Shrugging, I say, “I guess, but Razor’s alternate time in the book is just as visually different in flashbacks as another planet would be. I mean, the way you do it is unique, but time shifts are done elsewhere, too. The Multiversity collapses all parallel timelines into the Hypertime.”

“I know, but maybe that argues Austin’s case. Multiversity collapses all of the DC timelines to explain how they all could exist. Maybe the idea of parallel time is easier to grasp there because people want a way to reconcile all the various takes on the same characters.”

“I think yours is simpler,” I say, adding, “more elegant, I mean. It starts with the idea of a parallel time loop. It doesn’t use it to explain things in hindsight.”

She hums, nodding at this. “I guess I’ll just need to hear what they say. It’s so easy to do something when it’s just me and a book and my ideas. It’s different when I expose it all to this larger collective consciousness.”

This thought lands heavily between us. She’s going to let Austin and the screenwriter try to convince her? And maybe she should. But I can’t help but feel like I wouldn’t. Like a man in her position maybe wouldn’t.

“It’s not because you feel cowed by him?” I ask her.

Lola tilts her head. “It’s not my expertise,” she says, adding, “Film, I mean.”

“But the story is. Razor is. Quinn is.” Quinn is you, I want to say. Don’t let him change you. Don’t let him sexualize your journey from ruin to triumph.

Nodding, she looks back out the window. “I know. I’m just thinking about how I want to handle it.”

“What if he insists Quinn be eighteen?” I ask her. “What if he says without a romance angle in the story, it won’t float in Hollywood?”

Lola turns and looks at me, and I catch a flash of fury in her eyes before I have to look back at the road. “He might be right,” she says. “That’s what sucks. It might need romance to work as a commercial film. We didn’t sell this to an art-house indie. We sold it to a major studio. Profit is the key. And I knew that going in.”

I see what she’s saying but it twists me, tightly. “You wouldn’t push back?”

“Of course I would,” she says. “And I know what you’re saying, but I guess I want to make sure I do it right. You should have seen the meeting. Angela and Roya got maybe three words in, and they’re the executive producers here. And contractually, I only have so much input.”

“Really?” I’m aware of the comic community’s ongoing discussion about feminine representation on the page and in creative staffing, but I still find myself surprised that Lola’s film might not be hers after all.

She nods. “I’m twenty-three. I’m the first female comic creator to have a major motion picture, and I’m one of the few people out there writing and illustrating it all. If I was Stan Lee or Geoff Johns walking in there—or even just some nobody guy with my age and experience—I could tell them what the fuck to do and they would listen. A man having strong opinions and pushing back right away is someone with sound business sense. If I walk in there as Lola Castle and push back, I’m pushy and hard to work with. Maybe someone will even use the word bitch.”

I feel my jaw go tight. I know she’s right, but still. “That’s fucking bullshit.”

“It’s the way the world works,” she says. “The first question I always get asked is what it’s like being a woman in the comic industry. Every single interview. The second question is whether any of my girlfriends read comics.”

Fuck. I never thought about the interview aspect before. They seemed like reasonable questions, but with a step away from it, I can see it’s utter shit.

“Do you think anyone would ever ask Brian Michael Bendis whether he has any male friends who read his comics?” she asks.

I laugh, but it isn’t really from humor. “Probably not.”

“We fight these perceptions one meeting at a time, but it’s why I want to be strategic about the battles I pick,” she says. “I need to convince myself first that these changes are absolutely unacceptable because I’m sure there are other things down the road that will floor me, and I don’t want to be excused from the conversation before it even starts.”

And there, right there, I want to propose.

I want to pull over and climb from the car, and get down on one knee on the dusty, narrow shoulder of the freeway. Because Lola knows it’s bullshit, she knows she needs to tread carefully. And she’s figuring out the best way to fight for what she’s built.

MILLION-DOLLAR HOMES PEEK out from behind lush trees and iron gates before we turn onto Sunset, parking in a sleek underground lot.

The lifts are spotless, marble floors polished to a shine. We’re on a list in the lobby; another list is checked upstairs. Lola takes my hand as we walk in but it isn’t romantic; I’m sure that much is clear to both of us. It’s what we would do before stepping off the side of our world and into another. It’s about having an anchor.

This is the kind of party where everyone is wearing black, and the waiters—most likely models or actors—wind their way through the room with silver trays covered in beautiful hors d’oeuvres and flutes of champagne. Music is loud so people are forced to speak over it. The room isn’t bursting with partygoers, but it sounds that way.