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Robert Kirkman, Eli Roth, James Cameron Address the Underrepresented Stories in Comics/Horror/Sci-Fi

When you’re told a new television series is set to explore “the untold stories behind” the histories of various pop culture genres, it feels natural to ask the question: will the stories so often erased in these scenarios—that of women and people of color and other minorities—be showcased? It was a question we posited to three of the men behind AMC’s new year-round documentary series, AMC Visionaries (coming sometime in 2018), at the Television Critics Association’s 2017 Summer Press Tour. And Robert Kirkman, James Cameron, and Eli Roth came prepared to address such a quandary.

Regarding comics—something The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman is set to address in his “Secret History of Comics” episodes—Kirkman pointed out two episodes in particular.

“We’re actually doing two episodes about this specifically,” he told us. “We’re doing one about the creation of Wonder Woman, which is credited as being created by William Moulton Marston, but a lot of people don’t know he had a polygamous relationship with two women, and those two women were actually very instrumental in the creation of Wonder Woman. So we do a deep dive into who they were as people and everything that inspired their lives and led to the creation of this character that’s now the lead of a blockbuster movie of this summer.”

Regarding race, Kirkman went on to add that, “we’re also doing an episode called ‘The Color of Comics’ that kind of explores the history of black characters and the lack of black characters in the comic book industry, which touches on the creation of Black Panther, the Marvel character, and has a focus from the 90s called Milestone Comics which was founded by a bunch of African American comic book creators to create characters that appealed to them and represented them because there was a very huge lack of representation for them in comics, even in the 90s.”

Eli Roth, a horror savant and frequent collaborator with indie horror creators, was quick to hat-tip the woman who started it all for his genre of choice—Mary Shelley.

“You wouldn’t have horror without Mary Shelley and Frankenstein,” Roth explained. “And going back through history, what we want to do—like Robert has done and James has done—is have a show for the casual horror fan but also go really, really deep. And as we all know we’re losing these masters; they’re disappearing every week.”

He later went on to add that, “Our show’s going to be [broken up] by sub-genre … but I want to get Catherine Hardwicke, I want to get every single Caché—any kind of and all of the women—any women that’s directed a movie, because there’s a lot of fantastic entries, certainly Slumber Party Massacre, there are a lot of films people don’t know were directed by women that were slasher films that were their sort of comment, they were actually feminist movies.”

Roth also highlighted another creator, the late George Romero. “Look at what he did,” Roth effused. “I mean, at the height of the Civil Rights’ movement, he puts an African American as the lead of Night of the Living Dead. And at the end of the movie he’s shot by a bunch of rednecks, not because of the color of his skin, but because they think he’s a zombie but obviously, you know, you can read into the implications with that. What he was doing with racism and race and using genre to explore racism in America was just so ahead of its time and just as potent today as it was fifty years ago, so absolutely it’s something we’re going to discuss in different episodes.”

Though he was only appearing via satellite, director James Cameron also acknowledged the myriad ways in which science fiction has been a positive space for women—even though he did not explicitly state whether or not his own episodes would highlight the contributions of women and people of color.

“I think the role of women in science fiction has been varied, and we want to look at it, [but] we’re not going to do any specific episodes. We’re doing 6 episodes and they’re themed around space travel and dark futures, dystopia, time travel—things like that.”

Still, he caveated that the ties to those oft-otherized people’s stories will be undeniable in the connective tissue of the series itself. “Throughout it, we want to have this thread of analyzing the interaction between science fiction and society. Not only how science fiction changed and evolved and manifested the anxieties of society—such as the monster movies that emerged out of the fear, and the dystopian stories that emerged out of the fear during the Cold War period, things like that—but also how science fiction expressed changes in society and even anticipated them. So it’s a bit of a checkered story.”

“Science fiction, traditionally, back in the ’30s and ’40s, was a vision primarily by and for men, and the female writers often had to have noms de plume that sounded like male names.,” Cameron added. “But then as you got into the ’60s and the ’70s, science fiction became a kind of forerunner in breaking down social barriers, whether it was around race or gender, the role of women in these future societies, and I think some of the strongest women in film, period, are in science fiction movies. And, you know, we still don’t have enough female directors in general, let alone female filmmakers working in science fiction movies, but we certainly have a plethora, now, of women writing great science fiction movies, starting with Ursula K. Le Guin, and so on, back in the ’60s. And I know I’ve already mentioned D.C. Fontana, who also wrote for Star Trek in the ’60s, and interestingly she used her initials because she didn’t want the Hollywood powers-that-be know that she was a female science fiction writer, which was still seen as a very male genre even then.”

Time, and content, will ultimately tell us if the docu-series will achieve this aspirational look at the worlds of comic books, science fiction, and horror, but it’s heartening to see that they were ready for the question.

What do you think of the comments from these creators? Would you like to see more stories about the contributions of women and minorities in these worlds? Let us know in the comments below!

Images: AMC; Warner Bros.

Alicia Lutes is the managing editor at Nerdist, host of Fangirling!, and frequent over-sharer on Twitter!

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