Long before Wonder Woman, Phantom Lady or Black Canary made their debut on the pop culture scene; the mysterious Miss Fury was already taking down criminals and villains as one of comic’s earliest costumed crime fighter. Dressed in a sleek black jumpsuit making her look like a jaguar, Miss Fury was written by, June “Tarpe” Mills, one of only a handful of women writers in the golden age of comics, and appeared in newspapers from 1941 to 1952. Featuring the adventures of socialite Marla Drake, these pre-code stories had the heroine battling everything from Nazi spies to common thugs, and found herself often in provocative situations often too daring for daily newspapers. Yet, despite the fact that she is considered by many comic historians to be the first costumed heroine (although many debate this claim), Miss Fury has been a character which has lived in obscurity for decades….until now.
This week Dynamite Comics, which has found mass success by reviving classic pulp heroes and long discarded comic proprieties, brought Miss Fury back to the comic shelves in a brand new series by British writer Rob Williams and Brazilian artist Jack Herbet, with comic legends Alex Ross and J. Scott Campbell putting together a series of stunning covers. Long ignored by the modern comic audience, Miss Fury’s gained reader interest when IDW released a gorgeous hardcover collection of Miss Fury daily strips last year, but proved to be too expensive for the idly curious. Now Williams, best known for his work on the sci-fi anthology 2000 AD, is bringing Miss Fury to a brand new audience and in a brand new sort of adventures unlike any the character has gone on before. I was pleased to sit down with Williams and talk to him about Miss Fury, and the challenges of bringing a long discarded franchise back to life and to a new modern audience.
Sam Tweedle: Miss Fury is one of those characters that I’ve been aware of, but I really don’t know about beyond the fact that she was one of the earliest female costumed crime fighter in fiction.
Rob Williams: Well I’m like you. I must admit that when the guys at Dynamite asked me to do Miss Fury I didn’t have a lot of prior knowledge about the character. I had to do a little reading up. It was 1941 when she came on the scene, and she was written by June Mills, and was the first female comic character to be written by a woman. It was a newspaper strip and ran until about 1952. Somebody is going to eventually come along and tell me I’m wrong about all these things. (Laughs)
Sam: Since Miss Fury is a character that the modern audience doesn’t seem to know a lot about, was that an opportunity for you to have a clean slate in regards to what you could do with her?
Rob: Absolutely. I don’t think she’s a character that a lot of people are to hugely aware of, and we’re starting a new series so you want to come in with a clean slate, as you say, and make it fresh for [readers.] You don’t want to bog them down with past continuity. But also, from my point of view, you want to make it as contemporary as you can. Miss Fury has certain aesthetic similarities to Catwoman, and certainly you don’t want to do another Catwoman book. So, as a result, I decided to make it sort of a time travel romp. But I didn’t want to do what was perhaps the easy thing of just transporting her from the 1940’s to the present day. That’s been done before. So what you’re going to get with this series is that Miss Fury is thrown through time, and she is moving backwards, forwards, and she doesn’t know if what she is experiencing is real or if she is, in fact, insane. You’re going to have pieced that together as she is. It’s just trying to do something different than the things we’ve seen a hundred times before.
Sam: But, essentially, your Miss Fury is the same character from the 1940’s, just being transported through time.
Rob: Yeah. But when you first meet her she’s kind of an immoral character. She’s the same character Miss Fury always was. She’s Marla Drake, a rich socialite in Manhattan in the 1940’s, but the way I write her is that she is nihilistic and doesn’t have the sense of believing in anything or fighting for anything. Of course World War II is going on, and everybody is fighting for something, and she’s not. She doesn’t know what she wants in life. She’s a bit of a jewel thief, but than she gets pulled into the war. She comes across some Nazi agents in WWII in Manhattan…
Sam: (Laughs) There were so many Nazi agents floating around Manhattan in the 1940’s.
Rob: They are everywhere! I can’t leave my house in the morning without seeing time traveling Nazi secret agents! But Miss Fury falls into a time machine, like you do, and she doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not. It’s kind of a redemption tale in a way. The theme I wanted to get at is that everyone should have something they are willing to fight for. To have something they believe in. She doesn’t at the start, and she has to find out why she is so angry.
Sam: Did you borrow much from the source material for your story?
Rob: No. Not really. People are going to get a brand new origin story, but while reading up on Miss Fury the main thing with her in the past was that nobody was quite sure if she had real super powers or not, and its going to be the same this time around. She’s certainly has heightened abilities, but she’s more of a “La Femme Nikita” type character.
Sam: Well even in my research, there doesn’t seem too much to say about Miss Fury really. Although she was around for over a decade, she was never really the most developed character. Am I wrong?
Rob: Well as far as I am aware. As I said, I did a bit of research. But I’m not interested in hitting people with a lot of continuity. I’m sure there will be some old school Miss Fury fans who may know far more than I do, but I want an issue one where readers can pick it up without knowing anything about the character and they can be on board.
Sam: Are you on Miss Fury for the long run? How long are you committed to the series?
Rob: The first six issues definitely, and as far as I’m aware with Dynamite is that it is supposed to be an on-going, but as with anything these days, it depends on sales. I’m writing the final issue of the arch today, and then we’ll see where we go from there.
Sam: Have you been happy with the positive buzz over the book?
Rob: Well hopefully there is a buzz. I’m not sure. We’ll wait and see.
Sam: You have Alex Ross and J. Scott Campbell doing the covers of the first issue. They are beautiful covers. Very striking.
Rob: It’s a wonderful thing to see world class artists on [the cover of the book.] Dynamite Comics is getting some really good talent. The interior art is spectacular. Jack Herbert is from Brazil and has done work for Dynamite before, and its really beautiful stuff. The scripts are quite challenging in as much as I am sending him references from World War II, and then we’re in 2013, and then we’re in the future for a few scenes, so from an artist’s point of view its certainly challenging.
Sam: Being paired up with a good artist seems to be the trick, isn’t it?
Rob: Absolutely. It’s a visual medium and you are completely and utterly at the mercy of your artist, for good or for bad. It can work out both ways. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that I can write the greatest script ever written and have a bad artist butcher it, and similarity, I can write an okay script and a great artist/storyteller will make it fantastic. So you always have your fingers crossed about that.
Sam: So beyond Miss Fury, what are you working on?
Rob: I have a few things I’m not allowed to talk to you about. But I am doing a few things for 2000 AD. I’ve been a constant on 2000 AD for the last ten years, and because of the digital comics people in Canada and the United States can get a hold of it a lot easier.
Sam: That is true. Here in North America comic fans realize that 2000 AD is a long running British sci-fi anthology, but most of us haven’t ever seen it.
Rob: Well, on 2000 AD I’m doing a series called The Ten-Seconders with Edmund Bagwell on art. What The Ten-Seconders is about is, basically, super villains have taken over the Earth, but their not called super villains. They are called Gods in the series, and then there is the human resistance that is fighting back. The are called The Ten-Seconders because if they actually come across one of these super powered entities, the average amount of time a human being will last is ten seconds before they are actually killed. So I’m doing that series, and that’s kind of fun. I have a creator owned series coming out soon. Its one of the things I’m the most proudest of, but I better not say much about that at the moment.
Sam: Is it fair to say that your history with 2000 AD sort of bleeds into your time travel vision for Miss Fury?
Rob: Well, what I’m the most excited about [in Miss Fury], besides that it is like a big Hollywood action movie, is that the time travel aspect of the book gives me a chance to make it sort of a jig-saw puzzle. There is also a political/satirical aspect to it as well. We pitched it as a Homeland meets La Femme Nikita. And hopefully you get to see a past, a middle and a future [for Miss Fury] and I’m trying to create a rounded three dimensional female character, and not another T&A book. People can judge how successful we have been once it comes out.
Sam: Well as a fan of the golden age of comics, and female characters, I am really looking forward to the book.
Rob: Well hopefully you’re not alone, and people will dig it and pick it up. I’m glad you’re looking forward to it.
Now in stores, Miss Fury #1 is a stunning book full of action, intrigue, mystery and manages to capture the provocative nature of the original strip in a sexy, yet tasteful, manner. Rob Williams reintroduces Marla Drake as a mysterious woman with a violent past, whose story barely unfolds in the first issue, but questions and groundwork is formed for a dark journey. Furthermore, Herbert’s art is possibly some of the most gorgeous artwork in comics today. A solid read, hopefully this will be the start of a new dawn for one of histories oldest, and most underused, costumed heroines. For more on Rob Williams, and to keep up with his latest projects, keep an eye on his web-site at http://www.robwilliamscomics.co.uk/. While Miss Fury is sure to be another pulp hit for Dynamite, Rob Williams sounds like he has more big things on the way.