Women in Horror: Trail of Blood at Marvel Comics
It’s Women in Horror Month. BOO! And since this spooky #endowarrior can’t participate in the horror month’s blood drive this year, she thought a great way to celebrate is by honoring the women of horror at Marvel Comics!
Women in Horror Month
Women in Horror Month (WiHM) started as a grassroots initiative to celebrate the women who love horror. So for the past 11 years, each February, it’s offered horror fans an opportunity to celebrate the women who make the horror we love. So, if that sounds like you, there are still 18 days left in the month to check out events online or to plan one of your own!
But first, here’s a look at some of the women of horror who helped to shape Marvel over the years.
Laurell K. Hamilton – Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter
Laurell K. Hamilton is an American horror writer best known as the author of Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter and Merry Gentry, with more than six million copies of her New York Times-bestselling Anita Blake novels in print. According to the author’s page, “both fantasy series follow their protagonists as they gain in power and deal with the dangerous ‘realities’ of worlds in which creatures of legend live.”
In 2007, Marvel Comics offered Hamilton the opportunity to adapt her bestselling series into a stunning visual affair with artist Brett Booth (Fantastic Four, X-Men), adapters Stacie Ritchie and Jesse Ruffner-Booth, letterer Bill Tortolini, and colorist Matt Moylan.
Marvel’s adaptation takes places in a world were vampires and werewolves have been declared legal citizens of the United States. Anita Blake is a professional “animator” who has the power to create life (or take it away), and she does it for a price.
Stacy Osei-Kuffour – Blade, Vampire Hunter
A few days ago, MarvelBlog announced that Marvel Studios hired Stacy Osei-Kuffour as the head writer for the forthcoming Blade, the Vampire Slayer (the feature-length reboot about the vampire-hunting hero, starring Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali as Blade).
Osei-Kuffour is a fast-rising screenwriter from Chicago, Illinois, who aims to challenge political, societal, and stereotypical views of the Black experience in her work. When she received an Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Writer for a Comedy Series for her work on PEN15, she was only the third Black woman to be nominated in this category in the award show’s 70 year history.
But it’s her work on the Amazon’s Hunters, and what that might mean for the upcoming Blade reboot, that earned her a place in the Women of Horror list.
To me, Hunters is a story of real world horror, and it doesn’t shy away from depicting the brutalities of the Holocaust, or the post-WWII antisemitic sentiment in American society. (However, for people outside the Jewish community, it’s important to remember that my opinion is not universal, and the issue is complicated.)
And I cannot confirm this, but for a writer who wants to tell stories about POC characters that people haven’t heard before, it makes sense that Osei-Kuffour would sign on to explore the story of Operation Paperclip with Jerrika Hinton.
Seanan McGuire – Gwenom v. Carnage
Seanan McGuire is best known as the author of the fantasy series October Daye and InCryptid, and she writes darker fiction under the pen name Mira Grant. Even before being conscripted into the Venom-verse, her work has always showed a fascination with the slithery. According to the author’s biography, her work is “often described as a vortex of the surreal” that ends with anecdotes like “and then we got the anti-venom” or “but it’s okay, because it turned out the water wasn’t that deep.”
And maybe her fascination with the creepy crawly is shaped by having spent her formative years homeless in Northern California – a situation she is terrified of ending up in again. Although she has publicly stated that she won’t discuss her trauma in her work, it hasn’t stopped her from fighting to make marginalized members of the community feel more welcome, especially in comic book stores.
In her latest work from Marvel Comics, Gwenom vs. Carnage with art by F. Flaviano, Ghost-Spider (A.K.A. Gwen Stacy of Earth-65) will enter the fray against the Symbiote God Knull. When Knull descends on Gwen’s adopted home, his gravity well of dark psychic energy will reap unforeseen consequences not only on Gwen, but on her symbiotic suit as well!
Yusaku Komiyama – Marvel Zombies
Yusaku Komiyama is a Japanese cartoonist who is best known for her work on the Lost Stars manga adaptation of the 2015 Claudia Gray book of the same name.
However, she also wrote the manga adaptation of Zombies: Assemble in 2017. In the comic, the Avengers, who miraculously haven’t been turned, face a zombie outbreak of Romero-sized proportions and they must save the planet. Earth’s Mighiest Heroes come face to face with a mysterious scientist who promises he has a cure for the mysterious disese raising the dead, but can the remaining Avengers trust him?
Ann Nocenti – Typhoid Mary
Anne Nocenti is a prolific comic book writer and editor. At Marvel Comics, Nocenti helped to create some of the scariest characters in comics with artists John Romita Jr. and Art Adams, such as Typhoid Mary, Mojo, and Spiral. She is well-known for her outspoken political beliefs and regularly includes them in her work, which sometimes causes conflict with the editors at Marvel, but are essential components of her horror stories.
Horror often reflects cultural fears, serving double duty as entertainment and a window into the darkest parts of society. Nocenti told Kuljit Mithra at Man Without Fear that in her work she often explores themes of her “love/hate relationship with living in this liberating/oppressive, humanitarian/imperialistic, sweet/rotten apple pie country.”
Given that writing philosophy, it’s no wonder Nocenti has created some of the best horror characters in Marvel comics, and my personal favorite is Mary Walker (A.K.A. Typhoid Mary). In the comics, Typhoid Mary has low-level powers and telekinesis, but mostly, she is there to shatter stereotypes about women.
Nocenti once said, “I think I wanted to shatter the female stereotypes – virgin, whore, bitch, ditz, feminist, girl scout, all-suffering mother, et al. – into tiny fragments and yet keep all the pieces in the same little female bundle. I guess there’s a bit of Typhoid in me, which I imagine always keeps my boyfriends happy in a maddening sort of way.”
Once again, her characters show how women have shaped horror and redefined the genre, especially Typhoid Mary, the woman who defended women. In Marvel Comics Presents #150-151 by Nocenti, Steve Lightle, and Fred Harper did a two-part comic in which a young girl, a mutant empath, is taken by a group that takes advantage of young powered kids. It’s a weird story and an important one. It’s worth shouting-out for its positive depiction of a trans character, which is definitely unique for a superhero comic.
Sylv and Jen Soska – Black Widow
Canadian filmmakers Sylvia Soska and Jen Soska are the minds behind Twisted Twins Productions, and they often write and produce sadistically unpredictable films. The twins first broke onto the horror scene with a do-it-yourself love letter to Grindhouse film making that quickly became a cult classic sensation, and followed-up with American Mary about body modification.
Avid comic book fans, the Soska Sisters teamed up with Daniel Way (Deadpool, Daken) to create their own very graphic novel entitled KILL-CRAZY NYMPHOS ATTACK! with artist Rob Dumo and cover artist Dave Johnson, described as “a pitch black satire on patriarchal society and women’s roles within it.”
At Marvel Comics, the twins have wrote 2019’s Black Widow run, with Vero Gandini (colorist), F. Flaviano (inker), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). After being killed by the evil version of Steve Rogers, the story explores Natasha Romanoff’s return from the dead.
Emma Caulfield Ford – Dottie
The second episode of the enigmatic series WandaVision introduced audiences to Dottie, played by Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum Emma Caulfield Ford. (Also, a quick shout out to the screenwriter, Jac Shaeffer, behind the MCU series for creating such a hauntingly funny show.)
As the bunny-hating vengeance demon Anyanka (A.K.A. Anya Jenkins), Caulfield charmed audiences on Buffy by providing much-needed levity to the overly serious Scooby Gang. Quickly, Anya became a fan favorite because of her quirks and her man-hating ways, and during her long-term relationship with Nicholas Brendon‘s Xander Harris, his character even became somewhat bearable.
Since the show’s finale the star has gone on to lend her talents to several other horror projects, including 2003’s Darkness Falls.
Janice Chiang – Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze
Janice Chiang is a prolific letterer, and genuine legend in the world of comics. With a career spanning three decades and thousands of comics, her work is featured in numerous horror titles, and for good reason.
Chiang deserves a place on this list because of her amazing work on Ghost Rider, which is the story of a man who makes a demonic deal to save a loved one but instead finds himself cursed by the embodiment of the Spirit of Vengeance. Apparently, according to an article by Rosie Knight at Women Write About Comics, fans have Chiang to thank for the bad a∗∗ flaming balloons in the Ghost Rider comics.
And for other Nicholas Cage fans out there…is the movie good or bad? Let’s find out with re-watch, eh? Or, you can check out this review from Bloody Disgusting.
Tananarive Due – Black Panther, Sins of the King
A leading voice in Black speculative and horror fiction for more than 20 years, Tananarive Due is an award-winning author, executive producer on Shudder’s Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror, and TV script writer for the episode “A Small Town” on the second season of The Twilight Zone on CBS All Access.
For all her amazing work, Due has won an American Book Award, an NAACP Image Award, and a British Fantasy Award, and her writing has been included in best-of-the-year anthologies.
At Marvel, Due is co-authoring a new Serial Box exclusive series, Marvel’s Black Panther: Sins of the King, with Ira Madison III, Mohale Mashigo, and Geoffrey Thorne. In the 16-episode series, Black Panther will be forced to reveal his terrible secret. However, first, he must battle both metaphorical and metaphysical demons, an army of the undead threatening Wakanda’s borders.
Who are your favorite women of horror? Let MarvelBlog know in the comments section below!