Interview: Carey Pietsch Talks Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift

Carey Pietsch's cover for Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift #1
We here at Panel Patter are big fans of Carey Pietsch, and were super excited to hear that she was going to be doing the art for the newest BOOM! Studios Adventure Time miniseries, along with writer Meredith Gran. Called Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift, it's a story that continues BOOM!'s trend of expanding the world of Adventure Time through mini-series that explore more than just Finn and Jake. As much fun as the two main figures are, there's so much in the land of Ooo that's wonderful and makes for amazing comics.

This series really pushes things outward, as it finds Marceline at the edge of Ooo itself, sent there by Princess Bubblegum after the rocking vampire gets out of control. What happens next is being kept tightly under wraps for now, but that didn't stop us from asking series artist Carey Pietsch to stop by for an interview and talk about her work on Marceline Gone Adrift with us. Thanks to Carey for taking the time to do this on short notice and to BOOM! Studios for being awesome and providing great images for the interview!

Rob McMonigal: Long time Panel Patter readers will be familiar with your work, but for those who are coming to this series because of its ties to Adventure Time, tell us a little bit about your history as a creator.

Carey Pietsch: Not counting early words-and-pictures experiments, I had a few short autiobio comics in Philadelphia-based anthologies and one 24-hour-comic-day story under my belt before tackling my first longer minicomic in 2013. I'm big on stories about empathy-- usually with a little bit of magic to them-- and I think that comes through in the longer comics I've worked on, as well as more recent short stories for anthologies like Terrestrial and Hana Doki Kira. 

Actually, I think the 'first real foray into comics' title should properly go to a tiny little weekly strip I did for Swarthmore's newspaper my senior year there. I'm not ready to look at it again yet, though. Needs another five years to steep. 

McMonigal: What can you tell readers about the plot of this new series?

Pietsch: Unfortunately, I don't think I can say much beyond what's been circulating in teasers already! I'm really excited about the flashback peeks into Marcy and PB's past that Meredith's written into issues 2 and 3. I haven't read anything past the end of issue 3 yet, so I'm as much looking forward to finding out how everything gets resolved as everybody else is!

The opening page of Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift #1
A hint to her eventual destination???
McMonigal: Hah! Well, it was worth a try! This series looks to explore the outer reaches of Ooo. Does that change the tone of the mini, compared to what we've seen before in the comics?

Pietsch: One of the things I've loved about the Adventure Time miniseries is that each of them has had a substantially different voice. Marceline and the Scream Queens was a little more introspective, The Flip Side was goofy and energetic and fun, Candy Capers drew on mystery & noir tropes, and Banana Guard Academy has been a triumph-of-the-underdogs romp (that also jumps into many-worlds theory, because why not?). And the main comics themselves have covered such a wide range of stories! So it's tough to claim that what Marceline Gone Adrift is doing is entirely different in tone from the rest of the comics, but it  has some real sorrow in it along with the upbeat joking-around, and I think it makes for a powerful combination. 

McMonigal: There's definitely a great balance between things that are absolutely insane and truly heartfelt moments, and I think a lot of that has to do with the depth of the characters, especially someone like Marceline. She's an extremely popular character within the Adventure Time world. Why do you think Marceline has so much appeal?

Pietsch: I can't speak for everyone, but I'm drawn to her flaws. She's a little sensitive, she's vulnerable, she's got her own history, and she's not static; she's still growing. I think Meredith's Marceline and the Scream Queens did a great job of investigating all of that and exploring it, and I love that more and more characters are being fleshed out in the same way as we get to see more of the show and comics.
Marceline shows her need for growth in Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift #1
McMonigal: Yeah, it's been great. It lets writers (and readers) see so much more of the universe, leading to explorations of character dynamics. The combination featured in Marceline Gone Adrift is a frequent topic of discussion. On the surface, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline are very different young women. Why do you think they work so well together as characters?

Pietsch: I think their friendship is so convincing because those differences mean that it's not all smooth sailing for them! Meredith did a great job explaining this in an earlier interview: "Marcy is sort of a sensitive creature, while PB is an intellectual. So this clashes a lot. Marceline has the ability to reflect Bubblegum‘s ugliness back at her, but PB is too mature for that. They both take themselves way too seriously — that’s why they don’t get along."

McMonigal: I have a feeling Marceline isn't going to be any happier with Princess Bubblegum after issue one! Now, time to get to the hard questions: Who is your own personal favorite character in Adventure Time, and why?

Pietsch: I can't choose just one! I'm gonna sound like a total shill, but in no particular order, Marcy, PB, and Fionna. PB's need for control seems like it honestly comes from a place of compassion, if a little warped. I've already gone on about why I love Marcy! And Fionna can be easily frustrated and a little impulsive, but she stands up for her friends (and herself!) no matter what. Plus, Cake gives her all the best swords. 

McMonigal: I'll let you slide on that one. Let's try another difficult question: Do you have a favorite episode of the cartoon series? If so, what is it, and why?

Pietsch: Can I cheat again with a top three?

McMonigal: I guess so! Man, next you'll be asking to take things from the wrong side of the quest board, and we all know how that goes! (If you don't, go read Adventure Time: The Flip Side right now!) What are your top three?

Pietsch: I Remember You; What Was Missing; and recently, The Cooler. I'm a sucker for getting to see these small, thoughtful pieces of characters' larger shared stories. 

McMonigal: Nice list! This isn't your first time working with the Adventure Time characters. How did you get to be a part of the extended creative family for the BOOM! adaptations?

Pietsch: I started out working on a bunch of smaller projects with BOOM!-- a few covers and artwork for backup comics-- a little after SPX last year. I think Shannon passed a minicomic I had there along to Whitney, and I've been lucky to keep working with the two of them, as well as Cameron and Dafna. Everyone I've worked with there has been so enthusiastic, and they're all such helpful, thoughtful editors! I got to meet more of the administrative team at Baltimore Comic Con last year, and I was totally floored by how wonderful everybody was.
Another page from Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift #1
shows Carey's style and look for the story.
McMonigal: That's awesome! Let's talk a bit about process. As a creator, what tools do you work with? Digital? Pencils and ink? Some combination?

Pietsch: For most larger illustrations and some shorter comics, I do the linework in ink, scan that into Photoshop, and color from there. I really enjoy the tactile feel of working with a stiffer brush pen on bristol paper, and that's tough to duplicate digitally. But Marceline Gone Adrift is a much faster turnaround, and I haven't yet found a system that lets me work efficiently enough in ink to get it all done in a month. So I compromise- I do my thumbnails traditionally, scan those, apologize profusely to anyone else who sees them, and then pencil, ink, and color digitally. The lettering is a combination of a font I recently made out of my handwriting and hand-drawn text for emphasis here and there.

McMonigal: Did you adapt or change your personal style to ensure these issues are your own, yet also fit within the larger world of Adventure Time?

Pietsch: I think the backup comics and covers I mentioned above were an excellent warmup and testing ground for finding that kind of balance. My personal work was a little less stylized in the past, but it's been surprisingly freeing to use these bendier, stretchier models to really push expression and emotions into new (to me) territory. That's started to bleed back into my other work as well, and I'm really enjoying the liberty of being a little more physical in the actions I'm drawing. 

McMonigal: I'm always fascinated by the collaborative process. Walk us through how you and (series writer) Meredith Gran put together an issue.

Pietsch: This is our first time working together, so it's been a lot of fun figuring it out! I'm working straight from Meredith's script up until things are cleaned up enough to be legible to other people, so somewhere around the inking stage I'll send the artwork to her for notes and comments before I dive into color. It's wonderful to be able to reach out for feedback and to check on intent. Meredith has not only deeper insights into what she's planning to reveal from the characters' pasts, but also where they're going to go in future issues. Recently she's been sending me a few sneak peeks at the script for and her thought process on upcoming designs/ locations for the next issue well before I get the full script, which is a huge help! It's easy to underestimate how much time the research and design part of the process can take (I know I did), and leaving that extra time to let ideas percolate and develop is incredibly useful. I think the designs are going to be much stronger as a result.

More of Carey's look for the Adventure Time world.
To find out what happens from this shocking event, pick up
Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift #1!
McMonigal: Adventure Time has a lot of fans who are also extremely creative. Do you have any advice for them on how to improve themselves as an artist?

Pietsch: When I was much younger, I remember being frustrated with myself for not being able to draw horses (okay, let's be real, unicorns) as easily as I thought I could picture them. I don't think I realized all the shortcuts that went into my mental images of things- I wasn't 'seeing' a unicorn, I was seeing a loose collection of symbols. Until you've studied how something is put together, you can't really see it, and until you see it, you can't really draw it. That's why drawing from life is so important! A how to draw book can show you how to copy a flat, 2-d image of a totally sweet dragon's head in 3/4 view, but you can't rotate it in your head and draw what it might look like from the side or the top until you've thought about and studied the forms that make up that head. So- draw from observation! Draw real people and real animals and real things, in real spaces. 

McMonigal: That's solid advice, thanks for sharing. Wrapping things up: When fans of this series want to see more of your work this year, what should they be on the lookout for?

Pietsch: I don't have a convention schedule set for this year yet, but I'm hoping to be at MOCCA, TCAF, and SPX as a wanderer at the very least. I'm finishing up short comics and illustrations for upcoming anthologies Chainmail Bikini, Ladies of Literature, 1001 Knights, and Dirty Diamonds. I'm also working on a few stand-alone minicomics and a new Keepsakes story that I hope to have out later this year. I'm always open to new projects! And of course, we've got five more excellent issues of Marceline Gone Adrift coming your way :)

McMonigal: Thanks again for taking the time to do this, Carey! I'm really looking forward to reading this series, and I'm sure many of our reader are, too!

Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift #1 is out RIGHT NOW from BOOM! Studios. It's $3.99 and ready at your local comic shop or preferred digital device. Five more issues will follow in the coming months as part of this six-issue mini-series.

For more about Carey Pietsch, you can visit her Tumblr or read this interview from last year with Panel Patter's Whit Taylor.

POST-INTERVIEW BONUS: BOOM! does some amazing alternative covers. Courtesy of the publisher, here are a few of the other covers for the debut issue of Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift#1!

Cover by Reimena Yee

Cover by Mychal Amann (Color by Jaime Cortes)

BOOM! 10 Years Cover by Joe Quinones (color by Whitney Cogar)

Cover by Britt Wilson