No “fake girl geek” here: Talking comics with Somerville artist Ming Doyle

Ming Doyle
Ming Doyle

Not everyone who illustrates hyperbolic tales of supernatural crime fighters for a career dreamed of doing so during their awkward years. Somerville’s Ming Doyle segued a background in fine art and an education at Cornell University into an acclaimed run of freelance work for Marvel, Vertigo, Image, and numerous other publishers. Her origin story could explain why her spins on superhero art — unlike other renderings of Spider-Man, Gambit and their ilk — demand the adjective “classy.” Her first full miniseries, the Brian Wood-penned “Mara,” will be available in trade paperback come the fall. We caught up with Doyle to talk her chosen craft pre-Comic Con this weekend.

The first thing you drew for Marvel was a Nightcrawler story for the Girl Comics anthology. Nightcrawler is beyond awesome.

I love Nightcrawler, too. I honestly have a huge soft spot for all the X-Men. The story was written by G. Willow Wilson, who did a very lyrical story with Nightcrawler fighting in a German cabaret- type setting.

You mentioned you’re a huge fan of the ‘90s X-Men cartoons. Nightcrawler’s only in three episodes. Does this not infuriate you?

Yeah, but those cartoons were in reruns for quite a long time. So I think I saw those two episodes multiple times growing up, and you can’t forget Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler in X2.

Sure, except he refused to be in the next X-Men movie, supposedly because he didn’t want to spend four hours in makeup everyday.

I can’t say that I blame him. It looked like [he was wearing] intense amount of prosthetics.

Is it OK if I describe your art style as “neo-old school?” What are your influences?

I get “neo old school” or “retro” quite often, which are titles I’m more than happy to accept. A lot of my artistic influences are outside of comics, just because I got into them later in life. My number one influence when I was a little kid was Leonardo da Vinci. Then in art school I got into Aubrey Beardsley and Edward Gorey. I’ve always really enjoyed incredibly illustrious and detailed art styles with decorative flourishes. That’s something I try to bring in to my art, but obviously my art is sequential, so I have to tone it down, otherwise it gets a little too ornate for readers to follow. But I draw inspiration from all over the place. One of my favorite things to do is go to museums and just take it all in. My favorite museum of all time is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum here in Boston, right next to the MFA.

Will more women working in mainstream comics eventually kill the “women in refrigerators” syndrome?

Obviously it will go away the more women are writing comics. That’s not to say there aren’t male writers and artists who are capable of creating and portraying female characters who are just as well-rounded as the male characters, but I think there’s a certain amount of unique empathy and understanding of female characters that women creators bring to the game. Luckily, there are more women getting into the comic industry all the time, and already there are already a sizable amount. I think we’re seeing a positive turn in that direction.

What the f—ck do you think is wrong with whoever created the “fake geek girl” meme?

You know, I wish I could answer. I don’t know what creates misogyny or any kind of bigotry, but I think it’s a general lack of empathy or an inability to look outside of yourself and see how your experiences might hold something in common with other people’s. I don’t know why people think they have to create boundaries and be so exclusionary, especially in regards to things they love. You’d think that they’d want to include more people. In general, I think most comic book fans and creators know that the fake geek girl phenomenon is all malarky, and there are just as many fake geek girls as there are fake geek guys. The term “fake” itself is pretty disingenuous. You love something to the degree that you love it. But I don’t believe nerd culture or pop culture is something that you need to quantify on a numeric scale. I think you should be happy to let people enjoy it as they will.


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