October 25, 2021

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Shopping & Women For Everybody

Mother of Madness, Star Wars, and Secret Invasion

12 min read

Emilia Clarke has undeniably become a household name, with her performances as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones and Qi’ra in Solo: A Star Wars Story courting a number of fans. Next month, Clarke will branch out into an entirely new realm with her first comic book, the Image Comics title M.O.M.: Mother of Madness. The three-issue miniseries follows Maya, a single mom and under-the-radar scientist, who decides to suit up as a superhero and use her unique set of superpowers to take down a secret ring of human traffickers. Mother of Madness was created by Clarke herself, who co-writes the title with Marguerite Bennett (Bombshells, Batwoman), with art by Leila Leiz (Horde, The Last Book You’ll Ever Read).

Right from the very first page, Mother of Madness sets itself up as something wholly unique in the female-led comic space, while also being a love letter to what the medium — and Clarke’s storytelling power — are capable of. In anticipation of the July debut of M.O.M.: Mother of Madness #1, (the Final Order Cutoff date of which is Monday, June 28th) ComicBook.com got a chance to chat with Clarke about the process of bringing the series to life. We also spoke about the hopeful long-term impact of the series, Qi’ra’s recent return to the Star Wars universe in War of the Bounty Hunters, Clarke’s mystery role in Marvel’s Secret Invasion, and more! You can check out our interview below, or in the video above!

(Photo: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images, Image Comics)

ComicBook.com: I’m so honored to get to talk to you. I’ve actually read the first issue twice now, because honestly, I just wanted to live in the world of that series as much as I possibly could, and pick up on all of the dialogue. So I’m so honored to get to chat with you, because I think that the series is amazing.

Emilia Clarke: Oh, my God. That’s made my day. Thank you so much. This is just, oh — it’s so exciting. I started writing it three years ago, and I basically started writing, and then 50 pages later, had this waft of a document that was all the backstory, all of the world, all of the different characters, and where else it could go. Because this, what you have right here, is you have three bumper additions, of what is going to encapsulate this first series of Mother of Madness. And then, who knows? Maybe everyone will absolutely loathe it and hate it and nothing else will ever happen.

But it’s been the craziest experience. Because as an actor, normally I’m wearing a costume, standing on my mark, remembering some lines. So, the kind of ownership that you have, creatively, over your work as an actor is really limited. You only get so much of it, because you are — as with every creative endeavor — one small cog in a very big wheel of creating something. So to have this bonkers idea, write it all down, hire only women — which is what I’ve done in the creation of it. All of these women are spectacular and have like-minded ideas, [and] start seeing all the rules that we can break within the comic world I didn’t know about, and then you have this thing that I made. It’s really cool. It never stops being cool.

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You mentioned in previous interviews that you’re a bit of a comic fangirl, but that you had felt shut out of certain parts of the industry, which I feel like a lot of women can certainly relate to. I was curious what your experience with comics was, and what you grew up reading.

I grew up reading the offshoots of what my brother had. Comic books, Warhammer, the whole thing. And I literally was not allowed inside the shops. lt wasn’t for me. So, my first real kind of comic book entry point was Superman, was Wonder Woman, [were] the ones that were very obvious. The ones that you couldn’t not know about them. They’re things that were within our pop culture.

I grew up reading fantasy fiction, so I know that’s not the same as the actual comic book itself, but that was where my imagination lived. So, then reading about superheroes for the first time — I’m pretty sure it was Superman that was my first ever. And Spider-Man, I kind of thought it was pretty cool. Again, Spider-Man was the first origin story that I remember as a child reading and being like, “Oh, wow! This is more than what’s on the page. This is a bigger world,” and then being allowed into that.

My true understanding of the scope of this world happened when I started doing comic cons. That’s when I was like, “Oh, my God, where have you all been? This is madness.” There’s so much. There’s so much there. And then, obviously, now the rise of the blockbuster movie specifically only being comics. That’s what the entire space encompasses. No longer have you got the blockbuster movie with all of the movie stars in it. You now have [it where] the movie star is the IP, the movie star is the thing.

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You mentioned your all-female creative team — I really love that decision, and I think it really just reflects in the comic so well. I’m a huge Marguerite Bennett fan. I love a lot of her work. What was the process like of working with her? Because it feels like, when the comic was announced, you two seemed like such a perfect match.

She’s just the best. I love her so much. She’s been like my savior in so many ways. So I joined up with Image first, and then I was like, “I wanted this to be an all-female crew, so what female writers do you have? Because I have the thing that I’ve written, and now I need someone to help me write it in comic book terms.”

So I was introduced to Marguerite, and it was like love at first sight. She walked in through the door, and within the first 10 minutes, I was like, “Okay, this is the smartest woman I’ve ever encountered.” The nicest, the most radiant. Her soul just comes out of every part of her. And then I realized that our brains were — she was like, “I get it. I understand what you’re saying, and I’m so here for it. And I am primed and ready to go.” I didn’t realize, at the time of inception of this idea, just how many rules there were within the creation of making a comic. Each house — DC and Marvel and all of the different kinds of publishers — all have very specific things that you have to do, that are their continuity of creation. And I didn’t realize that existed. So, to Marguerite, I was like, “We’ve got to break them all. Right? We can do whatever we want, so let’s do whatever we want.” And she was like, “Uh-huh. Yeah. Let’s do that.”

And then Leila came on, the incredible artist, and blew my mind with how many ways that she could be creative in the storytelling narrative, visually, and with how a page could look. It just looked different [from] any other comic that I had seen, and that was my plan.

I found this statistic, and it made me really sad. In 2019, 16% of the comic book creators were female. That is insane. 30% of comic book characters are women. And out of that 30%, which is ridiculous, a majority of them [are] playing quite passive roles. I was just like, “Well, even if it’s bad, this is doing something to move that needle.” This is adding to the noise that hopefully will continue to become more inclusive, because I feel like the comic book world is for everyone. It’s for people who feel excluded. You got a home here. It is an inclusive space. It’s the thing that is boundary-defining and can be anything, set anywhere, about anyone. There are no stipulations and rules as to what your characters are about. So it seems like it’s ripe and ready for just a little bit of a needle change.

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(Photo: Image Comics)

Kind of going off of that, I really love the approach to her powers and her origin story in the first issue. It feels like something that is both so specific and also so universal at the same time. I was wondering how you came up with that idea and how you approached it.

This kind of started as like a “wouldn’t it be funny if…” conversation. So the more that I started to embed myself in this world, the more I realized — and this is coming from really personal experience here — using the menstrual cycle as an example of what makes us individual people. But also something that our bodies do, that largely speaking, arrives unexpectedly every single time. But it also is something we hate on ourselves for. Do you know what I mean? “I’m going to be on my period then, so I don’t want to go do that thing, because I’ll be bloated or I’ll be this.” Whatever it might be. All these really specific things that we hate on our bodies for.

And I just wanted to be able to just change that point of focus, into “Imagine if they were actually superpowers. Imagine if within that hormonal cycle that’s happening — in everybody, we all have hormones. I mean, the guys might feel like they know nothing about it, but I feel like as a woman, I didn’t get told anything about it. Yeah, I got told it happens, but I didn’t get told why or what it would do or [what it would] make me feel, or the myriad of ways in which my one was different from someone else’s. Expanding on that, I wanted to make that fun, and I wanted to make it empowering. This thing that no one talks about as well, by the way. Dear God, help you if you drop your handbag and a tampon falls out,  everyone’s going to be like, “Oh!” And you’re like, “Everyone has this. This shouldn’t be taboo. This is ridiculous.”

But then I didn’t want to have a comic that was just only for women. I wanted the characters to be inclusive. I wanted people to know that to be a single mother, it takes a village too. It’s all about the community that you are fortunate or unfortunate enough to be surrounded by. And that should be true with superheroes. With this woman, she can’t do it. You’ll never see her doing it completely on her own. She always has the help of the troop of people that enable her powers to be at the most supreme. Because I feel like as individuals, that’s what we need. We need the people around us to help raise us up, and that’s kind of something else that I wanted to include in it.

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I also really love the issue’s approach to feminism. There are a lot of jokes and one-liners that are about very feminist issues, and I love that the main character gets called out on her white feminism at a certain point. How important was that to have an intersectional and very diverse portrayal of feminism?

No, absolutely. It’s hugely important, because I feel like in a very specific window, we are discussing feminism on a level that hopefully, our moms are like, “Yeah, that’s very different to how we had it.” But now we’re getting to this point where I am a white female, so I’m only going to be able to speak to this certain amount. But I wanted it to be as broad and inclusive as I possibly could and wanted to have different voices that were all coming to this much more inclusive way of looking at the world. Marguerite was really, really good with always helping us to make sure that we weren’t being too specific to one thing or to one person or to one group of individuals, that we were as broad as possible.

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(Photo: Image Comics)

What would you say surprised you the most while working on M.O.M. and bringing it to life?

I never knew how many people were involved in making a comic. My God. I was like, “Yeah, we’ll make a comic. Wait, what? We hire six people to make the what? Okay. Wow. That’s like a lot of people.” I didn’t know that a colorist existed. I was amazed to hear about the letterer being a different person [from] the artist.

I didn’t know that in order to buy a comic that you wanted, you had to pre-order it from the comic book retailer. [There are] all of these really specific things that are unique to this beautiful comic book world. It’s like part of being part of a secret club. You know what I mean? You’ve got to know the password, you’ve got to know all of these different things to be able to understand this and that. I’m excited to be able to bring that world to more people, because this shouldn’t just be for the people who know about it. We should make this a more inclusive space for everybody.

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What do you hope people take away from reading this series?

I hope they read it, I hope they like it. It sounds really corny. There’s no other way of saying. I would love it if people were inspired after this. I would love it if people felt some kind of like, “I can do it too. I feel like what I got going on is pretty cool.” Because reading means the world to me. I read a huge amount of books all the time. And the reason why I love it is because — when you’re reading a book, it’s all for you. It’s such a personal experience, and you hold it deep within you. When you find someone else who loves the same book as you, it’s like you speak a different language together. It’s this kind of magical thing. So I wanted this book to be as reader-focused as possible. Do you know what I mean? I wanted the reader to feel as [much] a part of the story as they could. And I also really hope people think it’s funny.

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Jumping over to a completely different side of comics — since you’re such a comic fan. [Recently,] your Solo character made an appearance in the Star Wars comics, and that’s the thing that a lot of fans are super, super excited about. I was curious what your reaction is to that, both as a comic fan and as that character.

It means so much. It means the absolute world. I know her backstory. I know her history. Maybe the movie didn’t get to go there, but that was such an honor and a privilege to be part of that universe as an actor. So then, to see the character actually be taken on to the origin of all of it — bringing it on home to the family in that way — cemented it in a way. I was not expecting to feel as moved as I was by that.

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There’s a really, really great Marvel movie joke in issue one. I’ve honestly laughed out loud at it. And it feels even funnier, knowing that you are tied to Secret Invasion. I know you probably can’t talk about a whole lot, but I was curious, since you’re such a comic book fan, what drew you to that project?

I just think what they’re doing right now is so exciting and so cool, and so on the cutting edge of it. I feel like they’re like the Apple of this world. To be part of that family feels like, ‘Oh my god, I’m in the cool kid crowd. That’s so cool.’ Honestly speaking, the people that are making this are what pushed me over the line to really wanting to do it. I just think that everyone’s heart and heads are in the right place with this one.

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M.O.M.: Mother of Madness #1 will be released on July 21st wherever comics are sold.

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