G. Willow Wilson Creator of Kamala Khan

Tell Them, I Am


This episode g willow Wilson, she's a comic book author, and she wrote the first marvel comic with a young Muslim woman as the hero, Kamla, Han aka MS marvel. So when I was in high school, I was kind of a giant Goth. I was the kind of insufferable kid who, who would say that they were not actually cost the Gosper, too pretentious, and that I was above that of. But Nevertheless, I wore the really dark lipstick and like the fish nuts, and the pseudo Victorian jackets, that you could find like buffalo exchange. Yeah. I mean, if you looked up Goss in the dictionary, you would have found a photo of me somewhere. Fortunately, for me around the same time, sort of the late eighties early nineties, this British wave of very literary experimental comics started coming out. And I ran Pedley became obsessed, and one of my absolute favorite series, as was the case for a lot of people was Sandman by Neil Gaiman. Which took a World War, Two era, kind of be list, super hero and turned him into this mythological dream king who goes on adventures with all kinds of different, mythical creatures and kind of deconstructs, western mythology from a really interesting point of view. So, you know, for me as like a fourteen year old fifteen year old mega Goth this was huge and revelatory. Not just the story itself, but the medium of comics. Sandman told a kind of story in comic book form that I didn't really know was possible. It was kind of my first exposure to these more literary more adult kinds of comics, when I was a kid comics were still considered very much a kids, medium, and particularly a boys medium. There were not things that were marketed at girls. There were very few books out there that were adjacent to the superhero world that were marketed to adults so to see a comic book that was very clear and open in its love for that classics Hooper hero story. And yet, at the same time talked about Shakespeare and Chaucer and you know, brought in a very Joseph Cambell kind of U of mythology. Just expanded my understanding of what could be done within the pages of a comic book. I want to take a quick break to tell you about another podcast. I worked on it's called the big one your survival guide. We walk you through what it would be, like, if a major earthquake hit Los Angeles, and we help you understand what you need to know, to survive science and journalism, and immerses you and the experience of being in a huge earthquake. Don't be scared. We help you prepare. You can find it today wherever you listen to this show. Okay. Back to tell them. I am. So as I remember, the first time I found Neil, Gaiman Sandman, I was at the apartment of a friend. Who is I think about two years older than me and had graduated. And they were already living on their own. And so we're, we're very kind of cool and grown up in my eyes. You know, the, the people who live, there had also been giant Goths. So there were clove cigarettes, which were still legal at the time sitting around, and, ashtrays, and that's kind of always what it smelled, like, which I like the smell of. But it had that kind of late nineties, Goth aesthetic, every all the windows were kind of draped in, like, JoAnn fabric in sort of dark colors. It was it was just that kind of place. This apartment had a collective library of all kinds of great stuff, and they were all reading Sandman, and they had they'd just sort of made a rule, you can read whatever you want, but don't take anything out of the apartment. But because their library was so big. I was like, nobody will notice if I just kind of sneaked these back issues out and read them on my own, so I did. And. It was one of those reading experiences that, that kind of sticks out in your mind as being something for which there is a before. And an after he read this book. It made me feel a lot less grubby as a Goth it, oh, it was a very unabashedly Goth comic. And it was kind of cool to see something with such a huge cultural impact that was kind of headlined by this very Goth guy with white makeup, an extremely scruffy kind of Robert Smith, secure hair, and it was kind of a nice affirmation that you could do the stuff. And it you'd be kind of like a mopey teenager. And yet have cool stories that meant something, and that we're all to uplifting, and we're about hope. So, you know, it was in, in that sense. Nice to see Goths doing some kind of artistic service for, for the whiter were. The kind of storyteller that he was was very influential, and then as I got a little bit older. And I I saw him a couple of times back. This is back when he used to tour. I was also very impressed with the way that he approached writing and being a writer and it being a human being. There was one instance, in which I saw him along with a bunch of other really amazing comic book writers, including, I think Peter David, at MIT just a few days, not more than a week after nine eleven. Nine eleven happened just a couple of weeks after my nineteenth birthday at the beginning of my junior year of college. And he you know, I was I was very much a college student, I was kind of going through a late adolescent. What does it all mean phase, I become interested in, in religion and started to sort of rethink what I assumed about life, and purpose and are, are sort of our place in the universe. And like everybody, I think it was it was a tremendous shock. I think particularly people of my vintage kind of elderly millennials or Xeni, all's had never known a time when the US felt really threatened. The Cold War was kind of over, there was a sense that we were separate from the rest of the world or that nothing could ever interrupt. That period of prosperity into which we had been born and so nine eleven just massively shook the foundations of our generational experience and especially being in Boston at Boston University, the feeling of ongoing threat and vulnerability was quite high. Two of the planes had taken off from Logan airport. There are all kinds of rumors circulating that, there were still a terrorist cells in the city. And so it really did feel like a war zone in many ways, and it occurred to me, just sort of walking to class that this is the reality that so much of the rest of the world faces every single day. And somehow we have managed to avoid it for this long. And now here we are just like the rest of the world. as we did for a lot of things during those weeks after nine eleven we kind of hung around to see if this event was actually going to happen because a lot of them were cancelled. And it was clear that, yes, it was going to happen. It was still going on. So we, you know, we decided okay, well, we're not we're not going to give up this, this chance to see all of these amazing authors and artists on stage at the same time. And we decided yeah, we're going to go. We're going to we're going to do it, despite the sort of aura of anxiety and dread. That was kind of hanging over everything. What was interesting to me is the Neil Gaiman was the only one in his kind of opening words who never mentioned nine eleven once everybody on stage when they got up to talk that was what they talked about. It was it was about superheroes in nine eleven. You know, I think one of the people on stage envisioned this world in which wolverine was on the plane with the terrorists, and sort of got up and, and hit them with his finger spikes. And it kind of rubbed me the wrong way because I remember thinking, you know, this is not the time to pretend that are fictional heroes are gonna do us any kind of good. It's too real. It's a nice thought that yes. If we had these amazing heroes who were always in the right place at the right time that they would have saved us, but they didn't. And Neil Gaiman got up and never mentioned nine eleven once he just sort of told a story, I don't even remember what it was that he talked about. But by the end of it for about thirty seconds. We all forgot and in a weird way, I think that prepared us to have them were serious conversation versus the. Yeah. Wolverine would I've got him if you'd have been there, which, which just felt very tried to me. The reason that that stood out to me was because it illustrated, very neatly that for a storyteller in a time of great national tragedy upheaval. The way forward is not always the way through that sometimes we assume we're in a position to attack things head on. And yes, we're gonna fight, whatever it is or or get through whatever it is. And it's, it's very easy to blur the line at that point between storytelling and, and just sort of shallow saber rattling. But what he said at that time illustrated to me that it was possible to speak in a deeper key and not to pretend that you have the answers that you need all the answers. You know, everybody was was in an incredibly tense somber. Reflective mood, and it I think brought a lot of us especially who are about my age. I was eighteen at the time into the realization that we are all mortal that, that, that nothing that we think, is a turtle is eternal, and that the world may be didn't look the way that we had been taught growing up,

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