Feb 27 2015
BlackComicsMonth has an incredible interview for you today, for day 27! You’re about to be introduced to the awesomeness of Mikki Kendall. If you don’t know who this woman is, you will soon. On February 17th, it was announced that Mikki Kendall will be writing a Swords of Sorrow comic for Dynamite Entertainment, spearheaded by Gail Simone, which will be released later this year! This is Kendall’s first comic project and she took time out of her busy schedule to chop it up with me for #BlackComicsMonth. Not only did we talk about Swords of Sorrow, we also touched on trauma and mental illness in the black community.
Let’s dive in!
MizCaramelVixen: I won’t lie, I had no idea who you were until Gail (Simone) hit me up via DM and said “you might wanna talk to Karnythia, she’s amazing.” of course I do whatever Gail says, who wouldn’t. After following you on twitter, I realized you were enjoyable. I stalked your website, shed some thug tears and knew she was right.
Can you tell me a little…or a lot about yourself?
Mikki Kendall: Gail has been my comics godmother. I’m from Chicago, a geeky girl in every sense of the word. Literally my nickname as a kid was Books because I was always reading. I didn’t have the best childhood and reading was always an escape for me. So I am heavily informed by a broad cross section of genres from psych case studies, mysteries, romance to sci-fi. And I have always loved comics.
This is like a lightning strike though, because I never thought I’d be writing comics.
MCV: I was also one whose childhood was crappy and found my escape through reading comics and Stephen King. What kind of comics did you read?
MK: Heavy on the Wonder Woman, X-Men, lots of random What If books (no idea why but I had a thing for them). Some Superman and Batman, but usually the books with Catwoman, Poison Ivy or Harley Quinn, along with indies and Image Comics.
I liked Wild Cats and I know that makes me one of like 45 people.
MCV: Girl Power! Definitely 45, can’t give you the 46, sorry.
MK: Yep, Storm is still one of my faves. No, I accept that I am an outlier. I also prefer graphic novels to monthly books. I’m so weird.
MCV: How did you get involved with writing comics?
MK: So this is one of those “I was discovered in a comic store” stories.
I met Gail (Simone) while she was in Chicago doing a signing and we’d talked online previously, so I made her gluten free triple chocolate cupcakes and brought them to her. She asked if I wrote too and I said something about writing weird sci-fi and Gail asked to see it. I thought she was just being nice, but she asked again and I sent her links to a couple of things.
She liked it, asked if I had any interest in writing comics. I said yes (totally expected that to go nowhere) and then when this [Swords of Sorrow] came up, she asked if I’d be interested. I honestly thought Dynamite would say no. I’m best known for non fiction, kind of known for fiction, but not really and yet….they were willing to give me a shot.
MCV: FLOORED!!! Literally my mouth has hit the floor!!!!
MK: I absolutely love Gail. Admittedly I am published already, with an MA in writing and I have my own audience.
MCV: Gail Simone handpicked YOU, Mikki Kendall, to be involved with Swords of Sorrow! You just won the Super Bowl, you know that right?
MK: Oh absolutely.
MCV: Tell us, what have you written?
MK: I wrote this story, If God is Watching. I’ve also written a lesbian steampunk anthology titled, “Copper for Trickster”. I have a ton of fan fiction and flash fiction scattered around. I’ve also written for Ebony, Essence, Xo Jane, NPR, The Guardian and Salon. My non fiction list is really long.
MCV: Résumé game STRONG! I am impressed. Congratulations! Are you still pinching yourself?
MK: I’m hoping to make it stronger! I did a lot of running and yelling to be honest, like in circles around my house.
MCV: What can you tell us about your upcoming stint with Swords of Sorrow? Will you be writing a full series by yourself or with someone and is your character already well-known from any Dynamite series?
MK: I’m writing a one shot in the event, very pulpy, all by myself. Yes, I have characters who have not been named, but who are already part of the Dynamite world.
MCV: Who’s your wonderful artist on the one shot or can you not divulge secrets yet?
MK: I can’t say yet. I literally just turned in my final script last week.
MCV: How exciting! How long has this been in the works and how long did it take you to write the script?
MK: It’s been in the works for a good six plus months. I wrote my first draft in about three days. Some changes and character questions added another two weeks or so. I am often a one shot writer. I’ll knock out several thousand words in one day and then edit over and over again.
MCV: Simply amazing and in awe over your talent! Is there a beautiful, black, strong kickass woman in your one shot?
MK: Aww thank you. My first draft was rough though, I have comma problems that are kind of hilarious. There might be…plot twists and spoilers lie that way.
MCV: Oh yeah. You’re definitely in the comic book world now, carefully worded answers, trying to not spoil anything.
MK: Hee! I’m learning to keep so many secrets from this process.
MCV: Now that you’ve written this great one shot for Dynamite, can we expect more comics from you? Have you gotten bit by the “comic bug”?
MK: I hope so, I really did enjoy this. I admit, this has been a master class in so many ways.
MCV: Gail has been such an amazing woman boosting BlackComicsMonth, to hear that she was the driving force behind getting you into Dynamite, warms my heart. Her love for women…diverse women is a beautiful thing.
MK: Gail is a rock star. Like let me say that again. A ROCK STAR!!!
MCV: I want to switch gears on comics for a second and talk about what I’ve seen on your site, HoodFeminism. You speak about the abuse you’ve endured as a child and as an adult, on your site and on twitter. As someone who’s been through the same thing, I commend you for sharing. I know it’s hard.
How has writing about what’s happened in your life made you a better person? Has it helped you process what has happened? I’m pretty sure you receive messages from people thanking you for sharing. I’m sure you know this, but you’re an inspiration.
MK: I write to process and also to refute certain things. When I was a kid and young adult, I rarely saw people like me in media. I think that when we erase the process of getting better, we make it harder for survivors. I also think the myth of the “perfect survivor” is the shittiest lie ever told to people who have been hurt. Along with being told that we are all more than our traumas…but we can’t know that, can’t be sure of that, if all we see is trauma or healed with nothing between. Survival is messy. It doesn’t look like super strength or an eternal break with yourself. It’s a wound and it leaves scars, but I think we can all heal, even if that healing looks different from what is expected.
MCV: I agree!!!! I love reading what you wrote on HoodFeminism, even tho it hit me in places where I thought I was “over” it…clearly, I wasn’t.
MK: I’m both glad and sad of that. I don’t want to awaken old pains, but for a lot of us we bury hurt, we don’t deal with it.
MCV: Absolutely and that’s why they awaken. I haven’t dealt with it, even tho I “swore” I did. I am a mental health advocate, I stan for people getting therapy, it’s needed especially when dealing with trauma.
MK: Yep. I warn people pretty often about touching me. Doing convention stuff taught me that I am still not okay with that. And also knowing that therapy won’t make it all go away.
MCV: It won’t and that’s what needs to be really drummed into our heads. It won’t go away, but it will make things better at times and it will also make things crappier at times. I hate doing comic cons, but I have to because it’s what I do for VixenVarsity. Meds help me, but even still…I shriek inside when I see someone about to touch me.
MK: I bring my husband with me and I’ve learned to con with friends. We call it “The Bubble.”
What can we do to eliminate the stigma of mental illness in our community?
MK: I think talking about it and showing that having PTSD, anxiety or whatever, isn’t something to be ashamed of. Access to care is also important and that caregivers should be culturally sensitive.
MCV: Last few questions and I’ll let you go.
What can we expect from you in the future? When will your one shot be out? Are you doing any in the near future and last but not least, plug any and everything you possibly can!
MK: I’ll be on a Nerd Girl Panel for Rutgers Geek Week in March, two C2E2 panels in April. I’m co-editing a sci-fi anthology for marginalized people called Hidden Youth, the deadline to submit to that is in April. I’m co-chairing WisCon in May, which is the oldest feminist sci-fi con celebrating its 39th year this year. I’ll be in Readercon in Boston in July and speaking at Queens College in NYC, next month before Rutgers. I East Coast it a lot!
I will say that I believe my book in Swords of Sorrow will be out in September, if I am counting the months right and they stick to the preliminary schedule that I’ve seen.
Welp, that’s all folks! Isn’t Mikki lowkey, maybe highkey dope?!? I am so looking forward to this Swords of Sorrow one shot! Mikki keeps me in stitches on Twitter and she touches on some topics that will lead into thought provoking discussions. Her latest hashtag trend #BlackGirlsAlwaysClapBack has spawned a few t-shirts on TeeSpring.