Interview with Marvel’s Voices : Pride (2022) #1 Editor Sarah Brunstad

Greetings and Happy Pride all! For this installment of the Geeks OUT! Queer Creator spotlight, I had the opportunity to speak with Marvel Editor, Sarah Brunstad. Sarah has worked on a plethora of titles for Marvel including, Aliens, X-Men, Captain Marvel, Black Widow and a number of the Marvel Pride Anthologies.

I spoke with Sarah about this year’s much anticipated, Marvel Voices: Pride issue, queer representation in mainstream comics and the awesomeness of working with all queer creators on Marvel’s queer characters.

Chris Allo: It’s that time of year for the Marvel’s Voices: Pride edition number 2! For the uninitiated can you just give us a little rundown on the Marvel’s Voices brand?

Angélique Roché

Sarah Brunstad: Marvel’s Voices came out of the podcast created and run by Angélique Roché, with the intention of uplifting and highlighting marginalized creators and creators. Angélique worked with former Marvel editor Chris Robinson to build the very first anthology, and the rest is history!

CA: I know you work on many books at Marvel (X-Men, Aliens,Marvel Voices, etc.) How did you come to be the editor on the various Marvel’s Voices books?

SB: I was an associate editor at the time, working very closely with senior editor Wil Moss. When the first anthology was so successful, Marvel decided to do more, and Wil and I had a strong interest in bringing in new, diverse talent. And we’re both crazy people who kind of love building complicated anthologies. So we got the opportunity to do Marvel’s Voices: Legacy, and then I pitched an Indigenous Voices issue that was really near to my own heart. After that, I got to continue editing the line as someone who’s just very passionate about what Voices is trying to do.

Marvel Voices Pride 2022 Variant Cover/Art by Stephen Byrne

CA: Can you give us a little bit of a run down on the characters and creators for this year’s installment?

SB: We have 7 awesome stories this year, and we introduce a ton of new characters. Charlie Jane Anders with artists Ro Stein and Ted Brandt introduced Escapade, a new trans mutant who will go on to star in an upcoming arc of New Mutants. Grace Freud and Scott B. Henderson created a whole gang of new young mutants, a tight group with hilarious rapport. Andrew Wheeler and Brittney Williams—one of my personal favorite artists—did a great Hercules and Noh-Varr story. Chris Cantwell and Kei Zama leaned into some beautiful punk queer history with a wild Moondragon/Guardians of the Galaxy story. Alyssa Wong and Stephen Byrne made an absolutely perfect pairing for the return of the much-beloved Young Avengers. Ira Madison III and Lorenzo Susi brought Pride to Asgard in a super cute Runa the Valkyrie story. And Danny Lore and Lucas Werneck got to do something really special—revisiting Venomm and Taku from Don McGregor’s Jungle Action run and establishing their relationship as a couple on the page for the first time, as Don had always hoped and intended.

Valkyrie(Luna) Art by Lorenzo Susi

CA: What were you looking for in terms of pitches/stories for this book? Was there a set of characters Marvel wanted to spotlight or did that just come as part and parcel with what the creators wanted to do?

SB: I definitely went in with the intention of bringing more trans rep to the Marvel Universe, and was beyond thrilled when Charlie Jane agreed to it—it’s something I’ve wanted to do with her in particular for a long time. For Danny and Lucas’ story, that was something Angélique and I had talked about lot, this idea of bringing a previously coded character out of the closet, so to speak. Venomm and Taku were a perfect fit. And I knew I wanted a Young Avengers story in here, because we got a chance to spotlight Hulkling and Wiccan in big ways last year but the team itself hadn’t been together for a long time, and as the most queer-heavy team in Marvel history, I really wanted to reunite them. I was so excited Alyssa was in for that. But for the rest, I left things really open and just tried to have fun and spread joy.

CA: Obviously, it’s a really good thing to give queer creators the opportunity to tell more authentic and genuine stories through the queer characters inhabiting the Marvel Universe. What other aspirations does Marvel have for putting the book out annually?

Wiccan & Hulkling Art by Stephen Byrne/Marvel

SB: Well, we’re playing a slow game. Every year that we create new queer characters, our world gets bigger and more diverse, and eventually those characters will be as beloved as, say, Rogue and Gambit. And we are celebrating the sheer diversity of talent in comics in an explicit way for the first time. I’m extremely proud that so many of the people who got their start in a Voices comic have gone on to do more work for Marvel—Rebecca Roanhorse, David Cutler, Chris Allen, Maria Wolf, Eleonora Carlini (through the semi-related Women of Marvel anthologies)—I could keep going, seriously, we have made such a huge impact in just a couple of years. Our talent pool looks way different now. That’s the major outcome for me, personally.

CA: You’ve stated elsewhere that you didn’t read comics as a kid, so now that you’ve read, worked on and created quite a fantastic resume in comics, what is it about the medium that you love and why is it such a seemingly important art form in the LGBTQI+community?

Marvel Boy and Hercules art by Brittney L. Williams and Villarubia/MarVEL

SB: I love comics because they’re WEIRD. They’ve existed on the fridges of the publishing and artistic community for a long time. It’s only been 14 years since that first Marvel Studios Iron Man film, and it’s hard to remember now that before that, basically no one knew who Iron Man was. So there’s traditionally been a ton of freedom to do strange, creatively fulfilling things in comics that you couldn’t do anywhere else. We like to say that we have an unlimited budget in comics—you can crash cars, wreck whole planets, in a single page. That’s wild and so exciting. And even though it’s hard, I love the fast pace too, and the feeling that a creative team is a really tight-knit group, always in conversation, always holding each other’s hands. Making a comic is truly a labor of love. I think queer people have always made comics in our own little corners, but I’m really happy to see us taking the mainstream now too.

CA: As a queer person working in the industry, what are some of the things that have happened to help queer visibility that you are happy with and what are some things that you feel still need to come to pass?

SB: Well, we still need more characters and creators on the mainstream, big budget books. In some ways that work has just begun. But also, I’m very inspired by this younger generation of writers and artists coming up who don’t feel any need to hide themselves, who can put their pronouns in their bio and make queer themes a major part of their work without that nasty voice in the back of their head going “but is this marketable.” I’m not saying that doesn’t ever happen anymore, but there’s just a tremendous amount of freedom out there, and I think more people making comics than ever before.

CA: Won’t ask you to play favorites here, but what is something you’re excited for the fans to see coming out of this year’s Marvel’s Voices: Pride issue?

“Escapade’ Art by RO STIEN & TED BRANDT and BonVillian/Marvel

SB: Heh. I mean, yes, ALL of it! But I guess I have to say Escapade’s introduction is a big thrill—I am so thrilled for what we’re going to do with her in New Mutants. Which, by the way, I’m pretty sure this current run now represents the longest ever run on a Marvel series by trans creators (possibly also beating DC!). Vita Ayala has been writing it since issue #14, issue #29 is guest-written by Danny Lore, and #31-33 will be guest-written by Charlie Jane until Vita returns with #30. It’s a big deal, and we’re all very proud.

CA: Can you give us maybe a favorite sequence from one of the stories this year?

SB: Oof! So many! But okay—there’s a splash page in Chris Cantwell and Kei Zama’s story that I LOVE. It’s grimy and intense and so so good. You’ll know it when you see it. Kei and I had a lot of fun brainstorming the Easter Eggs embedded on that page.

CA: As an editor, what is some helpful advice you can offer to aspiring editors, writers and artists that hope to make a career in comics?

SB: Make friends with other people who are coming up. That could be through social media, whatever, or the more traditional way of going to conventions. Ask lots of questions when you get to talk to pros. Read everything. Draw/write every day. Artists—please, please have a professional portfolio that goes beyond your Instagram. And don’t be precious about your work, especially writers! Comics is a collaborative medium, and a considerable part of your job is just being good to your fellow creators. Breaking into comics is pretty hard, but that’s true of any creative industry, and I truly believe that those who put in the sweat eventually get the payoff. (Except, you know, the payoff is a small check and an immense feeling of self-satisfaction—nobody’s here to get rich, haha).

CA: Thanks so much, Sarah. Looking forward to this year’s addition as well as the next entry into the Marvel’s Voices initiative! Here is a rundown of the creators and stories in this years Marvel’s Voices: Pride Edition

es Marvel Voices Pride 2022 Cover Olivier Coipel/Mar vel

YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE (2022) #1!

New York, NY— May 12, 2022 — On June 22, Marvel Comics will celebrate Pride Month with a new giant-sized one-shot spotlighting LGBTQIA+ creators and characters! A queer-centered anthology brought together by an amazing lineup of writers and artists from all walks of life, MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE #1 will feature eight extraordinary adventures, an introduction by Vice President of Television at Bad Robot Productions Alex Phillips, and more!

From uplifting to thrilling, this diverse collection of stories take place all throughout the Marvel Universe and celebrate the themes and joy of Pride Month. And today, fans can get a first look at each one!

·       In last year’s MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE, Steve Orlando and Luciano Vecchio introduced the dreamy mutant hero SOMNUS,  who now stars in the ongoing X-Men series MARAUDERS! New York Times-bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders and artist duo and Eisner-nominated cartoonists Ro Stein and Ted Brandt continues this tradition with the debut of ESCAPADE! Readers will meet this all-new trans mutant super hero in a 20-page adventure that will introduce her career as a super thief and set the stage for her exciting future.

·       Valkyrie Rúna puts on the first ever Asgard Pride celebration in television writer and podcaster Ira Madison III and artist Lorenzo Susi Marvel Comics debut.

·       Shuster and Eisner-winning writer Andrew Wheeler makes his Marvel debut alongside PATSY WALKER artist Brittney L. Williams in an action-packed story about Marvel’s newest power couple-Hercules and Marvel Boy!

·       Rev up your engines for a heart-bending story across space and time in a Moondragon story by IRON MAN scribe and lauded TV showrunner Christopher Cantwell and artist Kei Zama.

·       Nebula, World Fantasy, and Locus-award winner Alyssa Wong and fan-favorite artist Stephen Byrne reunite the Young Avengers in a story guaranteed to please fans new and old! Byrne will also depict the team in one of the issue’s variant covers!

·       Comedy writer Grace Freud (Rick and Morty, the Eric Andre Show) brings her talents to Marvel with a story about the power of responsibility featuring the Marvel Universe’s favorite gay ginger, D-Man! She’s joined by Eisner-nominated artist Scott B. Henderson in his first work for Marvel!

·       And writer Danny Lore and artist Lucas Werneck revisit the legacy of Taku and Venom, two Black Panther characters long left in the closet, in a tale of love and redemption!

Check out all five stunning MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE #1 covers and interior artwork from each story now and celebrate Pride with Marvel Comics on June 22! For more information including a word from this year’s creators, visit Marvel.com.

MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE (2022) #1

Introduction by ALEX PHILLIPS

Cover by NICK ROBLES

Variant Cover by AMY REEDER
Variant Cover by JEN BARTEL
Variant Cover by STEPHEN BYRNE
Variant Cover by OLIVIER COIPEL

Story A  – Escapade in “Permanent Sleepover”

Written by CHARLIE JANE ANDERS

Art by RO STIEN & TED BRANDT

Colors by TAMRA BONVILLAIN

Story B – Valkyrie(Rúna) in “Over the Rainbow”

Written by IRA MADISON III

Art by LORENZO SUSI

Colors by RACHELLE ROSENBERG

Story C – Hercules and Marvel Boy in “Ancient & Modern”

Written by ANDREW WHEELER

Art by BRITTNEY L. WILLIAMS

Colors by JOSÉ VILLARRUBIA 

Story D – Moondragon in “Stay Outta My Mind Turf, Jack”

Written by CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL

Art by KEI ZAMA

Colors by RICO RENZI

Story E – The Young Avengers in “All My Exes in the Nexus”

Written by ALYSSA WONG

Art by STEPHEN BYRNE

Story F – D-Man in “LGBT-D”

Written by GRACE FREUD

Art by SCOTT B. HENDERSON

Inks by LEE TOWNSEND

Colors by BRITTANY PEER

Story G – Taku and Venomm in “Perfectly Scene”

Written by DANNY LORE

Art by LUCAS WERNECK

Colors by MICHAEL WIGGAM

Interview with the “Shuri and T’Challa: Into the Heartlands” Creative Team

Shuri and T’Challa set out to remove a curse from Wakanda in an action-packed, totally original Black Panther graphic novel, Shuri and T’Challa: Into the Heartlands available now!

The creative team includes Roseanne A. Brown, Natacha Bustos, Dika Araújo, and Claudia Aguirre.

Roseanne A. Brown was born in Kumasi, Ghana and immigrated to the wild jungles of central Maryland as a child. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor’s in Journalism and was also a teaching assistant for the school’s Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House program. Her journalistic work has been featured by Voice of America among other outlets. Rosie currently lives outside Washington D.C., where in her free time she can usually be found wandering the woods, making memes, or thinking about Star Wars. Her debut novel, A Song of Wraith and Ruin, was a New York Times bestseller.

Dika Araújo is a Brazilian animator, comic artist and illustrator based in Sâo Paulo. Her previous work includes several independent Brazilian anthologies, including Amor em Quadrinhos, which was nominated for the Angouleme International Comics Award in 2018.

Natacha Bustos is a Spanish comic book artist who drew the story Going Nowhere, written by Brandan Montclare, for DC/Vertigo’s Strange Sports Stories. Bustos then made her Marvel Comics debut on Spider Woman before re-teaming with Montclare and co-writer Amy Reeder on the inaugural run of Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur, winner of Glyph Award for Best Female Character in 2016. In 2020, she drew the Buffy the Vampire: Willow miniseries (BOOM Studios!) and became part of Marvel’s Stormbreakers Artist program, dedicated to spotlighting the next generation of elite artists.

Claudia Aguirre is a GLAAD and Eisner Award nominated artist and writer. She is co-founder of Boudika Comics. Her works include Hotel Dare (Boom!Studios), Morning in America (Oni Press) and Lost on PlanetEarth (Comixology Originals

I had the opportunity to interview Roseanne A. Brown, Natacha Bustos, and Dika Araújo which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourselves?

Roseanne A. Brown: Hi! My name is Roseanne A. Brown, but everyone calls me Rosie. I’m a Ghanaian-American young adult and middle grade SFF author. My debut novel, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, is a New York Times bestselling YA Fantasy inspired by West African folklore that’s been described as what would happen if Aladdin and Jasmine had to kill each other. The sequel, A Psalm of Storms and Silence, came out in November 2021, and I have several more books on the way. On the rare day I’m not writing, I can usually be found watching obscure documentaries on Netflix or trying to cook the perfect poached egg. (It’s really hard!)

Natacha Bustos: Hi! I’m Natacha Bustos. I draw comics and live in Malaga. I’ve enjoyed comics since I was very young, and I’ve always loved telling stories. I like going for a walk in the countryside or having a nice meal in good company. My everyday life is dominated by my two loves: my son, Alan, and my cat, Momo.

Dika Araújo: Of course! I’m a 28 year old Brazilian illustrator. I work in animation and sometimes I make comics.

What can you tell us about your project, Black Panther: Into the Heartlands? How did each of you get involved?

RB: Back in early 2020, my agent sent me an email saying she’d heard that my now editor Lauren Bisom was looking for pitches for a new line of young reader graphic novels featuring some of Marvel’s most popular teen heroes: Miles Morales, Shuri and T’Challa, and Kamala Khan. The idea of a sibling story featuring the prince and princess of Wakanda came to me almost immediately; while there have been both books and comics about the two as youths, there were few centered on their relationship as children. Then during my research, I learned that the two share a father but have different birth mothers. As a member of a large, blended family myself, I really connected to the idea of these fantastical characters dealing with complicated family dynamics just like millions of kids around the world, and the idea for Into the Heartlands grew from there.

NB: Lauren Bisom contacted me to talk about a project that Dika had started. I really like Dika and her art, so the idea of working on a comic with her was appealing. Then, I saw that Claudia Aguirre had also joined the team, which was cool. I’ve known her for about ten years now through social media. I love the Black Panther universe and Shuri’s my girl, so this type of project is a no-brainer.

DA: I developed the character designs and drew the first batch of pre-Heartlands pages. 

Roseanne A. Brown

Before this project, how would you describe your connection to the Black Panther universe? What does it feel like to be working on this project now?

RB: I’m relatively new to the world of Wakanda as I really didn’t know much about the characters before the movie came out in 2018. But I was blown away by the world in that film, particularly by how the creators organically wove in the African influences that created these characters. Shuri, T’Challa, and the Black Panther as a concept are icons in every sense of the word. Getting to write them has been an honor, and I only hope that my entry into the Black Panther world is full of the same heart and power that have drawn people to these characters for decades. 

NB: I’ve done some Shuri and some Black Panther covers for Marvel and I’ve read Kirby’s comics. I love Shuri as done by Nnedi Okorafor and Leonardo Romero, as well as Brian Steelfreeze’s interpretation of Black Panther. They’re really powerful, all told with a singular voice.

Becoming part of the family of Black Panther authors is really a dream come true. So I’m delighted to have added my own little drop into this ocean.

DA: I started paying more attention to it after the MCU movies. Me and my brother hadn’t connected together so intensely to a character before since the Blade movies came out. So it was really exciting getting to contribute a little bit to the Wakanda canon.

Are there any other superheroes besides Shuri and T’Challa that you feel drawn to (excuse the pun)?

RB: I’ve loved Static since I was a child. He’s of Ghanaian descent, like me, and the episode of Static Shock where he went to Ghana was the first time I ever saw Twi spoken in an American media. The Batfamily were my entry point into superhero comics, with the second Robin, Jason Todd, being my absolute favorite. And I have to shout-out my girl Storm. She was a big inspiration for the character of Karina in A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. 

NB: Many, including Storm, Ironheart, Ms. Marvel, Doctor Strange, Loki, Miles Morales, etc.

DA: Hehehe, that was a good joke. Yesterday I watched the first episode of Moon Knight and being autistic I could relate a lot to the chaos and general disorientation the character goes through. I could say the same about Jessica Jones. Besides that, I tend to relate to side characters more: Peridot (Steven Universe), Wolf (Kipo), Toph (Avatar the Last Airbender)…

As author of the book, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin and A Psalm of Storms and Silence, how did you find yourself becoming a writer? What drew you to young adult and speculative fiction specifically?

RB: I can barely remember a time before I wanted to write. When my family first immigrated to America when I was three, I couldn’t speak English. After years of struggling in school, it was books that opened up the world for me and helped me connect with my new community. Since then, I’ve wanted to create works that help people feel a little less alone like the books I loved did for me. As for YA and speculative fiction, I love how they’re categories where the extraordinary becomes the extra ordinary. Everything just feels a little more possible in SFF, and with YA, there’s something so refreshing about depicting the world through the eyes of a character with one foot in childhood and one foot in adulthood. 

Dika Araújo

How would you describe your writing/illustrating process?

RB: Rather than a plotter or a pantser, I’m what some like to call a headlighter. That’s to say, I write books similar to how someone drives at night—all I can see is exactly what’s in front of me at the moment, but that’s enough to get me where I need to go. All my first drafts are written like that, which often leaves me with an extremely heartfelt, yet incomprehensible manuscript. From there, I’ll revise/rewrite as needed until a structure weaves through the emotion. It’s not the most efficient process, but it’s mine.  

NB: I can be quite chaotic but working digitally provides me with a certain amount of order. I start sketching first off and I tend to be extremely focused at this stage. I can’t have any music on, I need silence. I pretty much skip the penciling stage when working on the final art because I’m working digitally. It’s a really fun stage: my hand is engaged in one thing, while my mind may be elsewhere; I have music playing or podcasts or even a TV series.

DA: Err… Chaotic, time-consuming, but at the same time very orderly. 

What are some of your favorite craft when it comes to writing/illustrating?

RB: The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass is one of my favorite craft books of all time. For plotting, I tend to use a mixture of Save the Cat structure alongside the 7 Point Plot Structure by Dan Wells. But I always say the best craft techniques are the ones that work for you. Pick and choose what fits your writing style! 

NB: I really love Pentel for illustrations; I tend to use it particularly for commissions.

DA: Getting to translate the script into a visual form of storytelling, for sure.

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but wish you were (as well as the answer to that question)?

RB: Ooh, I love this question! I’ve always wished someone would ask me where the weirdest place I’ve ever written is. The answer would be on the floor of a bathroom in a grimy club in Osaka, Japan. Pass pages for ASOWAR were due, but my friends were visiting and wanted to go out. I learned the true meaning of multi-tasking on that trip. 

DA: “What are your favorite reality shows?”

I love The Circle, Blown Away, Too Hot to Handle… The more random and further removed from my reality, the better. I work in animation all day, and it’s hard to watch movies and cartoons without having my “work brain” on. That kind of show lets me turn off my brain completely.

Are there any other projects you are working on or thinking about that you are able to discuss?

RB: After Into the Heartlands, my next published work will be a short story in the Star Wars anthology Stories of Jedi and Sith, out on June 7th. I’ve been a Star Wars geek since I was a teen, and have written my fair share of fanfiction, so I’m still freaking out that I got to write a canon story in the world. My next full-length book is my middle grade prose debut, Serwa Boateng’s Guide to Vampire Hunting, out with Rick Riordan Presents on September 6th. I describe that book as Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Mean Girls with a huge helping of Ghanaian folklore. It’s a lot of fun, even if writing it did force me to relive my middle school days. *shudder* 

NB: I have a few projects. I could tell you, but then….

DA: I’m working on a Brazilian animation studio called Copa Studio, and they’ve just released a Carnival special for a series called Jorel’s Brother, on HBO Max! I hope people like it, we made it with a lot of love.

Natacha Bustos

What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives, whether those working on prose novels or graphic novels?

RB: Give yourself permission to take your work seriously. I always tell people that if you want to play sports at a professional level, you have to be practicing at that level long before you ever make a pro team. Writing is similar. This doesn’t mean write every single day, because I sure don’t do that, but it does mean carve out time for your craft when you can and guard it like you would any other major commitment. You and your art deserve that. 

NB: You need to have a routine and persistence to finish the job. It is also vitally important to have your free time, so you don’t burn out. This is essential for your mental well-being and so you enjoy your work!

DA: Don’t be fooled, it’s a career that requires a lot of hard work, but at the same time you need a lot of luck and privilege to “make it”. I’m not telling anyone to give up their dreams, that’d be an *ssh*le move, but don’t feel guilty or compare yourself to people who may have had more opportunities than you did.

Finally, what books/comics would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

RB: Some of my absolute favorite comics as both a reader and a creator are:

NB: Miles Morales: Shock Waves, Ms. Marvel comics, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Shuri, Black Panther! Read some OG stuff by Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Gil Kane, Buscema, José Luis García López, Mazzucchelli, etc. In the world of manga, I love Osamu Tetzuka, Shigeru Misuki, Kentaro Miura, Naoki Urosawa, Hiromu Arakawa, and Rumiko Takahashi.

DA: A big inspiration when working on this comic, for me, was The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis. Other than that, all I can say is BUY AND READ ROSIE’S BOOKS. Sorry, I got carried away, haha. Buy and read everything Roseanne writes. She’s amazing.