December 4, 2023
Williams’s blend of wit and taste led to her creating several independent comic series, landing her on the radar of both Marvel and DC Comics
Stephanie Williams is a comic book writer/editor, freelance writer, and a must-follow on Twitter/X. Williams’s blend of wit and taste led to her creating several independent comic series, which eventually got her on the radar of both Marvel and DC Comics. Williams was also recently named to Adweek’s 2023 iteration of its Creative 100 listing for artists and other creatives. Williams’s most recent book, Strange And Unsung All-Stars of the DC Multiverse: A Visual Encyclopedia, was released on Nov. 7 and features a foreword from the CEO of DC Studios, James Gunn. Gunn also posted a glowing recommendation of the book to his 2.7 million Instagram followers.
Gunn wrote, “Many know I have a special fondness for the wilder corners of DC comics – the forgotten or outlandish characters who I grew up laughing with or at but who in every case fired up my imagination & my love of outcasts & oddballs,” Gunn began, “Now there’s finally a book for folks like me (yes, including a forward BY me), 240 pages of guilty goodness, with Arm-Fall Off Boy, Colonel Computron, the Mod Gorilla Boss, and so, so many more.”
Williams’s rapid ascension over the last few years has been nothing short of remarkable, and she was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about her connection to comic books and what excites her about the future in the comics space for Black women.
BLACK ENTERPRISE: What do you remember being the first comic book that you were interested in?
Stephanie Williams: There are two answers to this question. So, the first comic book that caught my attention was Avengers #361, which I found at a thrift store. I remember the cover grabbing my attention because everyone was in bomber jackets. I guess I had a thing for them at the time. It wasn’t until I read it that it dawned on me that comics, or at least cape comics, had the same brand of melodrama as the soap operas my mom and grandmother watched. In that issue, Cersei, Black Knight, and Crystal have a love triangle going on while Vision (the factory reset version) wonders what love is like as he watches Black Knight and Crystal embrace from a distance.
Williams: The first comic I was actively interested in was an Archie comic, Betty & Veronica, to be more specific. I think it was an issue that promised Archie would finally decide between them, but you know that never happened, lol.
As you can see, I had and still have a thing for complicated romances.
BE: As a Black woman comic creator now, I’m sure it wasn’t long until you found representation. Who was the character you most saw yourself in, or a few who remind you of yourself?
Williams: Monica Rambeau, hands down. She was so down to Earth even though her powers allowed her to slingshot herself around the sun. When I found a copy of Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, her debut issue, I fell in love with her because of her origin story. I didn’t realize at the time how frustratingly relatable it would be for me when I got older, but it was just so cool to see this woman become a hero because of her heroic actions.
BE: What was the moment when you realized that you might actually have an opportunity to write your own comics?
Williams: It was after another one of my tweet threads had gone viral. Funny enough, it wasn’t one of the X-Men or Justice League memes people know me most for; it was a thread about an experience my husband and I had at my son’s play restaurant. It finally hit me that it was a form of storytelling, and maybe if I could figure out how to script comics, I could share these parenting anecdotes in comic form. I reached out to a fantastic artist named Sarah Macklin, and boom, Parenthood Activate was born.
BE: To pivot to Living Heroes, what made you believe in that as a project, as something that people would enjoy?
Williams: To be honest, it was really my strong desire to want to continue working with O’Neill Jones. We click as creatives. So, my belief was purely selfish in that regard. I hoped people would enjoy what we did and the love and care put into Living Heroes would jump off the page, and I’m thankful that’s what happened. It was a super niche project centered around Black women (She-Hulk, our white woman of color), and I’m glad we were ambitious enough to make it the way we did.
BE: When you are writing or thinking about concepts, what is something you like to do to get out of a funk if you’re stuck on something?
Williams: I usually like to revisit stories I enjoy and stories that restore my belief in wanting to tell stories in the first place.
BE: What was it like working on Nubia: Queen of the Amazons?
Williams: It was a phenomenal experience. My editors, Brittany Holzherr and Chris Rosa, were highly supportive and encouraging. I dealt with a good amount of imposter syndrome while working on Nubia: Queen of the Amazons, and every time I got notes back for revisions or needed to talk something out, they were always available and, more importantly, made sure I knew I could hit them up when I needed to do so.
BE: Your most recent project (Strange And Unsung All-Stars of the DC Multiverse: A Visual Encyclopedia) is probably one of the more unique books about comics I’ve seen; what pulled you in that direction?
Williams: I feel like it was a direction I had been headed in long before the opportunity came my way. Many of the pieces I wrote for SYFYFANGRRLS, DEN OF GEEK, MARVEL.COM, etc, were character deep dive pieces. Even before I was writing, the podcast I did, Misty Knight’s Uninformed Afro, were these deep dives into Black women’s supes and characters in comics. And even before that, my day job required me to research and share that information digestibly with others unfamiliar with the subject. So, when Strange and Unsung All-Stars came my way, I felt more than prepared to work on this book and make it something special.
BE: How did the James Gunn foreword happen exactly?
Williams: All thanks go to my editor, Randall Lotowycz, for being ambitious enough to ask.
BE: When you were working on the book, did it get to a point where you were like, “I may have over- researched this,” or was it a thing where you kind of already knew the areas you wanted to focus on?
Williams: I love researching characters, so over-researching is probably something I did inherently. The limit does not exist, lol. There wasn’t a particular character or side of the DC Multiverse I felt I was an expert on, but I will say that I went a little overboard once I got into the cosmic side. It’s just so vast and detailed. I got a little obsessed.
BE: What was the most difficult entry to pin or pen down?
Williams: Hands down, it was Black Racer. Jack Kirby’s cosmic characters are truly galaxy-brain moments, which made Black Racer one of the more high-concept characters I covered. I nearly broke my brain trying to distill what I learned through the comic issues I read featuring him so I could present it in a way that hopefully did the character justice.
BE: What was something that surprised you while you were working on the book?
Williams: How progressive some of these older characters were, even though upon first glance, you’d think that would be furthest from the truth.
BE: How has the media’s reaction to Nia DaCosta’s The Marvels affected you as a Black woman creator, if it has had any effect at all?
Williams: It’s affected my blood pressure and annoyed the hell out of me. It’s a reminder that some folks in these industries (entertainment and otherwise) will go out of their way to knock a Black woman down a peg simply because we dare not only to exist but to thrive in spaces we “aren’t” supposed to be in.
BE: What do you think the future holds for Black women in the comic book space/medium? What is one barrier you are hoping is broken sooner rather than later?
Williams: I firmly believe the future is bright, and there will continue to be more of us in the comic space/medium. I’m seeing more Black women at conventions, which I love so much. I’m seeing more Black women in monthly solicits, which I love so much. I’m seeing more Black women in editorial spaces, which I absolutely love. Then there are the young women/girls I meet at conventions who excitedly share their love of the medium with me and the projects they’re working on, which again assures me the bright future is bright. Our impact can’t be denied, and we’re coming for our things with confidence and determination.
BE: Has anyone’s reception of your book taken you by surprise? Like maybe they interpreted some things differently than you did about certain characters?
Williams: I think the amount of enthusiasm and support has taken me by surprise. I know I’ve always loved character encyclopedias, and it’s been beautiful to see so many other people there who also love them just as much.
BE: What are you looking forward to doing next?
Williams: I can’t say much about it, but I’m finally working on my first creator-owned comic series, and I can’t wait for it to be out in the world. Outside of that, I’m looking forward to hopefully being in someone’s writers’ room for an animated TV series one day soon.
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