GS INTERVIEW: Strong Female Protagonist

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Happy New Year everyone! While we are all recovering we wanted to take some time to tell you about one of our favourite webcomics.

We really, really love this webcomic. It’s a brilliant look at the problems of being a superhero and wielding so much responsibility and power. We interviewed the creators of the fandabidozi (yes that is a word…as the Krankie’s) webcomic Strong Female Protagonist.

Written by Brennan Lee Mulligan and drawn by Molly Ostertag, the story follows Alison the former ‘Mega Girl’ a superhero with incredible strength and seemingly impenetrable skin (no tattoos for her). Alison has left her former superhero team and has gone off to college in search of a more normal life, but her past keeps coming back to haunt her.

She’s a really admirable character, she wants to change the world without resorting to fear and violence. But she’s still oblivious to her place in the world and what consequences her past life has. The artwork is just brilliant, Molly has a great style which really suits the feel of the comic and Brennan’s writing is really good and the story is brilliantly executed. Anyway…enough from us! Lets chat to Brennan and Molly!

GS: How did the idea for SFP come about? And was it always going to be a webcomic?

Molly: Brennan told me around Christmas 2011 that he wanted to make a comic with me called Strong Female Protagonist. I was immediately sold on the idea, and we spent the next few weeks worldbuilding, creating characters, and teasing out some of the themes and the tone we wanted for the comic. I think the internet is a fantastic way to get art out into the world as it’s being made, and so deciding to publish it as a webcomic was a natural step. In the webcomic world, there’s more leniency for the art and the story to change and evolve as it’s being created, which fit the way we wanted to create Strong Female Protagonist.

Brennan: For sure. The idea for SFP came about as a way of addressing a couple problems I had with the term “strong female protagonist” in literature. Basically, I felt like the word “strong” had drastically different meanings for male and female characters, so I wanted to make a story about a female character that was strong in every sense of the word. Strong in terms of principle and heroism, strong in a literary sense, in that she has flaws and is three-dimensional, and last but not least, very, very physically strong!

I think it was destined to be a webcomic. Molly and I are both professional artists, and we do a lot of work in the confines of other people’s creative visions. Doing a project that we had absolute say over was important to both of us, and I think the webcomic format is unparalleled in terms of providing that freedom.

GS: Alison has a strong sense of social justice and it’s interesting seeing a superhero want to help change the world in a more responsible way. Is this an issue that’s important to you both?

M: It definitely is. For me, SFP was born out of a mindset that came from being in New York during the height of the Occupy protests – people everywhere were sharing information and opinions, dreaming of the future, and bringing to light the problems in the present. Alison’s world is very similar to ours in that way, just throw superheroes into the mix.

B: Exactly. I went to school for Philosophy, and it’s very satisfying to write a character concerned with ethics, and connected with that is writing a world based on logic. We don’t claim to be the first pair of artists to tackle what superheroes would do in a “realistic” world, but I’d like to think that we are working from a perspective where we’re trying to make the mundane or usual seem monolithic. Superheroes always look great fighting supervillains, but it’s kind of interesting to see how they respond to, say, war, corruption or pollution. What exactly is it that they can do?

GS: The focus of the comic looks at how Alison tries to adapt to normal life and dealing more with the consequences of her past. Is Alison in for any more nasty surprises?

B: Alison has yet to experience her best day or her worst day, which is true of most people her age! We reserve the right to be cryptic with regards to what we have in store for our brave heroine! Muahaha!

GS: Molly- your artwork is gorgeous! Which artists are you a fan of?

M: Thank you! My taste in comics is pretty scattered, but I draw a lot of visual inspiration from Jaime Hernandez, Becky Cloonan, Moebius, and Mike Mignola. I also like Faith Erin Hicks, Jilliam Tamaki, and Emily Carroll. I just finished reading a Tank Girl book and got really excited about Jaime Hewlett’s style as well.

GS: Brennan – Do you have any writers you admire or who you feel influence your work?

B: The number one writer who influences my work is my mentor, editor-in-perpetuity and mom, Elaine Lee. She is one of the great literary masters of modern comics, and if you haven’t read her opus, Starstruck, then you are missing out, my friend. It would be very intimidating to work as a writer in her shadow if she wasn’t so insanely supportive of everything I’ve ever tried to do. Other major comic influences include Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore and Chris Claremont. Also, in terms of influencing my work, the late Tom Davis, a professor of philosophy at SUNY Ulster and all-around great human being, is responsible for my inability to stop talking about axiology.

GS: Will you ever release SFP as a book?

M: We plan to, as soon as there’s enough material! In the meantime, we have mini comics of the chapters that we sell whenever we go to conventions.

B: I think we have a lot of fun stuff in our future! We have had a lot of love for this comic very early on in its inception! We’re still a baby, and we don’t want to rush into merchandising or advertising before we even have 100 pages up on the site! That being said, we definitely want to provide our fans a way of supporting the comic, and will probably try to put up a forum, as well as eventually doing some merchandising and trying to do a print run!

GS: What are some of your favourite webcomics?

M: Lots of the artists I listed do webcomics as well. Add Gunnerkrigg Court, Octopus Pie, and xkcd to the list.

 B: Dr. McNinja, Hark! A Vagrant, Gunnerkrigg Court, XKCD, Order of the Stick, Questionable Content, Bad Machinery are all way up there!

GS: What other projects do you both have coming up?

M: I’m still in school, so the big project I’m tackling now is junior year thesis (I’m doing a comic about a Mongolian warrior princess – changing location but not theme!). You can see updates on that and the art of SFP on my tumblr, www.monstertag.tumblr.com.

B: I am currently an improviser at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York City, and you can come see me perform on Tuesdays with my Harold Team, Guthrie! I also am currently working on two different web series, writing a feature-length screenplay, and have some other film and television projects currently optioned and in pre-production! You can follow me on twitter @BrennanLM, or you can follow me in real life if you want to end up in a Chipotle in not too long!

Reporter: Sara Westrop

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