Bedside Press publisher Hope Nicholson has built a reputation as not only a comics historian, but also as the curator of the Dark Horse collections The Secret Loves of Geek Girls & The Secret Loves of Geeks, the organizer of the Margaret Atwood Angel Catbird series, and the writer of the feminist comics history The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen.
Her latest project is currently live on Kickstarter, a new book, Gothic Tales of Haunted Love, an anthology of gothic romance comics (an homage to the short-lived 1970s genre!). It’s a new take, with creators from different genders, sexualities, and cultures telling stories that take the characters into whole new plots.
Featuring 22 original stories from some of modern comics’ finest talent, Gothic Tales of Haunted Love collects fragments of lovers torn apart, ghostly revenge, and horrific deeds, in the vein of 1970s gothic romance comics such as Haunted Love, Ghostly Tales, Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love, and Gothic Romances. Discover a diverse range of heroes and villains, spirits and monsters, in a modern reimagining that will leave your heart pounding and broken in the same seductive breath.
Hope took some time to discuss the project with FOG!
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FOG!: So, you’re currently running a Kickstarter for Gothic Tales of Haunted Love, a new anthology of gothic romance short stories. What was the genesis of this project?
Hope Nicholson: When I was researching comic trends for a history book I wrote called The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen, I came across the gothic romance genre that was popular and short-lived in the 1970s. It was a bit of a mix between the emergence of the surge in horror comics, and the end of the popularity of romance comics. And to me, it blended the best of both genres!
They were overly dramatic, and had more plot twists and drama than in the traditional romance comics, but still with the same emotional connection. The limitation being that they were mostly only starring white women and straight romances. By hiring creators with a wide variety of experiences, I was able to create a book that captured the same drama and intensity of these comics, but with a much more global scope and variety of romantic interests.
Gothic Tales of Haunted Love pays homage to the gothic romance comics in the seventies. Why do you think this genre disappeared from the medium and why do you think now is the time to resurrect it?
Romance comics as a whole was definitely running on its last legs. This was largely due to two factors: the fading of the newstand market and rise of the direct market system which pushed a lot of casual female readers out of reading comics, and also the fact that they were incredibly formulaic and people were craving grittier content.
So even though gothic romance was a list ditch attempt to boost the popularity, spurred by the popularity of shows like Dark Shadows, it wasn’t enough.
I think people are gravitating back towards romance comics now, or at least I hope so!
You’re not only an editor, but a writer, journalist and publisher. Your earliest work focused on researching and republishing some forgotten work from the Canadian comic book industry. What got you interested in comics and what inspired you to focus on the history of the Canadian comic industry?
I never had anything that got me interested in comics, I just always read them.
For me, I first heard of the Canadian comics of the 1940s in university and I waited for years for someone to bring them back! But when no one did, and I had already helped make a film about them I thought, well I guess I will.
You’ve also edited two volumes of The Secret Loves of Geek Girls and wrote The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen. Do you think that the industry is better for women than it used to be?
It’s still tough. If it’s better, it’s only marginally so and needs to improve.
There seems to be more female comic readers than ever before.
Do you think that female readers found it more socially acceptable to read comics, or do you think that it’s a combination of female creators creating material that are appealing to readers of both genders?
Well it’s really about accessibility! Male readership was at par with female readership during the newstand era of comics. But when they went into the direct market, underground comic shops, head shops, conventions, etc. it preserved the industry but it also made male readership dominate (though it’s never been the case where female readership was totally extinguished!).
When webcomics were created, suddenly male readership and female readership was at par again for this medium, with many titles dominated by female readers, because the accessibility was there for everyone! and with the domination of trade and graphic novels and digital comics today, suddenly, while we’re not quite at newstand accessibility, it’s getting pretty close, and so is female readership.
Who or what have been the biggest influences on your work?
Definitely for The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen, Trina Robbins was the biggest inspiration. She did all of the heavy work digging up proof that women have been reading and making comics since the beginning of comic’s existence. I just basically cleaned up and tried to find a few things she might have missed (not much!).
Assuming that the campaign for Gothic Tales of Haunted Love is a success, what else do you have coming up? Are there plans to do a second volume?
Well, I have a graphic novel adaptation of Window Horses, a NFB film, coming out shortly, and The Secret Loves of Geeks, an all-gender sequel to The Secret Loves of Geek Girls is coming out in February!
I have signed a deal for a new book as well, but I can’t talk about it yet.
What are you currently geeking out over?
Like everyone else probably Game of Thrones! I hope everyone dies in it and the White-Walkers win.
In regard to books, probably one of the most powerful, funny, and heartwarming comics I’ve read in a very long time is My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Kabi Nagata and I highly recommend everyone to read it!