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Central Standard

Leaving Kansas City: A Comics Writer Fed Up With Crime

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c/o Kelly Sue DeConnick
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“Leaving Kansas City” is a series that shares the personal stories of why people decided to live somewhere else. It follows our series “Going to Kansas City.”

Kelly Sue DeConnick writes the comic books Pretty Deadly and Bitch Planet, and she writes for the Marvel Comics character Carol Danvers, aka Ms. Marvel.

Along with her husband, Matt Fraction, DeConnick made headlines this week after an announcement that the duo would bring some of their comics to the small screen.

DeConnick moved to Kansas City from NYC after 9/11 to pursue a relationship with Fraction, who was here because of the Kansas City Art Institute. They got married, started a family and bought a house in Midtown in 2004.

In 2009, in the midst of the recession, crime became a problem in their neighborhood. There was a rash of muggings, their house got broken into, their car got broken into four times. The final straw was a high-speed chase that ended at the tree in their front yard. The car was just inches away from their front steps, and DeConnick found the missing gun in the bushes a few days later while playing with her son.

At that point, DeConnick and Fraction were writing full-time and had the freedom to move wherever they wanted. DeConnick says she misses the supportive comics community in Kansas City, and she has no ill-will against the city — it just wasn’t the right fit for her family.

Name: Kelly Sue DeConnick

Age: 44

Where you live now: Portland, Ore.

When did you leave Kansas City: 2009

Why did you leave? The neighborhood was a great little neighborhood that we loved, but the police chase that ended in our front yard was kind of the nail in the coffin. At that point it was just like,

alright I’m done. I’m done having panic attacks if Matt is gone an extra five minutes walking the dog and I’m afraid something happened to him. So we decided that we were going to put the house on the market.

What do you miss about Kansas City? There are lots of things I miss about Kansas City. My friends primarily. I miss my AA group on the Plaza a lot. I miss Eden Alley. I miss people arguing about who makes the best barbecue — that’s always very entertaining to me for some reason.

What do you not miss about Kansas City? I remember one time in our apartment, Matt was on a trip, and there was so much snow in Kansas City. There was just no way that I could dig the car out, so I just stayed in my apartment for days, by myself, with the cat. Snow in Portland is kind of laughable. You get maybe two or three snows a year. And it stays on the ground long enough to be pretty, and then it’s gone. So that’s pretty great.

Compare the Kansas City comic scene to where you are now: In Kansas City everybody would kind of hang out and talk about what books they were working on, and that was a good time. And we have that here too. I’m not sure that’s particularly unique to either Portland or KC. I think that might be a community thing. You know, if there aren’t that many people who do what you do for a living, and when you have the type of job where you work by yourself in your house, it’s sort of nice to go have what is essentially your water-cooler time.

Do you still show your Kansas City pride? OPB is the NPR station in Portland, and it’s pretty great and I love it. But every time I hear a story from somebody in Kansas City, I get super excited about it. I don’t know why that is, but it’s like, "Hey! I know those people." Even though I don’t know those people. I just used to listen to those people every day of my life.

Is there a reason you might ever come back? To visit, definitely, in a heartbeat. But not to live. We are Portlanders. I think the ecosystem here suits us. It neither gets too hot nor too cold, but it’s a nice range of seasons. And we live a little bit out in the woods. We love our trees, and there is a lot of room. Now we have two kids, there are deer and coyote in the backyard. It’s pretty great.

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Every part of the present has been shaped by actions that took place in the past, but too often that context is left out. As a community storyteller taking a new look at local history, I aim to provide that context, clarity, empathy and deeper, nuanced perspectives on how the events and people in the past have shaped our community today. I want to entertain, inform, make you think, expose something new and cultivate a deeper shared human connection about how the passage of time affects us all. Reach me at hogansm@kcur.org.