Meredith Finch began her career in comics by writing first “Little Mermaid” for Zenescape before a stint as the writer on “Wonder Woman” for DC Comics, on which she was paired with her husband, artist David Finch. In 2017, Finch teamed with Image Comics and artist Ig Guara for Rose, a fantasy series set within a mythical world where magic has been all but obliterated and the land is ruled by the despotic Queen Drucilla. But a young woman named Rose may herald a new age of magic through her connection with a magical beast known as khat. Long thought to have been rendered extinct by the Queen, Rose’s kinship with Thorne, last of the khats, marks the young hero for death and sends her on a path to embrace her destiny.
Tomorrow Image Comics releases the conclusion to the series’ first arc. On the eve of the publication of Rose #6, I chatted with Finch about her inspiration for the series, her experience on her first creator-owned title, and her views on female representation in comics.
Jeremy Radick: Where did the inspiration for Rose come from?
Meredith Finch: David [Finch] and I had been talking about doing a book together long before I actually started working in comics. We came up with a character named Rose, and David designed her during a Gnoman workshop instructional video back in 2007. Although some aspects of the story have evolved from what we originally intended, the character of Rose has never changed. Rose is my homage to some of my favorite fantasy writers, such as Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ann McCaffery and C.S. Lewis.
JR: The art by Ig Guara is great. How did the two of you come to collaborate together and what do you feel Ig brings to the series?
MF: I honestly feel at this point that without Ig there is no Rose. He has made these characters so iconic for me, and I know he puts as much passion and creativity into these characters as I do. When I had the first issue written I approached several artist studios asking for samples. Ig’s work stood out for me. His facial expressions and attention to detail are second to none.
Having a visually beautiful book was very important to me. Comics are a visual medium and I can not overstate how important choosing the right artist was for me when making this book. The first time I saw Ig draw the character of Rose I knew without a doubt that I had found the perfect artist to realize my vision.
JR: Rose features both a female protagonist and a female antagonist, not to mention the fact that Ila, the resistance leader, is also a woman and a significant supporting character. How important was it to incorporate women in such central, powerful roles? Do you think fantasy or comics are lacking in this kind of representation typically?
MF: When I started writing Rose I didn’t originally approach it with the idea that all of the central figures would be women. The twins, Felix and Drucilla were always part of the story, but in the first draft Felix was set up as the antagonist. It was my local comic shop owner who suggested (after reading the first draft) I make the villain female. As soon as he said it I knew it was right.
There has been a lot of focus on female representation in comics. While I agree with the idea of broadening readership, I don’t agree with forcing it the way some of the major publishers are trying to do. I don’t want you to change a character that people love into a woman, I want you to write female characters that people will love. That is what I am always trying to do with Rose. I think in a really great story you aren’t worried about the gender of your character because you are just enjoying their journey.
I also feel like there is an idea in comics right now that women need to be faster, stronger, smarter and just better in every way than their male counterparts. That’s also not what I’m doing here. Rose isn’t a book about a woman being anything other than what she is. She’s not suddenly the best swordsman, she’s not physically stronger than the men around her and she doesn’t get her power from putting down or trying to be better than the people around her. As we get further into our story we are going to discover that her power comes simply from who she is and encouraging the people around her to be their best selves. I really wanted to explore the idea that being a strong woman is not a one size fits all model as is sometimes pushed today and that softness and femininity are their own strength. I think it’s fair to say that I have a lot of things that I want to say about the nature of femininity and female relationships in this book, and fantasy fiction is a genre that has lent itself to female leads for decades.
JR: To your mind, what sets Rose apart from other stories in the genre?
MF: I can’t even pretend to be an expert on the variety of comics that are published on a monthly basis, but when Rose was released I don’t think there really was any other book in the industry quite like it – a true swords and sorcery, dungeons and dragons style fantasy adventure. It isn’t trying to be smart or satirical, it’s just trying to give a really great feel good story about a young woman’s journey of self-discovery. As I said earlier, fantasy has been a genre that has embraced female writers and female leads for so long that it feels less like something you need to draw attention to, and more like something that has just always been done.
JR: And now, the other side of that question; what do you think are the essential elements to a fantasy story that you wanted to make sure Rose incorporated?
MF: Every fantasy at its core is about the hero’s journey and I have not deviated from that idea in any way. I think when you write a certain genre you make a covenant with the reader that you are going to give them what they expect, but hopefully in new and different ways.
JR: Is this your first creator-owned work, and can you talk about the differences between the process of writing a creator-owned series vs writing a company-owned character?
MF: This is my first creator-owned project and I have absolutely loved the entire experience. Image has been great to work with and so incredibly supportive of my entire team. Writing a company owned character can be a lot of fun because you don’t need to worry about world building, you can just tell a story. But certainly, for me, it’s the world building and the fleshing out of the characters as the story develops that is really the most fun part of my job.
JR: Rose just wrapped up its first major arc. Without giving anything away, can you talk about where you see the series heading? Do you have a larger story planned at this point?
MF: I think the question I get asked the most often right now is how many issues am I going to do because Image has done so many mini-series. So, let me put everyone’s mind to rest, we aren’t going anywhere any time soon. I actually believe that not having a defined end point has allowed me to write a much richer story. Because I’m not rushing to an end point I have time to take a detour (like I do multiple times in upcoming issues) and give you some backstory on the characters to let you into how and why they have become the people that they are today. DO I have an end goal? Absolutely, but I’m having such a great time with my story and my characters that I’m not in a hurry to get there. As long as Ig will keep drawing her, I will keep telling the story of Rose.
Rose #6 will be released September 13, 2017, and a trade collecting the first six issues will be released by Image Comics this November.