James Lawrence Tells ‘The Legend of La Mariposa’ [Interview]

James Lawrence’s ‘Dangerine’ has proven to be one of the most entertaining superhero comics I’ve read over the last few years, and every Thought Bubble I’ve made a tradition of picking up one issue at a time from his table. It’s funny, with great characters, and reads as superhero construction rather than deconstruction – something which is surprisingly rare in comics right now.

So, when he posted a teaser image last week for a new comic project he’s working on, ‘The Legend of La Mariposa’, I immediately got in touch with him and asked for more details. As the story this week sees release as a webcomic which you can find right here, it seemed like a good time to ask James exactly what readers can expect from the story, where the concept came from… and why one of the main characters appears to be a talking walrus.

So I did just that! Read on to find out more about ‘The Legend of La Mariposa’!

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Steve: What’s the premise of The Legend of La Mariposa?

James Lawrence: Conan The Barbarian, filtered through Lucha Libre movies.  La Mariposa wanders through a fantastical desert landscape, getting embroiled in adventures, fulfilling her destiny as one of the mighty masked warriors she idolises.

You’ve worked with superheroes before, in your series “Dangerine”. How did you decide that this was the next project you wanted to work on?

I’d been drawing LM a lot in my sketchbook, and found myself just kinda casually fleshing out her supporting cast and the world she was in.  I was struggling with shaping another project, so rather than bash my head against that wall, I figured I’d forge ahead with the project that was coming together very organically.  Initially LM was going to be a one-off minicomic-type deal, but the story just kind of… ballooned.

What does the luchador(a?) setting offer the story which readers might not find in the typical American superhero setting? Why choose this location for your webcomic?

I’m shooting for more of a fantasy vibe in La Mariposa, which will become more pronounced as the story progresses, but you can’t deny the superhero trappings that come with Lucha Libre, so what I’ve wound up with is something similar to those stories where The Avengers travel back to medieval times and become knights, or the Justice League become cowboys.

I’ve always been fascinated with Lucha Libre as well as aspects of Mexican and South American folklore that I absorbed second-hand through films, comics and video-games growing up, and there’s more than enough material there to populate what I hope will be a rich and unique land for La Mariposa to explore.

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What motivates La Mariposa, as a character? What are her ambitions and goals, at least to begin with?

Initially, La Mariposa’s goals are very straightforward: She’s a novice luchador who is a lifelong fan of luchadores, and she wants to defend the defenceless and entertain the bored, luchador-style.  She’s a true believer, but that belief is going to be tested, believe me.

In Dangerine, the hero Del was somewhat reluctant to take on the role of a superhero – but La Mariposa seems eager to get started. Was this a conscious choice for you, to create a hero who this time immediately delights in getting to save the day?

It was definitely a conscious choice.  Dangerine is pretty plot-driven.  There’s a definite end-goal for the characters, and time is very much a factor.  La Mariposa is more me trying to find a less-driven character that I can plop into varied self-contained stories that aren’t necessarily connected by continuity.  I’m looking for my Asterix, my Usagi Yojimbo.

The difference between Dangerine and La Mariposa is wish fulfilment.  Del doesn’t want to be a superhero, but he doesn’t have much of a choice.  LM getting her mask was a literal dream come true, so she’s fully on board from minute one.

How did the design come together for her? She seems to be a major superhero fan, so is that reflected in the way you put together her costume?

La Mariposa is Spanish for “The Butterfly”.  Specifically, the Chaos Butterfly.  The whys and wherefores of this choice of theme will be revealed…

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The series is only just starting out, and you have a five-page “intro” on the site right now. What can readers expect as the story moves forward? Where’ll the series take us?

The initial big storyarc will see LM tackling the trial set for her by Ojo Tercero Jr. and the Sons of Justice.  Along the way we’ll learn a little more about her and how she deals with obstacles, we’ll meet some new faces, and we may even see the Sons of Justice in action!

Beyond that, there’s a lot of fun, varied adventures planned for LM.  It’s not all going to be fight scenes, but there’ll be a lot of those too.

Why take the series to the web, rather than as a series of print comics? What decided you on making this a webseries?

The reasons are threefold: First of all, I wanted to put out content more regularly so the people who follow my work could get hold of it on a regular basis, rather than having to wait for a new issue.

Second, by doing the comic online, I can nip the limitations and costs of print in the bud.  Full-colour is no extra cost, I can change up the format if I want easily.

Third, I have a small flat currently containing stock for four books.  If I print many more, I’ll have to get rid of my couch to make room.  And I love that couch.

Does having the comic update on a page-by-page basis change the way you tell your story? How has the creative process been for you on this series?

It hasn’t thus far, but I’ve generally tried to compose pages in such a way that each page ends in a way that I hope the reader feels driven to see what happens next.

Ironically for a digital venture, I’ve actually kept the process pretty low-tech.  I’ve been doing all the writing and thumbnailing page-by-page in a wee notebook I carry around with me, and La Mariposa is my first attempt at lettering by hand.  Colouring and loose notes are still done digitally, though.

It’s pretty different from Dangerine, which is written full-script, thumbnailed all at once, and lettered digitally.

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What are the influences for the series, both as writer and as artist? I felt, and there have only been five pages so this could be wrong, like the style of dialogue and worldbuilding was reminiscent of stories like Empowered, perhaps?

I hadn’t thought of Empowered as an influence, but I’d be interested in rereading it and seeing if there’s a parallel there.

Apart from diving headfirst back into my childhood obsession with Pro Wrestling, my main influences for La Mariposa have mainly been other self-contained, plot-driven adventure series.  Asterix, Groo The Wanderer, Usagi Yojimbo, Tezuka’s Black Jack and Astro Boy, the excellent Franco-Belgian Lucha Libre series recently collected by Humanoids, the more self-contained Hellboy stories, and my current favourite, Sabertooth Swordsman, among others.

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – will there be more of the walrus anytime soon? I’m a big fan of the walrus thus far.

Are you referring to Hippatomicus, The Herbivorous Hellraiser?  The Wallowing Weapon of Mass Destruction?  The Ten-Megaton Mudhole Monster?

Yeah, he’ll be back soon enough.

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Atomic Robo to be Published as a Webcomic from now on, with the Full Archive Heading Online

As of this week, Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener’s long-running series Atomic Robo will be switching from print issues to a webcomic model, the pair have announced. As part of this, each week they’ll be uploading whole issues of the comics released so far onto their new site, until they catch up to where they are now. Once the whole archive is online, the next instalment of the series – volume 10 – will then go onto the website.

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Atomic Robo is Hellboy filtered through a scientific interest rather than a mythological one, to generalise it. The concept is that Tesla built a robot decades ago which became sentient and now works with a team of action scientists to fight monsters and keep the world safe from various threats. The comics span decades at a time, alternately switching to Robo’s early days or the present day as is the wont of the creative team.

The series has also been quite fiercely independent for some time. Published through Red 5 comics, which’ll note the loss of their biggest book, the team put out nine volumes of material over the last decade. That’s a pretty incredibly achievement, and the book has been a cult favourite – and award-winner for years.

The move to webcomics is a surprise, although perhaps not too big a surprise.The team have established Atomic Robo as a brand, and the success of their recent Kickstarter helped solidify their fanbase nicely. Print has, obviously, a lot of costs which webcomics don’t have to deal with, and presumably they believe that getting the boost in attention offered by making all their past comics free will help increase sales of their old trade paperbacks, and subsequently, new issues once they start coming out.

I’m assuming. Asked about the model by Chris Sims over at Comics Alliance, Clevinger said:

New material will be free online first and collected into issues/trades through ComiXology for folks who wants ‘em like that. We’ll also print the new stuff as trades as, y’know, they get finished.

You can find the webcomic site here.

There’s Twice as Much Kate Beaton Coming Your Way in 2015

Already announced this year was ‘The Pony and the Princess’, a picture book by Kate Beaton which’ll be published by Scholastic in June. But now Drawn & Quarterly have announced that they’ll also be delivering some Kate Beaton into your year, with a second collection of her webcomic ‘Hark, A Vagrant!’ called ‘Step Aside, Pops’.

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Collecting further strips from over the years, the book will also feature some new material from Beaton – likely to be annotations on each of the strips, although there’s always the possibility of new strips as well. It’s been quite a while since the first collection of her work, and it’s rather surprising that it’s taken this long for a second collection to come out. She is one of – if not the – most popular cartoonist on the internet, after all.

And let’s add a little detail on The Princess and The Pony, whilst we’re here. This picture book will be published by Scholastic, and features one of her most indelible recurring characters. The Fat Pony showed up in a strip as a stupid and adorable creature of affection and dismay, but proved so popular that it’s been recurring in the most unexpected places ever since. Just take a look at it to realise why:

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I really like the design on her covers. The text is brilliantly placed, huge and looping and dominating the page, but left completely at the mercy of the whims of her characters. The way the lady breaks into the font on the Step Aside, Pops cover kinda gives you the idea of exactly what you’ll be getting if you pick up the book – a series of strips which are inspired from great literature, but not opposed to cutting into it, brilliantly.

That’s me over-analysing on a Saturday morning, isn’t it? Anyway, two Kate Beaton books in 2015 this year, so start stashing away your money.

Webcomics ‘Gunshow’ and ‘Girls With Slingshots’ To End

Two bits of news which may have passed you by as we head into this New Year. KC Green’s ‘Gunshow’ and Danielle Corsetto’s ‘Girls With Slingshots’ – two of the most well-known and loved webcomics around – are both wrapping up.

In the case of Gunshow, Green actually already ended the comic a few days past, so he can move his focus and look to starting up and continuing on new projects. Back, which I’ve mentioned a few times in the past, is still going – he also lists a few of the other things he has coming up or in the works over at the link above.

He ends the comic in brilliant fashion.

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Girls With Slingshows, however, still has a few more months left. In a comic posted to the site a few days ago, Corsetto explains similar reasons for concluding the story – it simply feels like time for this long-running tale to end and for her to move onto new projects.

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These are two of the more well-known and loved webcomics to have ever come out, and both have been running for years now. For both to close up shop around the start of the year is, perhaps, a statement of intent we’ll hope doesn’t play out more widely across the year.

 

Panel Syndicate Launch Second Comic: “Universe!” by Albert Monteys

Panel Syndicate being the digital system currently publishing Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s pay what you want webcomic ‘The Private Eye’. This last week they unexpectedly launched a second webcomic to sit alongside that story, in the form of “Universe!” by Spanish cartoonist Albert Monteys.

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The first issue is up on the site right now, and again is a “pay what you want” model – you can get it for free, or for double the price of a regular comic, should you so choose. You decide how much support you want to offer the story. “Universe!” is also a departure in that it will continue onwards as a series of interconnected, but isolated one-off stories. The first sees a man sent back in time by a large corporation, so he can brand them throughout the course of history. He… comes into some trouble.

Monteys has said that this will be a series released once every two months, which is a consistent model not seen by The Private Eye. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops onwards – there have been hints at other creators being involved in Panel Syndicate in the past, many of them fellow Spanish cartoonists.

T’Bubs’14: Jennie Gyllblad’s Webcomic ‘Skal’ Heads to Print

Another announcement for Thought Bubble – jeez, you’d think it’s only a day away, what with all these feature pieces running on the site today – is the news that Jennie Gyllblad’s Arabian fantasy series ‘Skal’ will be heading to print for the first time, collecting the first volume for Thought Bubble.

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One thing I noticed when reading the series is that Gyllblad likes experimenting with her style. She does a few pages in watercolour, then just in pen and inkwash (it looks like, anyway!) and then goes off in another new direction again. She’s always changing things up and trying new perspectives in the story, which creates a sense of the epic within her tale. There’re blood feuds, word fights, unique bits of magic – all sorts going on.

The press release sayeth:

The reader is introduced to Mushirah, a diviner on the receiving end of uncontrolled visions who has spent most of her life behind the high walls of a monastery. Believing that a person’s fate is decided the moment they are born, and that her uncaring and indifferent world runs exactly to prophecy, it is only when she is forced to flee – thrust into an unknown environment – that her own rigid perceptions of the world begin to be challenged.

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I’d like to point out that this is a rather naughty story, filled with bits that our Victorian betters would’ve been shocked by. There’s violence, nudity, and assorted other not-for-all-ages things going on, so just be aware.

But! If that doesn’t put you off, then you can find both the prologue and first chapter on the site at the moment, should you want to read a little more. I’ve stuck just to the first few pages, because the series does come across as quite the saga – and I wouldn’t want to spoil even the start of it.

Jennie also sent across a link to her Patreon, and I’d be remiss not to share it with you here.

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