Cecil Castellucci is making her move at DC from the world of Young Animal with “Shade, the Changing Girl” and “Shade, the Changing Woman” to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World with “Female Furies.” Two issues in, the six-issue miniseries is retelling key parts of that saga from the perspective of the women in the tale. Granny Goodness and her Furies like Big Barda Aurelie are getting the highlight in this new series that shines the light on a different side of this tale, putting the women front and center. We sat down with Castellucci at C2E2 recently to discuss her and artist Adriana Melo’s take on these characters, what it’s like crafting this “new history” and the importance of telling stories that put women front and center.
Cecil thank you for taking the time to do this. So we’re here to talk about “Female Furies.” You’re playing in Jack Kirby’s Fourth World. You said yesterday on the DC panel you were on, you said, “As a woman you wanted to look at the invisible cracks that haven’t been looked at before” with this book. Can you say a little bit more about that comment and talk about what you meant by it?
Cecil Castellucci: Sure! So when you look at the whole Fourth World, like if you read the entire “Fourth World Omnibus” and stuff like that, while you have Granny Goodness and you have the Female Furies and you have Beautiful Dreamer and some of the other women that are there, they’re very secondary. Really the story is a lot about fathers and sons and the men and wars and battle and betrayals, but it’s really heavily centered on the male experience. And so, what I was really interested in was how did Granny get to be who she is? Why do the Female Furies seem to not really be at the center of everything if they’re so badass you know? So those are the cracks that I was kind of looking for.
I mean in a way I did the same thing with “Shade, the Changing Girl.” Although I was not doing Rac Shade and I had my own character that I was doing, I was still trying to look at a different space than [Peter] Milligan did or [Steve] Ditko did and sort of try to fill in another aspect of madness and humanity and stuff like that.
So then what changes then if we tell the story of the Fourth World Saga, this sort of cosmic grand narrative about good and evil from the Female Furies perspective? Obviously it’s less a story about fathers and sons, but what is the driving thing then?
CC: Well I think the driving thing then is about evil and darkness and about equality. To be equal in your terribleness [Laughs]. There’s no reason why Granny couldn’t be running Apokalips. She certainly could you know. I think it’s about telling stories that have not had the voice before. When you look at any fractured fairy tale, you’re looking at a story from a different point of view and those characters are enhanced by that fleshing out. So that’s what we’re trying to do. Does that answer your question? Does that make any sense?
CC:I don’t know it’s a hard thing to do when you’re dealing with a planet that’s “hell planet and villains” to be like “Because, goodness!” Not Granny but like just…you know they’re all terrible, whatever. But I think it’s more about evening the playing field for horribleness.
Evening the playing field for horribleness. That should be on the front of the book [Laughs]
CC: [Laughs] Right.
What sort of work then did you have to do, in researching and reading about the Fourth World to sort of build out this different perspective?
CC: Yeah, so one thing that I knew going in I was going to do a feminist take on this. To try to have an awakening of some kind on Apokalips. My first sort of idea, or inciting idea that I had, was sort of Handmaid’s Tale kind of situation. But that felt very passive. So #MeToo felt more active, awakening, more in line with the Female Furies. So I knew that going in.Continued below
Dan DiDio gave me the “Fourth World Omnibus.” I had known, I knew, Mister Miracle and Big Barda and Darkseid, but I didn’t know the sort of whole breadth of the entire Fourth World. And I read it. I read the whole thing. If you look at my 1,400 page book it’s just packed with post-it-notes, because Kirby was such a master worldbuilder and he seeded in so many different ideas that I could’ve plucked on. But when I read “Mister Miracle” #9 and discovered the character of Aurelie and what happens to her, I knew that that was a story I could expand that felt very female-centric. You can’t have Big Barda and Mister Miracle if you don’t have that story. So for me that just seemed to me to be a very obvious jumping-off point. So then I went back and looked through the “New Gods” and “Jimmy Olsen” and like everything to see…well not really “Jimmy Olsen.” He’s not really in there. The Female Furies aren’t really in there. But I went back to look for moments that I could pull from. Everything that I’m doing in the book, there’s pretty much a panel somewhere in one of the stories in the omnibus that I can be like “Well that’s where I pulled this from.” “That’s where I pulled this from.” So it’s just, you know, doing my research and then trying to stake my own ground. Forge my own path.
I was curious, so in in other interviews you’ve mentioned Handmaid’s Tales and the #MeToo movement but are there other sorts of historical narratives or philosophy be it feminist philosophy or otherwise, that you’re pulling from outside of just our current world climate?
CC: I mean, I’m sure I am, just in the fact that I am a woman who is a thinker who lives on the planet and who reads books and pays attention. But I don’t think there’s anything sort of specifically. But you know, yeah for sure you look at any woman across time who was the only woman who was doing her thing. That’s what this is right. Granny, she’s the only woman at the table on that thing.
Look at, for example, my mother is a scientist. She couldn’t…she had to petition the school for two years before they would accept her to go into that program, that science program. That wasn’t so long ago. You know what I mean? It’s like that sort of exhaustion you know. I mean the suffragist movement. Woman have only had the vote for like 100 years. Things like that I’m pulling on unconsciously from.
There’s so much going on in book and these issues that are really powerful. We see characters dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault, we see power and privilege being abused and misused by men and even by Granny Goodness. It’s Granny that’s maybe the most fascinating character. You’ve made her a sympathetic character. She’s human. She has human motivations. She’s not just this sort of dangling evil person in the background of this story.
CC: Yeah thank you.
What went in to trying to do that and to build in in this powerful experience to bring that humanity into Granny and her story?
CC: Well I mean I think that’s what we do as storytellers. I mean you look at what Tom [King] did with “Mister MIracle” and he brought in the humanity to Mister Miracle and Barda and all the characters in that situation too. I mean for me it was like with Granny, I feel like she is a real tragic character. I think she could very well be in charge of Apokalips, but has never been given the opportunity. And she knows she’s been the only woman at the table so she’ll do whatever she can to keep power. And I think she’s paid a very steep price for that. She can’t understand why the Female Furies don’t appreciate what she’s done for them. I think that, when you look at like Greek gods. Even though they’re Green gods or Roman gods or Norse gods, they all have these sort of human tragedies. I think it’s the same thing here you know?Continued below
I think that’s what’s so great about comics. In something like the Fourth World it’s got, like I said yesterday, those are our mythologies, and so they’re very flexible in the way they can take a beating. Those characters can take a beating and be reinvented in many, many different ways.
Yeah, yeah. It’s just so…my image for Granny Goodness before this was just Ed Asner in Batman: The Animated Series, and even then, she’s voiced by a man, and she’s just this character that’s sort of in the background being mysterious.
CC: Right. And she’s also a caricature. You know what I mean? Even in Kirby’s, because I am just basically sticking to, that’s what I’m using as my golden book, even in there she’s two-dimensional. She’s like “AH HA HA” and saying all these amazing, crazy things, but you don’t really…you have more sympathy for Darkseid. You have more sympathy for all the boys. But you wonder, who are you Granny?
One of the really cool things with this book is that, you’re telling this history and story from a new perspective, but the art very much homages Kirby. It’s very 80s. It just makes the whole thing seamless. It makes it feel like this story is being told in this period. What’s it like working with artist Adriana Melo and getting to craft that aesthetic?
CC: I love working with Adriana Melo. I just think she’s just knocking it out of the park and our collaboration I think is really special. We text each other and I love how much care she takes with these hard moments that happen. And I think that’s really important. She’s doesn’t pull any punches, but she doesn’t get too gratuitous in any way, but they’re hard to look at still. I think that, I feel like, she’s honoring Kirby’s style with making it her own. I think too we have to give a shoutout to Hi-Fi too with their coloring, because I love the fact that the coloring is not like…when it goes to flashbacks it’s not sepia it’s bright color. I think that makes it also, in a way, a little bit easier to take. Sometimes when something is too dark, you’re like oh my God, but with these bright colors it’s like “Okay there’s some happiness in there somewhere.”
So wrapping up, I would love to hear from you, why is it important that we tell stories like the one you’re telling with “Female Furies”? Why is it important that we tell these kinds of stories?
CC: I think it’s important because, there are a lot of people on the planet who have not had their stories told. Have not been the center of their stories. I think that the great thing about stories is that there’s room for all stories. So retelling a story from the Female Furies point of view, enhancing and expanding their role in this wonderful world, is important. Just like there are other characters that could also have their story told from their point of view . I like to think of it as like Wicked from the The Wizard of Oz or Maleficent or something like that, where you’re telling the story from an opposite lens which actually makes the whole story better. I think we all win as consumers of stories. I don’t mean just as an economy, but as people who love stories, as society. Our entire history is based on storytelling. I think we all win when every story is told.
Well thank you for taking the time to do this. Issue 3 is out in 2 weeks, but anything you want to talk about or tease or talk about or promote going on at DC or in general?
CC: In general I have the “The Plain Janes,” which is coming back out. It’s gonna be an omnibus. So book one and two and a new book three with Jim Rugg. I’m really really proud of that. That comes out in January.
And then I’m doing “Snow White” with Dark Horse, and it’s just the point of view of Snow White. It’s just her story without cutting to anyone else. That’s a three-issue miniseries that comes out in June and I’m really proud of that. There are a couple of other things that are coming too that I can’t say but they’re gonna be amazing!Continued below
“Female Furies” #3 hits shelves tomorrow. You can head on over to Den of Geek for a preview of the issue.