Not every superhero can sew their own costume, and with crime to fight, who has time to keep up with latest fashion trends or new developments in body armor? That’s where Zoe Porter comes in. She’s 24 years old, living in the big city and she just landed her dream job working as an assistant to Dyna Cuff, the fashion icon trusted by the world’s superheroes to design their suits.
Heroine Chic was created by David Tischman (Bite Club, True Blood, Star Trek) along with collaborators Audrey Mok (art), Tanya Horie (colors) and Taylor Esposito (letters). They post regular installments of the series online at webtoons.com.
Chapter 21 (of 26) just went live this week, so with the series reaching its conclusion, David Tischman was kind enough to join us for this interview to discuss the concept for the series, the hot-button topics it touches upon, and what it’s like to publish on the web.
What was the motivation behind creating a comic whose protagonist is a fashion designer (or rather the very talented assistant to the designer) who makes costumes for superheroes?
David Tischman: It wasn’t the superheroes or the fashion. That’s all great and fun window dressing, and it gives you touchstones to pitch Heroine Chic as The Devil Wears Prada meets The Incredibles, but I was most interested in the character of Zoe – a 24-year old fashion graduate who gets her first big-time job, a job she cares about, because it’s her first foot in the door into the industry and the career she wants most.
That’s such a great time in a person’s life. You have so much to learn, and the job’s so exciting, and the person you’re working for, chances are if they’re any good at what they do, is a bitch. To go back to comics for a minute, this is the Wayne Enterprises, and Dick Grayson just got a job as Bruce Wayne’s assistant.
I’m a guy over 40, some would say way over 40, but I just don’t believe millennial women have to be as narcissistic and self-hating and clueless as what we see on Girls. In fact, I think most women are incredibly supportive of their friends and treat them like close family, like sisters. Did you ever see this show on Amazon, Mozart in the Jungle? That’s a show where young women are trying to make their way in the world and can still support their friends.
And there’s so much talk about women in comics, and women characters — and that’s great. And those women writing and drawing comics have some great insight. At the same time, men and women are both people. Some people are nice and good, and some people are crazy and some people are funny.
At some point, genitalia doesn’t matter, and we’re all just people telling stories about other people. That’s what I’m trying to do with this book.
Are you a fan of fashion yourself, or was it something you had to research?
I like clothes more than fashion. I love looking at people, and looking at the choices they made in the clothes they put on their bodies. What we wear tells us so much about who we are. To take it back to comics again, it’s like every day we stand in front of our closets naked and decide which super-costume we’re going to put on that day.
As a writer, I know how I approach a story, the thought process that goes into the plot and the characters, and I’m fascinated by designers, and how they approach a garment. And how a good designer edits a garment is the same way a writer edits a script. I am a huge Project Runway fan.
But I’m still just a fan, so, yes, absolutely. A lot of research. And a lot of fashion magazines. Stacks of magazines and stacks of pages I’ve pulled. We give each of the characters a new outfit every chapter – not just dresses, but shoes and earrings and other accessories. And I still have to email the few people I know in fashion and say things like, “What do they call that white stuff they use to mark hems?” (It’s Tailor’s Chalk, by the way.)
The storyline has a very modern feel, incorporating a number of political and social issues, mostly centered around feminism and LGBT rights. Why is this such an important part of the story?
The Webtoons app is incredible. It’s also very specific, and you have to throw away what we’ve been taught about what’s possible on the “page.” The screen is smaller than a traditional comic-book page, unless you’re looking at it on an iPad (which is a great way to read Webtoons, by the way), but the way the panels are spaced out on your phone screen allows for captions and SFX and dialogue in and between the panels – you actually have more room for story and detail – and you’re not covering up the artwork. So it’s been a very liberating experience. I really enjoy writing for the app.
The webcomic format allows for more direct interactions with the fans, especially with the comments section below each chapter. Do you find this to be a positive thing or can it be a bit of a burden as well?
I’m actually kind of a shy guy. The first time I was at a con and someone asked me to sign a copy of a book I wrote, I was like, “Really? Why would you want that?” But the comments from the readers have been so encouraging, and so respectful – even when they don’t agree with something I’m doing.
The readers really love Zoe and Dyna, and they want the best for them. Which is huge. It means so much to me, and to our artist, Audrey Mok, and to everyone on the team. Producing a weekly chapter has been challenging, but the comments we get from the readers has also helped us to address story points. I’m really happy with the process.
The storyline is currently up to chapter 19 online, with a planned ending at chapter 26. Are you going to tie things up in a neat little bow, or will there be some dangling plot lines left unresolved?
This story has an end. There are certain elements in the story some readers picked up on, specifically the Valiant reveal that happened over the last two weeks, but I think the end is going to take people by surprise. In a really good way.
And there’s a lot of surprise in how Zoe and Valiant and Dyna and Daniel react to things in the next seven chapters. The story ends, literally in the last panel, with something that opens the door for another 26-week story, and beyond.
In digital, I am reaching more people than any other book I’ve done. And Heroine Chic has fans all around the world. I did a radio show in South Africa. That never happened before.
I love comics, and holding a comic I’ve written in my hand is still an incredible rush and an incredible sense of creative accomplishment. But I’m digging digital. It’s giving me everything I need.