Marguerite Bennett promises to say as much or as little as a crowd at the University of Mary Washington wants to hear tomorrow night.
The 2010 grad — UMW’s Women’s History Month keynote speaker — is full of stories of woman power of all shapes and sizes, in her comic book career and in her personal life.
“I love women, in their infinite shapes, their infinite power,” said Bennett, whose New York Times-Best-selling, GLAAD-nominated work has appeared in DC, Marvel, Aftershock, Dynamite, Archie and more. She will recount her colorful — but sometimes stormy — journey Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Chandler Ballroom at the University Center.
Bennett ka-pow’ed and sha-bam’ed her way through a glass ceiling in her writing career, crashing into the notoriously male-dominated comic book industry while still a in doctoral school. Now, with a deserved reputation for her uniquely authentic portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters, she encourages others to harness their own victories.
“If you write stories that tell people that gay people can live without shame, they might grow up believing it,” she said.
Bennett was already seeking justice as a student at Mary Washington, where she enrolled in her strong writing program, and was influenced by English teachers Gary Richards, Colin Rafferty and Eric Lorentzen.
“Why wasn’t I excited?” she says. “Frankly, it was pretty much the same thing that appeals to me more than a decade later – the rights and representation of women, queer people, people of color and the social and institutional injustices they face. are confronted.”
She was studying an MFA program at the prestigious Sarah Lawrence College when her teacher and mentor, famed comic book writer Scott Snyder, offered her the chance of a lifetime by enlisting her help in 2013. Annual Batman #2.
And the rest is comic book history.
best known for Bombs, batmanand his own original series Animosity and InSEXts, Bennett has written over a thousand unique stories and has sold over 10 million copies, though she has long since ceased to count. Yet parts of her professional journey have mirrored the words she writes on the page — words she describes as messy, angry, and dark.
In a corporate world fueled by men – many of whom, to be fair, she claims to be dear friends – she has faced sexist acts she deems “shameful”, intended to undermine her career. Still, she prevailed, saying her greatest achievement was personal – climbing on the other side of an abusive relationship. “It was like coming back from the dead,” she said. “A miracle.”
Along the way, her work has become more insistent and determined, with a sharpness, grit and grime that she is proud of. She writes about murder and mayhem, the horrible and the hideous, but her comic book prose is also steeped in beauty, power and love.
The “A-Force” comic book series, written by Bennett and co-writer G. Willow Wilson, and illustrated by artist Jorge Molina, features Marvel’s first all-female Avengers team.
The brainchild of Bennett and artist Ariela Kristantina, who set their story in the Victorian era, InSEXts was created to represent homosexuality in comics.
“Animosity” – centering on a young girl and a dog, and exploring what happens when animals acquire the intelligence of humans – is another of Bennett’s original creations. Becoming friends with talking animals was just one aspect of writing that appealed to Bennett. “It was a way to make daydreaming permanent,” she said, “to establish a fantasy or adventure I could fall into, complete and immersive, any time I chose.”
Sure, writer’s block creeps in from time to time. For that, Bennett heads to the garden to clear his head and create, bleeding his words with the art on the page. It’s a magical blend, one that she believes we can all achieve in our own lives.
“You can do it,” Bennett said. “The antiquated bastions and ivory towers are rotten, and none of them are as strong as they claim. You can kick walls.