The web site made famous for its bold, refreshing view of sexiness and sexuality is coming to comics in a five-issue miniseries launching this March from IDW Publishing. The Suicide Girls web site, founded in 2001, features nude and semi-nude photos and videos of women who are often pierced, tattooed or otherwise outside the traditional perception of beauty, generally with an art-focused or playful presentation. The site also features pop culture interviews and news, an active message board and chat community and member blogs. So how does this all translate into a comic? To find out, CBR News spoke with series architect Steve Niles, writer Brea Grant, and her brother Zane Grant, who is contributing to the second issue.
Niles told CBR that the "Suicide Girls" comic began to come together several years ago when he first met SG co-founder Missy Suicide. From there, introductions were made with IDW and Brea Grant was recruited to the project. Though she wasn't particularly familiar with the Suicide Girls prior to coming onto the series, Grant said she has "since spent a lot of time on the website looking at naked girls." Her brother Zane Grant, with whom Brea co-wrote "We Will Bury You" and will contribute to the second issue, joked, "I have a penchant for tattoos, and disrobed women are, at times, provocative."
The team-up between Niles, Missy Suicide, Brea and Zane Grant and the artists has involved "lots of back and forth," according to Niles. "My original intent for this thing was, I didn't think any men should be involved at all. I was like, look, I'm going to stay behind the scenes, but if we could fill this thing with all stories by women and art by women, it would get us out of the territory of the 'one-handed comic book,' which I really wanted to avoid. I didn't want this to be another titillating, objectifying comic book," Niles said. "Because what I like about Missy and what I like about her site is that it's very different from other sites that do this kind of stuff. It gives some of the responsibility over to the women themselves, and there's all different kinds of women. Especially when it first started out, that's one of the things I was most impressed with -- there's all shapes and sizes, no airbrushing. I just thought it took a lot of guts. I just thought, let's capture as much of that spirit as possible.
"That has been the biggest surprise, is the really good stories we're getting out of this. Putting all of this in a direct light, sitting down with Missy and Brea and I and discussing what periods of history have just generally sucked for women, and how can we feature that and highlight it and use that in our story instead of just doing, you know, what people are expecting the book to be."
"We spent a lot of time talking about what the Suicide Girls represent. So rather than focusing on real life Suicide Girls, we created a world in which they can actively fight some of the things they are in opposition to," Brea Grant explained. "In the series, the Suicide Girls are an underground Charlie's Angels-esque elite fighting squad taking down a religious organization called Way of Life that controls the internet.
"We follow about six Suicide Girls in this particular cell of the organization," Grant continued. "The first character you meet is Frank, a blue-haired girl who has been independently attacking Way of Life. The SGs recruit her by breaking her out of prison. She joins the five other girls as they attempt to take down Way of Life as a team. They all have a speciality. Frank has a corset piercing where she holds her swords. Another character, Porter, is an internet and computer genius. Another girl, Kim, carries around explosives everywhere she goes.
"I tried to make them all feel different and have their own personalities, because I think that's one thing the website itself does really well. It humanizes naked women in a way that a lot of other sites don't."
Asked about the tone of the series, Zane Grant began, "Pinup girls fighting a religious techno-cult. It's..."
"Funny, but full of action," Brea interjected. "I wanted a lot of quips but not without a darkness. And obviously, sexy."
Each issue of "Suicide Girls" will contain a lead story that continues throughout the series as well as shorter features, including some by Niles and artist Cameron Stewart. Niles described his and Stewart's shorts as "historical glimpses that will make a little more sense when you see it."
"For me, as a guy who grew up with no dad around, grew up around my two older sisters and my mom, I tried to write it from the perspective of the women who have inspired me," Niles said. "What we're trying to do -- we're still trying to do an entertaining comic, but what we want to do is not have fight scenes where they pull each others' hair and their clothes come flying apart. I wrote a story about the Salem witch trials. Because, boy, was that a shitty time to be a woman, especially if you had a brain in your head -- they'd literally burn you for it. If you knew anything about medicine or birthing or anything like that, you were considered a witch and burned at the stake."
The artist for the lead story is David Hahn, who's shown a flair for the dangerously sexy in his series "Bite Club" with Howard Chaykin. "I love 'Bite Club,' so when I found out David was attached [to "Suicide Girls"], I knew he could do the sexy mixed with the stylized future we were designing," Brea Grant said. Zane, agreeing, added, "I've been a fan for a while, so I was excited to get to work with him. 'Bite Club' was great. He has a way of making debauchery tasteful or appalling as the scene requires. What he's been doing more recently with 'Murderland' and his work on 'Fables' and what I've seen of 'All Nighter' and 'Power Chords' is all over the place as far as genre, but he bends his style to make those books work."
Zane Grant continued, "It's a dystopian future in which a group of women live in an abandoned nuclear silo and fight oppressors. David is roughing up his style a little bit with the inks to match the aesthetic of the project. He can make girls with tattoos sitting around in sheer negliges playing video games entertaining in the midst of a spreading totalitarianism. I think that pretty much captures the essence of the SG aesthetics at work."
"Suicide Girls" will be the Grants' second comic project, following their creator-owned miniseries "We Will Bury You," which was also published by IDW. "This one is much different because 'We Will Bury You' was solely Zane's and my idea, so we made most of the decisions. This one is more collaborative in that Missy and Steve Niles came up with a lot of the characters and the premise. I think on this one I'm learning to work in a more collaborative way," Brea Grant said. "It's a completely new experience for me. You know that phrase, 'writing is rewriting?' I've learned a lot about that phrase since starting this project."