An introduction to the author of The SUPERGIRLS: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, & the History of Comic Book Heroines (Exterminating Angel Press, 2009). Readers of Mike Madrid’s The SUPERGIRLS will note that the discussion moves forward chronologically by decade, from the 1940s through “2000 and Beyond.” As pop culture editor for the Exterminating Angel Press online magazine, Madrid divulged, “I tend to always think of things in terms of other things. For instance, movies in terms of music, comics in terms of movies, or comics in terms of fashion, and how these things reflect certain decades.” He added, “everything seems to be referencing something else. Images in magazines are someone shot to look like someone from the fifties, celebrities get described as ‘the new so and so,’ and things like that. People don’t seem to want surprises anymore, and I find that sad.” Whether in the role of writer or editor, Madrid is a critical thinker, which makes his first book an entertaining and educational read.
Quick Facts on Mike Madrid
- Madrid’s website
- Home: San Francisco, California
- Comfort food: a grilled cheese sandwich, taco truck tacos—stuff like that
- Top reads/authors: the Lucia novels by EF Benson, Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz, Jonathan Ames’ short stories, Natsuo Kirino, David Sedaris
- Current reads: The Heroine’s Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore, Berlin, City of Smoke by Jason Lutes
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m finishing up a few design projects for Exterminating Angel Press. I’m also in the experimental stage with some new writing ideas.
Where did the idea for The SUPERGIRLS come from?
I’ve been reading comics all my life. I’ve always been drawn to the female characters. When I was younger and I tried to learn more about the history of comics, I noticed the books I read never really mentioned the women that much. They would mention the men or they would talk about the industry and its growth.
So, I always had this idea in the back of my mind of possibly writing something about it someday. I thought these women had really interesting stories, and I didn’t feel like they were getting enough exposure (except in terms of their costumes). A lot of books that address female characters are more about the way the women are drawn, which for a long time had been in a sort of pin-up style. I was interested in what the actual characters were like and how they evolved over the decades to reflect what was going on in the real world.
How long did it take to complete the book?
I tried writing this when I had a full-time job and it wasn’t coming together. When I left my job, I started writing some pieces on this topic for the Exterminating Angel Press online magazine. It grew from there, and wound up being more of an analytical book that wasn’t just about comic book history.
What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I want people to learn more about these characters, and what I felt they were saying about the role of women in America over the last seventy years. I’ve been happy and surprised to get letters from many women who enjoyed the book and said they were happy to learn about these characters.
Who do you picture as the ideal reader of your work?
Aside from comic book fans, I thought it would be anyone who is interested in pop culture in general, and female roles in popular culture. I tried to write it to be accessible to female readers, who I feel have found the world of comic books sort of impenetrable for a long time due to many factors. I wanted it to be written in language that anyone could relate to.
Where and when do you prefer to write?
At home, usually during those first few hours in the morning until about noon. I make a pot of tea and dig in.
Where would you most want to live and write?
I like working at home, but actually I would like to spend some time in Berlin. I’ve been going there the last few years and I’d like to be able to stay longer and try writing there. It’s an inspiring place.
Do you listen to anything when you work?
I do when I’m doing book design work. But if I’m writing, I can’t really concentrate with music going.
Do you have a philosophy for how and why you write?
With this book, I felt like I had a certain amount of knowledge on the subject, and I had an opinion on it that I was interested in sharing.
How do you balance content with form?
I tried to approach The SUPERGIRLS in a conversational way. I wanted my ideas to be presented in a way that was easy for people to understand, without having the book become too convoluted by the historical information included.
Is there a quote about writing that motivates you?
My eleventh grade high school English teacher used to keep a quote up on the blackboard: “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” Underneath that he would write, “Read. Think. Write.”
It’s pretty basic, but it’s what I tried to follow when I was working on this book.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Number one, just do it. Then find someone you trust, whose opinion you respect, to give you some good feedback. Don’t assume that you’re great right off the bat.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a writer?
My editor at Exterminating Angel Press, Tod Davies, told me to “write what you feel strongly about.” Working on this book, I had a tendency to put things in that I thought should be there to be comprehensive. Tod could tell the difference between what I was really interested in and what I thought was supposed to be in the book. Her advice really helped to focus me.
What book do you wish you owned a first edition of?
For a book, Mythology by Edith Hamilton. For a comic, Sensation Comics #1, with the first appearance of Wonder Woman’s story.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
Getting past the anxiety of putting myself out there and presenting my ideas—you know, setting yourself up for criticism.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
I love to travel. I volunteer at the de Young Museum. I love being around art and making stuff.
About Mike Madrid
Mike Madrid, a San Francisco-based refugee from the advertising world, is a lifelong fan of comic books and popular culture. He is the creator of heaven4heroes.com, where comic book fantasies come to life. He loves rock ‘n’ roll.
[Toffoli, Marissa B. “Interview With Writer Mike Madrid.” Words With Writers (November 1, 2010), https://wordswithwriters.com/2010/11/01/mike-madrid/.%5D