Secret Love is a part of the Secret Wars anthology currently published by Marvel Comics. In Secret Love–a series of vignettes featuring romantic story arcs with popular Marvel characters–Misty and Danny go out on a date as a married couple while Jessical Jones and Luke Cage babysit their baby daughter. Jeremy Whitley chatted with BGN about the comic and his thoughts on its reception so far.
Jamie: What inspired you to create a story about Danny and Misty going on a date as a married couple?
Jeremy: Honestly it came from a place of experience. I knew that Secret Love was bound to have at least one cute teenage romance story in it and I wanted something that would set us apart. Being as our story was about 1) and interracial couple and 2) a married couple, I think it was pretty distinctive.
A couple of years ago when it began to become common practice to break up the married couples and common knowledge that “stories about married superheroes just aren’t interesting, I started to take it personally. My life has just as many challenges as a married guy with a kid as it ever did as a high school or college student. The fact that depictions of superhero couples and interracial couples rarely goes past the early relationship stages bothers me and I wanted to make something that’s a tribute to how hard real life is compared to super heroing!
Jamie: There has been a strong reaction over the panel image of Danny putting Bantu knots in Misty’s hair. First of all, I had no idea Misty wore Bantu knots and second how has the response been to Danny’s new skill?
Jeremy: I made a joke last week that my goal was to destroy google’s search algorithms by causing all the users who are usually googling issue numbers of events in Captain American to google bantu knots. I think it may have worked.
It’s been my experience that the majority of people in comics know very little about black hair and that often Misty ends up with some pretty strange hairdos (there’s a whole run of Heroes For Hire where she has a large afro and straight bangs and I know people who stopped buying the book just for that. I wanted to really showcase her hair by giving her a few different looks over the course of the story, The fact that first of all, Danny is allowed to do her hair and that secondly he knows how I think are testaments of how close the two of them actually are. It’s not every boyfriend you’ll just turn your hair over to.
Funny side story: in my initial effort to show his skill (as Danny is, after all, good with his hands) I originally had written microbraids into the last page. However, my wife read the story and her first questions was “How long is this last scene?” I said, based on the length of the two movies they watch that it was between 4-6 hours. I was informed that not only was this an unlikely amount of time for this, but that it was unrealistic. Having waited most of a day while my wife got microbraids in the past, I realized she was correct and decided to go with bantu knots instead.
Jamie: Talk to us about Misty’s self-image. There is a scene where she is trying on a dress with spaghetti straps and feels self conscious about her bionic arm. What was the motivation behind this scene? And do you feel like Misty is constantly grappling with coming to terms with her disability?
Jeremy: I think for the most part that comics view disability as a thing to be fixed. If a person is injured, their parts can be swapped out for cybernetic ones or they can be magically healed and everything is better. The reality of living with a disability is much different.
While her cybernetic arm makes her super strong, it is also bound to have effects on her life. Self-image is just one of those things. No matter how cool and confident you are when you have a picture in your head of how something is going to look (like a dress) and it doesn’t look that way because of a thing that is different about you, it hurts. And this was supposed to be THE dress, you know? The one that was gonna knock Danny dead when he showed up at the restaurant and she just can’t get it to look the way she needs it to because of her arm.
It was also very important to me that in the last page Misty does not have her arm. She is having an intimate night with her husband, getting her hair done, and snuggling up to go to sleep. First off we’re talking about a large, bulky, metal arm. Secondly, the thing has a lot of moving parts and is sure to make noise. I think the visual of a superheroic woman of color with her arm missing is very powerful.
Jamie: What is your favorite part of the Secret Love story?
Jeremy: The last page, without a doubt. Misty sitting around watching Kung-fu movies while Danny does her hair was the first scene that popped into my head when I was pitching the story. The fact that Gurihiru was able to nail every element of that perfectly – from their interaction, to the Bantu knots, to her missing arm, to just the way she leans on Danny in that second to last panel – makes me so happy. I teared up when I got the page.
Jamie: Has Marvel reached out with any information yet to continue this story?
Jeremy: Not yet! Though I would very much like to do a series with Misty Knight, whether it’s her and Danny or a solo series for her with Danny, Colleen, Luke, and Jess as the supporting cast.
I should note that my editor, Emily Shaw has been out of town since before the book launched, so she may return to an inbox bursting with people asking for more Misty Knight. I kinda hope so.
I’d also like to do more comics with romance elements to them. A lot of people have noted the lack of LGBT couples in this anthology and I had another story I wanted to do that fit that bill, it just happened that this story was better – being about a couple that I’m already very invested in.
Jamie: If Secret Love gets picked up as a mini-series, where do you plan to go next with the story?
Jeremy: Well I would love to do more of Danny and Misty trying to deal with the complexities of being superheroes and parents. Can you imagine those event months? One of you needs to be fighting mystic kung-fu demons in another dimension and the other is helping to lead valkyries against a magical invasion, but somebody has got to pick up the kid from day care?
Jamie: What do you hope readers will take away from Danny and Misty’s story?
Jeremy: I want people to see a lot of things, but I’ll be happy if they get a few. A functional interracial marriage in media, a portrayal of a black woman in comics who’s not sexualized or stuck in 70’s cinema mode, a realistic look at disabilities…
Maybe that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I hope people pick up some of the sappier stuff at the end to. That sometimes it takes something big and potentially life shattering (like a dinosaur attack) to make you realize what’s really important. That the reason most people get married is because they like the other person enough to say “yeah, I could do this for the rest of my life” and that people forget that when they’re dealing with fear and anxiety and plain old day to day life.
Jamie: What other current projects are you working on now and are there any events that you are attending that we should look out for?
Jeremy: Book 4 of my creator owned series “Princeless” is coming out right now, as well as the first few issues of the new “Raven: The Pirate Princess” spin-off. I also have a major four issue event starting next month in My Little Pony. And hopefully, if all goes well, you’ll be seeing some more stuff from me at Marvel and even DC in the near future.
As far as events, I’ll be at Dragon Con in Atlanta in just a few weeks. After that I’ll be at SPX in Bethesda and at NYCC in New York – where I’m already booked to do a couple of panels. My final show for the year will be NC Comicon in my home town of Durham, NC. That should be quite a show.