February 07, 2018

Creating brave new worlds

Artist Ming Doyle ’03 brings her point of view to complex comic book characters
by Rita Savard

With ink and paper, Ming Doyle ’03 creates new windows to the world, from futuristic dystopian landscapes to the gritty mean streets of 1970s Hell’s Kitchen. Turning the pages of Doyle’s handiwork feels a bit like discovering a wardrobe that also happens to be a gateway to Narnia—there is much to unpack here, both psychologically and technically.

Ming Doyle ’03

An artist and writer courted by major publishers, Doyle says her journey to becoming a successful freelancer in the competitive comic book industry began at Andover.  

Visual arts instructor John McMurray took note of the student sitting in the back of his sculpture class, her hand working dizzily over the pages of a notebook. After perusing Doyle’s sketches, he asked whether she’d ever thought about drawing comics.

“He set everybody up to solder, but then he took me aside, set up a projection kit, took out a box full of art slides that he had been collecting, and gave me an impromptu lesson about comic books and how they worked,” Doyle says. “He taught me what a comic book was. As a result, I started drawing my first comics and posting them.”  

At 16, Doyle learned how to launch a website in her computer class and self-published Zero Sleep Beauty, her own gender-flip version of fairytales. Her interest in challenging the boundaries of racial, sexual, and gender stereotypes has continued throughout her career.  

In 2010, industry giant Marvel asked Doyle to add her signature stamp to Girl Comics, an anthology by and about amazing women working in the field. Then came her first full series, Mara. An inventive take on the world of celebrity and sports, the Image Comics series follows a gifted young athlete (who also happens to be a non-heterosexual woman of color) who runs into trouble when she begins to manifest superhuman traits. Critics hailed Mara’s mix of strength and vulnerability, calling her one of the best new female characters to spring up in 2013. 

In 2015, when DC comics rebooted the dark adventures of popular occult detective Constantine, they tapped Doyle to co-write the series. The result was a story arc that hits an emotional target. Despite her character’s special abilities, Doyle’s Constantine is flawed, making him terminally—and relatably—human.

Graphic Identity

1 4

Mara, Volume No. 1

The Kitchen

Constantine, The Hellblazer, No. 2

Constantine, The Hellblazer

Born in Boston to an Irish-American sailor and a Chinese-Canadian librarian, Doyle credits her family’s unique cultural story for influencing her artistic sensibilities. “I’ve always been interested in the dichotomy of unexpected pairings,” she says.

She is driven toward complex characters and stories that are told from a different point of view. In the graphic novel, The Kitchen, based in the 1970s, a group of women take over mob affairs after their husbands are sent to jail. There is poetry in Doyle’s characters—the women are tough and business savvy, but they can also be mean, vengeful, awkward, messy, say the wrong things, and have their own goals beyond being wives and mothers.

It’s a completely female perspective. That’s something we don’t get a lot.

Ming Doyle ’03

When Doyle arrived on the comics’ scene in the early 2000s, women writers, artists, and fans were not as visible. Today, she says, the industry is approaching gender parity. 

“We are finally becoming more prevalent,” Doyle says. “As a result, fans are seeing new kinds of stories and art that they wouldn’t have experienced 20 years ago.”

Ming Doyle ’03 on Marvel Quickdraw
Categories: Alumni, Magazine Online

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