Katie Liggera sits down with Hanna Bahedry: a writer, editor, and Publicity Coordinator for Superfan Promotions, to discuss her work with AHOY Comics and Humanoids, as well as the importance of making time for your own creative writing.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Hello, Hanna! I’m excited to welcome you to the Yeti site! You are our PR contact for AHOY Comics and Humanoids, two comics publishers I adore, so it is always a treat to connect with you. I would like to know more about you and promote the fabulous work you do across the interwebs! First off, how are you doing? Did the pandemic change anything about your life or your work schedule?
HANNA BAHEDRY: Thanks so much, Katie! We PR types rarely get to promote ourselves, so I appreciate you having me here.
I already worked from home before the pandemic so it hasn’t been a huge adjustment for me in that sense (other than the, y’know, ever-present sense of impending doom!). And now that my city is starting to open up more for vaxxed folks, it’s been nice to venture back into the world a bit. Although my plants are starting to miss me.
CBY: From your website, you mention that you are a graduate from Wesleyan University. It’s always wonderful to talk to a fellow Creative Writing graduate, by the way. What interested you in pursuing copywriting and PR work in the comics industry? What has your experience been like as a woman in the mostly male-dominated comics industry?
HB: I sort of fell sideways into this career, to tell you the truth! As you mentioned, I studied creative writing at Wesleyan but didn’t have a very strong sense of what I wanted to do post-college other than write. I worked in literary publishing for a while, both in college and after college, and I also skipped around doing odd jobs: I worked at a bookstore, a meditation studio, and an arts non-profit and did some freelance editing, writing and researching. I’m very grateful for my eclectic career so far because I’ve learned so many varied skills that have served me well in my copywriting and PR work: how to persuade with words, work to a deadline, deal with people, juggle multiple projects, toggle between big and small picture stuff, etc.
As far as being a woman in comics goes, I feel very grateful that on the whole, I’ve been treated with a lot of respect and warmth by the folks I’ve worked with regardless of gender. Comics is such a niche industry and I still feel like a bit of an outsider here, but I really love how passionate everyone in this industry is and how eager they are to share what they love with others. I’ve been made to feel very welcome by the people we work with. There’s obviously a darker side there too, one I see mostly on Twitter, but that’s why God invented the block button.
"I remember when David pitched Superfan to me in our first conversation, he said that our role wasn’t to try and “sell people” on anything but instead to find the audience that would love the book or comic we were working on and make sure they knew about it. That perspective of simply trying to connect wonderful art with the people who will love it really resonated with me, and that’s what we do every day at Superfan."
CBY: You are a coordinator for Superfan Promotions. You have exceptional promotional and marketing skills, and it’s obvious you have a talent for the industry you’re in. How did you end up working for Superfan Promotions? What specifically does your role at Superfan entail?
HB: You’re too kind! I met David Hyde of Superfan through his wife Dara, who I used to intern for at Hill Nadell Literary Agency. When I first joined Superfan I was a comics newbie (and still consider myself one, if we’re being honest!)—I had read big graphic novels like Maus and Fun Home and grown up on Archie Comics, but I quickly learned there was this whole fantastic ecosystem of indie publishers and creators I knew nothing about. I remember when David pitched Superfan to me in our first conversation, he said that our role wasn’t to try and “sell people” on anything but instead to find the audience that would love the book or comic we were working on and make sure they knew about it. That perspective of simply trying to connect wonderful art with the people who will love it really resonated with me, and that’s what we do every day at Superfan. In practical terms, that means writing compelling and informative press releases and pitch letters; reaching out to media folks to coordinate interviews, reviews, previews and more; and communicating with writers, artists and publishers about opportunities and incoming press.
Coming from literary publishing originally, I wasn’t expecting to love working in comics as much as I do—there are some incredible stories being told in this medium, and getting to look at cool art every day makes me feel so lucky. I know there are a lot of folks out there who, like me, maybe didn’t grow up immersed in comics and have preconceived notions about what it’s like—they think Batman and Superman and that’s kind of where their list ends. But I’ve worked on all sorts of stories: poignant, funny, dark, artsy, smart, literary, exciting, silly—stories about religion and science and ethics and love and cats in space and yes, sometimes superheroes too! But just like television, film, or any other artistic medium, the comics/graphic novel format is so rich and varied, and there’s no limit to the kinds of stories that can be told here. I feel really grateful to have fallen sideways into such a fun and rewarding career!
"You could spend a lifetime playing in the sandbox by yourself, never sharing your toys, but the second other people and their perspectives get involved, things start to grow and expand and suddenly the game is bigger than just you. Sharing my stuff with others has absolutely helped me improve as a writer, and it’s opened up new connections and opportunities I never would have had access to had my writing never left my notebook."
CBY: I am quite biased at this point, but it’s evident AHOY Comics is my favorite indie comics publisher. Your newsletters for AHOY are superbly composed, hilarious, and a joy to read. What is your relationship with the AHOY team and how did you discover the publisher?
HB: Superfan has been working with AHOY since day one, so when I joined Superfan, I came along for the ride. I can’t say enough good things about the AHOY team; not only are they putting out some of my favorite comics in the business, they are all genuinely kind and wonderful folks to work with. When we decided that AHOY should have a newsletter and I should write it, my biggest challenge was figuring out how to channel that “AHOY voice”—although it was actually fairly effortless, as it’s a really fun and funny voice to write in. Writing the newsletter has given me a great outlet for all of my worst puns and silliest impulses, and I’m just grateful the AHOY folks have welcomed me into their fold so magnanimously. All those student loans for that creative writing degree were worth it!
CBY: Your short fiction prose story, “I Hadn’t Prepared Any Remarks”, was recently published in Second Coming: Only Begotten Son #3 from AHOY Comics: Congratulations! How do you find time to write creatively around your work schedule?
HB: The eternal question! I’m working on a collection of short stories right now and on a good day, I’ll get up early before work and get some reading or writing in, though sometimes the snooze button is too tempting. I try to set aside some time in the afternoon as well, and I always set aside at least one weekend day for a big chunk of writing time as well. It’s a balancing act of creating a schedule for yourself while also allowing for flexibility; my days never look the same at Superfan, which is part of what I love about it, so some weeks I have more time to write than others. And for me, part of it is understanding that there will always be creative “high tide” and creative “low tide” and to not force it; when the tide is low, I keep reading and thinking and gestating, so I’m ready to write when the tide inevitably comes in again. I also highly recommend being a part of a writer’s group (or several); having a group of people to whom I’m accountable really helps. I felt so grateful that the AHOY folks liked my weird little story and published it—and I mean, c’mon, how many people get to say their writing’s been illustrated by Peter Bagge?!
CBY: As a creative writer, your work has been published in several publications such as The Maine Review and Method Magazine. Have you always known you wanted to be a writer? What advice do you have for writers who are nervous about submitting their own writing for publication?
HB: I have always known that I wanted to be a writer, unfortunately! I was writing long-winded, badly illustrated stories from the moment I could hold a pen and never really stopped; the first one I can recall was about what my childhood dog Ziggy Stardust did when we all left the house, which was apparently throw a big birthday party and invite all the neighborhood dogs. I certainly understand the hesitation to share your work, as the second it’s in the world you lose control over it—but that’s also the really magical part about it. You could spend a lifetime playing in the sandbox by yourself, never sharing your toys, but the second other people and their perspectives get involved, things start to grow and expand and suddenly the game is bigger than just you. Sharing my stuff with others has absolutely helped me improve as a writer, and it’s opened up new connections and opportunities I never would have had access to had my writing never left my notebook.
As far as advice, I’d say to not take rejection personally; it’s a guarantee that you’re going to get a ton of rejections when you put yourself out there, but you never know which story might resonate with someone and suddenly it all clicks. Personally, I’d rather put myself out there, take a few knocks and grow in the process than be so precious with myself and my writing that I never leave the proverbial house. All the best things require a little risk, I think!
CBY: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Hanna! Before we go, I’d like to ask you two more essential questions: What is your favorite comic from AHOY? What is your favorite comic from Humanoids?
HB: Ooh, this question might get me fired. I can honestly say I haven’t worked on a book I didn’t like from either of these publishers. In fact, last Christmas everyone in my family got a different AHOY comic in their stocking! I will say that whenever I tell people I work in comics and they ask me to recommend something, I go straight to The Wrong Earth; it’s one of those books that first helped me realize how much was possible in comics. It takes what could simply be a fun and goofy premise—what if campy Batman and gritty Batman switched worlds?—and makes it so much funnier, more heartfelt, and more surprising than you’d ever expect it to be. I also think Billionaire Island is one of the smartest and funniest things I’ve ever read, and Snelson is genius (I’m obsessed with Fred Harper’s art), and Ash & Thorn is inspired and inspiring… okay, stop me before I go through the whole catalogue.
"Writing the newsletter has given me a great outlet for all of my worst puns and silliest impulses, and I’m just grateful the AHOY folks have welcomed me into their fold so magnanimously."
Humanoids’ output is so varied and eclectic that it feels painful to pick just one, but I really love Koren Shadmi’s graphic biographies: The Twilight Man about Rod Serling and Lugosi about Bela Lugosi. Graphic novels are such a clever format for a biography; it opens up so many more possibilities for honest storytelling than a prose biography or a TV/film biography ever could—there’s no budget, no casting issues, and you can dip into dream and flashback and fantasy effortlessly. Koren always frames his subjects’ stories in a really unique and innovative way and makes me feel like I’m seeing them from a wholly new perspective—it’s so impressive and exciting as a reader.
CBY: It’s been a pleasure having you here. Where can people find you online to keep supporting your future endeavors?