology like Femme Magnifique not much different.
"This anthology is no different, it comes down to trafficking and organizing which is what I do every day," said Kristy Miller. "We are lucky to work with a variety of talented creators all the time like Gail Simone and Elsa Charretier. Femme Magnifique is giving us the chance to work with people we haven't met before like Alisa Kwitney and Devaki Neogi."
Miller is acting as production coordinator for Femme Magnifique, but is also contributing a story spurred by her day job – an archeologist.
"I will write about Hatshepsut a female Pharaoh from the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. Her son tried to wipe her out of history because he was jealous… he had mommy issues," said Miller. "The reason I picked her is that remnants of frankincense trees were found in her mortuary temple. I currently work as an archaeologist on a site in Oman that specializes in the trade of frankincense. Hatshepsut has always fascinated me as a woman who ruled as a man; a woman who was one of the greatest leaders of her time; and a woman who had ties to the frankincense trade."
To keep a firm style across Femme Magnifique, Hi-Fi has enlisted Adiyta Bidikar to letter all 50 stories and keep an “overall flow.”
"We felt it was important to have one talented person handle all the word balloons and lettering to allow the reader to enjoy one story after another in an intuitive way without breaking the overall flow," said Brian Miller. "Shelly will be working one-on-one with Aditya and each creative team to perfect the storytelling aspects of the lettering. All the while I will be working with Aditya to ensure the final lettering integrates into the color palettes and design themes of the completed graphic novel anthology. Like every facet of Femme Magnifique, it is a truly collaborative effort, and one we believe will make the book more enjoyable for readers."
With Femme Magnifique already surpassing its $40,000 Kickstarter goal, when the book is ultimately released in September, Bond hopes it'll become an evergreen book like those she shepherded at Vertigo, but for different reasons.
"Whether readers discover new career possibilities, share a personal connection with the writer and artist or feel inspired by the magnificent female subjects we salute, we all know that knowledge means power, and inspires respect," said Bond. "It will be my honor to pull out as many red pens as possible and make these stories shine."
To learn more about the Femme Magnifique Kickstarter, visit the project's website here.
This story was provided by Space.com's sister site Newsarama.