When Shannon Watters took the stage for the Twitch Livestream at Emerald City Comic Con, she already had a sizeable audience waiting to hear the short panel on Lumberjanes, a comic published by Boom! Studios. She had only just arrived in Seattle from LA, but professed a love for the convention and was ready to take an appraising look at the last four years of the Lumberjanes phenomenon. Describing the premise of the comic series as “a girl scout camp with monsters” where “weird stuff is happening” but the girls are “totally up for it” and ready to “punch monsters in the face”, Watters also said that for her, the comic had real life inspiration.
It was the idea that she gleaned in youth from sitting around in the woods, that something might be “just around the bend” and the unexpected was lurking. She could assume then, as a young person, that anything was possible and even mundane in its possibility. That weird twist of making monsters mundane is part of what makes Lumberjanes so recognizable.
Watters was a girl scout in her youth, and grew up in the woods of Northern Arizona near Flagstaff. She spent a lot of time “adventuring with friends”, she said, and it made her realize that you can have authority figures in your life, but when you are away from parents, “anything can happen” and you begin to realize you are “in charge of your own destiny”, the way that the characters in Lumberjanes do. When you reach that point, you are “starting new”, Watters said, and it’s a “place where you can embrace whatever person you want or strive to be”.
The entire creative team on Lumberjanes is “queer women”, Watters explained, and that fits with the message of learning to embrace whatever person you want to be. She has wall art in her office in LA that reads “Be the person you needed when you were younger”, as an inspiration to guide her work, she added.
When asked why there aren’t any “redeemed male characters” in the comic, since the camp of boy scouts are literally monsters, Watters insisted that the boy’s camp is “amazing” and not exactly a condemnation of the gender. Though she did clarify that this is a deliberate “rebuke of toxic masculinity’. “There are plenty of places where men are the best”, she said, meaning other comics storytelling venues, and there was quite a wild burst of applause in response from the audience.
Returning to the subject of being a queer woman on a team of queer women, she said, “It is normal for us. Treat everyone as if this is normal”, to more applause. She admitted that comics, and society have a long way to go. “But it is everybody’s responsibility to be conscious of the media they are consuming and making”, she admonished.
Four years on there’s still a lot to say about what makes Lumberjanes unique, and why we need more comics like it, based on this short panel with Shannon Watters.