As a kid in London, Emilia Clarke got a distinct vibe from her local comic book shop: “No girls allowed.”
The Emmy nominee and lead of the HBO pop culture juggernaut “Game of Thrones” was therefore doomed to spend her adolescence reading hand-me-down comics from her older brother and meeting caped crusaders on the big screen, she said.
“I read a lot of fantasy novels full of rich worlds as a child, like ‘Lord of the Rings.’ That was always the place my imagination would gravitate toward. Later on, when I went to Comic-Con for the first time at 22 with ‘Game of Thrones,’ I was amazed at what I saw — almost entirely men. Later, as tides turned in the industry and #MeToo emerged, I began to look at the community through those eyes and it was arresting,” she said.
Clarke started dreaming about what a comic book might look like from her perspective — a notion that quickly gained steam. She recruited an all-female creative team and made a comic featuring what is undoubtably one of the most progressive female heroes in the genre.
“M.O.M.: Mother of Madness” will publish in July from Image Comics, co-written by Clarke and Marguerite Bennett (“Bombshells,” “Josie and the Pussycats”) with art from Leila Leiz (“Horde”).
“In doing my research, I found that 16% of comic book creators are female, according to a 2019 study, and only 30% of comic book characters are women. On the other hand, roughly half of comic book buyers are female. Something did not sit right with me in that exchange, and all these signs were telling me to go make my own,” said Clarke.
“M.O.M.” is centered on Maya, a busy single parent whose life is upended by the discovery of superpowers.
“She’s a single mum that’s got to get shit done. This was born from the idea that single mothers are superheroes. You need superhuman strength to do that. When you get into your 30s and your friends start having kids, you’re like, ‘Oh my god. I was not aware of what it took. Holy shit,'” she said.
Another key identifier for the character is that all of her powers manifest from her menstrual cycle.
“The bloating, the hair growth, the mood swings, the [acne], all of it. We hate that when it happens, speaking for myself and everyone I’ve ever met who has had a period. What if we turned that around and made the period something that we can feel as this unique, crazy, superhuman thing that happens in our body? When Maya is scared, she goes invisible, when she’s angry, she has superhuman strength. She can swing like Spider-Man from her armpit hair,” Clarke says.
Through both lenses, Clarke and her creative team sought to lionize the single mom, whose media depiction is usually one of struggle, sadness and efforts to rebalance her life with a male partner. When it comes to menses, the actor thinks it’s way past time that we normalize something that over half the world population experiences (in upcoming editions of the three-part comic miniseries, Maya utilizes “inflated boobs” to help thwart a human trafficking ring).
“She’s so ashamed of her powers at the start. It’s mental. Even today, if your tampon falls out of your bag, it’s embarrassing. Why?” Clarke asks.
Though its topical themes and raunchy humor (the publisher describes the tone of the series as “‘Deadpool’ action meets ‘Fleabag’ comedy”) lend themselves to film, Clarke’s ambition was not to create a vehicle for the screen, rather an artifact she can enjoy “on my deathbed.”
She’s already ticked the box on comic book adaptations, having joined the cast of Marvel Studios’ anticipated “Secret Invasion,” a Disney Plus original that will explore the shape-shifting aliens introduced in the feature film “Captain Marvel.” Clarke, no stranger to top-secret television that captivates large fandoms, said her first meeting on the project was with Marvel’s security team.
“The people behind it are the best at what they do; it’s amazing to be a part of that high pedigree. But Marvel, ‘Star Wars,’ they all give you fake audition sides,” Clarke said, referring to script pages actors read for casting directors. “I remember for ‘Star Wars,’ the character I read was a made-up music producer.”
While she may never return to Westeros or her beloved character Daenerys Targaryen, she has seen promotional images for HBO’s upcoming prequel to “Game of Thrones,” titled “House of the Dragon.”
“I think it’s glorious. It’s trippy as fuck to see my wig everywhere!” Clarke said of the iconic white-blonde she rocked for eight seasons. “That’s why they didn’t give it to me when I left. Matt Smith is wearing it.”
“M.O.M.: Mother of Madness” is currently in pre-sale, and hits stands on July 21.