Marguerite Bennett promises to spill as much or as little as a University of Mary Washington crowd wants to hear tomorrow night.
The 2010 grad – UMW Women’s History Month keynote speaker – is brimming with girl-power stories in all shapes and sizes, in her career as a comic book writer and in her personal life.
“I love women, in their infinite forms, their infinite power,” said Bennett, whose New York Times-bestselling, GLAAD-nominated work has appeared in DC, Marvel, Aftershock, Dynamite, Archie and more. She’ll dish about her colorful – yet sometimes stormy – journey Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the University Center’s Chandler Ballroom.
Bennett ka-pow’ed and sha-bam’ed her way through a glass ceiling in her writing career, crashing into the notoriously male-dominated comic book industry while still in grad school. Now, with an earned reputation for her particularly genuine portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters, she’s encouraging others to harness their own victories.
“If you write stories that tell folks that queer people can live without shame, they just might grow up believing it,” she’s been quoted as saying.
Bennett was already on a quest for justice as a student at Mary Washington, where she enrolled for its strong writing program, and was influenced by English professors Gary Richards, Colin Rafferty and Eric Lorentzen.
“What wasn’t I fired up about?” she said. “Frankly, it was much the same as what gets my ruff more than a decade later – the rights and representation of women, queer people, people of color, and the social and institutional injustices they face.”
She was working her way through an MFA program at prestigious Sarah Lawrence College when her professor and mentor, celebrated comic book writer Scott Snyder, offered the chance of a lifetime, enlisting her help on 2013’s Batman Annual #2.
And the rest is comic book history.
Best known for Bombshells, Batwoman, and her own original series Animosity and InSEXts, Bennett has written more than a thousand unique stories and sold more than 10 million copies, though she’s long since stopped counting. Still, some parts of her professional journey have mirrored the words she pens on the page – words she describes as messy, angry and dark.
In a corporate universe powered by men – many of whom, to be fair, she claims as dear friends – she’s faced sexist acts she deems “shameful,” meant to undermine her career. Yet she’s prevailed, declaring her greatest achievement a personal one – climbing to the other side of an abusive relationship. “It was like coming back from the dead,” she said. “A miracle.”
Along the way, her work has become more pushy and purposeful, with an edge and a grit and a grime that she’s proud of. She writes about murder and mayhem, the horrific and hideous, but her comic-book prose are also infused with beauty, power and love.
Sure, writer’s block creeps in now and then. For that, Bennett heads to the garden to clear her head and create, bleeding her words with the art on the page. It’s a magical mix, one she believes we all can achieve in our own lives.
“You can do it,” Bennett said. “The antiquated bastions and ivory towers are rotten, and none of them are as strong as they pretend to be. You can kick in the walls.”
The presentation by Women’s History Month Keynote Speaker Marguerite Bennett – co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of English and Linguistics, and the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program – is also available virtually. Register to attend.