Interview with Amy Chu

This is an ongoing series where I interview API comic writers and artists with questions that dig a little deeper into who they are, how they got into comics, and what their thoughts are on API identity in the comic book industry.

Quick Bio: Amy Chu is a badass for many reasons. For one she paved her own unique road into comics. This Harvard Business School/Architectural Design from MIT/East Asian Studies at Wellesley College graduate wasn’t necessarily looking at a career in comics. In fact, from previous interviews that Amy has done, it can seem that the comic life found her!

amy chu 2

From the humble beginnings of taking an online intro to comic writing class with ex-Marvel/IDW editor Andy Schmidt, to starting her own comic company (Alpha Girl Comics), Amy is now a recognized name in the comics world as she helms writing for Wonder Woman, Ant-Man, and Poison Ivy (to name a few). Oh and on top of that, Amy is also a board member for Project Prakash, a foundation focused on restoring the sight of blind children in India!

I was reading that the idea for Alpha Girl Comics was started because you and friend Georgia Lee were lamenting the lack of female voices in the medium of comics and decided to do something about it. This was back in 2010. What’s changed in the medium and environment since then, and what still needs to happen?

Girls Night Out by Alpha Girl Comics

A lot has happened (yay!) and not happened (boo….). We’re definitely in a better place than we were before, but nowhere near where we should be. Obviously that’s not just comics, but Hollywood as well. There’s also a big difference between “indie” and mainstream superhero comics. Some of the strongest female voices in comics are in the indie side and their sales are blowing mainstream away.

Gail Simone is my absolute favorite but anything by Kate Beaton, Marjorie Liu, Becky Cloonan, Jillian Tamaki/Mariko Tamaki, Carla Speed McNeil, Kathryn Immonen, there’s a whole bunch I’m leaving out.

There are a growing number of Asian Americans making their way into mainstream comics. At the same time, there are plenty of great indie stories about us written by us, that do not get the same love/attention. What are your thoughts on how we can better find and support these writers/artists?

Kenan Kong, the new Chinese Superman by Gene Luen Yang

Well, we need to get more readers into comics. Thank goodness for Gene Luen Yang! He is on Superman and a great example. I would encourage everyone to spotlight API books on your blogs, websites, Amazon lists, anywhere where you can call more attention to our work.

Word of mouth worked very well with SAGA — it’s not like they had a planned media campaign, it was just a good and refreshing story that became a top seller, beating out Batman in many cases and bringing many new costumers in to comic book stores. The smart retailers have figured this out and have made their environment more friendly to a wider range of customers. Libraries are also a good gateway, so long as the librarians put some attention into curating a good collection.

*Check out this example I found of library/comic store synergy at Pikes Peak Library District out in Colorado

You’re on Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death right now, which is receiving rave reviews (congrats!). What were your thoughts when they first told you they’d give you the helm of rebooting Poison Ivy?

Great artwork by Clay Mann and Laura Martin

Quick info on this comic series from DC’s website: “Dropping in on Ivy after she’s started working for the Gotham Botanical Gardens, it paints a layered portrait of a former super-villain trying to walk a more righteous path against a story of intrigue, action and murder. It’s a drop-dead gorgeous comic, featuring clean, realistic art from Mann and his team of artistic collaborators.”

It’s not a reboot- there was so little on Ivy you can’t really reboot what doesn’t exist! As for when I got the gig, I was stunned. I know a lot of writers wanted a crack at the title, but I did know I pitched a very different kind of story from what they were seeing in the others.

Anyone who does comics does it for the passion. No one does it for the money.

Poison Ivy, Wonder Woman, Ant-man, Girls Night Out is just a sliver of what you’ve been a part of. Having done all those, can you share what you’ve learned over the years of what goes into writing a good story?

Story from Sensation Wonder Woman #7 has been well-reviewed. Written by Amy with art by Bernard Chang, Neil Googe

Pacing and characterization. If you don’t have a good handle on either of these, it’s tough to do a good story. It comes with practice and attention. The more you read, the better you understand what works and what doesn’t. There’s a bunch of good books out there on making comics- Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente’s is the best in my opinion. Also Alan Moore’s On Writing.

You have multiple degrees (Harvard Business School, Architectural Design from MIT, and a degree in East Asian Studies at Wellesley College) and two kids who will one day need college funds. You could be making a lot more doing something corporate! Why comics? What keeps you here?

Anyone who does comics does it for the passion. No one does it for the money. No one, myself included, obviously. It is quite possibly the stupidest but coolest career decision I ever made. There’s nothing I’ve ever done previously that had people come up to me and cry because they loved a story I wrote so much.

Keep up with Amy Chu and her awesome work by checking out her website here.