Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Noah (the graphic novel)

Written by Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel
Illustrated by Niko Henrichon and Nicolas Senegas
Image Comics

The Biblical story of Noah, of the instruction by God to build an ark, and to load on two of every kind of animal, is one of the most well-known stories from the Bible. Even if you're not particularly religiously literate, you'll probably think of something like this:

"The Earth became corrupt before God; the Earth was filled with lawlessness. When God saw how corrupt the Earth was, God said to Noah, 'I have decided to put an end to all flesh, for the earth is filled with lawlessness because of them: I am about to destroy them with the Earth. Make yourself an ark...", Genesis 6:11-14

Or (if you went to Sunday School) this:

"He called for the animals, 
They came in by twosie, twosies
He called for the animals,
They came in by twosie, twosies
Elephants and kangaroosie, roosies
Children of The Lord", Rise and Shine

[Editor's Note: Or if you're really cool, you'll think of--and recite-the Bill Cosby routine off by heart. -Rob]

"Noah" (the graphic novel), is neither a faithful adaptation of the Biblical story, nor is it a children's tale. Strictly speaking, it is an adaptation of the first draft of the screenplay of "Noah" (the movie), written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, based (loosely) on the Biblical story of Noah. This is a creative and ambitious book, which attempts to fill in a number of the gaps in and expand upon the Biblical story (which is pretty bare-bones) and wrestle with what the decisions undertaken in that story would have meant (and felt like) to the people living around Noah and his family.

The look and feel of this story is visually striking, starting with the sky, all the way down to the ground. Niko Henrichon and Nicolas Senegas make everything in the sky far larger than in a "real" sky; it feels like this takes place in a time that is much closer to the time of creation, when all the heavenly bodies were still bunched together, before everything settled into what is our world. The "primordial" feel of the sky is contrasted with the look of the land. This is an arid, barren landscape. There is drought everywhere.  During the course of the story we see some glimpses of civilization (including when Noah goes to the city of Bab-ilIm, with a tower meant to be the Tower of Babel), society has the feel of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, with the remnants of civilization. An interesting choice, given that this story takes place (as far as the Bible is concerned) so close to the beginning of creation. It appears that Civilization 1.0 has gone to hell pretty quickly.

As the story begins, Noah is having visions, first of rain and then of drowning, which he believe portend a great flood. As these dreams continue he goes to the city of Bab-Ilim to address the populace and try to get them to repent from their wickedness. This goes quite poorly (as Noah angers the wicked leader Tubal-Cain, a descendant of Cain), so Noah and his family flee to the wilderness, where eventually they encounter the race of giants known as the Watchers (also known as Nephilim - the Bible makes general reference to giants, but does not make them part of the Noah story) who were once angels. Noah keeps having visions, but Noah realizes (after an encounter with his grandfather Methuselah) that he must build an Ark to keep the animals alive. Noah and the Watchers build the Ark and eventually we see the animals come (by twosies twosies). The Ark catches the attention of Tubal-Cain, who unsuccessfully tries to take the Ark but eventually sneaks aboard. Noah earns the hatred of his middle son Ham by casting out the girl that Ham intended to marry. 

Aboard the Ark, as they endure the rains, Ham finds an injured Tubal-Cain who he keeps in hiding, as Tubal-Cain plots against Noah. While this is happening, Ila (wife of Shem) discovers that she is pregnant. Noah says that if it is a boy then it shall live but if it is a girl, it will die. When Tubal-Cain makes his move against Noah, it is at the same time that Ila goes into labor. Noah survives the attack by Tubal-Cain, and eventually wavers in his convictions and does not kill Shem's children. At the same time, a dove that they had sent out returns with an olive branch; a sign that dry land has returned. In the final scenes of the story, we see Noah and his family living in a lush, green area. Ham has fled due to the hatred for his father, but the story ends on a hopeful note, as Ila asks Noah to help teach his granddaughters to build a better world.

This is a compelling story in its own right, and a powerful retelling of the Biblical tale.  This version is beautifully rendered, as the art from Henrichon is detailed, haunting and compelling. Noah's visions of destruction are powerful, and the sequential storytelling is very strong here. There are visions of the primordial cosmos here that you'll want to linger on.  You also really feel, through the art, that the whole world is being destroyed and everyone other than those on the Ark have been condemned to die. 

Thematically, Aronofsky makes some interesting choices here as the wickedness that seems to trouble God (and by extension Noah) the most is the way humans have treated the Earth. Noah, as portrayed here, is given a complex, somewhat inscrutable portrayal (as with most Biblical characters, Noah is a pretty flawed protagonist). He is a man driven by visions, and many of these turn out to be correct, but at the same time he is not clear on their meaning, and it leads him to take some pretty horrific actions. Noah has decided that his family's only task is to shepherd the animals to safety and for man to die out. He comes to believe that a world with no humans and only animals will be restored to some sort of harmony or balance, and that this is God's will. This is a choice emphasized by Aronofsky but one which differs from the Bible (as it is stated that all three of Noah's sons had wives). This feels like a commentary by the book's authors on the folly of those who believe they can speak to (and decipher) God's will, but it's not clear if it's meant to be read that way.

Much like in scripture, there's a lot to wrestle with in this story. If you enjoyed the movie*, or have an interest in the Bible generally (though some religious people may find much of the story objectionable) this is well worth taking a look at.**

* I haven't yet seen the movie, so I can't speak to the ways in which the movie differs from this book (based on the first draft of the screenplay).

** Having read this electronically, and having also seen the hardcover of this book, I would recommend picking this up in hard copy format. The book is beautifully presented in oversize format and viewing it on a tablet doesn't really do the art (or presentation and design of the book) justice. 

(10 + 1 =) 11 Questions with Jason Martin by Rob Kirby

Jason Martin is a longtime zinester and cartoonist from the Bay Area. He is best known for his autobiographical series Laterborn, eight issues of which have been released so far. Last year he collected the best of the first six issues along with five new stories into the book Driftwood City, which easily made my annual Top 20 list of 2013. Another "Martin Must-Have" is Papercutter #17 (2011), the final issue of the much-admired comics anthology from Greg Means' Tugboat Press. Martin wrote all the stories in this Ignatz-nominated edition, illustrated by a stellar crew of indie cartoonists, including Vanessa Davis, Hellen Jo, Jesse Reklaw, and Calvin Wong. He has also released three issues of the solo zine series Black Tea, a recent collaboration with pals Leo Lopez and Caroline Saddul called I Hugged This Pony Today, and has contributed to a variety of books and anthologies including I Saw You, Not My Small Diary, and Runner Runner.  

Jason's work is marked by a stark, aching sincerity. He excels at capturing those small moments that every life awaits: moments where we genuinely connect with one another in friendship, solidarity or understanding, or when a favorite song or piece of writing acts as a reminder of the curious, joyful intensity of just being alive. His stories have at times moved me to tears. I wanted to know more about Jason and his work, so I emailed him a bunch of questions late last month. Read along with me, won’t you?    

Rob Kirby: Which came first for you (if either), the writing or the drawing?

Jason Martin: Probably the drawing. I made my own Batman comics in elementary school (which I wrote about in Papercutter #17), then drew gag comics with my friend in junior high, and some hard-hitting “editorial” cartoons for our school paper in 8th grade. 

In high school I got more into short story writing, and I ended up majoring in Creative Writing in college. What finally bridged the gap for me was Michel Rabagliati’s comic “Paul: Apprentice Typographer” in one of the Drawn & Quarterly books. When I read that comic I thought, “This is as good as the best short stories I’ve read." It spoke to me way more than the “literary” stories coming out at the time, which were mostly about professors cheating on their wives.

Kirby: Ha! I know what you mean about those oh-so-literary stories! And I will have to check out the Rabagliati piece, for sure…do you remember specifically what title was it in? 

Martin: Let me check my shelves... looks like it’s called Drawn and Quarterly, Volume 3. It’s a big coffee table book with a lot of great stories, and I actually first discovered it on my friend Robert’s coffee table. This was back in 2001, and now I have a list a mile long of comics that I'd consider literature, like One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry, Monsters by Ken Dahl, the QU33R anthology you edited, all the mini's I wrote about for Jason's Zine Club (on my website), etc.

Kirby: Can you remember when and where you first became aware of the small press & zine world and the kind of effect it had on you?

Martin: There was a guy in my high school who made a zine, but I didn’t really get into that world until college. My friend Leo and I made a funny and random zine called Pizza Ga Tabetai. Around that time I also started reading Zen Baby, which was a local zine sold at Streetlight Records in Santa Cruz. I actually became pen pals with the guy who made it, which is funny since we both lived in the same town. And I remember buying an issue of Doris at City Lights in my senior year of college, and being really inspired by it.

But King-Cat was definitely the zine that had the biggest impact on me. I went through a really low point in my life after college, and I think part of it was that I always related to those overly-sensitive characters in coming-of-age stories, but when I hit my 20’s I started freaking out, thinking, “What happens to us as adults?” The books never made it that far. Luckily, my friend Yasi lent me almost the entire run of King-Cat during that time, and something about it reassured me and made me really excited about life again.

And of course all these zines eventually inspired me to self-publish my own writing and comics.

Kirby: Music seems to fuel much of your creative mojo. What band(s) have you played in and what kind of musical realm(s) did it fall into?

Martin: Music is definitely my #1 obsession, but playing music is more of a hobby for me these days. I play keyboards for my friend Adam Lipman sometimes. Before that I played bass in my friend Jon’s band Chinatown Bakeries, which was an indie-folk band with up to 9 members at one point (and a lot of smaller bands within the band, some of which I also played in). And then there’s my high school band, Kilmore Trout, which I’m always referencing in my teenage comics. The more time goes by, the more I realize how good and original we were.

Kirby: Some of my favorite stories of yours center around teachers/educators who have inspired you in some way: "Who Are You?" and "Tribute to Lucy" and "The Weaving of a Dream." Is there something about teachers that inspires you to write about them specifically or do you feel you've just been lucky that you've had these people, however briefly, touching upon your life?

Martin: I actually just got a beautiful letter from Marilee Heyer yesterday (the author of The Weaving of a Dream). I finally worked up the nerve to send her a copy of Papercutter #17 last year. I’ve never really thought about it before, but a lot of my comics are about the people who helped make me who I am. This includes school teachers, but also people like my friend Lyal, the goth girl I had a crush on in high school, Dylan Williams, Mike Watt. All good teachers in their own way.

Kirby: Have you personally ever taught a class?

Martin: No, but I worked as a writing tutor for my college, which is one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.

Kirby: I remember once reading Tori Amos saying, "If you hate everything you do, there's a problem. If you love everything you do, that's a problem." Any thoughts on this?

Martin: Hmmm… it reminds me of something Charlie Kaufman said: “Failure is a badge of honor. It means you risked failure.” I guess it’s about getting out of your comfort zone, instead of just repeating what you know you’re good at. But quality control is also important, so I can’t agree with Tori 100%. I have such a limited time to work on comics that I try to only focus on my best ideas, or the ones I’m most excited to work on.

Kirby: A hearty congratulations once again to you and your fiancé on your upcoming nuptials! Is Michelle a creative person as well?

Martin: Thanks! Michelle is really outdoorsy and social, which is a good match for a cartoonist. She gets me out of the house and around people. But she’s also really creative in different ways. I show her most of my comics while I’m working on them, and always get good feedback from her. And she’s really talented with photography, and with doing impressions and cartoon voices.

Kirby: A hallmark of these interviews (all three of them to date) is the Totally Random Stupid Question. This one's for you, Jason Martin: What's the worst fashion era, the 1970's or the 1980's?

Martin: I’m gonna say 80’s. Almost everything was at its worst in the 80’s (except underground music).

Kirby: I've noticed collaboration is a consistent theme with you (at least in my questions to you here). What is it about working with others that is attractive for you?

Martin: I mostly collaborate with my friend Leo. We had so much fun working on our zine in college, and we’ve been able to tap back into that pretty easily over the years. Our latest project is a collaboration with our friend Caroline, where we found funny tweets with the hashtag #happiness and adapted them into comics.

When I collaborated on my autobio stories for Papercutter #17 I was more uptight and probably a pain to work with at times, but after seeing the finished comics I realized they were always in good hands and I should’ve relaxed more. I recently wrote a comic for Tessa Brunton to draw in the next Tugboat Press anthology, and this time I was more laid back and hands off. Believe it or not the story came out just as great this way. I’m learning!

Kirby: Can you tell me about the upcoming comics & projects you've got going? What's this about you and (UK cartoonist) Simon Moreton working together?

Martin: Simon and I are doing a split zine, where we’re both making comics centered around one theme. I think that’s all I can say for now. I’m really close to finishing another zine, where I’m taking my favorite stories about musicians and adapting them into comics. I think it’ll be called COVERS (since I didn’t write any of the stories), and it’s been one of the funnest projects I’ve ever worked on. I’m also working on another zine of autobiographical stories – I’m not sure if this’ll be Laterborn #9 or Black Tea #4, or maybe a new title. I go back and forth.

Many thanks to Jason for taking time to talk to me. To keep up with Jason’s doings and to order his comics and zines, please check out his website (and seriously, do check out the Driftwood City collection):

All images above are © Jason Martin, with the exception of “The Weaving of a Dream;” art is © Vanessa Davis

Monday, April 14, 2014

Stray Victims-- thoughts on Stray Bullets: Über Alles Edition

The idea of a stray bullet is almost so ridiculous that it’s meaningless. There are no "stray" bullets. Maybe you could argue that there are misdirected bullets, misaimed bullets or, at the most innocently stated, misfired bullets but bullets don't stray. Traveling hundreds of miles per hour, they don't suddenly change course and go off in some other direction. Even though he named his comic series "Stray Bullets," David Lapham is only interested in the bullets insofar as to see the damage they do. There aren't stray bullets but there are stray victims, the lives that the bullets impact and damage. Lapham works the crimes, the fights and the scandals but he lingers on the victims, those left in the wakes of the bullets who have lives that crumble and need to be put back together. The bullets do all of the damage, with little regard for the destroyed lives they cut through.

 It would be easy to view Stray Bullets as some post modern cynical view of the world. You could almost take away from the book that you're fucked and then you die (see the new Stray Bullets: Killers #1 for an example of this very story.) The first impression could be that Lapham is on some kind of Quentin Tarantino kick. Stray Bullets #1 came out in 1995, a year after Pulp Fiction, when it seemed like everyone was caught up in the surface style of Tarantino's storytelling without really looking at the stories that he was telling. Stray Bullets even follows the fractured timeline story that made Pulp Fiction a trippy puzzle. Other than the first chapter of the book which takes place in 1997, Stray Bullets is focused from 1977 to 1986, approximately the childhood of Lapham's main character Ginny Applejack, a young girl who witnesses a brutal killing after being thrilled by the original Star Wars at the movie theater. Whether as Ginny, Amy Racecar or any of the other names this girl is known as, Stray Bullets is her story as we follow the path of violence through her life.

Over the course of Stray Bullets: Über Alles Edition, the massive collection of the first 41 issues of Lapham’s series, you watch Lapham’s artwork change. From the very first tightly controlled first issue to the 41st issue (published as a single issue concurrently with this omnibus,) Lapham is never content to let his black and white artwork grow stagnant as the world around Ginny becomes an increasingly horrible place. If anything, Lapham forces us to look at our world without any adornment. The violence isn’t hidden or softened but Lapham also takes care never to glamorize it. As a storyteller, that’s how he differs from Tarantino and also Frank Miller. Along with Stray Bullets, Frank Miller’s Sin City was the other great independent crime comic of the 1990s. But Miller romanticized the crime and violence as he embraced the sin. Miller thrilled us with his artwork; Lapham brings us back down to earth and twists our stomachs with his visual approach.

The End of Innocence
Both Miller and Lapham are playing in a genre that once belonged to EC Comics. From Johnny Craig to Graham Ingels to Harvey Kurtzman, you can see the influence of those old horror, crime and humor comics in Miller and Lapham, just to different degrees. Miller goes for the expressionism and exaggeration of Ingels while Lapham looks more like a Johnny Craig man. Lapham’s naturalism is what makes Stray Bullets a gut punch. The adults in this book look like your parents and your family. The kids look like everyone who was ever in school with you. The streets and the houses look like the streets and houses you grew up in. When Lapham takes you into these dark places, you have no doubt about the existence of them. Stray Bullets is one hundred times scarier because these are people and places that you believe and that you know from your own life.

The first part of Stray Bullets is titled “Innocence of Nihilism.” That’s the struggle in this book; innocence versus nihilism. It’s easy to get lost in the abyss of nihilism (again see the recently released Stray Bullets: Killers #1 which is all about nihilism) and Lapham leads us down into that abyss where we readily follow. With Ginny, a character whose life we weave in and out of throughout the book, we get to see and follow up on the damage done to this character. We witness the worst that happens to her even as we see the strength and resilience of this young girl. The Amy Racecar stories (Ginny’s alter ego in the stories she writes) display the strength and will to live that she has. Even as Lapham pulls us deeper and deeper into the wickedness that humanity can inflict on itself, he gives us this girl to hint at a promise of grace. Ginny is a survivor as she leads us through the worst that this world has to offer and gives us the strength and resolve to not get lost in it.

Through powerful, simple storytelling, Lapham explores the darkness of humanity while trying to find the light of it. Lapham leads us into and out of Ginny’s life just like he brings her parents, her classmates, her protectors, her friends and her tormentors in and out of her story. The way we witness everything that happens Stray Bullets: Über Alles Edition does not come close to damaging you the way it does Ginny and the other victims in this book but it does leave you haunted by these black souls we fire those bullets without a thought of the true consequences of them. It leaves you haunted by the lives left behind, mere fragments of what they should have bee. Lapham doesn’t revel in the violence or get lost in it; he exposes it to remind us that the world may not be the way we want it to be and that we’ve got to have the strength like Ginny to survive.

Interview with Jamie S. Rich and Megan Levens on Madame Frankenstein

 In both A Boy and A Girl and The Double Life of Miranda Turner, writer Jamie S. Rich really impressed me with his overall writing skills and ability to create female characters who are full blooded and compelling. When I heard that he was working on a new project, this time taking on the concept of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, setting it against the twilight of the Jazz Age and the start of the Great Depression, I was immediately excited.
Working from a concept by co-creator and project artist Megan Levens, the premise is what if you set the Frankenstein story when James Whale's movie was released. The results are amazing, both in terms of dynamic black and white visuals by Levens and the strong characterizations made by Rich, who works to create complex relationships among many poor decisions while echoing familiar themes from other writers--without feeling like he's copied anything.

I was so excited about this, I interviewed Jamie and Megan very early on about the project. Unfortunately, moving across the country put a monkey wrench in posting this sooner. However, make sure you get this one on your radar for its May 7th debut--you can still make the April order cutoff all day today, for those who buy print editions. What follows is a transcription of a Skype interview I did with Jamie and Megan, and if there are any errors, please attribute them to me and my rookie transcription skills.

Rob McMonigal: For those who are unfamiliar with your past work, tell readers a little about yourselves.

Jamie S Rich: I’ve been writing for a while now, primarily known for crime and romance. My most popular being the stuff I’ve done with Joelle Jones (You Have Killed Me, 12 Reasons Why I love Her, both from Oni Press). I’m consistently moving out, experimenting with different genres, like superheroes with It Girl and the Atomics (Image) and Double Life of Miranda Turner (Monkeybrain). I experimented first with horror in Spell Checkers Volume 2 (Oni Press), where flashbacks and even the main plot were about animating the dead.

Megan Levens: Jamie and I met at Savanah College of Art and Design a few years ago. Most of my work in the last few years is in advertising storyboards, such as the Progressive insurance storyboards. I’ve done a couple of different projects with Jamie, such as Ares and Aphrodite (upcoming for Oni Press), which was our first major collaboration. 

McMonigal: How would you describe Madame Frankenstein to a potential reader?

Levens: Sort of period glam horror. 

Rich: The initial concept phrased it as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Bride of Frankenstein, or My Fair Lady for the Universal Monster series. The basic approach was something set in the 1930s that uses the time period and conventions of horror from the time period to make a moody, black and white, scary comic book, but with romance and pretty girls.

McMonigal: This is very different from most takes on the Frankenstein story. How did this story come together?

Levens: This concept existed way back in earliest forms years ago in my college sketchbooks. I had just drawn the monster, had the idea of a female Frankenstein Monster and the inventor who created her to make his perfect woman, and that was all I had for it, a few drawings of what she and her creator might look like. I never did anything with it. When Jamie approached me about doing horror, I dug it up again, pitched it to him, and he took it from there with this story.

Rich: When Megan presented it to me, she had basic concept and ending, but said, “I don’t know how to get from point A to point B,” and I immediately had some ideas, sending them to her the next day. I’ve had good luck with artists asking what they want to do next and running with it. We build it organically together, knowing her strengths, like adding 1930s burlesque because your artist draws pretty girls!
Megan: Once I threw the concepts at Jamie, he came up with names for a couple of the characters, some of the backstory, and it bounced back and forth, snowballing like that between us.

McMonigal: Talk a little bit about your creative process in making an issue of Madame Frankenstein. How do you collaborate together to make the comic?

Rich: We developed a good pattern while doing Ares and Aphrodite. For a while she was drawing while I was still finishing the writing, and on a daily basis said, “Here’s what I did today” and went from there, learning to look at each other’s stuff, give approval as we went. It was very collaborative, even though the story was partially in place by the time I asked Megan to come on board. With Madame Frankenstein we were able to start from the ground up. It was somewhat similar-we would contact each other when we had something substantial. I wrote as much of an outline as much as I could, while Megan was sketching characters until we got to a place where we were both happy with the core of what the book would become.

Levens: I got in habit of whenever I finished anything new I sent pictures to Jamie, since that might impact on future issues. It was a continuous stream of information.

Rich: When we’re in our zone, we do our thing and come back when it’s done. It’s not as day to day once the writing and drawing gets started.

McMonigal: The issues I’ve read so far read like a combination of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s distain for Jazz Age life, H.G. Wells’ expansion of current science to fictional points, and of course Mary Shelley’s own moralistic warnings. Is that the intentional blend for Madame Frankenstein?

Rich and Levens: Sounds fair.

Levens: I liked the visual of the Jazz Age, that’s why I leaned that way. It’s interesting how it’s evolved that Vincent is sort of outside of all that. He’s been shut out of that social scene he’s trying to get into, forcing him to work outside that culture and show them up.

Rich: Mary Shelley’s book was definitely an influence. I was surprised how much was in there, how much was different from James Whale’s version. I tried to maintain some of that idea that there’s got to be consequences if you cross this line and mess with life, and try to create life. Not so much Shelley’s “folly of man” but in this case it’s the folly of a man and his attempts to control womanhood and mold this person into something he expects her to be.

McMonigal: What made you set the story in the 1930s, instead of its Victorian origins or a modern re-telling?

Levens: It was as simple as being drawn to the ascetics of the time, and also since I had never really explored the details of that time period. It would be something new for me, a challenge for me to set it in that period and research the architecture, automobiles, and clothing-set the bar a little higher for myself. That aspect of the 1930s horror movies gave them such a glamorous, moody look that I loved and something I wanted to bring to the book.

Rich: I chose the year based on when the Frankenstein movie came out.
Levens: In earlier versions, we had talked about going to see the movie and being inspired by it.

McMonigal: What are the challenges involved in creating a period piece?

Rich: You have to remember certain things about the time. I was in the middle of writing when I recalled, “Hey, Prohibition might still be around” and I had to look it up. You also have to not fall into certain habits, like modern slang or behaviors. You have to know what was allowed and what was done. That was actually the big one, having to remember you can’t just have them sitting out, drinking at a bar. They drink a lot, but we had to stick in little references to how the booze got there or where they were at, that kind of thing. But it’s also the same when you are doing anything modern now. I was way deep into my novel “Bobby Pins and Mary Janes” before I remembered you weren’t allowed to smoke in bars in California anymore-or anywhere at this point. You always have to remember time and place in anything you do. 

Levens: On the art perspective, it’s really kind of similar. You have this shorthand for a lot background elements or small details in a scene you are used to drawing in a modern day scene: Furniture, a phone, or cocktail glass looks like this, you can go on autopilot. For this, I had my iPad at the ready to research everything. If I had a character holding a glass, I would research what 1930s glasswork would look like so it would be spot on. Even if I didn’t succeed, I always had that in mind. 

Rich: In terms of technology for modern writing, there’s so much that’s so convenient, everyone’s got a phone, there’s always access to news, so in a way when having a character who’s hiding out and trying to do things in secret a period piece is much easier to hide things. It’s easier to stay out of public eye and imagine he could do these things. It’s also easier to believe that everyone doesn’t know about things immediately.  When in issue 4 the monster makes a scene, it’s conceivable that no one ever hears about it.

Levens: Or that when people would describe it to someone else who wasn’t there, they’d think they’re crazy or embellishing it, whereas in modern times someone takes pictures and it’s all over the internet.

Rich:  Then immediately debunked as fake.

Levens: It would be on Snopes!  There was much more privacy and secrecy back then, which helps the believability of this story.

McMonigal: What made you decide to go with black and white instead of a color comic? 

Rich: I think we did broach the idea that we could do color, but everyone seemed on board with black and white, aesthetically, to fit that older model. I don’t think it was any more complicated than that.

Levens: When I did sample pages, I gave myself the change of inking it like it would be black and white so it would be darker, to play with textures a little more. We left that up to the publisher to decide what they wanted to do.

McMonigal: Gail’s look and the overall feel of the art made me think immediately of manga. There’s a focus on the characters, their interactions, and their clothing. Am I onto something or is that just my reading background showing?

Levens: I was definitely looking to push details and push the mood with the inking. I’ve been told my style is very feminine, which I thought would help given the monster is female. I read a lot of manga in high school, so it there’s that stamp on my style for sure. I wanted to do a horror book the way I would draw a horror book, I guess. My Twitter handle is based on an in-joke that I draw “Sad Megan Girls” and I wanted to draw a horror book starring a Sad Megan Girl. 

McMonigal:  I really liked the use of solid blacks for effect, especially in the scenes with Gail and anywhere that menace creeps into the narrative. Can you talk a bit about how you make shading choices and when they’re used? Does the comic’s black and white nature change your usage or not?

Levens: When you’re doing something that’s black and white, a lot of those choices are made to make certain elements pop.  If there’s a really dramatic scene and you want figures or sequence of panels to stand out, I put black behind them to make them pop. When doing color, you don’t have to think about that at ink level, you think about colors to create a mood. For black and white, it’s really about thinking about it as you are inking, rather than later on. I like the idea of the shadows creeping in to certain panels, whether not it’s realistic in the real world. 

McMonigal:  There are certain touches that hew closely to the movie version of the story. What are the advantages/disadvantages to taking readers down that road?

Levens: One element I think that was helpful was that we didn’t have to go into too much detail about how she’s created as far as the scientific aspect. If people see a Tesla coil and a slab and a stitched together corpse in a blanket, people are going to go, “Oh, they’re re-animating her.” We don’t have to explain it much beyond that, people are familiar with that scene and what that means. That was sort of a little bit of pressure taken off of us, I think.

Rich: I think that’s what genre tropes do for you. There’s a certain expectation of what people want to see if they are going to see a Frankenstein-type story. We’re feeding the expectation while at the same time, as Megan says, it allows us a certain short cut. But even within that, we tried to invent ways for some of it to make sense within our story. For instance, the fire is definitely a trope taken out of the original Frankenstein movie. But with her having died in a car wreck where she gets burned up, she remembers what fire is like, it’s her last memory, so that carries over for her. One downside: No one is named Frankenstein in the book! 

McMonigal:  In Shelley’s Frankenstein, the Doctor is from the idle rich. Here, class conflict drives the protagonist’s obsession. How does that change impact on the story of Frankenstein?

Rich: I think that makes him more sympathetic. Even though he’s not remotely a hero, there’s an element to Vincent’s struggle, so you do feel sorry for him every once in a while. Henry, his rich sort-of brother and rival, at one point in the script, I said to Megan, “I guess we have to feel sorry for even him at some point.” Every character has their moment where the reader can be empathetic and see where their problems come from. Seeing Vincent’s problems makes him less of a crazed mad scientist and more of a human being. It makes his story even more tragic. He’s a sad man and his punishment fits his crimes. We even had a challenge with Gail-in her former life she’s not very nice, but is still a victim in this story because of what is being done to her. We can never justify the actions Vincent takes towards her. How do we make sure that the reader roots for her to get out of this situation versus, “Oh man, she was kind of a bitch.”

Levens: I think in that particular instance it was about making Gail a very different character than Courtney. She becomes a different creature.

Rich: There’s a point in the finale I had to re-write because I overdid it. The monster is trying to fight back and she was being too harsh. It called us back too much to Courtney and I had to soften how she reacts to the doctor. 

Levens: That’s something Jamie did really well with all of the characters. There’s not really one truly good person in this story, but you can understand and at least relate to all of their motivations. Even if they’re not doing the right thing, you understand why they came to them.

McMonigal: What other comics projects do you have out there for readers who like Madame Frankenstein?

Rich: Ares and Aphrodite will follow in early 2015 from Oni Press. For myself, I am doing six chapters in Dark Horse Presents with Brent Schoonover called Integer City, four of which are already out.  The Double Life of Miranda Turner #3 was out in March from Monkeybrain and we are back on a regular schedule, that’s going on for the foreseeable future. In June, my  graphic novel with Dan Christensen called Archer Coe (also Oni Press), which is a weird crime comic, the installments of which are available online via Comixology. It’s sort of my David Lynch’s version of You Have Killed Me. Partially because I wanted to write a guy wearing a domino mask for the entire comic. In the next few months, people can’t get rid of me!

Levens: Ares and Aphrodite is gonna be my next project people can pick up. Hopefully a lot of new good things will come out of Madame Frankenstein for me.

McMonigal:  I sure hope so, because this comic looks amazing! Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview, and I apologize it didn't go up sooner.

Madame Frankenstein debuts May 7th, 2014 from Image Comics, in print and digital. It's a seven issue series, and is highly recommended!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Interview with François Vigneault about Linework NW (April 12, 2014)

One of the things I'm excited to do once I move over to the West Coast in a little over a week is to start going to the shows out there, which are some of the best around. While I will miss my East Coast shows, this is a great new opportunity for me.

I couldn't ask for a better introduction, as Linework NW comes on April 12th, and barring catastrophe, will be my first comics show as a Portland resident! Though they're extremely busy, François Vigneault, the show's co-organizer (along with Study Group's Zack Soto) took some time to do an e-mail interview with me. Here's what he had to say:

Panel Patter: For those who may still be unaware, tell them a little bit about the purpose of the Linework NW show. Why did you come together to create it?

François Vigneault: Linework NW was created to fill what we perceived to be a void in the Portland comics scene, a art-forward festival that was small enough to be fun and manageable, but enough of a draw to bring in amazing talent from outside of the city and attract the biggest possible cross-over audience. Portland is well-known at this point for being one of the major comics communities in the country, but despite hosting shows like Rose City Comics Con, the recently retired Stumptown Comics Fest, The Projects, and the Portland Zine Symposium (all shows I've always enjoyed), there didn't seem to be the sort of marketplace-driven show that catered to what I would think of as Portland's core cartoonist and illustrator demographic: Visually adventurous and independent creators.

Panel Patter: Linework NW isn't designed to be a replacement for Stumptown, but can you speak briefly about the differences between the late show and the new Linework NW?

Vigneault:  The main differences that I see would be matters of atmosphere, focus, and accessibility. We are a free event, showcasing a tightly curated selection of artists, right in the middle of the city. I think that our venue, the Norse Hall, is a really fun and relaxing place to attend a show, it is right in the center of town (one block north of Burnside in the Central Eastside district), and is a charming old building within blocks of dozens of amazing restaurants. I think that by having Linework there we are really making it clear that we are NOT trying to be the same sort of show as Stumptown, which in recent years has been held in the somewhat cavernous Convention Center, the same spot that other, more mainstream shows like Wizard World and Rose City Comic-Con are held. We want to put forward the idea that we are an indie-driven event, from the moment you walk in the door.

Panel Patter: Who are the organizers behind Linework NW? What can you tell readers about them?

Vigneault:  Zack Soto and I are the founders and chief organizers. We are both cartoonists and small-press publishers; Zack is the creator of The Secret Voice and the publisher behind Study Group Comics (they are running a great Kickstarter, by the way!), I am writing and drawing a comic called Titan and have run the small-press publishing house Family Style for the last ten years. We are also being helped by an amazing circle of folks: Sam Marx, who also helps to organize SPX, Shanna Matuszak, who is the Co-Editor at Study Group Comics and the Gallery Manager at Reading Frenzy, Sean Christensen and Emily Nilsson of Gridlords, Matthew Davison of Dueltone Printing, and many others. We are also relying on the help of dozens of volunteers on the day of, and we are still looking for more... email if you are interested!

Panel Patter: What were some of the challenges in putting together a small press show in such a short time, and how did you handle them?

Vigneault:  There are many, many challenges, but luckily we had some strong experience between us that allowed us to pull it together. For my part, I previously ran the San Francisco Zine Fest for six years, so I had a good idea of the difficulties that awaited us. I would say the biggest thing is just juggling all the various balls at once. If you put too much focus on any one thing you soon realize you have neglected some other, essential part. We also had some nasty surprises with last minute cancellations; you've always got to have a back-up plan for those contingencies!

Panel Patter: The show is free to the public. What drove that decision, especially when many similar events charge a nominal entry fee?

Vigneault:  We are really trying to make a show that is as friendly and welcoming to the wider audience as possible. I think the first and most important thing any festival has to do is simply be free and open to the public. Most comic conventions charge a ticket fee to get in, ranging from $8 to hundreds of bucks! That has always been crazy to are asking people to pay money to get into a big hall to spend more money? The only people that works on, in my opinion, are folks who have already "bought in" to comics fandom. As much as I love comics fans (I am one myself), I don't think that is the way to grow the art form. Our hope is that by making the show free we will be a fun destination for all sorts of folks who might be interested in art or comics casually, but who would normally balk at attending a normal convention.

Panel Patter: How did you create the process of selecting publishers and creators for the show?

Vigneault:  We always had the intention of curating the festival's exhibitors; I think that offering spaces on a first-come, first-served basis just can't work in the modern, lightning-quick internet era. Inevitably folks who you want at the show will be left out. We also had a strong idea that we wanted the show to be a very strong roster of what we (very subjectively) consider to be the best work out there. In order to make sure that we were considering things from a variety of viewpoints, Zack and I enlisted the help of three amazing illustrators with keen critical eyes to help us: Meg Hunt, Kinoko, and Justin "Scrappers" Morrison.

Attendees will notice right away is that the Norse Hall is small. We had the option of looking at other, larger venues, or even renting out a second ball room at the Norse Hall, but instead we embraced the size constraints, and I think that made our curation process for the exhibitors really key. I think that if you look over the exhibitor list you will agree that we have a really tremendous pool of talent signed up. We also tried very hard to expand the concept of the show beyond just comics, which is one of the reasons why we call the show an "Illustration & Comics Festival" and not vice versa: We want to foreground the fact that we are looking to be something different. Of course, there's no arguing matters of taste, and not everything at the show will be for everyone, but I think that anyone will be able to come in and find illustration and comics work that really speaks to them.

Panel Patter: Tell us about special guests Jim Woodring and Michael DeForge, and why you wanted them to be the first-ever guests of Linework NW.

Vigneault:  Two amazing talents who are, I think emblematic of the show's ethos. Jim Woodring has long been a huge inspiration to Zack, myself, and countless other cartoonists; and iconoclastic talent with a truly singular vision. He's been creating his absolutely amazing work for decades now, and in all honesty he is probably producing the best work of his career right now. He's not slowing down for anyone.

Michael DeForge is, I think, one of the most important creators working in the comics medium today. Always exploring new techniques and methods and pushing the art form forward. The amount of work that he has put out in the last few years is astounding, and I can only imagine this is just the beginning for him. We are honored to be hosting both our guests this year, and we think that attendees will definitely be able to see some interesting parallels between Jim and Michael's work.

Panel Patter: Most Panel Patter readers are going to be familiar with a lot of the publishers named, especially Fantagraphics, Dark Horse, Oni, Top Shelf, Sparkplug, and Koyama. Who are some of the lesser-known folks that you could highlight for readers to seek out at the show?

Vigneault:  Of course, there are so many creators that is is hard to single out anyone, yadda yadda. But that said, here are some folks whose work I personally find to be really interesting: Sam Alden has been putting out a prodigious amount of work in the last few years, both as a self-publisher and with some of the best indie-comics publishing houses around today. Anyone who is a fan of subtle, emotionally rich, and sometimes bizarre work has got to check out his work. Husband-and-wife design duo The Little Friends of Printmaking produce incredibly charming work that is sure to please, if you pick up one of their gorgeous screen prints as a gift you will be in good standing with that person for life. The Snakebomb Comix crew is bring along a huge posse of creators, including Josh Burggraf, Alex Degen, and many more... If you like your comics funny and raw you've got to pay their table a visit. The fantasy illustrator Julie Dillon is coming up to the show from California, and I love her rich, other-worldly paintings.

Panel Patter: Let's think positive: Linework NW 2014 is a big hit. Where does the show go from here? What would you like to do in a second, fifth,tenth year?

Vigneault:  Ha ha! I'll limit myself to a second year. But we definitely are planning on coming back again next year. We are working out the details now, but we expect to be a significantly larger show next year, with an even broader range of top-notch exhibitors from across the illustration and comics mediums. Maybe we'll even dip our toe into the world of animation a bit more next year! Stay tuned for an announcement at Linework NW itself for more!

Panel Patter: Thanks for doing this, and I hopefully will see you at the show!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Oni Press Previews Plans for 2014, early 2015

Oni Press revealed their upcoming titles for the rest of 2014 and into 2015, and man oh man is it a killer list. Oni seems to really be on the upswing right now, with solid stable of creators who work with them regularly. I've really enjoyed a lot of the books I've read lately from Oni, and as you can see from my highlights here, that's not going to change anytime soon.

These the the ones that stood out for me, with a few notes:

August 2014
To Burma, having nine lives means having nine chances to conquer the globe.  Written by Paul Tobin and illustrated by Benjamin DeweyI Was the Cat is an original graphic novel that tells the tale of an aspiring feline despot, present for many of the modern world’s pivotal changes, but perhaps playing a more active role than anyone would suspect…

McMonigal Adds: Paul Tobin has been on fire with his creator-owned projects like Bandette and Colder. Paired with the amazing Benjamin Dewey (just look at the details on that promo illustration!), this looks like it might make my favorites list.
September 2014
On a summer night, Alden Baylor sits in a field watching the largest meteor shower in human history. What began as teenage adventure becomes something more--the celestial event brings travelers who will change the world completely, and Alden discovers a connection to one of them.

How does a young man who had to grow up fast handle the invasion of his planet? Can Alden keep humanity from oblivion? From writer Jeff Parker(AQUAMAN, HULK) and artist Sandy Jarrell (BATMAN 66) comes this original graphic novel about adolescence, friendship, and hard decisions.

McMonigal Adds:  You had me at Jeff Parker. The premise on this one doesn't jump out at me, but I trust the veteran writer to pull it off. It's nice to see Parker is still looking at his own projects, even as he does work for DC.
September 2014
Joey Weiser’s all-ages hero, the prodigal merman returns! No one knows much about Mer, the underwater kingdom where Mermin the merman was born, but due to a rising conflict with the people of Atlantis, Mermin is needed back home immediately. Which means that his human friends get to accompany him and see all the aquatic wonders of Mer. But once again, Mermin is tight-lipped about his past – even when it’s swimming right in front of him. And there are enemies lurking in the seedier depths of Mer, who’ve got their sights set not only on Mermin, but on Pete and his friends!

McMonigal Adds:  Joey's hit it big with Mermin, and I couldn't be happier for him. Long time Panel Patter readers know I've been a fan of Joey going back to his early work like The Ride Home, and Mermin may be his best concept. It's great to see this one extend to a third book, joining things like Crogan and Salt Water Taffy as strong all-ages books for Oni.
September 2014
Dex Parios is  back in action and she’s sticking around! This September, Portland’s favorite beleaguered P.I. stars in a brand-new, ongoing Stumptownseries written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Justin Greenwood with colors by Ryan Hill and letters by Crank!

McMonigal Adds:  Always nice to see more crime comics work from Rucka. I'm curious about the ongoing vs. limited series idea on this one. 
October 2014
Cullen Bunn, Joëlle Jones, and Nick Filardi return to their smash hit Viking horror/fantasy series Helheim! Alone in the wilderness and living in seclusion, the Viking warrior Rikard is confronted once again by black magic and arcane monstrosities. But this time, Rikard seeks vengeance against the warlock who was once master to the witches who wove our undying hero's bloody fate.

McMonigal Adds:  I'm not very familiar with this series, but I love Ms. Jones' artwork, so I'm looking forward to checking it out.
December 2014
From the team of late, great writer Nick Almand and artist Jake Myler comes a manga-tinged graphic novel that tells the classic tale of a boy and his sword. Hadashi is a simple boy with simple dreams, but his life changes when a horrific accident maims his hand. Unable to hold a sword, he's kicked out of the dojo he once called home. But the Orphan Blade is no ordinary sword. When Hadashi finds it abandoned in a marsh, he finds that not only is he able to wield it -- the sword seems to be wielding him! Too bad Hadashi isn't the only one interested in the Orphan Blade, and his ownership draws the attention of the Five Fingers of Death -- a legendary and deadly group of mercenaries who have their own magical weapons.

McMonigal Adds:  I'm a sucker for martial arts comics, and I love the sense of motion and action from this promo image. If the rest can capture this magic, I have a feeling I'll really like it.

A new original graphic novel by Jamie S. Rich and Megan LevensWill Ares is a successful divorce lawyer -- which means, invariably, that he's always pissing someone off. He's also a hopeless romantic (go figure). Gigi Averelle is a wedding planner who's seen enough failed marriages to know that true love doesn't exist. And with their respective clients -- movie producer Evans Beatty and Hollywood starlet Carrie Cartwright -- getting hitched, Will and Gigi are about to see a whole lot more of each other. As Beatty's ex-wives come out of the woodwork and cause mayhem for the upcoming marriage, Gigi proposes a bet -- should Evans and Carrie go through with the wedding, Gigi will go on a date with Will. Should they break up, as Gigi suspects, Will must put a full-page ad in the paper revealing the number of marriages he's ruined. Is Will a fool for love, or is this the start of a beautiful relationship?

McMonigal Adds:   Jamie does amazing relationship comics and I've had the pleasure of seeing some of the collaboration between Jamie and Megan for Madame Frankenstein (interview to post soon, hopefully.) It's going to be a long wait for this one, but it should be well worth it.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Interview with Leia Weathington, Creator of Bold Riley

It is with great pleasure that I present this interview with Leia Weathington, Portland comics creator and writer (and occasional artist) behind the Bold Riley series, which is entering its second arc via a successful Kickstarter Campaign that is wrapping up in a few days. Ms. Weathington, working with a variety of other artists, has created a fantasy world ripe for exploration, with our guide being Bold Riley, a young woman with royal (but restless) blood. It's great to see the "Uncharted Fantasy World" idea given a new twist by having a protagonist that's not only female, but queer as well.

Distributed by Northwest Press, the first Bold Riley book made me sit up and take notice, and I'm excited to see what Leia will come up with for the second volume. I spoke with her over e-mail about her own career, Bold Riley, and some discussion of diversity in the comics world. Here's what she had to say:

Rob McMonigal: For those unfamiliar with your work, tell readers a little about yourself.

Leia Weathington: My name is Leia and I'm a writer based in Portland, Oregon. My main series is the fantasy adventure epic Bold Riley but my work has also appeared in Smut Peddler (which is porno for ladies) and Anything That Loves an anthology about non binary sexuality (It's not porno at all.) I also have written a few short stories and essays and I run a podcast called A Happy Go Lucky Podcast with a revolving door of guests with the very funny Bobby Roberts.

McMonigal: Who do you consider your creative influences?

Weathington: Jeff Smith and Mike Mignola are the top two people in comics I was looking up to at a young age. Like a lot of women my age I was heavy into manga and anime. Artists like Fumi Yoshinaga and series like Mushishi, Utena and Cowboy Bebop were pretty foundational for how I approach storytelling. Novelists like Garth Nix, Emma Donahue, Catheryyne Valente, Zora Neale Hurston and Clive Barker always hit my story telling sweet spot. Tarsem Singh and Brian Fuller are two directors who use visuals in a way that I find really inspiring.

McMonigal: Tell readers a little bit about Bold Riley and her world.

Weathington: When we first meet Bold Riley she is, for lack of a better way of putting it, a snotty teenager. She's a princess and while that birthright is something she takes seriously she is also wild, restless and a little selfish. Also she has all of the power and privileges that come with being a princess. She has too much drive for exploration to be fully tied to her duties at home. She at least knows herself well enough not to vie for the throne

The Coin is in a sort of golden age of magic, wonder and exploration. There are a lot of areas on the map that haven't been filled in yet and isolated cultures that have sprung up on their own. The part of The Coin Riley is from is basically the civilized world, and the places she explores in Book one are peoples and places she is familiar with even if she hasn't been to them. As the series goes on she gets further from home and can be less reliant on her social status and preconceived notions about how people behave.

McMonigal: How did you come up with the concept for the series?

Weathington: I think i must have been in my early 20's when I conceived of Bold Riley as a character. Initially it was supposed to be sort of a feminist statement but I got older and became a little jaded with feminist theory. Then I rebooted the series because I felt I had a better command of how to tell a story and craft characters.

A page of Bold Riley by Joanna Estep.
McMonigal: Tell us a little bit about the artists involved in this second volume. How did you select them for the series?

Weathington: I met Zack Giallongo on the Modern Tales family of websites when I first started putting Bold Riley on the web. He did a comic called Pishio the Cat that I was just in love with and then later sussed out that he liked my comic as well. We had been making plans to work together so he was one of the first people I tapped when it came time for book 2. I'm a big fan of the way he draws characters. There is such a mischievousness about them.

Jonathon Dalton I met at a Stumptown Comics Fest several years back. Liz Conley (who has been a colorist for Books 1&2) came back to the table we were sharing with this just...AMAZING hand bound codex style comic called Lords of Death and Life that was a story that took place in Mesoamerica. All of his pages were colored with markers, the dude taped every single page together. I basically hopped over my table to go get one because I was afraid he was going to sell out. I think I gave him one of my  minis and a while later he mentioned being interested in drawing one of Riley's adventures. I was all over that offer.

Joanna Estep I've known since I was 14. We spent most of our teen years working on comics in the same room. I love her art, her design sense, her pacing, everything. She has a really unique eye and her style has this sort of delicate yet really solid quality to it. I've always wanted to make comics with her. I don't think I've ever been on the fence about wanting to work on a project with her. The answer to the  question "Would Joanna look good in this story?" is always "Yes.".

McMonigal: How does the collaboration process work between you and the artists on Bold Riley?

Weathington: First I write the script in a rough form, meaning no pages, no panels. I then pass it on to the artist and ask how much structure they like to work from. I always do page breakdowns but some artists like having the freedom to dictate the panel layout. Then I discuss how I see the visuals looking. I provide reference for things like landscape, costume or just photos I think evoke a certain mood. Then I provide a model sheet for things like Riley's look and accouterments. I like meeting with artists on Skype to have an organic conversation and bounce ideas back and forth.

After that I tend to step back and let the artist have at it. For the most part I don't edit art unless something is glaringly wrong or is a consistency issue.

McMonigal: Northwest Press is your publisher for this series. How did you come to be associated with them?

Weathington: Oh gosh. I don't think I remember exactly when I met Zan Christiansen. It must have been in 2005 or so? I gave him one of my little hand made minis of Bold Riley and we stayed in touch. When I cemented the plan for how to produce Bold Riley, Zan actually came to me and asked if he could publish it. He was looking for more lesbian content at the time and I really liked the way he took care of the content he carried.

A panel of Bold Riley by Jonathan Dalton.
McMonigal: Northwest specializes in bringing material with LGBT characters or concepts into the comics world and raising awareness. What is the impact of having such a publisher in the comics world?

Weathington: It's wonderful. Zan hits the market that I want while producing a fabulous looking book that doesn't exclude it from other readers who may not be in the queer community.

Let's talk about production quality too. Before Northwest Press I was planning on bankrolling the book myself. So that's a little over 200 pages of full color material? Before Kickstarter was on the scene? No. No way. I couldn't have done what I wanted. With NWP though I had the backing to make a really nice looking book with a decent print run.

McMonigal: Similarly, why is it important to create characters like Riley, and do you think that we are starting to see a change, at least in the indie/webcomics world, in terms of seeing more inclusive characters?

Weathington: There are so many different people in the world. Most of the narratives we get presented with are only focused on one small sliver of humanity. And listen, I like a lot of those stories about that sliver, but what it does is create the idea in everyone's mind that the only people capable of going out and doing things are straight, white, male, cis. That's not the way things are in the real world so why does it look like that in media?

There is that question, "does life imitate art or does art imitate life?". I don't think it's an either/or. It's a snake eating it's tail. It's both.

When I was growing up and coming to terms with my sexuality the only narratives I saw queer people in were really fucking bleak. If you fell in love with someone of the same gender you could count on some tasty combo meal of despair. Disownment, loneliness, suicide, savage beatings. Now those things happen to real people but holy shit. There was no escapism or joy in any of those stories.

Bold Riley is what I wanted when I was younger. I wanted a fantasy world with people who looked like me and my friends and loved ones. I wanted to make a place where difficulties could arise but wouldn't have to be tied so much to the real world tragedy many of us experience. I wanted our Conan the Barbarian or Lord of the Rings.

Honestly I think we are starting to see a sea change in media. It's slow and can be one step forward, two steps back but with technology being where it is I think it's opened up more avenues for a larger group of storytellers to put their work out in the world. Webcomics can be a shit show but on the upside, who is gonna tell you "No, I'm sorry you can't make this sci fi story about a black trans woman in exploring the Pegasus Galaxy." You make the work and you put it online. If you get a following then you can possibly be picked up or self publish.

It's not the most satisfactory solution I know, but at the moment it seems to be the only one available. The only other option is giving up which will never be acceptable to me.

McMonigal: And one more in this vein, if you don't mind: Can indie comics create a better, more open world for creators and readers or do we have to keep going after corporate comics to change their ways to achieve this?

Weathington: I think it will have to be. Frankly, the big companies make too much money to have a real stake in change at the moment. Like I said, change is annoyingly slow. My personal feelings on this issue is that if one sandbox is hostile and unwelcoming take your toys and try to build another sandbox.

I have a great deal of admiration and respect for the bloggers, artists and writers who steadily advocate for change in the bigger corporate structure. They are doing  really fantastic work shining a spotlight on the problems in mainstream comics.

I suppose my personal feelings on the issue are that those of us who are locked out of that world for whatever reason should form our own networks, create the best content we are capable of and find as many avenues as possible to target our desired readership. I would like to think that it can only eventually trickle up and bigger, broader change can happen.

Then again that may be me coughing up a bunch of idealistic bullshit but I guess we'll find out.

McMonigal: What's next for you after Bold Riley?

Weathington: More Bold Riley! I've got Book 3 about half way written and my creative team lined up. I've also got a couple projects with Joanna Estep I'm looking for a good home for and I'll be in the Queer Sci Fi anthology BEYOND with Lin Visel as my artist.

McMonigal: Thanks so much for doing this, Leia. You not only write (and draw) some great comics, but you have some really strong thoughts on the larger comics world that very closely match my own. I can't wait to read the series when it comes out!

You can back the Bold Riley Kickstarter here.