Ever since I read my first volume of Brian Michael Bendis’s “Ultimate Spider-Man” in middle school, I have been hooked on superhero comics. Marvel, DC, Image – I didn’t care, as long as there were superheroes in it. So when I spoke with Leah Williams, the author of “Totally Awesome Hulk: Monsters Unleashed #1” for Marvel Comics, I was understandably ecstatic.
A fellow comic fan, Williams is also a Hofstra graduate, having earned a degree in film studies and production in 2010. She was deeply involved in the Hofstra Filmmakers Club and worked in the school of communication’s equipment room.
Williams began working in film in Los Angeles, California, before working in a comic book shop where she read tons of comics. This led to writing fanfiction and blog posts, which then erupted into all kinds of writing, including scripts.
“It’s a different mode of storytelling, but it’s really similar, especially for comics,” Williams said about the difference in writing for film and writing comics. “I think my film background – because it’s such a visual medium and the way screenplays work – was able to actually help me in writing comics for the first time. There wasn’t as steep of a learning curve.”
Williams’ enthusiasm for comics is evident – she was introduced to them during her years at Hofstra by her roommate and quickly fell in love. Currently, her favorite character is Emma Frost from the X-Men because “she’s such a complicated character; pretty much wherever she goes she’s going to be the smartest person in the room because she’s a powerful telepath.” This love for Marvel led her to leap at the chance for a job with the company when she received an email from an editor at Marvel asking her if she had any interest in writing comics. “I had this 15-foot vinyl poster of the X-Men on the wall behind me and I had to take 12 hours to calm down before I answered because I was freaking out,” Williams said.
The comic concerns Maddie Cho, sister of Amadeus Cho (the current Hulk), contacting an alien warrior named Lady Hellbender to ask her about the “Big Bads” for the Marvel event “Monsters Unleashed.”
“I can see the shape of what I’m going to write. No matter how many different characters there are, I can always kind of visualize the edges of what I’m writing in my head,” Williams said. “So it’s easier for me to kind of use a visual shorthand to keep in mind instead of thinking ‘OK, well Maddie’s a genius, she’s really smart, so she’s going to be kind of snarky and use big words.’”
It’s common knowledge among the comic community that male writers dominate the industry, and Williams acknowledged this, pointing out that it is rare that female writers get to write male characters, but is confident that the disparity will improve as time goes on. “I think just the fact that they reached out to me means they’re very conscious of it and that it is something that they’re working on actively,” she said.
In terms of future projects, Williams will be continuing her work with Marvel and writing a short in the “Adventure Time” comic, as well as working on screenplays, including one which found its genesis at Hofstra while she was a student.
But don’t worry: all the writing won’t exhaust Williams of the art. She said, “I never lose time doing anything else like I do with writing, and it is transcendently joyful.”