POWERS OF A GIRL: Peggy featured

With Women’s Month and Marvel Studios’ first woman-led super hero movie CAPTAIN MARVEL both set for March, the time feels perfect to release a book focusing on the best and brightest women heroes of the Marvel Universe. Enter Lorraine Cink and her new book POWERS OF A GIRL, a selected look at some Marvel’s most spectacular lady super heroes.

She proved to be gracious enough to sit down with ComicsVerse and discuss the book, artist Alice X. Zhang, and the importance of this moment in comics history.

The POWERS OF A GIRL cover features just some of the famous faces contained within. (Courtesy of Marvel Publishing)

ComicsVerse: I want to just open with a process question here because that’s what fans love. Obviously, you have a day job and then some—

Lorraine Cink (laughs): Yes—

ComicsVerse: —so how long did it take to get POWERS OF A GIRL from inception to hitting the stands? How long did it take you to realize this idea?

Lorraine Cink: It took a year, in total. But I guess I started working on it over the holidays [2017]. Right before New Year’s I turned in my first — sort of – stab at my pages. Then I was really done with the book by May or June. It all happened really fast.

In part that was because we really wanted it in time for Women’s Month [in March] and all the excitement of CAPTAIN MARVEL movie coming out. So we really put pedal to the metal so we got it done fast. That went really, really working a lot of hours.

CV: You mentioned Captain Marvel and she obviously makes a lot of sense as a choice. She has that new movie and she has largely been considered one of Marvel’s premiere women heroes for a while now. However, I’m curious what went into choosing the other characters. I looked through it again last night and some are characters from the MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe] or television, some are the best sellers, but not all of them fit in either place. How did you pare down the list of women and girl heroes to decide who to highlight?

Lorraine Cink: It is…It was definitely a case of which of your darlings are you going to keep.

It was really important to me, because POWERS OF A GIRL is a YA book, that I prominently feature girls alongside young women, newer characters alongside the more established characters known to the casual fan. It came down to finding a mixture and a balance between what characters were available to me from the roster of characters and then whittling it down to who has an inspiring story that I want to tell, who will be inspiring to my audience…a lot of thought went into it. I feel like we found some really fun ones to pull in.

I mean, gosh, I would have loved to have included them all. That would have been great. But it also would have been a much longer book.

POWERS OF A GIRL: The writer
The author Lorraine Cink signing posters at a convention. (Courtesy of Amazon)

CV: I was going to say, it would have been an enormous book at that point. It wouldn’t have taken you just a couple of months.

Lorraine Cink: Yeah, I definitely don’t think we would have gotten it out on time.

CV: Obviously these characters aren’t unfamiliar to you. You’ve worked at Marvel for some time, as both a freelancer and a full-time employee. However, in the process of choosing them and getting them down on paper, did you find they opened up for you in different ways than you had known them before?

Lorraine Cink: I think the fun opportunity of this was that, obviously I choose these characters because I knew them and I loved them. But I did get to dive into stuff, some I didn’t know as well as others.

You know how it is, you have those comic book runs that you just know and love that you go back to over and over again. But then there’s that weird part of their history around 1976 that you never really dove into because it was never pertinent until this moment.

To go back to some of that stuff though… Like some of the SHE-HULK stories from like the mid-80s was stuff that I had maybe skimmed here or there but I hadn’t really just gone back to and sat down and read it. Those books were so fun! It was all this information and events that I didn’t even realize I was missing out on in the character’s history.

Sometimes you know a character’s origin and you know their current day stories really well. Or that stuff that’s happened during your lifetime really well. But the books that happened before then or when you were just six years old is harder to remember without going back to.

CV: One of the things I really liked about POWERS OF A GIRL is that you have individual entries of course, but you also have a few sections that explore the relationships between characters be they friends, sisters, or dating one another. I was curious why that was important to you to represent and highlight not just who they were but how they connected and corresponded to one another?

Lorraine Cink: I think it is very important for all people to have a support system. At the same time, it is easy to see heroes as these bastions of strength; they don’t need anyone or anything. But that’s just wrong.

People, heroes, everyone. Everyone needs someone sometimes to rely on, to confide in. Even if they are not being lifted up literally, sometimes just emotionally. So it was really just important to me to show that.

Also I think it truly humanizes characters in a really good way. If someone never has a flay or a fault or never needs anybody, it’s kind of hard to connect to them. That’s not how people are.

So getting to see friendships, you can see, “Oh that’s like me and my friends,” which can make you feel closer to that character. Ultimately, I think that’s what I wanted. These characters to me, when I read them, I’m like, “there’s my friend”. I wanted people to feel that friendship, that connection we have with our favorite characters.

That’s also why I include little details, weird little details, like how American Chavez has a weakness for ice cream. Those are the things that humanize them and make you feel like you really know the characters.

The Monica Rambeau pages from POWERS OF A GIRL, featuring art from Alice X. Zhang. (Courtesy of Marvel Publishing)

CV: Speaking of supports, obviously a big support for you in this process was your artistic collaborator Alice X. Zhang who provided all the illustrations. How closely did you get to work with her? How knocked out where you when you finally saw the results?

Lorraine Cink: Alice is incredible! We were just so incredibly lucky to get her! I was a fan of hers even before she came onto POWERS OF A GIRL so I could not have been more thrilled.

I had included a lot of drawing in my initial writing. A lot of that then was funneled through the editor. Mostly because if it was up to me, I would have had Alice do like 10 times as many drawings. And, once again, POWERS OF A GIRL would have ended up quite an epic length. So in the interest of not killing power Alice, I think out editor streamlined some.

For every single character, though, I wrote a very detailed description of everything I thought was important. What they look like, how they dress, how they wear their hair, what their physical body type is.

Initially, I gave my editor some of Howard Schatz’s women athlete photos. He has this beautiful series that is just lineups of Olympic athletes and they really, really diverse body types. They go from very teeny tiny short and very skinny to tall and very muscular and every amazing different configuration in between. Like every body type you could think of, but they are all very powerful. I thought that was the perfect sort of guide to use to give a head’s up to what I was referencing in imagining the characters’ body types.

For example, Squirrel Girl is a gymnast and she has a more pear shaped figure — strong legs, but also strong shoulders for climbing. So I would include those details.

I would also include if the character was a woman of color what her skin tone was and the importance of portraying them accurately. Not that they were ultimately things I needed to tell Alice — because she naturally does all those things in her work — but because I started without an artist chosen yet and I wanted to be sure that all of that was stated clearly and really well dealt with. It was important to me to do it to honor the characters but also to reflect the diversity of women in real life.

CV: On the subject of being a woman in real life, I don’t want to pull the usual “how is it to be a woman in comics” thing?

Lorraine Cink (laughs): Thank you.

The Squirrel Girl pages from POWERS OF A GIRL. (Courtesy of Marvel Publishing)

CV: I’m more interested in a little tighter scope. How is it to be working in comics when there are sort of twin forces coming to bear. On the one hand, we have something of a renaissance going on in terms of how we are dealing with women heroes and women creators for that matter. As we talked about before, you appreciated comics when you were younger but have had the good fortune to be in the industry during what feels like a period of rapid increased awareness and evolution. On the other hand, we have people who resent the changes and have not been quiet about letting everyone know it.

I’m just curious what it has been like to be a lifelong comics fan who has also gotten to witness and participate in this change over the past decade or so?

Lorraine Cink: I feel the difference. I really do. I came onto Marvel about six…six, seven years ago now. A lot of improvement were already happening then. It is not like nothing was happening, but even with that I can feel the change since.

Everything that has been happening in the world, in media, in entertainment. All of those things I think have fueled it. Honestly, it is so wonderful. More and more and more and more, I hear the conversation moving towards, “who else can we include in this conversation?”. And the answer continues to be, “Ok, let’s include more diverse voices, let’s look for more parity in numbers”.

You can feel that. You can feel that reflected in the work that comes out. You can see it in the readers. In the last two years, the thing that has been really striking to me is that I now — I used to go to conventions and a lot of the fans would be adult men. And that’s awesome, that’s great. But now, when I go the first people that come up to me are little girls. That blows my mind.

To have little girls come up to me and say, “I love comics! I watch your show on Marvel.com!” It is so cool! When it first happened to me, I felt so bowled over and downright emotional. When I see that, I feel like the we do is important.

CV: I hear you. We have worked alongside each other at a bunch of NYCC and it is something I’ve noticed too. Used to be you were stuck staring at my ugly mug up in the booth for Marvel.com but now the team is so much bigger and, even better, way more diverse.

Lorraine Cink: Yeah! Yes, totally!

The Shuri pages from POWERS OF A GIRL. (Courtesy of Marvel Publishing)

CV: Continuing in that vein, one thing you mentioned was there were already women involved when you got there and truth is, there were women from the beginning. If you go back to Marvel’s start, you have Flo [Steinberg] who we last in 2017, unfortunately.

Lorraine Cink: Oh, I know. Miss her.

CV: And we lost Marie Severin last year. Then we have the likes of Bobbie Chase and Louise Jones who married Walt and became Louise Simonson. And you continue that line up to now with you and Jamie Frevele, and Chloe [Wilson], Andrea Towers, and Judy [Stephens] and on and on.

This obviously is not a black or white answer, but opinion wise, why do you think this has proven a sort of critical moment of development for comics?

Lorraine Cink: Well, as we’ve said, there have always been women in comics. Even from the earliest earliest days of comics period. So many art rooms working on old strips from like the 30’s had women. It was one of the few jobs that were consider quote-end-quote “suitable jobs for ladies”.

But to speak to now. One, I think yes it kind of fits part of the narrative of the world right now. People are looking to tell these stories. They want to see that there are women out there. And not just women. That there are more diverse voices being represented period.

I think right now is a beautiful moment where people are taking stock of who is speaking. I think that is the biggest difference. Right now people are conscious of it. Like the social consciousness is not just accepting for the stories but they also want to know who they are coming from. I think that really is it. Ok, we are looking for it now. We are making sure it is there now.

CV: Your book actually reflects that really well from the character standpoint as well. In prepping for this interview, I was checking out debut years of characters. The original Black Widow — not the one in POWERS OF A GIRL, but the first — debuted in 1940, Patsy Walker in 1944 and she is in your book. So your choices are right there from the beginning of Marvel. Not actually just Marvel but Timely even, I think. Then you go all the way through the Modern Marvel of the moment, basically with Wasp, Ironheart, and Moon Girl. Your book really highlights the whole range.

Lorraine Cink: Well thank you.

You know, it’s funny with the Women of Marvel podcast talking about woman characters in Marvel history starting with Timely and Atlas back in the day. We just talked about Claire Voyant, the original Black Widow and how, in the first few comics before here, the only really speaking roles for women were secretaries and they all looked the same.

Like you mentioned, Patsy Walker…what an incredible character. She is one of [Marvel’s] oldest characters and one of the most enduring. She was the romance comics heroine. I think she had four titles running at the same time at one point. Now, she has evolved and evolved and evolved.

She had so much ambition to be a super hero and forced herself to it. She was like, “I will train, I will do it what it takes to become,” Hellcat.

Digging into the history was important to me. I wanted people to know that yes of course we adore some of our newest super hero characters like Ms. Marvel and Silk but also there have been some really amazing women who have around for maybe not all of [Marvel’s] 80 years, but close to it.

Fans enjoying POWERS OF A GIRL.

CV: Patsy is an especially amazing case because not only is she still just kicking around, but she has been featured prominently on Netflix in JESSICA JONES and will surely pop up in the third season and she starred in her own book recently, the excellent Kate Leth and Brittney Williams title. I doubt anyone in 1944 could have anticipated her journey reach this time and those circumstances.

Lorraine Cink: I also really do love that they tie in her teenage romance comics past, sort of, on [JONES]. That really does give me a tickle.

CV: That was the case in PATSY WALKER AKA HELLCAT as well. Continuity, in that case, not as a trap but as a springboard.

Lorraine Cink: Oh, absolutely.

CV: To move back to the book content specifically, you get a couple of chances to write in the voice of Gwenpool. Can you tell me about the inception of that and how it was to switch voices back and forth between yourself, in the introduction, to the authorial third person, to Gwen?

Lorraine Cink (laughs): My absolute favorite part.

What a lot of people may not know about me is I actually started writing a playwright and scriptwriter. So, writing dialogue, for me, is so fun and so easy. That was just such an utter joy.

As soon as I decided to put Gwenpool in the POWERS OF A GIRL, I knew I just had to let her talk. I wanted her to break the fourth wall. At points she just came pouring out of me. I had to remind myself to leave her out at times.

I also love playing DnD [Dungeons and Dragons, natch] and I love playing rogues. That’s essentially who Gwenpool is. The ultimate rogue. You can’t even keep her on a comic book page because she’s off in gutter doing something to get into some new trouble. That was the best.

The Captain Marvel pages from POWERS OF A GIRL. (Courtesy of Marvel Publishing)

CV: You also get to show off your skill with dialogue in some of the text, messenger, etc back and forths that are sprinkled throughout POWERS OF A GIRL. You managed to make all of those pieces sound like them, for lack of a better way to put that.

Lorraine Cink: I definitely wanted to use some of the fun things you have in Marvel Comics, like yamblr, famously from YOUNG AVENGERS. When you get to write this stuff, it can almost feel fun like writing your own sanctioned fan fiction. I think everyone says that but it really does feel that way. So a lot of it was just kid in a candy shop.

CV: Because we always must be looking forward, what’s next for Lorraine Cink? What are you working, where can people look for you next?

Lorraine Cink: I am Earth’s Mightiest Show every. Darn. Week. I love it, it’s so much fun. I get to chat every week with one of my real-life best friends Langston Belton.

We are always doing cool stuff at Marvel’s new media.

Also, as I mentioned, at Women in Marvel I’ve been doing a monthly Women’s History Spotlight based on a different decade for each month celebrating our 80th Anniversary. If you like POWERS OF A GIRL you’ll definitely enjoy those because they are similar in tone and topic.

There is going to be even more stuff coming but none of it I can talk about yet. So keep looking out.

CV: Lastly — even though I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t want to pick up POWERS OF A GIRL after reading this interview — what is your two or so sentence pitch to get them off the fence and into bookstores.

Lorraine Cink: I don’t even really need words, I just need to show them a picture of Alice’s art. She is phenomenal. If that doesn’t sell you, well I pity you, poor soul.

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Powers of a Girl is available now at all your online and local book emporiums.

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