Plus size, Feminist Comic Hero LUCY CHAPLIN!!!
VOLUP2 Magazine is thrilled to introduce you to innovative comic creator, Drew Edwards, who has produced his latest comic book with a plus size feminist taking the lead, LUCY CHAPLIN with artwork by Paul Tuma. It is incredibly refreshing to see this inclusion taking place and we are honored to showcase people who make it a point to not just include but highlight an intellident, heroine who happens to be plus size.
When did you begin your indie comic series, Halloween Man and how has it developed over the years?
Halloween Man has been blessed with a very long lifespan for an indie comic, it's been around for just under two decades. It's best described as the weird adventures of a zombie superhero and his sexy super-scientist girlfriend. And like its title character, it's proven too tough to die. When the comic started it was more or less a horror-comedy series in the vein of the Ghostbusters or Evil Dead films. But it's gone on to be so much more. While, the comic had its origins as a work-for-hire project for a small start-up company, it took on a different meaning. While I was working towards my first big break in the comic book industry, tragedy struck. I was in a car accident that killed my twin brother and left me psychologically scarred in ways that still affect my life today. For those first few years, the comic basically was something that kept me sane. It was a reason to get out of bed, even though I really wanted to roll over and die. It might sound cliché , but this comic book saved my life. It gave me a voice when I was too unhinged to use my own. But through it, I've been able to tell any kind of story I want and bounce around a lot of different genres. Comedy, drama, romance, horror, adventure, sci-fi; it's all on the table, allowing me to pull from all of my various influences so I never get bored. I often tell people not to get put off by the horror trappings, because I think there is something for just about everyone. No matter the story, the comic always has a lot of heart and a very quirky sense of humor.
Why the name Halloween Man?
I love Halloween and all things spooky. I'm also a big fan of punk rock, so naturally I'm a fan of the Misfits, which combines both things. When I was first cooke up this group of characters, I was trying to come up with some names. I was 18 and would listen to the same songs over and over again to inspire me. I had the song "Halloween" going on a loop. About the 17th time or so, it started to occur to me that “Halloween Man” just rolled off the tongue. It also lent itself to all kinds of imagery. And like that, Halloween Man name just stuck and the rest is comic book history.
What inspired you to create the LUCY CHAPLIN SPECIAL?
A few years back, we did a storyline entitled "Eye of the Beholder" which dealt heavily in the topic of body image. It also served as the reintroduction of the Lucy character as a full-figured woman. Almost overnight, the character shot up in popularity so we started featuring Lucy and her adventures within the Halloween Man ongoing series. But the idea of giving her a book all her own was naturally already on my mind. I just needed a plot to hinge the thing on. It was around that same time that I really started paying close attention to the anti-feminist movement. The villains in the comic, the Sons of Samson, are meant to satirize that element of our society. They are more flamboyant and cartoonish in the way supervillains must be, but I don't really feel like they’re that far off the mark. Lucy, a body positive, pro-sex, liberated, athletic, and super-intelligent, plus-sized woman would indeed seem very threatening to these types of groups and the story just kind of spun out of there.
I also wanted to sort of weaponize her zaftig sex appeal. It's meant to be humorous, but it's also meant to kind of rattle your comfort zone a little. The juxtaposition of this very feminist storyline coupled with the very sexy art might make you possibly think about what your own preconceived notions about feminism and how you think feminists and women in general should dress and behave. At this moment in time, encouraging women’s self-efficacy and applauding those who with the courage to take up space is a somewhat radical idea. There’s something punk rock about it. So we celebrate Lucy’s abundant figure, not apologize for it. To that end, I hired two of the best "pin-up" style artists I know, Evan Quiring and Paul Tuma, both of which did great renditions of Lucy for their respective stories.
Having a strong Plus Size presence in a comic, as well as a feminist slant to the work seems both rare and brilliant, tell us about it.
I like strong women and throughout my life, I've been lucky enough to be surrounded by them. For example, my wife, Jamie Bahr is a musician, an activist and a plus-sized woman. Outside of her band all-girl band, Danger*Cakes, she works with Girls Rock Austin, a wonderful non-profit organization that works to empower ALL girls, including queer, trans and non-binary youth through music and mentorship. Though I created the character a decade before Jamie and I had even met, I’ve infused a lot of Jamie’s personality and experiences into Lucy, in recent years. So much so that the artists who knew Jamie started making Lucy resemble her on their own, without my direction. It’s art imitating life imitating art, to the point, where now Jamie actually embodies Lucy Chaplin in the cosplay photos included in the special.
I do consider myself a feminist, not because it's a fashionable thing to do, but because it’s the right thing to be. You can ask five people what a feminist is and you're likely to get five very different answers. I'm not even sure everyone would agree that I'm a feminist, even though I proudly call myself one. The viewpoint expressed in this comic is an extension of my own world view, which is this: women can do anything they want. They should be allowed to do so. Our bodies aren't shameful, but beautiful and that sexuality isn't something we should be afraid of, but something we learn, enjoy and celebrate. I believe it is okay to be different from everyone else because essentially we’re all the same. This is where I am planting my feet in the ground morally and it's what I'm putting out there in my work. Of course it's within the safe trappings of a superhero story, so you can just read it as such. But I'm hoping to make people ultimately stop and think. That's what good satire AND science fiction are supposed to do!
Given that Comic strips stem from fantasy why do you think there isn't there more Plus Size people seen within comic strips?
You know, I've thought a lot about this in recent years. There's just a lot of homogeny in the way comic book superhero characters look. I've often joked that Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent are basically twins and their costumes are the only real ways to tell them apart. I'm sure some of this can be boiled down to comic book artists working on tight deadlines and not always being able to give every character a truly detailed, unique, appearance. Sometimes I wonder if it's the publishers pushing artists to play it safe in terms of what they think will sell.
But as you say, comics are fantasy. The truly interesting comics dig into the passions of their creators. Lucy is kind of my personal ideal woman in many respects and my ideal woman has curves to spare. This is me being true to myself. Of course, that's me coming from it as a man, with a lustful "male gaze." Lucy is a "cheesecake" character, albeit a sex-positive one with a fully realized personality.
The comic book industry has been very much a boy's club for far too long. What I'd like to see in the long run, is more female creators coming in and creating their own variations of heroes and heroines, of all different sizes, shapes and colors. Ones created with different goals in mind; from a perspective different from my very male one. As comic book fandom continues to diversify I fully expect to see some really awesome characters crop up.
How do you see the evolution of Lucy or is this a one shot deal?
The special is kind of a dry run for future stories. We have a character whom people seem to love. I have tons of stories I'd like to tell with her. We've already planned a mini-series for 2019 entitled "Hellhole" which teams Lucy with Bella, a transgendered anti-hero, who is also rising in popularity. Of course, beyond that, the character will continue to keep appearing in Halloween Man and the sky really is the limit.
What would your advice be to creators starting out in the comic book world, in general and more specifically in terms of character development?
My general advice is that to temper your expectations over what your career might be. I got into this business when I was really young and with a lot of big dreams dashed along the way. But I'm glad I stuck with it, because it's been rewarding in so many unexpected ways.
In terms of writing and crafting characters, be just as influenced by your own life as you are by other works of fiction. Everyone leans on their own influences and that's okay. But the real key to creating fully developed characters, is looking within. Ask yourself, what are your passions? What are your best traits? What are your flaws? Every character is going to be a reflection of the world around you and ultimately all the ways you see the world. You might as well use your writing to explore yourself and put your experiences into your characters.
My final bit of advice, would be to take chances. Stand-out in the crowd. Don't do the cool thing or the mainstream thing because that's what everyone else is doing. Create idiosyncratic comics that speaks to you and believe me, sooner or later they'll find an audience.
Was it a risk to be inclusive of a feminist plus size character, or a more educated decision given there are so many fat people in the world and such little representation?
It's depressing to me that the word "feminist" has become such a loaded term and don't even get me started on people's reaction to the word "fat." So given our current, very divided social climate, I'm sure there are people who hate Lucy as a concept without ever even bothering to read the comic. On that level, I guess it could be seen as a risk. But doing an indie comic to begin with is a massive risk and part of the fun of it is being able to write about whatever interests you. If certain folks don't want to read about a plus-sized woman kicking ass, when literally almost every other comic book caters to them, they can go ahead and read those comics. I didn't get into this business to play it safe.
Thankfully, most people's reactions have been very positive. There’s clearly a need for a character like this. It created a lot of buzz around my comic. From that perspective, it wasn't a risk at all, because I am clearly catering to a market that already existed but was just waiting to be noticed..
We are seeing all over the news that Sony has plans to adapt Valiant Comics’ “Faith,” into a film. What are your thoughts on that?
Faith is a character that's been around in comics for about ten years now. She sprang up in popularity around the same time as Lucy. Which I think speaks volumes about the lack of body type diversity in comic books as a medium. It's years later and plus-sized representation is still minimal. The body type homogeny I spoke of earlier continues. I've had some issues in the past with how Faith is sometimes presented in artwork, but I don't want to come off as sour grapes. She is a great character in her own right and Valiant deserves a lot of praise for pushing her to the forefront of their line.
As far as the film goes, I think that's amazing and I hope Rebel Wilson plays Faith. I think this is nothing but a positive development. Most full-figured women in films are either the "best friend" or the "funny girl." Anything that breaks that mold is good news. And who knows, if it's popular, it might open some doors for my own characters.
How may people see your work and have you any fan pages, etc?
The easiest way to buy my comics is through our Comixology page.
You can also check out our Facebook page for up to date news and plenty of preview art.
I've recently made the dip into Instagram as well.
Last and certainly least is my Twitter account, which doesn't get used as much as it should.
Is there anything else you might like to share?
If this interview has peaked your interest in my comics, please follow the above links and check out the work itself. Aside from the Lucy Special, which comes out July 4th, we have a lot of exciting things coming up this year. The next major thing I'm really stoked about is the "Halloween Man: Bat City Special" which focuses on talents in my home city of Austin, Texas. We should have our IndieGoGo campaign for that starting very soon. Anyways, when you're doing a comic like this, literally every fan counts. So, I appreciate you taking the time to read this and hopefully some of you will want to explore further. Thanks again!