INTERVIEW: Editor SARAH BRUNSTAD on MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE #1
To celebrate Pride Month, Marvel Comics is putting together a special anthology: Marvel’s Voices: Pride #1! Here at Prism Comics, we leapt at the chance to ask editor Sarah Brunstad about what went into assembling an all-star roster of queer talent for the special issue.
Check out her answers below, and be sure to check back with Prism for more interviews with the creators behind the stories in this exciting upcoming Marvel Comics anthology, available at your local comic shop on June 23rd, 2021!
AVERY KAPLAN: Why is it so important for queer people to see themselves represented in Marvel Comics, both through the characters in the panel and the creators behind the page?
SARAH BRUNSTAD: I think queer people are very gifted with our imaginations because for a long, long time, we’ve had to insert ourselves into stories—find the queer twists, place ourselves in bodies unlike our own. That’s a beautiful thing, but it’s also…tiring. To constantly search for yourself in a narrative and have to sort of sneak your way in. At the same time, that skill makes us extraordinary storytellers—and I think that’s part of why we’ve seen such a burst of queer comic making in the past tenish years. We’re finally finding the spaces to tell those stories to other people, instead of always having to talk to ourselves. I consider those stories not only a gift to other queer people—here, finally, someone sees you—but also a gift to cis readers, who can stretch their imaginations in new ways. Reading about experiences that are not your own is the most wonderful, powerful thing fiction/art can give us; it makes kinship and builds new futures. That’s what diverse representation gives us all.
KAPLAN: When was the first time you saw yourself represented in comics?
BRUNSTAD: Well, I didn’t read comics as a kid, so for me that comic is pretty recent in the grand scheme… I identify as bisexual, so when I learned that Mystique and Destiny had this long-term relationship burning in the background of Claremont’s X-Men, that was a revelation. And although I can’t lay claim to her cool factor, I really identified with Gillen/McKelvie’s America Chavez—the foul-mouthed, ass-kicking, emotional lynchpin of that Young Avengers team. But I think the first time I picked up a comic and went “oh my god! Queers!” was probably Blackman & Williams’ BATWOMAN (ultimately a tragic pick!)
KAPLAN: We love anthology comics! Is there any particular anthology that has been inspirational for you, either for Marvel’s Voices: Pride #1 or any of the other anthologies you have worked on, like Marvel’s Voices: Indigenous Voices #1 and Women of Marvel #1?
BRUNSTAD: Truthfully these anthologies are very unique for the Big Two, so I pull some inspiration from terrific indie anthologies like LOVE IS LOVE and FTL, Y’ALL! But I have a HUGE soft spot for Tales of Suspense—which has some of my favorite Black Widow stories—and you know I had to look at the Swimsuit Specials 😀 My goal in any anthology is to create space for unusual stories—like Stephanie Williams and Natacha Bustos’ two-page short about grocery shopping in MARVEL’S VOICES: LEGACY—while also making sure we hit some of that classic Marvel super hero action and pinup goodness.
KAPLAN: I noticed that you mentioned on Twitter that as the editor of Marvel’s Voices: Pride #1, you are responsible for coming up with all of the kiss sound effects – is that correct? Can you tell us a little bit about the art of finding the right sound FX for the perfect “smek”?
BRUNSTAD: HA! So I can’t claim credit for all of the sound effects, but that’s certainly something I contribute, and kissing sounds are the best. That’s a world of difference between a “smek” and a “smoosh,” for instance, and I just look for the most joyful sound I can imitate that fits the tone. It’s one of the things comics can do that nothing else can—let’s be real, kissing sounds in real life are kiiiind of gross (when a podcast does it, I cringe every time).
KAPLAN: Is there any specific Marvel character in this issue that you were personally excited to see included in Marvel’s Voices: Pride #1?
BRUNSTAD: Oh my gosh, so many. I think maybe Daken and Black Cat are heights for me—they’re both such richly complex characters and I love what they’re doing with Daken in X-FACTOR and Cat’s amazing solo book.
KAPLAN: Can you tell us about some of the challenges that come with editing an anthology project like this? Additionally, were there any particular moments of personal triumph?
BRUNSTAD: I mean, the challenge is to get 80 pages of content to print—that’s pretty hard! We’ve got 14 distinct stories in this issue, plus interviews and backup material, which means around 50 creators to inspire…and wrangle. But everyone I’ve worked with has been incredible, and they’re all so excited to get to do a project like this. So honestly that work has felt lighter than it does on some other books. I don’t know that I can claim a personal triumph, exactly—beyond getting the green light to make this book—but I am very proud to be the glue holding it all together and to get some of my legitimately favorite creators in the book.
KAPLAN: The Marvel’s Voices anthology series has been notable for having some superb back material! Can you give us a hint about any possible back matter inclusions we can look forward to in Marvel’s Voices: Pride #1?
BRUNSTAD: We’ve got a great interview lined up with someone who helped pioneer queer comics at Marvel! And you’ll see some important reprint material, like some of Northstar’s origin story. We wanted to celebrate some of that history as well as the new material. We’re also planning some really fun fan interaction stuff that will come out soon.
KAPLAN: Is there any chance we’ll see a Marvel’s Voices: Pride #2 in June 2022?
BRUNSTAD: Your lips to god’s ears! I know that Marvel is committed to initiatives like this and I very much hope to keep up the series and expand it even further next year.
KAPLAN: Is there anything else you’d like me to be sure and include?
BRUNSTAD: Just that I’m really excited to get a mix of established and newer talent in this issue. We’ve got Jen Hickman, whose work I’ve been eyeing for quite a while, drawing a story with Kieron Gillen. Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung returning for Wiccan and Hulkling. Eisner-and-GLAAD nominated artist Claudia Aguirre debuting with a Steve Orlando-penned story. So many others. I hope that this anthology points fans to all of their work and highlights the incredible diversity of queerness in the comics community right now.
KAPLAN: Thank you so much for taking part in this interview, Sarah! Long days and pleasant nights.
BRUNSTAD: And may you have twice the number!
Marvel’s Voices: Pride #1 will be available at your local comic shop on June 23rd, 2021.