'Legally Blonde' Writer Tackling Female-Driven Comic Book Series 'Misfit City' (Exclusive)

"It’s not just straight white boys who yearn for adventure," Kiwi Smith says of her new comic book project from Boom! Studios.
Courtesy of Naomi Franquiz/Boom! Studios

A group of teens bored with their hometown in the Pacific Northwest find more adventure than they expected following the discovery of a treasure map. It might sound familiar, but there's a lot more to Boom! Studios' new series Misfit City than Goonies nostalgia — not least of which being the fact that it's the first comic from Legally Blonde and 10 Things I Hate About You writer Kiwi Smith.

Misfit City, which launches in May, will be co-written by Smith and Kurt Lustgarten. The series was announced at the comics industry event ComicsPRO Friday by Boom!, and Smith and Lustgarten told Heat Vision just where the newest comic book misfits had come from.

"I feel that there’s something missing for kids today," Lustgarten says. "We had these great, imaginative adventure movies in the '80s, like The Goonies, Explorers, The Monster Squad, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, etc. and it feels like those films aren't being made anymore." 

However, this new series is more than just an attempt to recreate what came before, according to Smith.

"I didn't really click with The Goonies as a kid because it wasn't about girls," she admits. "I didn't see myself in those characters. But when Kurt encouraged me to revisit it as an adult, I saw the appeal of these underdog boys who accomplish something extraordinary by finding this treasure. Girls really don't have a treasure hunting action adventure story like that.  Now we can open up this kind of story to an audience that were underserved by those '80s originals. It’s not just straight white boys who yearn for adventure."

The series got started through a circuitous route, Smith said. "Boom! landed on my radar when I was sent [Boom! Studios series] Lumberjanes to consider adapting as a screenplay. I read it and loved it, but was too busy to take it on, but then I started following the creators on Twitter. Then a little while later, [Editor] Shannon Watters at Boom! reached out to me and asked if I'd ever consider writing a comic. It felt like a dream come true, because I've had so many female-driven ideas over the years where executives would say 'you should make this a graphic novel or a comic book,' and I literally had no idea how to go about doing that. And then this magical human Shannon appears in my life and tells me it's possible.  And not only is it possible, but it's a chance to be part of this imprint that is so passionate and committed to telling female driven stories, which is what I've spent my career doing."

Indeed, Misfit City — which centers around a group of teen girls who discover a map promising to lead to pirate treasure — would appear to fit in well with a number of existing series in Boom!'s acclaimed Boom! Box imprint, such as Lumberjanes, detective series Goldie Vance and roller derby drama Slam!.

The series' parallels to The Goonies — which come, in part, from Smith's own childhood in the Pacific Northwest, and a timely visit to Astoria, where the movie was set — are not only intentional, Lustgarten explained, they're integral to the story.

"It’s that meta approach that we found intriguing," he says. "What is it like to grow up in a town that everyone else in the world associates with a cinematic fantasy, when you’re really dreaming about getting out of that town?  We’re taking this modern group of kids who see the ridiculousness of the 'movie version' of their town, and then they discover a new reality that rivals the fantasy version — and all along the way they’re kind of saying, 'Holy crap, how is this really happening?' "

The series is illustrated by Naomi Franquiz, and the writers couldn't be more thrilled with their collaborator.

"We were initially having discussions between the two of us about the look and feel of the series, trying to figure out how to relate or explain what was in our head to the artist. We were bending every which way to try to nail it down — it’s gotta be dark but adventurous and mysterious but also fun and also grounded, with lots of [Pacific Northwest] texture — then Shannon and Sophie [Philips-Roberts, assistant editor] from BOOM! sent us these character designs from Naomi. All she had to work from was our outline and she nailed it," White says. "Beyond her illustrations being beautiful, Naomi’s work has attitude. Those initial character designs have actually impacted the way we write those characters now, so it's a bit of art-imitates-writing-imitates-art kind of thing. Seeing Naomi's work really upped our excitement. That's when we really felt the world come alive."