G. Willow Wilson won our hearts as writer for the creative team for Ms. Marvel, which features the superhero we all love here at BNP and consider our little kid sister… a little awkward but nerdy kid sister with the EMBIGGEN hands. CONGRATS, Team Kamala! Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona stand as the winners of the second annual Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics! Of course before working on Ms. Marvel, she traveled and flexed her writing skills as she created a solid body of work which includes comics, graphic novels, fiction and even a memoir of her time living in Egypt. She kept us all in the loop when news broke about Marvel CEO Ike Perlemutter donating big money to Donald Trump’s fundraiser event, and keeps speaking up and about things that really matter. We feel so honored that she could chat with us.
Black Nerd Problems: What has been the most rewarding experience that has come with being the writer of Ms. Marvel? What has been the most challenging?
G. Willow Wilson: The most rewarding part of all of this has definitely been seeing readers and fans embrace Kamala’s story and make it their own. The fact that so many people have responded so strongly to this character—for a whole variety of reasons—is the best thing I could possibly hope for as a writer. The challenge is to stay focused and not lose sight of who Kamala is and what she represents, despite the unexpected publicity and success. To not let success ruin the book, essentially.
BNP: How does it feel to be apart of a creative team that has given the comic book world a character that not only has been so well received (congrats team on the Hugo Award!) but one that we’ve all watched grow up and mature, a character we have come to hold dear in our hearts?
Wilson: Profound joy. Just absolute profound joy. None of us thought this series was going to survive longer than 10 issues. We launched the series in an atmosphere where the assumption was that books about minority characters — especially ones that focus on their family lives, their day-to-day — always fail. Miles Morales was kind of our proof-of-concept — people really love him, so we thought, maybe we have a shot. The fact that it worked out, that fans have embraced Kamala, feels like living in a music video or something. I still pinch myself, because I can’t believe it’s real.
BNP: Ms. Marvel is a series that has captured the hearts of so many readers, Kamala’s fanbase is incredibly diverse. Seeing that so many people adore her what do you think her lasting legacy will look like years from now?
Wilson: When you create a superhero, your greatest hope is for that character to outlive you. It’s depressing to make something you invest in and think is great, only to see it gather dust when the book gets canceled or you move on to other things. The fact that Kamala has had such an impact tells me that her story will outlast my tenure on this series. I hope this will open doors for storytellers from backgrounds and points of view we don’t usually hear from in comics.
BNP: A-Force is a book that has been a collective of our favorite heroes from Marvel in a story that rallied and celebrated them. For you what is the necessity of being able to write female superheroes banding together, mourning together and bonding together?
Wilson: It was really cathartic. These are characters I grew up with, and I got to play with them in this totally limitless environment. It gave me and the rest of the team an opportunity to explore aspects of their personalities we don’t often see.
BNP: The nerd crowd may be most familiar with the comics that you write, but you’ve also written some fiction, one book in particular is Alif The Unseen. Cyber punk, POC protagonist, well developed, well written female characters, folks challenging stereotypes… what initially drew you to write this novel?
Wilson: Oh man, Alif was fun to write. It essentially grew out of two things: my frustration over the fact that I couldn’t get anyone in western media to take the Middle East’s nascent social media revolution seriously (this was before the Arab Spring), and the fact that I was frustrated at having to “pick a lane” with my writing. (Is it genre or literary? YA or adult? Etc etc.) I’d been living in Egypt for 5 years, and it really altered my perspective on the world in some profound ways. And I was curious about whether English-speaking audiences would empathize with a female lead whose face we almost never see. (That was Dina.) I’m still amazed it all worked out.
BNP: I’m a fan of the Princeless comic and I happened to see your cameo in issue number three of Raven: The Pirate Princess! How big of a surprise was it to hear and see that you’ve basically been immortalized in a comic book?
Wilson: PRETTY FREAKING AWESOME! I found out on Twitter, which is how I find out everything, including when my own books are coming out.
BNP: Islamophobia continues to plague society, and unfortunately with the recent terrorist attacks in Paris we’re seeing more and more gross reminders that people are terrible. Thanks to the internet I’ve seen very brave and boldly creative people combating Islamophobia and I’ve also seen an outpouring of support and love. What words would like to pass to those who are feeling and experiencing the worst of it currently?
Wilson: You are loved and you are enough. Harassment and isolation are meant to wear you down and make you doubt yourself. “Remember that you are not the problem.” Those are the wise words that my wonderful DC editor, Joan Hilty, told me back in the day when I was getting grief from anti-Muslim bloggers. It helped.
BNP: Lastly, what is next for you in terms of future projects?
Wilson: I’m finishing another novel! It’s not a sequel to Alif, but it takes place in the same “universe.” I’m very excited about it.
(Published on: Feb 25, 2016)