Sometime in early 1974, probably around the time I turned 6, I was standing around with my parents in a newsstand in Wilmington, Delaware. The magical ice cream menu failed to capture my attention as thoroughly as it had once upon a time, and I drifted over to one of those spinning wire-cage display racks to see what the especially colorful magazine covers were all about. And this cover caught my attention:
I begged my parents for it, I pleaded, and finally, they paid the 20 cents for my first entry into the world of mainstream comic books, which was, coincidentally, my introduction to alternate universes as well. (I knew full well that Superman and Batman normally did not have wives, much less children. After all, Batman, at least, was too busy running around his 1960s show, in syndication, fighting crime.)
Nowadays, of course, I recognize the racism, misogyny, horrific Victorian anthropology, and awful bullshit social Darwinism of the story. But it was shiny and colorful and I read the damn thing on my own because when I hit a word I didn’t know, my mother just handed me the dictionary.
I didn’t collect comics regularly until the 1980s because I was not one of those children with a regular allowance and 20 cents/25 cents/35 cents/50 cents (as the price rose) was a big deal to a middle-class family during the recession of the mid-to-late 1970s. In the 80s, I had some jobs and was able to start collecting George Perez’s runs of Teen Titans and Wonder Woman, and cemented myself as a DC Comics woman.
I still love comics, but over the last couple of decades, I’ve gotten disillusioned with them. There aren’t people like me in them, and when there are people who have even the slightest overlap with my existence, they’re singular, worthy of note, as opposed to all the straight white dudes all over the place. I want fat women, butch women, queer women I can look at and identify with — and straight cis white dudes? I’ve been identifying with your people for decades, you can learn to do it too. And then there’s the people everyone else would like to see: people of color, disabled people, trans people, genderqueer people, asexual/demisexual people… the list goes on.
I was frustrated by the medium — I am not an artist, and the comics writing industry takes luck to fall into — and the “make your own if you don’t like ours” refrain. But then, one day, as I was embarking on my lengthy work commute, I put in the audiobook for Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, and fell in love with his episodic, multiple-point-of-view format, as well as his queer characters in the 1970s and 1980s.
And that’s how Wonder City Stories, the web serial, was born. It is, as I described it once, the lovechild of 1980s mainstream comics and Tales of the City, full of comic book and other geek references, people who get left out of comics, and multiple point-of-view characters.
More on the development of the serial next time!