SPX Spotlight 2015: Carla Speed McNeil

It's another entry in Panel Patter's SPX SPOTLIGHT series! We've been highlighting creators, publishers, and comics related to SPX since the site opened in 2008, but 2015 marks our fifth year of extensive coverage that is unlike what you'll find elsewhere! It's a great way to create your own personal guide for the show on September 19th and 20th, 2015, in Bethesda, Maryland. Don't miss it! You can find all our SPX SPOTLIGHT posts here.

I discovered Carla Speed McNeil with the opening chapter of Finder: Third World in the pages of Dark Horse Presents, about four years ago now. I had no idea what was going on, all I knew was that I loved the art, the characters excited me, and I was massively intrigued by the sheer depth of the world I was being presented with. I kept up with Third World for a while, excited for every new chapter and disappointed when it wasn’t included, learning and growing more and more interested each time I was presented with a few new pages.

After a few months of this, I finally decided to look into what I was reading. I soon found myself with a copy of both volumes of the Finder Library in my hands. The tomes (each being upwards of 600 pages) were devoured in a matter of days. I had found (get it) exactly what I wanted in my fiction. McNeil calls it “aboriginal sci-fi,” and that’s a perfect description. A sci-fi/fantasy world with a spiritual twist, Finder follows a variety of characters living in a multitude of places, each with their own history, beliefs, and traditions. Much of the series explores people in places they weren’t meant for, and how an ever changing world can eradicate the traditions of the past.

It is difficult, to say the least, to encapsulate Finder in a few sentences (or even several pages, hence the reason that there are currently ten volumes of the book, with an eleventh on the way). In many ways, Finder is a gateway drug, both to comics in general and to a part of the culture that is, much like the world of Finder, vast and different from what is so often seen in the mainstream. I find it comparable, in this way, to Transmetropolitan or Y: The Last Man. A book created so well with a concept so interesting that it transcends the normal boundaries of “mainstream” and manages to fit snugly between the cape books and the weird black and white stuff that your cousin reads (though I suppose that in this situation, we are, collectively, that cousin).

Although I could talk about it endlessly, Finder is not McNeil’s only work. McNeil has found herself providing art, covers, and guest illustrations for stories since Finder began in 1996. More recently, in 2013 she released Bad Houses, written by Sara Ryan, through Dark Horse, and recently finished up the first arc of No Mercy with Alex de Campi, through Image, the first volume of which will be coming out in September of this year. She has a story in C. Spike Trotman’s upcoming anthology New World, as well as in Trotman’s previous books, The Sleep of Reason and Smut Peddler, and a story in Kel McDonald’s Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales: Africa Edition.

McNeil’s masterful art and storytelling make her one of my personal favorite comics creators today. She puts an incredible level of detail into her work yet still manages to maintain a style that is clear and easily understood. Her stories are always fascinating, and enjoyable on several levels – easily the first time, and with a vast amount of detail, commentary, and depth on subsequent read throughs.
You can find Carla Speed McNeil online at her Tumblr, Twitter, and website. She will be at SPX 2015 at table W68A.