What started out as a tweet has exploded into a full-time job for Renae de Liz, a Cape Elizabeth comic book artist.
On May 17, de Liz posed an innocent question on Twitter: Were any female comic book artists interested in contributing to a charity anthology?
She received 100 emails that day.
Women of all ages and walks of life jumped aboard, as did IDW Publishing, a major force in the comic book industry.
“It turned out way bigger than I thought it would be,” said de Liz.
Today, four editors, 80 artists, 47 writers and 10 colorists are hard at work creating and compiling short stories for “Womanthology: Heroic,” which will be published in December.
To cover printing costs, they opened an online fundraising account on Kickstarter.com in July. Within 24 hours, “Womanthology” surpassed its goal of $25,000. By the Aug. 7 deadline, “Womanthology” had received $109,301 in pledges from 2,001 backers.
“I’m really surprised that a comic book like this made that kind of money,” said de Liz, who explained that, after printing costs, the remaining funds will be used to promote “Womanthology” and put copies in schools and libraries across the country.
All profits from sales will go to good causes through globalgiving.org. “It’s a website that goes and finds a lot of small, grassroots charities from around the world that don’t have the means to promote themselves,” she said.
De Liz said she hopes “Womanthology” will be a fun project that will help female artists get noticed by the comic book industry, as well as inspire young girls to pick up a pencil and start drawing and keep the industry going strong.
“Only about 10 percent of comic book creators are women,” said de Liz. “We’re saying ‘Look at all these amazing women who need a chance!’ Hopefully, publishers will give them that chance.”
Mariah Huehner, an editor and writer for IDW Publishing, said the company signed on to publish “Womanthology” soon after hearing about the project. “Everyone was just thrilled with the whole concept and wanted to help however they could.”
Laura Morley from England, who is managing administrative work and publicity as well as writing a four-page story for the anthology, said she thinks “Womanthology” has the potential to help shut down rumors that the comic book industry is dying.
“A project like this shows that in fact there’s an immense energy, optimism and sense of possibility around comics, if you step back only slightly from that troubled mainstream,” said Morley.
Rick Lowell of Casablanca Comics in Portland and Windham said he’ll be selling “Womanthology.”
“The list of creative talent is astounding and goes to show that the comics industry is alive and vibrant,” he said.
“It’s a great idea and I think a lot of people are going to be blown away by the book’s contents,” said Chad Pennell of Coast City Comics in Portland.
Though all of the work for “Womanthology” is being done on the Internet, buzz about the project is not confined to social networks.
Far beyond the Portland comic scene, the 140 participants are generating interest through word of mouth in their own communities, from Florida to Greece to Ohio.
“Womanthology” artist Ashley Keene, a self-described “nerdy art kid” from Arizona, is discussing a possible release-date party with Heroes and Villains, a comic book store in Tucson. A few thousand miles north, Isabelle MelanAon is designing a short comic in Montreal. An illustrator with “ink instead of blood running through (her) veins,” MelanAon found out about “Womanthology” through tumblr, an Internet blogging platform.
“I knew I needed to be a part of it,” she said. “This book assembles the work of several talented, female individuals. It allows us to show what we can do.”
The original idea for a women’s anthology came from comic book artist Jessica Hickman.
“I have a lot of talented female friends and it just seemed natural to me that they would eventually get together and create something,” said Hickman. “For the fun of comics.”
Hickman mentioned the idea to de Liz online one day, prompting de Liz to post the tweet that started it all.
De Liz said the group of women agreed on “heroic” as the theme for the anthology because they wanted something bold and positive that could be interpreted in many ways. De Liz said “heroic” can apply to everything from superheroes to superpets to grandmothers climbing mountains.
De Liz, originally from the West Coast, grew up reading comic books and drawing but gave it up in high school. When she later found herself a single mother working at unfulfilling jobs, she remembered she used to love drawing and decided to give it another try.
With the help of people she met on the Internet, de Liz taught herself to make comics and soon landed her first job, hand-drawing 50 “Lord of the Rings” collectible sketch cards. From there, she has slowly gained momentum, recently creating a graphic novel adaptation of Peter S. Beagle’s “The Last Unicorn” with her husband, Ray Dillon.
De Liz married Dillon, also a comic book artist, three years after meeting him at the San Diego Comic Convention. The couple moved from Kansas to Cape Elizabeth two years ago when de Liz was pregnant with her second child.
“We wanted somewhere nice to have a baby,” said de Liz. “It’s gorgeous here. There’s also a great comic book community in Portland.”
Staff Writer Sophie Gould can be contacted at 791-6354 or at: