Most Surprising Things We Learned While Drawing Amelia Earhart, a guest post by Melanie Gillman and AC Esguerra

Cover credit: Penguin Workshop

AC Esguerra

The very first character designs I submitted for the comic came back from editorial with a major note: change Amelia’s outfit.

As it turned out, the ensemble I had initially decided to draw Amelia in was from a 1928 publicity photoshoot. Everything, from the clothing right down to the poses, was designed to associate Amelia with a pre-existing, popular image of aviation in the public eye: that of Charles Lindbergh. But our story is set in 1937. By that time, Amelia was a household name. Most often, she flew in either a practical flight suit or in casual clothes: sensible shoes or boots under trousers, simple shirts, and a patterned scarf jauntily knotted and thrown over the shoulder for windswept flair. I drew up revised costuming sketches accordingly.

Illustration credit: AC Esguerra

When it comes to the representation of Amelia Earhart, the line between staged and candid is not always clearly marked. No doubt this is due to the durability of the image that she and her husband, GP Putnam worked so hard to create. Both of them understood very well the need to secure Amelia’s reputation and brand as a trailblazing female pilot in the 1930s American aviation celebrity economy. Sustaining the attention and goodwill of sponsors and investors would in turn finance more aviation and business endeavors. With this in mind, Amelia was kept constantly scheduled for lecture tours, book contracts and other money-making opportunities. If the airplane was Amelia’s well-oiled machine of choice, publicity was GP’s.