Fangirl Friday: Sigrid Ellis

Posted by Anika

Hi there, Fantastic Fans! I’d like to welcome you to the first of what I hope will be many, many, many Fangirl Fridays. From its inception the minds behind Fantastic Fangirls have wanted our blog to promote female comic book readers, creators, and fans in opposition to the idea that women and girls don’t like comics, superheroes, female superheroes, science fiction and fantasy, action movies, video games, violence, beer, porn, sports, etc. etc. etc.

Okay, maybe not all of those made it onto our mission statement but you get the picture. We here at Fantastic Fangirls are, in fact, women and we do, in fact, read, and like, and in some cases even write, comic books. And we are neither a) weird nor b) alone. And I am going to prove it.

For my first Fangirl Friday I bring you an interview with our own Sigrid Ellis.

Name: Sigrid Ellis

Age: 37

Where do you live? Saint Paul, MN, USA

What is your job? Education? That’s a little complicated. I’m an air traffic controller. I have been for thirteen years. To answer the immediate questions, it’s not THAT stressful, except when it is, I don’t work at an airport, I work at what’s called a Center, and I talk to planes overflying the country and landing at smaller airports that don’t have towers. The hours are a little insane, but I’m used to them. I’m also a writer of fiction and nonfiction. My third job is being a homeschooling parent of two kids. This means my days off from being an air traffic controller are more busy than the days I work.

Oh, and I have a B.A. from Macalester College, and I graduated high school from the Illinois Math and Science Academy.

Tell me about your family: I live with my partner J and her other partner, N. J and I are in a partner relationship and we have two kids, both adopted. J and N are in a partner relationship as well. N and I are long-standing friends and housemates. I explain it because it’s a bit unconventional, and often people think they’ve mis-heard! But the five of us have a deeply geeky household, full of books and more books, comics, tech, and gaming, both tabletop and computer.

How long have you been reading comics? I started reading comics as a young child, whatever I found at friends’ houses. Peanuts collections, mostly, or Garfield, Doonesbury collections, that sort of thing. But I started collecting comics in a serious way in 1985 when I started reading and buying the various X-books from Marvel. I pretty much have issues 179-210 of Uncanny X-Men memorized.

Do you have a favorite comic of all time? A favorite character? I can’t possible answer the favorite comic thing! There are are single issues I love with an unreasoning passion because I read them when I was fourteen and I imprinted on them — Uncanny X-Men 188, 196, 200, and 206, New Mutants 18-21, and 36. And then there are the single issues I read when I was a cynical, jaded young adult — Sandman’s “Game of You,” or Strangers in Paradise’s “High School.” And then there are the comics I have read in the last ten years or so, falling back in love with superhero comics. Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men. Bendis’s New Avengers. Simone’s Birds of Prey. Rucka’s Gotham Central and Batwoman. Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man. I can’t even pick.

My favorite character of all time is Rachel Summers-Grey. She is not the best character, or the best-written, and she’s never been a lead. But I met her when I was fifteen and I fell in love and I can’t give her up, even though Marvel is not really using her right now. My OTHER favorite character — not second favorite, but equally favorite in a different way and for different reasons — is Jessica Jones. I think if I ever tried to explain to Bendis how very much I love that character, he would back away slowly and motion for convention security. So I don’t try.

How about favorite creators? Greg Rucka. Gail Simone. Brian Michael Bendis. Matt Fraction. Kelly Sue DeConnick. Emma Rios. Terry Moore. Nicola Scott. Laura Martin. Colleen Coover. Gabriel Hardman. Corinna Bechko. Jamie McKelvie. Kieron Gillen. I know I’m forgetting some, and no offense is intended! They all write or draw men and women as equivalently human. They all in various ways try to expand the roles of women, people of color, and GLBT folk in comics. They all try, in different ways, to make comics greater, stronger, more than comics have been. And they tell and draw damn fine stories.

What comics are you currently reading? Um. That’s a lot. About half of the X-titles, most of the Batman-related titles that do not contain Batman, about half the Avengers titles, anything with Greg Rucka’s name on it, Terry Moore’s projects, probably a bunch of things I’m forgetting.

Do you have one you are enjoying the most right now? I find Batgirl to be a consistent delight. The relationships between Steph, Babs, and Wendy are great. The only thing that mars the title, for me, is that I want Cass Cain to have her own ongoing series. I saw a suggestion on the internet — I don’t remember where — that Cass be a sort of Richard-Dragon-like martial arts master, travelling the world and righting wrongs. I would be absolutely behind that. The other title I love every month is New Avengers. I would read Bendis writing the Avengers keeping house every month, I really would.

What kind of fangirl activities do you do? Blog, Tweet, attend conventions. I proselytize, recommending comics to my friends. I used to write fanfic and play online fanfic-based RPGs, but I dropped those due to lack of time. Now, when I have writing time, I try to write original stuff. But I loved fanfic writing and the RPGs with a firey passion. Those communities were a lot of fun.

What’s your favorite thing about comics? Why do you read them? I read comics because they tell stories in a way that goes right into the depths of my brain. Because comics present me with amazing characters in extraordinary circumstances. Because metaphor is the tongs by which we can talk about the difficult subjects. Because I still need to be reading stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Because I need to see how all of My Favorite Characters are being treated by their Boyfriends and Girlfriends, a.k.a. their latest writers. Because watching a teenage girl kick the crap out of muggers is fun. Because I love stories about people living with the consequences of their own hubris. Because humanity is either going to destroy the world or save it, and in comics we keep saving it.

I read comics because I love these characters. I relate to them, invest in them — these characters have been role models and object of crushes, they have been admired heroes and feared villains. The fabric of my mind has these people wound all through it. I don’t think I could give them up. Even during the period of my life when I “didn’t read comics” I still read Sandman, Hellblazer, Strangers in Paradise, Love and Rockets, Shade the Changing Man, and Sin City. And while I bought them at Dreamhaven Books in Minneapolis, I would flip through the X-men titles like a jealous jilted lover spying on her ex. I would read X-Men and sneer at how the title had been better when I used to read it — as if my reading it had anything to do with the quality of the stories therein!

I guess I read comics because I can’t imagine being me without comics.

Tell me about your own work. I write comics and self-publish them. I don’t really like self-publishing, at all. I want to write comics. I don’t like the parts about finding and paying artists, or working with the printer, or selling them.

I write about different things. Mostly, that’s determined by how much money I have to pay a prospective artist. If I have a lot of money in my savings account, I’ll write an eight-page story. If I have not as much, a four-page story. Paying artists is, I have found, the only way to get work. I tried collaborating with a couple friends on different long projects, and while we are still friends all around, it doesn’t work. It is simply completely unfair to ask an artist to work for free or on spec, which is the same thing as free, on a forty-four page story. It’s ridiculous. So I stopped asking, and shelved my longer scripts, and just write short things for which I can pay.

What’s the hardest part about writing comics? The easiest? Hardest? Saving money to pay artists. The easiest? Writing the scripts. I’m just writing for myself. I don’t have deadlines, or a canon to fit into, or a multipart crossover to balance. I’m also not living off my writing — I have a very nice air traffic control job with which to pay the bills. So the writing is the easiest.

That said, I have no deadlines. So it’s just me and my conscience when it comes to working. And I am not really great at always writing when I should. I write at work, on my breaks from talking to airplanes. And some days I don’t write when I know I should be, I watch tv shows instead. Streaming television and movies is a mixed thing, indeed.

What about your other writing — fiction, non-fiction? I recently got my first short story, “No Return Address,” published in the magazine Strange Horizons. And I have my first non-fiction publication, an essay in the Mad Norwegian Press book, Whedonistas, this spring. I have to say — writing prose is a lot cheaper than making comics. I intend to continue to do it. But I also intend to continue writing scripts for comics.

Do you have long term goals? A dream job? Oh, do I ever. In 2011 I will submit my comics portfolio to various editors. If I don’t get hired to write comics in 2011 I will continue to write and try again in 2012 or 2013, whenever I get the money together to make more comics. I will also shop my original graphic novel pitches around in the next two years. In 2011 I intend to get another short story published. And I will have finished at least one of the three prose novels in-progress by the end of 2011, for shopping around in 2012.

See, the goal is, I can retire from air traffic control at the age of fifty. And while my kids will be in college then and I will likely not actually retire as soon as I am able, I want a plan in place, another career lined up. And that’s writing. And writing, as a career, takes a heck of a lot of long, slogging work before results are seen. I figure if I start now I can have a decent career going by the time I’m eligible to retire from air traffic.

I am going to write these characters I love, some day. The ones that got me through adolescence, the ones that I came out to in college. (Yes, I came out to my Jim Lee X-Men poster triptych in the quiet of my dorm room before I ever told a living soul. I told Rogue, and Storm, and Wolverine, and Jubilee I was gay before I told my best friend.) I am going to write these characters eventually. It’s just a matter of time.


email: sigrid@fantasticfangirls.org
twitter: sigridellis
blog: Thinking Too Much
webpage: Slighty Obsessed Studio

Thank you, Sigrid, for being my first fangirl. You are an inspiration!

Posted by Anika
email: anika@fantasticfangirls.org
twitter: magnetgirl

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  • This is a great interview, Anika! And Sigrid, I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again — your ability to make PLANS and take the necessary steps, one by one, to achieve them, is something I am in complete awe of. I wish I had your work ethic and drive.

  • sigrid

    @Jennifer Thanks! I wish I had MORE work ethic, dangit, but I won’t turn down what I have. :)

  • that was a cool interview. I just got curious about a bit in the beginning, you homeschool your kids. I’d never want you to overshare about your kids, obviously, but I was curious about the option of homeschooling. Is it by choice, lack of option, personal belief that it’s better?

  • Monica

    Sigrid, I met you briefly at Wiscon on the Marvel Women Project panel, and it was great to learn more about you in this interview! I was especially interested in your comics and writing goals – it’s fantastic that you are working towards your dream career.

  • sigrid

    @The Uranian My partner and I chose to homeschool because we both think it’s better for kids to not spend most of their time in barely-supervised mobs of kids their age. As our kids have gotten older, it’s clear to us that our kids are doing much better academically, and likely socially, being homeschooled. It is a lot of work, though! Tons of classes and activities to get them to each week.

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