How Marguerite Bennett's DC Bombshells Leads the Way for Female Superheroes

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(Photo: DC Comics)

Marguerite Bennett has a very simple mission when it comes to writing comic books. It's one that sounds humorous in its mention, has been presented as difficult in its execution, and is shockingly rare in its presence in the modern day:

"Women as people - crazy, right?"

In DC's Bombshells, a digital-first comic with chapter 33 out today and the first trade paperback on shelves this week, Bennett gets to do that a little more easily, but having all of the heroes in the book be women. Based off DC Collectibles "Bombshells" statue line designed by Ant Lucia, the series sees a world where "none of our heroines was in any way derivative of a male counterpart - the women come first in this world," Bennett explained to ComicBook.com in an interview. They're also living in an alternate history where all these heroes emerged at the height of World War II, and after fighting their own fights, come together to help end the larger threat.

World War II, subverting superhero tropes, and fighting stereotypes may all sound heavy, but her first mission has always been clear, as Bennett wants it simply to be "a fun comic." That's mostly about making sure it's accessible, so that fans who like the statues or might see something different like a Rosie the Riveter style Wonder Woman on a cover can pick it up and just enjoy themselves.

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(Photo: DC Comics)

"From the start, this was an alternate history, so I didn't want the characters spit upon or trodden under foot for the sake of selling a retro vibe," said the writer, who has made a name for herself fairly quickly at both DC and Marvel Comics, as well as other publishers with her quick wit and strong grasp of interpersonal relationships within action scenarios. "From the very beginning I wanted to make sure that none of our heroines was in any way derivative of a male counterpart – the women come first in this world.

"With women superheroes, it tends to be a team of 5 dudes and one woman, and she then has to be everything, and no woman can ever be everything. With a large cast, a large number of women, they don't have to be icons and idols, they can just be themselves," she explained. "It's so refreshing to create the women as characters, and not as liabilities or ticking time bombs."

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(Photo: DC Comics)

Of course, that doesn't come without its own challenges, especially in format. With digital first comics, she's writing for a shorter chapter that's released digitally, then a few are brought together and printed as a single issue, and finally a trade collects several of those. Writing for three lengths simultaneously can be uniquely difficult, and Bennett credits her editors for helping her manage it. Practically, it means sometimes "delaying the payoff in a single chapter so the print issue will be more cohesive," or moving a one-shot artist's chapter further down the road in print, again seeking accessibility.

Bennett started by exploring each of these Bombshells versions of DC heroes individually, like Soviet Russia Supergirl and Stargirl (who are sisters here) propaganda machines, or carefree, glamorous Aquawoman (or so she appears), and the unexpected fun of a Zatanna in a dark, horrific Berlin.

"Zatanna [surprised me the most]. Getting to write her, I really fell in love with her. She and Bunny Constantine [Note: John Constantine is literally a bunny rabbit because magic] sitting, chain smoking in a cabaret talking about their love affairs," she said with a laugh. "Honest-to-God, I'd kill to write a Zatanna and Constantine: Magical Garbage People series."

Now, the characters are coming together as a team, which was always the goal, to make the Bombshells a team on the same level as DC heroes past like the Justice League or Justice Society, but to do it by first "giving people an idea of the aesthetic, history, and culture and art that defines" the World War II era.

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(Photo: DC Comics)

Bennett credits fans with the existence of the series moreso than any she's ever worked on. Their enthusiasm (and her own) for the statues and variant cover series at DC Collectibles and DC Comics directly led to editor Jim Chadwick reaching out to her about making it a series. No character demonstrates that passion to reality journey more than Big Barda, though, whose design and personality came directly from a fan who cosplayed as the character - before she had been made a Bombshell in any medium!

"So a cosplayer, because of these designs, created her own Big Barda Bombshells design, and Jim Fletcher, who worked with Ant Lucia on the costume designs, saw it, took note of it, and they were so impressed with this woman's Big Barda," she said. "So [DC] wound up actually buying the rights to the design!" That design, and the person behind it, influenced her take on the character directly, as well. "There was so much personality in the design, it was so perfect for Barda. It's a Barda who has seen some things, but isn't held back by it. It's a design that came from love and enthusiasm, so that heavily influenced her, and made her exciting, and unfettered, and her own person."

As for the future of this world, while the "Year One" of the Bombshells is moving to an exciting conclusion, Bennett clearly has plans for the future, including the surprising relationships between characters who have only just now started to come together as a team. Supergirl and Aquawoman, both as leaders and those who carry responsibility, and Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor, a man who represents both nobility and vulnerability in humanity, are two particular stories she hopes to explore further as the story moves on.

The idea of an all-female team of heroes from DC Comics in the current landscape, where DC is also pushing the "Super Hero Girls" toy line to market, filming a Wonder Woman movie, and generally seems to be seeking more parity than they have in the past isn't lost on the writer.

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"It's an honor and a privilege to be creating a superhero comic book full of women," Bennet said solemnly. "I'm so honored and blessed that I get to work on this comic that people asked for, and DC just said, 'yes, we can do this.' Then to have both DC and the readership be so supportive, I cannot honestly thank them enough."

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(Photo: DC Comics)

DC Bombshells Chapter 33 is available for download today via the DC Comics App, Readdcentertainment.com, iBooks, comiXology.com, Google Play, Kindle Store, Nook Store, and iVerse ComicsPlus