Try to put yourself in Wonder Woman’s shoes—er, boots. What would she do? What are her motivations? Imagine writing a story about her. Now imagine writing a story about her that both respects and responds to more than 70 years of other writing about her. These are just some of the challenges that Amy Chu ’89 faces on any given day.
Of course, as a comic-book writer and publisher, she isn’t limited to just superheroes—she also writes about supervillains, soldiers, nursing-home residents, three generations of a Chinese-American family, lab experiments with transformative powers, the usual. “Comics can actually be anything,” Amy says, “whether it’s history, nonfiction, pulp, romance. There’s a whole diversity of genres.”
The diversity of content is appealing to Amy, but she didn’t grow up a comic-book fan and wasn’t looking for a career in the industry. “It was pretty much purely by accident,” she says. After graduating with a dual degree in East Asian Studies and architecture from Wellesley and MIT, Amy went on to get an M.B.A. from Harvard and work in management consulting. Then a friend approached her with an idea for some comics. “I have a publishing and entrepreneur background,” Amy says. “She’d be the writer, I’d be the publisher.” They did some research and founded Alpha Girl Comics in 2011.
That year, Amy tried to learn all she could about the industry—including how to write comics. “I started writing really for fun, not being serious, but that’s how you get hooked,” she says.
In 2012, she self-published her first book, Girls Night Out and Other Stories. One thing led to another, and comics became her life. But she still applied her previous work experience to the task at hand. Amy spent a lot of time at conventions, getting her name and her work out there. “I have a business background, so I also have experience organizing. I would organize a panel [at a convention] just so I could be on a panel,” she says. Her hard work paid off: Amy was noticed by some of the larger comic publishers, and she started to get freelance work as a writer in late 2013.
She’s since written a Wonder Woman story for DC Comics and contributed to the Vertigo CMYK anthology, as well as publishing two more volumes in her Girls Night Out series. Amy also has written comics for nonprofits, like the Baltimore Museum of Art, for whom she adapted a well-known Buddhist fable. For the New York Historical Society, she created a comic based on the real-life experiences of three generations of a Chinese family that immigrated to the United States. These pieces presented different challenges than your typical superhero dilemmas. “I’m creating a story, but it’s within the context of real history,” Amy says. “[I had to] establish some kind of narrative that makes sense and is also educational.”
These works are just the beginning. DC has announced a new Poison Ivy mini-series coming in January, written by Amy. She’s also working on a four-issue series for Valiant, centered on Animalia, a young girl who can transform herself into any form of creature. And don’t forget her work on the fourth book in her Girls Night Out series, and the anthology of food comics she’s putting together. On top of all this writing, she’s also become a comic-con jet-setter: She’s already been to more than 10 this year, and several more are slated. Amy likens her schedule to the time she took six classes at Wellesley. “When the pressure is on, I do a lot better, so hopefully that’s what’s going on this year,” she laughs.