A few years ago, I started this feature, Real Geek Girls, with the goal of showing the world that girls can be geeky. I noticed that there was always some sort of critique of women being geeky and if it was real or just for show. I’m excited to bring this feature back and showcase some more amazing women. Every now and again, I’ll interview a new geek girl just to highlight how many of us are out there and how real we are all. We come in all shapes and sizes and love many geeky things. I’m going to continue to show the world that there are real geek girls, and they know as much, if not more than the somehow more revered geek guy.
Meet Erica Schultz. She’s a Ringo Award-nominated comic book writer, illustrator, and letterer. She’s also an instructor at The Kubert School.
Check out our interview below:
What does being a geek mean to you?
To be honest, I don’t really know what life would be like if I wasn’t a geek about something. That said, being a geek to me means just being myself. I think the term “geek” can be applied to any type of fandom from comics to sports to mountain climbing. It gets disparaging when you have the image of the weak nerd with glasses who’s constantly pushed around by the jocks. But for the record, Flash Thompson was the jock, and he was Spidey’s biggest fan, so he was a geek, too!
Now that comics and comics properties are mainstream now, isn’t everyone a geek about something?
What’s your opinion of women still having to prove their love for something is genuine and not fake?
Sam Maggs has a great book called The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks that I think everyone should read. It gives you the confidence to fly your flag high and proud.
I think the idea of having to “prove” your love for fandom is garbage. I’ve been given quizzes at conventions about stuff, and it’s annoying. But honestly, you’re going to find gatekeeping in anything from sports to comics to music to people who build computers. There’s no shortage of know-it-alls who want to prove they’re better than you. The key is to just hold your head high and say, “I like what I like, and you like what you like. And both are fine.”
If social media has taught me one thing, it’s that you’re not alone in whatever it is you like.
When did your love of comic books and writing them to begin? (Including the fact that you also are a letterer and editor)
I’ve always loved stories and storytelling since as far back as I can remember. I’d watch TV and movies and rewrite them in my head, so good or bad, I had wanted to be a storyteller from the start.
My brother’s comics were the first ones I read because they were accessible (and free). Batman, Spidey, X-Men were the main pulls, but I never thought of comics as a career until 2008 when I was working in a studio in New York on the Astonishing X-Men motion comic “Gifted.” That’s when the lightbulb went off that this is a real job. It’s not easy, let me just tell you that. Anyone can do anything, but not everyone can do it for a living. It’s hard work and takes more than just loving comics. So to anyone who is thinking comics are easy, I’d suggest taking some classes in comics and comics production as well as in writing and storytelling.
Who are some of your comic book writing idols?
At the top of my list is Kelly Sue Kelly Sue DeConnick’s work. From Bitch Planet to Captain Marvel to Pretty Deadly, she just has an incredible grasp of storytelling. Ed Brubaker wrote some of the best Captain America arcs ever. Gail Simone’s work on Batgirl is always a great read. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Chris Claremont, as his work on X-Men that I grew up reading.
Tell us a little about your work on Forgotten Home, Strange Tails, M3, and Twelve Devil’s Dancing.
Well, all these books vary a lot. Because M3 was the first book I wrote, I was kind of pigeonholed as a crime writer. Sure, I love crime thrillers, and I would read a lot of Tom Clancy growing up, but I never really wanted to be pegged as one type of writer or another.
M3 was the first comic I created with Vicente Alcázar. You can tell that I was finding my voice while writing it. I didn’t know what the rules were to writing, so I didn’t know if/when I was breaking them. That was very freeing in one sense. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.
Twelve Devils Dancing is also a crime thriller, and I think much more technically buttoned-up than M3. I enjoyed writing both books, but Twelve Devils allowed me to delve into the horror genre. Think Silence of the Lambs or The Following. Dave Acosta and Andrew Covalt were the artists on it, and they really did a terrific job.
Strange Tails is a collaboration with artist Claire Connelly with colors by Liana Kangas, Gab Contreras, and Matt Emmons. Claire and I like to work on bizarre, out-there concepts that no one would think could work…until they do. It was even nominated for a Ringo Award last year (2020) for best anthology. Strange Tails combines three stories that are fun, irreverent, and probably not for those without a sense of humor. Like the back of the book says, “Space Lobsters! Dinosaurs! Forbidden Love!” There’s a little something for everyone.
The most recent creator-owned book out is the urban fantasy story, Forgotten Home (which was nominated for five Ringo Awards last year). It was the most challenging to write as it’s an eight-issue arc. There’s a lot of characters, subtext, and plot threads to juggle in the book. I think we did a good job, though. Marika Crest (line art), Natasha Alterici (covers), and Cardinal Rae (letters) were all nominated for Ringo Awards, and Matt Emmons did such a fantastic job on colors. The story mainly deals with family and fighting for your own place in the world.
The story follows a princess who escapes her homeworld and comes to Earth to try and avoid destiny. Years pass, but destiny catches up with her.
Tell us a little about the Legacy of Mandrake.
Despite what some may think, Legacy of Mandrake isn’t a reboot of the old Mandrake comic strips but a story that adds to the richness of that world. Mandragora Costanza Terrado Paz is a young woman who has to navigate high school bullies and having magic. It was really fun to write about a young woman finding herself and making a name for herself getting out from under the shadow of a famous magician. One of the characters from Forgotten Home, Joanna, was younger but similar to Mandy in the sense that she’s trying to figure out where she fits in the world. I think that’s a real universal idea for anyone, but especially young women.
Is there a comic book publisher you’d like to work with that you haven’t yet?
I’d love to work with AWA, AfterShock, TKO, or Vault… I was fortunate to work with Marvel a few times and DC, but I’d love the opportunity to play in those sandboxes again.
You’re also an instructor for The Kubert School, what do you teach and what’s it been like balancing teaching and working on comic books?
My third-year classes are called Writing and Imaginative Drawing and my second-year classes are called Story Adaptation. For the second-year students, I focus on interpreting scripts and storytelling through imagery. All the stories they create are original, but they’re given prompts and specs to work from.
For the third-year students, it’s much more academic with theories of writing, and scripting original stories. We cover Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and other methods of storytelling and analyze texts and films to determine why they really hit when they did. The scripts they write are without prompts where they really have to focus and flex their creative muscles.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
Telekinesis because I’m lazy.
Are you working on anything right now or will do in the future that we can look forward to?
I have several projects in the hopper right now, but I can’t announce any of them yet, sadly. Just know I’m collaborating with some incredible talents!
What’s your advice for all the geeky girls out there who are afraid or embarrassed to show off how geeky they are?
You can’t control what people think of you, but you can control how you let that affect you. Like what you want to like. Be yourself. Just be kind.