Periods. Let’s talk about them. All women have them, and in New York Times bestselling author Chelsea Cain’s kick-ass new comic book, Man-Eaters, they’re a pretty big part of the story.
You may have heard Cain’s name in the news recently. Last week, Marvel Comics canceled Cain’s upcoming series, The Vision.
“I gave them everything I had, twice — on Mockingbird and on The Vision," Cain tells SYFY FANGRRLS. "And on The Vision, I brought my whole family. Me. My husband, Marc. Our daughter, Eliza Fantastic. Our series was all about Vision's relationship with his teenage daughter. So we all worked on it. And we worked in a lot for Mockingbird fans, like ACTUALLY BOBBI, and Ka-Zar-the-corgi, and the nerd cruise. It was great. I want to make that clear. My husband and I wrote a really kick-ass comic book. He's really talented. We complement each other. We were telling a story for everyone. You would have loved it."
According to Cain, a Marvel representative had a conversation with her manager, who broke the news to her on Tuesday last week. But why would Marvel pull the comic after receiving four issues? “They have 'big plans' for Viv and Vision that superseded our plans for the characters, apparently,” Cain explains. “This is odd, since our plans had been submitted and approved for two years. I don't know why they didn't kill it before they solicited it. They knew what we were doing. Honestly, I think the editors are probably all incredibly overworked and somehow didn't talk to one another. And then someone was like, 'We should turn Vision into a plant!' And they were all like, 'OK, good idea.' And then later, after our series had been announced, someone was like, 'Uh-oh. He’s not a plant in that.' That's just supposition. Though if they do turn Vision into a plant, I want credit.”
Cain first shared the news about the cancellation on Twitter last week. According to her tweet, when the news broke, Marvel’s rep had asked her to be quiet about the entire situation.
In all reality, it shouldn’t surprise Marvel that Cain would speak up. According to her, the group of female artists she worked with on Mockingbird, The Vision, and Man-Eaters are "called the ministry of trouble, because I feel that girls are raised to not make trouble."
Luckily, fans will still get a Cain comic book this year. Man-Eaters, from Image Comics, centers on the relationship between teenager Maud and her divorced father. A mix of The Handmaid’s Tale and Bitch Planet, the world of this sci-fi/horror comic is all about society controlling girls' bodies. A strange parasite found in cat feces is turning prepubescent girls into giant killer cats. The solution? Stop girls from getting their period. “This is a comic series that is about female adolescents, and that very much is about getting our period and what’s going to happen to your body and owning that,” Cain says.
Cain explains that one of the major inspirations for telling this comic was her 13-year-old daughter and the current feminist movement she's living in. Looking at the world through the eyes of her daughter, she sees 13-year-old girls as more politically aware and unapologetic — much like in Man-Eaters.
In the comic, Maud is figuring out why her body is changing and if it’s even right for her body to transform. She doesn’t know if this change is something to be feared. “What is the thing we are scared of most right now? Zombies represent disease, contagion, or aliens represent the other, there is a long tradition of that. And I thought, culturally, what is our most central focal point of all of our anxiety? Women. I think there’s a fear, a generalized fear that a woman could at any point come forward and ruin your career,” Cain says.
Cain adds that the metaphor of girls turning into giant man-eating cats once they get their periods is intentional. There's obvious wordplay ("pussycat"), but the story offers a deeper look into how society categorizes women. In the comic, the girls who get their period are feared, but Maud’s mom, who is a highly successful career woman, is also intimidating. "That gets to the central point," Cain says. "That notion of how our society has this comfort with women and what that looks like, and what it feels like for an adolescent girl to become a woman in a society that fears women."
For this reason, it was important to Cain that the girls on the pages also be diverse. The first issue is about Maud and her family, a white family, but Cain says readers will meet other characters in future issues who are of different races and body types. “I think we need to have more conversation about all-female artists and colorists because the way we look at people and the way people visually are reinforced to us over and over again. I think that is the most powerful messaging that there is."
Cain is not one to shy away from taboo topics in her comics, and as Marvel figured out, she is not one to stay silent either. Although she's also a highly successful novelist, Cain adds that her work in comics is important to her because it can make a positive impact. As for potential readers? She wants girls who don’t necessarily know where their local comic book shop is to pick up Man-Eaters — and she wants to start an “awkward” conversation about periods, and maybe a little bit of feminism as well.
“We’re often warned to not make a fuss, right? I wanted our vision to be: Make trouble because trouble is how you make change happen.”
She may have had a small setback with Marvel, but the world has not seen the last of Cain’s feminist agenda.
Man-Eaters, a comic with a lot of blood, cats, and glitter, will be out on September 26.