As we get closer to the launch of Dynamite's all-female written and lead summer event Swords of Sorrow, Byron Brewer caught up with writer Leah Moore to talk about her three-part miniseries Swords of Sorrow: Dejah Thoris / Irene Adler. Cover art by Jay Anacleto.
LEAH MOORE: It feels fantastic. The line-up of talent is extremely humbling to be included in, and the characters Gail has got for us all to write are just amazing. I don't think I've ever seen a crossover like it. Gail is really good at this kind of project, and she makes it look really easy, but writing the main story, and then coordinating all the other stories that are weaving into the main one? That's so hard to do, keeping all the plates spinning. She's a badass though. It makes you up your game to be writing alongside her. No slacking!
BB: This miniseries features two strong women characters, with Dejah Thoris being one of the most popular at Dynamite. Were you a fan of either heroine before this project?
LM: Well I've co-written two Sherlock Holmes OGN's with my husband John Reppion, so I'm well steeped in the whole Holmes mythology. I think when we were writing them (The Trial of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon) we were very self conscious and didn't want to do a second rate job, we wanted to make sure they could stand up next to the original Holmes mysteries. We have gradually loosened up, as people came and said they enjoyed those books, so when I heard I was writing Irene Adler, I thought okay, this time I can really relax and have some fun.
Dejah Thoris, I was aware of from the phenomenal run she has had at Dynamite, but I had never read the novels themselves. I've started reading them now though, she is a fantastic character. The costume she wears can distract people I think, because when you first meet her in the novels, it's really clear that she is in charge, she has the upper hand, it's John Carter that is trying to work out how things work. I have been having great fun writing her. She is awesome.
BB: Irene Adler has been a lot of things in her seemingly young life: fugitive, master of disguise, the quintessential femme fatale. What role does she play here? As writer, give us your perception of who Adler is.
LM: Well the thing Adler is known for is that Sherlock Holmes really rates her. The great Detective says she is unparalleled among womankind, that she matches him in her powers of reasoning, and resourcefulness. This and the fact that she's a Prima Donna opera singer, an Adventuress and can actually beat Holmes at his own game, most notably in Scandal in Bohemia, made me want to write her as a female Holmes but without the social restrictions. Holmes is known for being weird and awkward and obsessive. I wanted Adler to show that it's possible to be a badass genius with mad fencing skills and super fast reflexes, and still be capable of human interaction and emotion. Having spent so long trying to be as careful and reverential as possible with the canonical Holmes, I love the feeling that I can poke and prod the mythos and see if it stands up to modern eyes and Adler is great for that!
Irene Adler is a fixer, a brain-for-hire who will go and sort out any sticky or strange situation with deftness and aplomb. She is not afraid to ask people why they want something doing, and she judges the situation as she goes along. I would say she is not 100% trustworthy and good, she is not 100% nice, but she is a really fascinating character to write!
BB: For all her flaunted sexuality, Dejah Thoris of Mars has always been, at least in the modern comics, a strong and quite capable woman. What threat is she facing on Barsoom as our story begins here?
LH: Dejah Thoris is only flaunting her sexuality by Earth or Jasoomian standards. On Barsoom she is wearing the equivalent of jeans and a t-shirt.
Burroughs took the idea of a white man turning up in some remote village and being utterly amazed to see the women's breasts out in the fresh air, and transposed it into the fantasy pulp world. It's a classic trope, where the young dashing man is sent to a planet where the natives only wear cling film and demand lessons in Earth Kissing.
The difference with Dejah is that from the start she is not impressed with John Carter. She finds him gauche, bumbling and socially awkward with his total lack of Barsoomian manners. Yes she succumbs to his Jasoomian wiles eventually, but she is not just a good looking girl to drape over his arm. She is written as a smart regal woman who can handle herself in a fight, and I'm so happy to write that character!
When we meet her she doesn't know where her husband is, as he has been missing since the last Dynamite arc finished, she has had a weird black and silver sword delivered, her right hand man Tars Tarkas has vanished, a huge statue of Red Sonja has appeared, and then a mad gunman appears and starts taking pot shots at the people of Helium. Dejah is understandably vexed by all this, and the first time we see her, she is in full on battle mode. No royal manners, no nice conversation, just a chip on her shoulder and a mean right hook.
BB: Now will this be a "vs" book, a "team-up" book or just two women sharing the same title in separate stories. If they do come together, can you hint at how that comes about?
LM: I wanted to fling them together explosively, because they are both women who know their own minds and do not suffer fools gladly. Trouble is, if you fling them together at the start, then they can't just battle for three whole issues, people would get bored. Also Gail wanted a mystery story from me, and I couldn't see them both walking about like something from Scooby Doo together, so I had to wrench them apart for a bit. Don't worry, I keep it all fast and fun. And then presumably they have to find each other again, right? And do they like each other then, or are they still not happy? Too much fun writing this. Too much fun.
BB: What does artist Francesco Manna bring to the table here?
LM: He is the most incredible draughtsman, his pages flow really well, his lines are so full of life and bounce, there is not a dead panel, or a dead bit of a panel, the guy is amazing. His women are soooo gorgeous, he can do all the facial acting a writer could ask for, he doesn't mind detail, he handles insanely twiddly architecture like it's just some easy blobby trees at the back, his costumes are really fun and exciting, and if I write a document in, (and I do that, in these Holmes books) he draws the document and puts in all the pictures and lettering and makes it all look amazing. I am so lucky to have him. I know that whatever I put in there, it's in safe hands. I can really push things, do big panels, big scenes, epic scale, and he can handle it. To be honest I've probably not tried hard enough. Maybe I'll make #3 a real challenge…
For more information on Swords of Sorrow: Dejah Thoris / Irene Adler, click here.