Main Library (File photo)

Join the Santa Monica Public Library for Margaret Stohl and The Women of Marvel Comics on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015 at 7 p.m. in the Main Library’s MLK Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.

Guests include New York Times No. 1 bestselling author Margaret Stohl.

GP: What got you into comics as a career?

Stohl: I worked on Spiderman for the PS1, then Fantastic Four. So my introduction to Marvel, aside from as a fangirl, was through the videogame industry. Sixteen years later, having transitioned into writing for a YA audience, it’s so amazing to come back to Marvel with my YA prose novel, “Black Widow: Forever Red,” and my one-shot comic book, “Red Widow: First Strike.”

GP: What hurdles have there historically been for women and girls to get into comics?

Stohl: Access, and the incorrect assumption that women and girls wouldn’t read comics-along with the other inherent limitations of a traditionally male dominated industry.

GP: What can retailers do to alleviate those problems?

Stohl: Openly support women creators. Stock and sell books by women or by any creator who features female superheroes. Foster an environment of gender inclusivity so a fourteen-year-old girl doesn’t feel afraid to walk into your store.

GP: What are some things you wished someone told you when you first started in the industry?

Stohl: Not just for comics but for any job: I wish my college had given lessons in how to respond to gender bias. I try to have those conversations with my own daughters now.

GP: What would you say to the supposed “old guard” who complain about the rise of female comic readers/attendees at conventions?

Stohl: Nothing. While I would never not use the platforms I have, I also would never directly engage someone like that. That unhappy person can’t hear me, but it doesn’t matter, because one day the teens in that unhappy person’s life will say it for me.

GP: Why do you think this rise in female readership is happening now? What has changed?

Stohl: The Internet, I think, along with a broadening of defined gender norms. People have direct access to whatever stories they want, and less judgment surrounding their choices. Also Hollywood, and general geek chic. Nerds have gone mainstream.

GP: Considering so many of these characters have used their sex appeal to get the job done, how do you go about changing that dynamic?

Stohl: I think the trick is to let the current generation of young readers lead you. Look at who you are writing for: my fourteen year old daughter is the biggest feminist I know. I have three strong, smart daughters, all trained as fencers, who would usually rather kick your butt than flirt with you. That said, Black Widow is famous for having played helpless on more than one occasion, which she then pays off by roundly thumping you. So either way, you don’t have to “do” anything other than let the strength of your female characters guide the plot and you!

Margaret will be joined by Ann Foley (costume designer of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”)

GP: There have been a number of character redesigns in the last few years that have chose more practical suits over the classic sexy costumes. How do you balance the classic super hero aesthetic with the practical realities of having actors needed to fight in their costumes and yet make them recognizable?

Foley: My first responsibility is always to stay true to the world we have created on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” that said any super hero suit that has to be designed for the show will always have that practical/tactical edge to it. But I try and incorporate certain elements from the original comic design in all the costumes. Quake is a great example of that – I knew the symbol on her gauntlets was an important element in the comics so I put it not only on her gauntlets but on the back of her suit as well. It turned out great and is one of the coolest designs we’ve done on the show so far! I’m also not a big fan of over sexualizing the female characters – for me it’s about making them feel empowered, confident without having to expose a lot of skin or having to fight in stilettos.

Judy Stephens, a Marvel producer and cosplay expert will also be a guest.

GP: How can we inspire more females to pursue careers in the comics industry?

Stephens: Through the Women of Marvel podcast, we aim to shine a light on fellow women working in the industry. Through these fellow writers, artists, photographers, designers and more, I hope more women can look to them for advice as they begin to start their own careers.

GP: How do you decide which characters you cosplay as?

Stephens: Choosing a character to cosplay can be as easy as, I love the design, or more about the experience and love you have for the character. When I chose to cosplay Captain Marvel, it was first that we had the same hair, but as I began to read the comics, it became more about who Carol was and what she stood for. She is by far one of the best experiences I’ve had as a cosplayer.

GP: What are some pointers you would give people trying to up their cosplay game?

Stephens: Making a costume is all about budget and scheduling. Before you even start cutting your fabric, list each item you’ll need to make and/or buy for this costume, budget out these items and then try to plan our a schedule for each’s completion. Many times, I find myself spending much more then I thought because I didn’t plan ahead, or I had to rush to finish an item. Also, try to keep your cosplay somewhat practical. Think about how you’re going to function in the costume, such as how you’re going to get in and out of the costume, where you’re going to keep your phone and wallet, and how you’ll eat and drink. Thinking these points through will allow you to finish your costume on time, and help you wear the costume at the convention or event!

Alongside Ann and Margaret will be a panel of other badass Marvel women, including Marguerite Bennett (author of “Marvel’s A Force”), and Lorraine Cink (host of “The Watcher”). A book sale and signing follows the event.

Special thanks to the female fan group The Conspiracy of Femmes, based at Fantom Comics in Washington, D.C. for help with the questions.

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