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DF Interview: Ryan North goes nuts with new Squirrel Girl book
By Byron Brewer
The joke behind Squirrel Girl, created by Will Murray and Steve Ditko, was that she’s an unlikely hero who looks sort of ridiculous in her furry mammal costume, yet somehow she proves unbeatable against every dangerous villain or crazed maniac she meets. One may wonder if the gimmick has the sticking power to support an ongoing series, coming in January from Ryan North and Erica Henderson. It’s worked pretty well for Batman for the last 75 years, no?
Following in the mold of Rocket Raccoon, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl capitalizes on Marvel Comics’ more unseemly, cartoonish characters. Successfully so, if Rocket is any example (even sans blockbuster film).
To get the 411, Dynamic Forces climbed the nearest tree and talked with scribe North. Here’s what we got, in a nuthshell.
Dynamic Forces: Often thought of as an oddball creation, this former Great Lakes Avenger has gained a lot of respect in recent days. Ryan, tell us how this book came about and how you came to be associated with it.
Ryan North: There was a time when this book was just a twinkle in my editor Wil Moss's eye. One Friday he asked me, hypothetically speaking, what a Squirrel Girl comic I wrote would look like. At first I had the same reaction I'm sure everyone had: a Squirrel Girl book? THAT IS CRAZY! "Nuts", if you will.
But by the time the weekend was over I knew two things: I really wanted there to be a Squirrel Girl book, and I really wanted to be the guy writing it. She's such a great character with so much potential for fun. I sent Wil an outline that featured her going up against Galactus because OBVIOUSLY she would do that, and the rest is (very recent) history.
DF: From the covers, can I assume that Squirrel Girl is an all ages type of Marvel Comics adventure? Or is its continuity rooted in the superheroic 616?
Ryan North: Oh it's rooted in the classic Marvel 616 world! Squirrel Girl is funny characters, but she's not a joke character. Her adventures are as real as Spider-Man’s, maybe even REALER, since Spider-Man very rarely calls upon his spider friends to coat his enemies in spiders.
That's probably for the best.
It's also an all-ages book. Here's my thing with all ages: it doesn't mean "for kids", it means you're writing for all ages, including adults. And my secret to writing all ages comics is I just write a book like I would any other -- I try to make it as awesome as I can, as usual -- and then I just make sure everyone keeps their clothes on in the story and nobody swears. That's it. So don't think "all ages means Squirrel Girl is for kids", think "all ages means Squirrel Girl is not going to be running around naked calling people horrible racial epithets." If that's disappointing to anyone ... sorry. But not really, actually.
DF: For the uninitiated, what exactly are Squirrel Girl's powers?
Ryan North: Pretty much what it says on the tin!
Squirrel Girl’s powers:
- Squirrel agility
- Leap hecka far
- Prehensile squirrel tail
- Squirrel strength
- Sharp retractable claws
- Can talk to squirrels
- Can chew through wood, if that ever comes up
- AND MORE
DF: After establishing the character in her own title, can you tell us the book's direction?
Ryan North: We've seen Doreen Green take down the greatest villains in the Marvel Universe, but we don't have a really good sense of who she is when she's not saving the universe. Who are her friends? What does she like, besides nuts obviously? So this book is a great chance to flesh out her character more while also having her save the universe like it isn't even a big deal.
And a lot of the fun comes from, in the past, Squirrel Girl normally beating her enemies "off-screen": like, we see the fight, but then we cut back and she's won. Not always, of course: we've seen her take down Doctor Doom and beat up Wolverine, but a lot of the time we don't get to see precisely how she pulls off these amazing victories with just her squirrel powers. That works for a joke but I can't do that all the time in an ongoing series, so I get to figure out and show people how she ACTUALLY pulls off these amazing victories.
DF: Why is Erica Henderson the right artist for this book?
Ryan North: She's so great. Very early on we agreed we wanted to redesign her costume and look, and Erica she sent in a bunch of concept sketches of what Squirrel Girl could look like. And these sketches were so fresh, so full of personality, that I kept them up on one monitor while I was writing the first issue. First issues are tricky: it can be hard to find a character's voice while you're trying to keep so many balls up in the air, but whenever I had a question I could just glance over and think "Would THAT person do THIS?" and it made writing the issue a lot easier.
Erica has a great sense of humor and pacing, which is great when it comes to layouts, and the way she draws the characters is realistic, but also really accessible and cute. The first issue hasn't even come out yet and already I can't imagine doing the book any other way with anyone else.
DF: What else can we expect in the future from the talented keyboard of Ryan North?
Ryan North: More comics! ALL THE COMICS! And I'm just finishing up the second draft of my next book, "Romeo And/Or Juliet", the choose-your-own-path version of Shakespeare's play. It's the sequel to "To Be or Not To Be", my choose-your-own-path version of Hamlet. It's even crazier.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Ryan North for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 debuts from Marvel Comics in January!
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