Yesterday was a huge day for independent comics, as two comics known for being major departures from the mainstream crop of superhero stories nabbed Hollywood’s attention.
First comics fans learned that Fox has optioned movie rights to the girl-packed series Lumberjanes, which has been on countless best-of lists, including ours. The adventure-loving comic about crime-fighting teen girls at camp is written by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, and Grace Ellis, with illustrations by Brooke Allen and cover art contributions by Stevenson. It’s considered a “priority project” according to the Wrap, and will be scripted by Hollywood unknown Will Wedger.
Before the Internet was done celebrating this news, Hollywood dropped another bombshell on the comics community: Beloved comics writers Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick will be producing a television series of the equally beloved cult comic The Wicked + the Divine for Universal TV. The series, written by Kieron Gillen and illustrated by Jamie McKelvie, tells the story of an ensemble of gods, the “Pantheon,” who’ve been reincarnated as a group of cynical modern-day pop stars.
The production comes as part of a deal between Universal and Fraction and DeConnick’s production company Milkfed Criminal Masterminds, which started with an adaptation of Fraction’s Eisner-winning comic Sex Criminals.
Both Lumberjanes and The Wicked + the Divine (popularly shorthanded as W+D or WicDiv) were recently nominated for multiple Eisner Awards—the highest honor in comics—including Best New Series. Lumberjanes also snagged a nomination for Best Teen series, while W+D picked up nominations for Best Cover Artist and Best Coloring for McKelvie and Matt Wilson.
WE GOT OPTIONED, YOU GUYS, IS THE THING THAT HAPPENED— Shannon Watters (@shanito) May 29, 2015
Just found out there might be a Lumberjanes movie????????????? Whuuyyhuhhhttt???!!— Bats Allen (BAA) (@BrooklynAAllen) May 29, 2015
McKelvie fielded the news for WicDiv fans while Gillen was offline:
Been sitting on that one for a while. Hey! Cool! And so happy to be working with Matt and @kellysue.— Jamie McKelvie (@McKelvie) May 30, 2015
Anyway that's nice, isn't it? That's nice.— Jamie McKelvie (@McKelvie) May 30, 2015
I think Kieron's asleep so he's missing this right now.
Apparently when you get lots and lots of @ replies Twitter can't really handle it. Thanks everyone for the congrats about the WicDiv news!— Jamie McKelvie (@McKelvie) May 30, 2015
Gillen eventually woke up and joined in:
On the surface, these two comics have nothing in common: Lumberjanes is a fun, funny comic aimed at younger teens and embraced by adults, while The Wicked + the Divine is dark, violent, and metaphysical. Lumberjanes is all about friendship and solidarity, while W+D is all about humanity at war with itself.
Yet both of these comics are standout examples of two enormously important trends in the industry: the increasing importance and mainstreaming of independently produced comics, and the increasing demand for diversity.
Lumberjanes is published by independent publisher Boom! Studios, while W+D is one of the most popular titles from Image Comics, which notably lets creators retain their copyrights.
In an environment where women-helmed comics have consistently been topping the bestseller charts, Lumberjanes is written by an all-female creative team, and all of its main characters are women. Additionally, as Lumberjanes‘ cowriter Grace Ellis noted to Autostraddle, “[T]he creative team is mostly queer! Which is so great! We never even had to have a conversation about developing queer characters. We just did it.”
Meanwhile, the racially diverse, queer, and genderqueer characters of The Wicked + the Divine have garnered mainstream media appreciation for Gillen and McKelvie. Additionally, Fraction and DeConnick are both outspoken feminist creators who routinely advocate for more diversity in comics culture. With the two of them helming the television production, this will likely be one of the rare adaptations of a source whose diversity isn’t erased or scrubbed down for mainstream audiences.
Though Fox has already received some criticism for hiring a male screenwriter, Wedger, to adapt Lumberjanes for the big screen, the Mary Sue noted that Wedger, whose unproduced script The Munchkin made a splash in the industry last year, had a vision that was closest to the spirit of the original comic of all the writers Fox considered.
And according to the Wrap, Fox is keen on finding a woman to direct the film, which would be a huge boost in a culture oversaturated with male directors adapting male-scripted treatments of superhero comics for men to star in.
All of this is very, very good news. It’s good news for fans of these creators; for feminists; and for women, people of color, queer, and genderqueer people who want to see more stories about themselves. It’s good news for fans of women-driven storytelling and queer-driven storytelling. It’s good news for fans of diversity in Hollywood, and for diversity in geek culture in general.
And above all, it’s good news for comics.
Illustration by Jamie McKelvie/Screengrab via Image Comics