I hated summer camp. As a young, awkward misanthrope with a deep un-athletic streak, I just couldn’t handle all of the forced group activities and the team sports and the bonding over lanyards. All I wanted to do at camp was 1) play tetherball (a “sport” that requires little-to-no social interaction) and 2) read Archie comics, exclusively. So it was an existentially unsettling moment when I discovered that I genuinely enjoyed Lumberjanes, the much-lauded Boom! Studios comic about five female friends battling supernatural forces at camp. It’s summer-camp-related—but it’s entertaining and witty and and not sob-inducing? It’s a comic—but it doesn’t feature approximately 423 men and two women with the same exact face?
This can be attributed entirely to the fact that Lumberjanes was created by four women: Shannon Waters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, and Brooke A. Allen, some of whom met through Autostraddle and decided to produce a comic that would “make a difference in some small, weird way” for young girls and grown women alike. As Ellis put it in an interview with Paste, “This is going to sound really dumb and like I’m super into myself, but I’m going to say this anyway: comics needed something like this. They needed a rallying point, a hero—and I guess it was us… This conversation about women in comics was happening, and we happened to release this comic about all women by all women.”
It’s not a surprise that the resulting series, first published in 2014, is unapologetically feminist, smart, and funny, billing itself as “Buffy The Vampire Slayer meets Gravity Falls” and featuring five “butt-kicking, rad teenage girls wailing on monsters and solving a mystery with the whole world at stake.” Lumberjanes is fast-paced and self-aware, filled with clever, pop-culture-laden dialogue (“What in the Joan Jett are you doing?”), paeans to the power of female friendship, and tongue-in-cheek send-ups of both summer camp and comic-book culture. Case in point: In the first issue, after “beating up some foxes who didn’t seem to like cats” (…you had to be there) and staying out too late, protagonists Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are sent to the camp administrator’s office; the administrator hears their supernatural tale, then replies, “Feline prejudice hardly seems like a reason to break eight camp policies, not to mention the Lumberjane Scout rule expressly forbidding the punching of animals.” Oh, and then there’s this: The camp is called Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types.
Originally planned as a limited, eight-part series, Lumberjanes has become such a runaway critical and commercial hit that it’s now become an ongoing series, with two Eisner Award nominations and, as of today, an upcoming feature film adaptation. Which is great! But The Wrap brings news that 20th Century Fox has hired Will Widger (known for his 2014 Black List script The Munchkin) to adapt it. Which is, uh, less great. As our own Tasha Robinson put it via IM, “…Wait. They’re having a dude write it? What the everloving fuck?”
It’s massively disappointing that Fox didn’t entrust a woman with adapting this lady-empowering, trope-smashing work of art. But it’s not surprising—this is Hollywood we’re talking about, a town that can hardly stomach centering a film on a woman, much less putting one in charge of a script. But emphatically questioning Fox’s choice fits snugly within the Lumberjanes’ ethos—their witty, wise “Lumberjanes pledge” includes the line, “I solemnly swear… to be truthful and compassionate, to be interesting and interested… to pay attention and question the world around me.” So let’s question the shit out of this.
(Update, 4 p.m. Central: The Wrap has just reported that “the studio and producers are already thinking of female directors to target once the script is finished.”)