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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Interview! Paul Duffield on Launching ‘Small Tales and Fairy Fails’ on Kickstarter

Paul Duffield’s been working with The Phoenix for a while now, as a writer, artist, and primarily as a designer. Over the years he’s had several different comics appear in the weekly all-ages anthology, ranging from space dramas through to haunted house stories – and now he’s set up a Kickstarter to take those stories and print them into a new collection.

‘Small Tales and Fairy Fails’ will collect four comics originally published in The Phoenix, and has already been funded on Kickstarter. But, with plenty more time left on the project, I reached out to Paul and he kindly agreed to do an interview on how the project came together, how things have been going so far, and his plans for comics going forward. Hurrah!

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How did you first start making comics for The Phoenix?

Originally, I was approached by The Phoenix‘s predecessor, The DFC, a very long time ago and asked to pitch! At the time my workload prevented me from taking it any further than an idea. When The Phoenix launched, I was a lot freer, so I pitched again with new material, and it went from there!

There’s all kinds of different stories which’ll be included in this collection – space stories, knights in armour, even a horror story. When working on stories for The Phoenix, do you actively try to switches genres a lot, and try new types of story?

One of the things that The Phoenix team were really looking for at the beginning of its life were stand-alone, 4-page shorts, which I love doing! I used it as an opportunity to experiment, and indulge in some of my favourite genres, whilst also providing the comic with a range of material that wouldn’t get repetitive.

Where do you like to start with a new story? Do you come at them with a character first, or a concept? Do you tend to start with an image in mind, or with a story to script? Or! Does it tend to vary?

For short stories, I usually start with a concept. For example, Starborn started with an idea that I’d like to turn into a longer story at some point, which is that an accidental pregnancy occurs during a deep-space mission, and the baby is brought to term as the first human born in space. The short was an offshoot of the idea.

On the other hand, sometimes inspiration comes from completely unexpected places! The Heart Tree began life as a story that was told collaboratively during a round of a storytelling card game that I play with my friends called Once Upon a Time. I took some of the core ideas from the original telling, and worked them into a sort of fable about rulership. In general when putting these ideas onto paper, I don’t bother with a script, I just fold an A4 piece of paper in half and go straight to thumbnails!

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Is it difficult to contain a story, once you have it, into a relatively short space? Do you like that challenge of economy?

Four of the stories are 4-pagers, and one of them is a 12-pager. Actually, I find that short stories come quite easily to me in a more-or-less fully formed state. Most of the writing I’ve done in comics has been this kind of thing (short stories, 20 pages or less). Perhaps the reason for this is that I studied animation at university, and one of the disciplines that was really pushed there was creating shorts of 3-mins or less (perfect for advertising or personal projects), so I spent a lot of time watching and pondering the creation of little self-contained narratives with a satisfying ending.

The lettering, in particular, often dominates the way you tell stories. At what stage in the artistic do you start planning out how you’ll lay out the lettering? Does it come out fairly on in your process?

The lettering and design of the page is integrated from the get-go, since I work straight into thumbnails. I personally see comics less as a series of panels that tell a story, and more as a series of pages that tell a story. The individual nature of the panel is subservient to the page and the page-turn, and the page-as-a-whole, and so I use lettering to bridge panels and reinforce the flow of reading. I think about this kind of theory a lot, and I’ve written a blog entry that touches on the subject a little! https://www.paulduffield.co.uk/firelight-isle/making-ribbons

You write and draw all the stories here, aside from Scaredy Cat, which was written by Morag Lewis. How did Morag come to be involved in that story?

Morag is a fantastic writer whose work I’ve always respected and read as fast as I can get my hands on it! Although she’s relatively unsung, she’s actually one of the most prolific writer-artists in UK comics in terms of original output (I count 6 of her original graphic novels on my shelf by her at a quick glance, and they’re all at least 200 pages long). I’ve wanted to work on something with her for a long time, and thought her writing sensibilities would be perfect for The Phoenix, so I asked if she wanted to collaborate on something.

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The story was her idea – she developed the script for it, and we both developed the thumbnails together and tweaked the story as a result of that process.

Are there any stories here which you’d like to continue on at some point? Have you got any sequels in mind, maybe?

I mentioned earlier that I’d like to continue with the core concept from Starborn, although probably starting again and without the same characters. However, at one point I had a whole universe planned out that continued straight on from Starborn, in which a league of Starborn (the first of each race to be born in space) explored the galaxy. It was an expansive story and the editors at The Phoenix were interested, but I just ended up with no time to work on it!

As a designer, I’m going to expect you have some pretty specific plans for the printing of the collection. How carefully do you go about the process of actually designing and putting out the physical book?

Very carefully! I love book design, and I’ve been heavily involved in the creation and design of all the Phoenix Presents collections so far. I’ve used everything I’ve picked up working on those to make sure it’s a smooth read and a well-balanced book, and I’ve also passed it by the editors at DFB and The Phoenix for feedback. I’m focussing on everything I can, from the end-papers to the order of the stories, the pagination to the proofreading! The book has already been through a number of versions, and I’m still tweaking it.

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You’ve come to Kickstarter for this collection – how’ve you found the process so far? A lot of people say that having a Kickstarter can be a lot like having a second job…

It’s absolutely like having a second job whilst it’s running! You can see a clear correlation between the number of people who pledge and the amount of time you’ve put into promotion, to the point where I can point at my progress graph and go “wow, the funding went up by 30% that day, that was the day I did the press release and spammed twitter all day long” and “wow, the funding only went up by 3% that day, that was on the weekend when I didn’t look at the project at all”. In general though, I’ve found it to be very smooth, and the mechanics behind it have improved a massive amount since I last did any time-limited crowd funding!

You’re also on Patreon at the moment, for ‘The Firelight Isle’. How has crowdfunding changed the way you’ve been able to make comics? Has it given you more freedom in your work – or, actually, does it ever feel like it constricts you a little?

Most definitely more freedom! The Firelight Isle wouldn’t exist without crowd funding, and I certainly couldn’t afford to print this book without it. Whilst crowd funding can be a time-drain, when it’s handled properly and carefully thought through it enables rather than restricts. The most consuming aspect of a Kickstarter is promoting it whilst it’s running, which is fair enough considering how effective it can be at raising funds. There’s a big difference between that and Patreon though, which exists less to distribute products and grant rewards, and more as a sustained form of support for an ongoing venture. Micro-philanthropy if you like!

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We spoke recently and you said you were going through a new proof of the story so far, hopefully ready to continue on with the series shortly. How is the series doing, as we speak? What’s current progress?

It’s doing very well! I’m past the point where I’m tearing big chunks of the story up and rearranging or rewriting them, and moved to more considered tweaking and refining. I’m really pleased with how the rewrite has improved the story, and I’m itching to get back to drawing it. I’ve got a meeting with the editor soon about the rewrites, and although I know he won’t let me rest until it’s just so, I have a feeling that we’re getting there soon! This is one of those cases where every day spent is both totally necessary and also a frustrating delay, but I’d rather make it the best story it can be than the quickest webcomic that it can be!

What else are you working on at the moment? Where can people find you online?

Well, other than working 3 days a week as a designer at The Phoenix to make my bread-and-butter, this Kickstarter and The Firelight Isle are mostly it. That being said, I very occasionally take on freelance projects, and I’ve been doing a bit of work here and there for someone who’s creating a really interesting sci-fi LCG (Living Card Game) that has just moved into Beta. I’ve also got the fragments of a new story that I want to work on after The Firelight Isle floating around in my head and on a couple of notebook pages, but that’s years away!

I’ve also been completely overhauling my website over the last few months, and you can visit the newly recreated page, read my blog, buy stuff from my store and read many of my comics here: https://www.paulduffield.co.uk

You can also back the kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/paulduffield/small-tales-and-fairy-fails

And if you’d like to support my ongoing efforts to produce my webcomic, The Firelight Isle, you can catch me on Patreon too! https://www.patreon.com/paulduffield

Interview: Vera Greentea on Comics, Creativity, and Cakes… Actually? Mostly Cakes

Vera Greentea is a name you may well have heard, especially if you’ve been on Kickstarter in the past few years. Having taken seven projects through the site – and successfully funded every single one – she’s been a rising star in the comics scene. From Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits through to PAPA and her most recent series ‘Recipes for the Dead’, she’s built a catalogue of great comics, marked by the unexpected and charming stories as much as they are by the fantastic, lush artwork from people like Allison Strom and Laura Muller.

I hear she’s also a great baker, but that’s neither here nor there.

With the third issue of Recipes for the Dead just about finished and planned to be launched later this month, now seemed like the perfect time to catch up with Vera and find out about her comics, only about her comics, and nothing apart from her comics work. Happily she agreed, and we certainly talked a lot about comics as a result!

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Vera! I hear you have a new comic! What’s it about?

Vera Greentea: Wow, news travels fast! You’re right, I’ve just completed my Kickstarter campaign for Recipes for the Dead Issue 3: Steam Minted Meringue. Recipes for the Dead is a Victorianpunk manga-style comic encrusted with a thick layer of baroque monsters, zero grams of airships (hence; not steampunk), with a core of romance, adventure and a little pinch of creepiness.

Veronica Wickfield is a baker who becomes an illegitimate owner of a magical cookbook that lures lurking shadows, attractive punky musicians and a furious gear-creature with intent to destroy her pastry shop – all in just this one issue. 

But enough of that, because I wanted to ask you about cake making for a bit. When did you first get the bug for cake making?

I was an eighteen-year old university student, living with ravenous roommates, a large bag of stale Doritos, and a very secret drawer of potato pancakes that came once a month from my grandmother. One day, while consuming an oversized styrofoam carton of French Toast Sticks from the dining hall, my roommate and I wondered if we should learn to make our own – but then, we proceeded to marathon through two seasons of Daria instead.

It was only after college and upon moving away from the dining hall, I finally decided to attempt making a Trés Leches cake out of a Goya packet – with poisonous results. Haven’t looked back since.

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Vera Greentea’s blueberry pie

Would you agree with the idea that baking is therapeutic? Do you find it calming, as a hobby?

Completing 7 Kickstarters as an introverted writer does demand a calming side-hobby, and yes, baking is mine. While funding of Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits – my creepy miniseries focused on the Day of the Dead – I was obsessed with making a Mexican flan from scratch. During the last Recipes for the Dead campaign, I finally perfected a black raspberry scone (and will probably never again). And while trying not to panic over whether PAPA would be funded last year, I baked a bunch of mini-Snickers into brownies.

What kind of things do you most like baking? Are you a cake person foremost, or have you been known to bake a biscuit from time to time?

Cake is my favorite thing to make for a holiday, birthday, or “I went to a comic con and now I just want some cake” day. However, for normal everyday baking, I actually go for simpler off-the-cuff type of recipes – things like pies and cobblers. Cobblers are especially easy – you just mix sugar, flour, salt, baking powder, and milk in any pan; melt some butter into it; throw a bunch of slices of a fruit (peach works great here); add cinnamon on top and bake! It’s 30 minutes and suddenly everyone thinks you’re some sort of baking prodigy!

What’d you say is your absolute all-time favourite cake?

Carrot Cake! I grew up in a Russian household with its own brand of desserts: baked apples (which are really just apples steaming in an oven, no additions of any kind), sirniki (this is basically just cottage cheese and raisins fried on a pan, and poppy seed bread rolls (these are delicious).

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So, it was only in college when I had my first slice of carrot cake and boy, it was magic! I’ve since learned to make one out of scratch using freshly grated carrots, minced pineapple and cinnamon cheesecake frosting – and no, my Russian relatives won’t touch it.

Are there any types of cakes you’ve always wanted to try out, but never gotten round to or had the time for? Is there an ‘Everest of Cakes’ for you, perhaps?

That Green Tea Matcha cake is such a delicate, easily ruined thing. One day, I’ll make it, and it will be perfect. One day…

What’s one of those?

A Green Tea Matcha Cake! Matcha is basically the healthiest kind of green tea – you drink the tea with the leaf still in there, and it’s kind of this thick green liquid. It takes getting used to, but it’s awesome.

So, I buy this matcha powder by the pound, and then there is sooo much… of course, I HAVE to use it to make a green tea cake. It’s supposed to be this super light and fluffy, spongy, green tea-scented cake, with maybe a light frosting – but because it’s so light, it’s easy to burn or overmix or screw up in a billion ways. But I am keeping the faith, haha.

Are you a fan of experimentation? In your baking, I mean, not your comics.

Experimentation is the main tenet of creative baking for beginners, along with Ambition (“I will make a great chocolate cake for my paleo-dieting, lactose-intolerant, nut-allergic in-laws”), a Calm Demeanor (most utilized when the hungry Better Half moseys into the kitchen and says passive aggressively, “well, are you healing the sick or following instructions on a Sara Lee box?”), and perhaps most importantly, the Powers of Persuasion (“taste this, baldy!”).

I can tell you this, Steve, I’m fairly sure that my first true experiment (a Green Tea Matcha sponge cake) killed the fly that sat on it. This is why Veronica Wickfield didn’t make the originally planned matcha cake in Recipes for the Dead Issue 3, and stuck to the much easier meringue cookies. Veronica only bakes things I’ve successfully made!

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This interviews marks the only time a comics article has ever been pro-cheesecake

What’ve been some of your greater successes as a baker, would you say?

Cake is serious business, and I like to attack all baking projects death or glory style. I wear my apron high like a breastplate and my Harry Potter Quidditch replica goggles over my glasses, ready for anything.

So, with great gravitas, I would say that my family’s favorite is the annual Christmas trifle (or Hanukah trifle, depending which side of the family you ask), which Better Half and I adopted from our trip to Ireland a few years ago. The trifle contains piping hot homemade custard, an awesome sour cream and pound cake baked early in the morning, and a cauldron-amount of different jams (usually strawberry, blueberry and IKEA lingonberry), as well as toasted almonds. The adults in my family gobble this out of ice cream bowls, and the younger kids usually dunk their hands into theirs and throw whipping cream missiles at our ever-suffering cat. So yes, I consider our trifle very successful; as a Christmas Eve dessert, as Christmas breakfast, and the perfect artillery in a food fight.

Do you watch any baking shows – Great British Bake Off, for example?

I truly enjoy baking shows, and especially like them on while I’m prepping my Kickstarter packages for shipping. The Great British Bake Off is a big favorite – mostly because of the serenity of the show in comparison to others but also because of the wonderful Mary Berry, who has a lot of great advice both for baking and life in general.

I do watch some others; Top Chef: Just Desserts is a fun one (I especially love it when they make grandiose cakes), and Cupcake Wars isn’t so bad in a pinch either.

Following on from that, do you have any thoughts on soggy bottoms? For? Against?

The only good soggy bottoms are the ones in the fictional band from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou. Otherwise, I’m totally against any kind of soggy bottom – it means that the cake has been undercooked! Yuck. I’d most likely throw that sucker out and start over, though first I might munch on the frosting while watching 6 episodes of Dr. Who…

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Chocolate cake! Nice plate too

What’d be your top tips for bakers?

Let catastrophes happen – they make for entertaining stories to be used in your comics! (Like that one time when my cake recipe turned out to be a demon summoning spell… now I have a whole comic series about it!).

What advice would you give to anybody looking to get into cake making themselves? Do you have a particular recipe book you treat as a bible?

This is a little old school, I guess, but I kind of love Joy of Cooking for basic baking. It really gives you an idea of what the point is of each ingredient, which later helps you fix it if your cake gets a bit derailed, somehow ends up on the ceiling, and is screeching at your cat. Don’t be alarmed, read your Joy of Cooking for answers. It understands.

Oh, uh… speaking of books, this new one of yours. Recipes, is it? Where can people find it online?

Right! The series is called Recipes for the Dead, and Issue 3 is named Steam Minted Meringue. It will be available on my website this late October. The art by Allison Strom is truly a work of fine illustration, so I would take a look just for that!

Many thanks to Vera for her time, and photos! We may have spoken mostly about, uh, cakes – but her comics are faaaaaantastic too! You can also find Vera on Twitter right here.

INTERVIEW: The Ladies of ‘Ladies Night’ on Death — and Prom!

Death! Prom! The two worst experiences an American can experience, likely in that order. The two horrors are also the focus on a new anthology from ‘Ladies Night’, however, featuring a collection of fearsome fables for gruesome girls. Edited by Megan Byrd, Lauren Burke, Caitlin Rosberg, Anissa Espinosa, and Wendi Freeman, the anthology features all kinds of writers and artists – making for a massively diverse and unexpected collection of tales, all featuring one or both of the two core themes.

But in fact, this isn’t just a collection of spooky stories told with grisly glee – the anthology marks the second successful crowdfunding project for Ladies Night, a comics collective formed only a few years ago by Hannah K. Chapman. Originally intended to form a book club where girls could gather to talk about comics together, demand grew so huge that the project expanded across multiple sites – and where the members were once happy to read comics together, the desire to start making comics began to grow.

And so Ladies Night the anthology was collected. With a successful first volume, themed around ‘Chicago’, already released, ‘Death & Prom‘ marks an expanded lineup of all-female creators, many of whom are being published here for the first time. But while this may be their first time in print – I doubt it’ll be their last. There’s some wickedly funny stuff in the volume, with everybody bringing a vivid new dynamic to what could’ve been a played-out genre.

It’s a huge project, in other words. And a huge project? Well, that deserves a HUGE interview! And so I spoke to editor-in-chief Megan Byrd about the project – but then found a cavalcade of chilling collaborators burst into the interview, as a whole bunch of the ladies involved broke in and joined the interview too! Read on to find out about the project, first from Megan, and then from a dozen of the creators involved!

 

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How did Ladies Night – the event – get started? What prompted you to set it up?

Megan Byrd: Hannah K. Chapman founded the monthly Ladies’ Night at Graham Crackers Comics in early 2012. I was a part-time employee of the store at the time and served as a moderator for the group discussion and acted as a general liaison between the group and the store. Since Hannah was studying in Chicago as an exchange student, she eventually had to return to her home in the UK, but myself and several other regular attendees have continued to keep up the monthly meetings and organize other events as well.

Have you found the events to be pretty immediately popular? Something I’ve seen a lot of online is that there are plenty of women who love comics – but there are fewer places where they can meet and interact with one another.

Megan Byrd: Our regular monthly meetings are always well attended and we have on average about 20 women join for discussion. We host larger events from time to time, such as holiday parties, launch parties, and other workshops specifically for the anthology, but those tend to be very loosely structured social gatherings.  I believe part of the appeal of our Ladies’ Night is the intimacy – everyone is encouraged to join the discussion, whether we are talking about a specific comic, genre, or upcoming event that we’re excited about. I think that the success of our group has shown the need for more events like this that give women, both new and familiar to the world of comics, a safe place to meet and enjoy comics together.

Ladies Night has really grown over the years, too – to the extent where earlier this year there was a whole event, ‘Comic Book Slumber Party’, which was a natural expansion of the Ladies Night concept. Is the goal for this to spread across the country, across the world, and become a known concept where women can talk about comics, sci-fi, all their interests in peace?

Megan Byrd: The founding and continued success of Comic Book Slumber Party belongs entirely to Hannah – she definitely has ambitious goals that may or may not involve world domination (in comics). As a member of the Valkyries, I see retailers starting Ladies’ Night events every month, whether they are book clubs, private events, or essentially micro-cons that cater to women. It seems like a very organic response that is locally motivated. I cannot speak for other organizers, but making the comic shop, and comics in general, more comfortable for women is definitely the larger goal for us.

These last few years, in particular, have felt like women have kicked out against the gender disparity in comics and started to bring us a bit of balance. Do you feel like there is a real progression being made right now?

Megan Byrd: Over the last decade as both a fan and retail employee, I’ve seen a huge shift in the way women are seen and treated in the comic book community. I believe women finding each other online has helped a lot. Reading sites like Comics Alliance and The Beat was a revelation for me as a fan because they both (at the time) had women as editor-in-chief. Reading an op-ed by Laura Hudson comparing sexist portrayals of women in comics and how that related to everyday sexism – that just blew my mind. Seeing yourself reflected in a community has an immeasurable effect, whether it’s in the characters within comics, the people creating them, or the people writing about them. That was huge for me personally, just reading about comics from a feminist perspective made me reconsider my role in comics and inspired me to become more active in the community.

The old saying “girls don’t read comics” is downright laughable at this moment in time, and I’m happy that I haven’t had to convince someone otherwise in at least a few years! Still, there are enough unfortunate headlines every few months regarding harassment or really backwards-thinking creators to remind us that there is still a long way to go in making the comics community as inclusive as possible.

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Art by Lisa Kwon

I think there’s this idea that women don’t make comics, simply because they don’t make the comics at DC/Marvel/Image. But there are SO MANY women in webcomics, self-publishing, working for themselves. Do you see that as being the next stage in reaching a more natural balance – in just pointing out that “comics” doesn’t just mean “mainstream” comics?

Megan Byrd: Plenty of readers are going to assume that not as many women create comics if they only read Marvel and DC – it’s no wonder they think Gail Simone is an outlier! You go to a small press convention or one with an international focus and your eyeballs tell you this is simply not the case. Besides broadening discussions about the different kinds of comics being created, I think it is still important to support and encourage more diverse hiring practices at the largest publishers. The impact Marvel and DC have in hiring a woman, an LGBTQ creator, or a person of color to write or draw their highly coveted properties goes a long way in dispelling myths about who creates comics. Visibility matters so much – just looking at the “featured guests” list of any major comic convention is a convincing argument for diversifying the creators working on high profile superhero titles.

How quickly into running Ladies Night did you find that the attendees had an interest in making comics themselves? At what point did you go from talking about culture to making stuff of your own and sharing it?

Megan Byrd: Almost immediately! I once again must stress Hannah’s pivotal role in this area as she is a creator herself and quickly formed relationships with other creators attending Ladies’ Night, forming our “dream team” of contributors and editors. Lauren Burke was a featured guest of one of our first Ladies’ Night events to discuss her work in Womanthology and as co-writer of the webcomic P.I. Jane; she has since been both a contributor and editor on both anthologies. Having someone with her experience self-publishing as one of our editors has been hugely helpful. Anissa Espinosa and Wendi Freeman, both local creators, also brought their expertise in self-publishing. Caitlin Rosberg and myself were relatively new to publishing comics but quickly applied our skills as writers and our passion for event organization to the business of creating comics. We’re all still learning along with many of our contributors, but everyone shares the same passion for comics.

This is now the second collection of stories from Ladies Night, so obviously there’s a lot of passion from the women involved. Was it harder to pick stories for this second volume? As editor, what was your process for pitching/accepting stories, and so on?

Megan Byrd: Anyone that met the submission deadlines was included in the anthology. Unlike a lot of open submission anthologies, we did not require creators to have a team ready, and no one was allowed to submit a comic as sole creator. Artists created a poster based on the book’s theme to showcase their style, and writers created a pitch for a story; the editors then paired up our creative teams. This way everyone, regardless of their skill level, was getting the same professional, collaborative comic making experience. Every team had an editor and artists were encouraged to letter their stories. We held workshops for writers, artists, and lettering, and editors worked closely with the teams throughout the creative process.

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Art by Rachel Simon

What inspired the theme, ‘Death and Prom’? Is it because prom is the one thing worse than death?

Megan Byrd: It was one of many suggestions tossed around during a drink and draw after our first anthology wrapped; it was that or space pirates!

How did the creative teams come together? Was everybody an attendee, or did you use the group to contact writers and artists outside of the immediate circle?

Megan Byrd: Our first volume was based on the theme of Chicago, which definitely appealed to local creators.

For both volumes, our initial call for submissions was sent to attendees of Ladies’ Night, and we also posted a call for submissions on our Facebook and Tumblr pages. For Death & Prom we have quite a few more creators from afar! Writers Shawnelle and Shawnee Gibbs are based in California, artist Ashley Ribblett is in the UK. Those are just a few of our most geographically far-flung creators.

Well then! Ladies, what are all your stories about? 

Ellen Linzer: “Death’s Corsage” is about a girl getting ready for prom when Death shows up at her door, telling her he’s here to collect. She begs him to at least her go to her prom, and he gives in, tagging along to make sure she doesn’t try to give him the slip.

And honestly the story just kind of materialized in my brain the second I heard the topic of the anthology’s second volume.

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Art by Ali Gator

Raven Moore: My story, “Night of the Living Mallory”, with Ali Gator, follows a girl on a triple prom date…with her best friend turned zombie and the zombie’s ex-boyfriend. Since the anthology’s theme was about prom and death, it wasn’t too hard to come up with a story featuring a zombie in the mix (date night with a twist – I guess). Also, the title came first before I really fleshed out the story and, ironically, the name Mallory means “unfortunate.” From there, the story just sort of flowed out from a few hours of brainstorming.

Ali Gator: The original idea that was pitched was about Chen going to the prom with her dead best friend’s date and having a rude awakening when Mallory showed up to reclaim her date. Which is a great idea that I was insanely excited to work on, but as we discussed it more (Myself, Megan Byrd our editor and Raven) it under went some important changes and the story became about friendship rather than a possible rivalry.

I actually got a little teary eyed reading the last page. It’s a great story that I was really happy to be a part of. Especially when Raven gave me a lot of free reign in color choices and prom dress design.

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Art by Monica Ras

Monica Ras: Death and prom! Haha, it’s essentially about a young woman who attends a school where the prom queens have all suffered from terrible deaths the night of prom due to a curse. Even though she has no interest in attending the dance, she suddenly becomes the frontrunner for queen, and she has to figure out a way to survive the night, lest she become yet another name added to the list of Prom Queen Deaths!

The process was pretty relaxed. Working with Lauren Burke was an absolute pleasure for sure! A lot of the work involved looking up a variety of prom dresses throughout the last few decades, which was definitely super interesting and fun to do. The styles have changed so much over the years. Otherwise the process was pretty straight-forward: read the script, design the characters, doodle some thumbnails, sketch out the pages, ink and color. It was definitely a heck of a learning process for me, so it was a lot fun.

Elizabeth Fogarty: ‘Paris is Burning’ about a teenager who has prophetic dreams about an unseen disaster at her upcoming prom. She draws and writes about her dreams in various journals. No one believes her including her own mother and she’s really not sure what to do about it.

As the artist I was able to give feedback to Amanda, the writer, about what worked and what didn’t.  I also was able to give her an idea of how her story is seen from the artistic side.  An artist basically has to draw what’s in someone else’s head.  It’s interesting because everyone interprets things differently. It can be quite a process, almost like solving a puzzle by having someone else tell you where to put the pieces.

Shawnee and Shawnelle Gibbs: Our story, “Good Mourning, Jacob” is about a young man obsessed with a funeral singer. As sisters, we have attended more funerals than we’d like to over the last few years, but in losing loved ones, you discover there’s a whole world at work behind the ceremony itself. Funeral homes are their own sort of world, the resident Clergymen giving the same sermons, the funeral singers set the same somber tone for the service, etc. Once you have confronted grief and realize that pretty much every one experiences death at some point, each funeral is a little less frightening than the last. Yet we wondered, what if someone’s grief set off an unhealthy preoccupation with funerals. Who would notice and why?

We were drawn to the story because unlike a lot of towns in America, where the old are the usual guests of honor at funeral homes, our native city, Oakland California, has been plagued with the deaths of the young–particularly young men via gun violence. We wanted to tell the story of a grieving young man who, after losing his brother prematurely, attends so many funerals that he’s become a staple at them. Through death, he’s ironically found love and a reason to live–and he’s found that in a funeral singer.

Ashley Ribblett: I worked on the art for ‘Good Mourning Jacob’. As said above – it’s a short story about a funeral singer and her not-so-secret admirer that seems to always show up when she’s performing.

I came into the project kind of at the 11th hour; the story’s original artist had to drop out and I was contacted by the lovely women of Ladies Night to see if I was able to pinch hit for them!

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Art by Sarah Benkin

Sarah Benkin: I was the artist on my story, “Daddy Issues, which is a heightened, tongue-in-cheek feel – a little comically over the top, which seemed to suit the fun, Tales-From-The-Crypt feel of the script by Wendi Freeman 

Caitlin Rosberg: The story I wrote (Die Cleaners) ended up coming about a bit on accident.  We got many more artists applying to contribute to this volume than writers, so several of our editors wound up contributing unexpectedly.  I’ve always been more interested in the “background characters” of stories, particularly comics (thus my love for people like Jim Gordon and Rhodey).

I’m more interested in the lives of the people making things work around the protagonists.  I’d also been listening to a lot of horror podcasts, and was struck by the idea of how horrible it would be to work in the dry cleaning place in a town like Nightvale or Buffy’s hometown of Sunnydale.  Thus, the story was born.

Has working on the anthology given you the taste for comic-making, now? Are you going to be working on more projects moving forward?

Ellen Linzer: I definitely caught the comic-making bug. I’ve wanted to create comics before this opportunity, and now I’ve participated in this anthology and can’t wait to produce more. Nothing solid in the works yet, but lots of ideas bouncing around in the ol’ noggin.

Raven Moore: I worked on two previous anthologies, the first Womanthology with Renee De LIz and the Ladies Night Chicago Anthology. I have to admit, comic writing is much harder for me than straight forward prose writing (which I normally do). Right now, I’m gearing up for a project with Outland Entertainment to create an interactive story book…due out sometime (hopefully) next year.

Ali Gator: I’ve always been really into comics, and while my actual art degree concentrated on printmaking, I used that medium to tell stories with my images, sometimes as actual comics, sometimes as series of works that had a narrative. But working on the anthology definitely gave me a better idea of what it was like to make a comic with someone else.

That was really exciting and fun and it’s something that I’m definitely interested in doing again in the future. Raven and Megan were great to work with and it was really great discussing ideas with them as women in comics and that’s something that I really want to search out in the future.

Monica Ras: It definitely has! I don’t have much on my plate at the moment (though I definitely aim to fix that!), but I do assist with inks for “Touching Evil”, a pretty phenomenal comic by Dan Dougherty (www.beardocomics.com) who I was actually introduced to via an LNA Workshop. I do intend on working on a few projects of my own when I get the chance, and am totally open to the idea of partnering up with folks as well. I’m pretty interested in whatever my future in comics may hold!

Elizabeth Fogarty: This is my second year working with the Anthology.  As long as we keep doing it, I will contribute.  I’m even thinking about contributing in other ways.  I am always open to new projects, but right now it is about time management between my day job and working on projects.

Shawnee and Shawnelle Gibbs: We have been writing for comics since 2012 but working on the anthology has definitely given us a new love for the anthology process and collaborating with other artists and women in a way we never have before. When we pitched our story to the editors of LNA and they found an incredible artist, Ashley Ribblett, who was interested in taking it on, we got the special feeling of community that is completely different from going it alone.

There’s something so satisfying about knowing that you’re sharing the same sun and moon with creative women working towards a common goal–creating great stories through comics–a medium we are often disenfranchised from in the commercial arena. From editors and letterers, ever woman took a piece of the job and the stories haven taken shape and life in a very short and wonderful period of time.

Ashley Ribblett: Comics are something I’ve always loved, but it was definitely an acquired taste making them. This was actually the first sequential comic work I’d ever done and definitely a challenge to say the least. A good challenge though. A very good, very rewarding challenge.

I’ve already wasted no time in working on another! Shortly after finishing GMJ I started work on another story for Outre` Press Xenophobia Anthology. I got to draw a lot of Frankenstein(‘s monster). I don’t know if you’ve ever drawn a Frankenstein but it’s crazy fun.

Sarah Benkin: I’m actually in the process of editing an anthology of my own! It’s called Then It Was Dark, and it’s a collection of personal paranormal experiences, true ghost stories and friend of a friend tales, and will contain the work of awesome female artists like Carey Pietsch, Elaine M. Will, Meg Gandy, Diana Nock, Molly Ostertag and more! It’ll be coming out February 2015.

Caitlin Rosberg: This is my second time editing the Anthology and I’ll definitely be sticking with that role.  I’m considering submitting my writing to a few other comic focused anthologies, but I really love the mentor/organizer role that editors take on and I will do it until Megan kicks me out.

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Where can we find you all, and your work, online?

Ellen Linzer: I have a blog where I talk about other people’s comics/media – comicdagger.com

Raven Moore: I’m a UX designer by trade, so I haven’t gotten around to posting much about my writing. But if you want to see what I’ve been up to in UX design, you can check out my site (and rarely updated blog) www.ravenmoore.com

Ali Gator: You can find my work on my website www.aligatorart.com which also has links to my twitter, tumblr and instagram. I’m always looking for more opportunities to collaborate and work on more comics and my email address can also be found on my website.

Let me know if you need anything else, I imagine you’ve got plenty of images but I believe I still have all the initial character design pages and possibly the base images if you want to include progress shots.

Monica Ras: You can find it all at gogomonimon.tumblr.com!

Elizabeth Fogarty: http://elizabethfogarty.tumblr.com/

Shawnee and Shawnelle Gibbs You can find our work online at http://www.gibbssisters.com and read our current science fiction comic, “Fashion Forward” athttp://www.gofashionforward.com

Sarah Benkin: http://peppermintmonster.tumblr.com/ is the best place to go for updates, sketches, current work and ramblings. I also have a website (http://peppermintmonster.com/) which links to my store where you can buy prints, books, posters and wood burnings! If you’re just interested in news about my upcoming anthology, go to http://thenitwasdark.tumblr.com

Ashley Ribblett: You can find me and most of my work on: aribblett.blogspot.com or my instagram @tentaclees

Or stop by ScribbleNerds.blogspot.com to see me and a bunch of my pals make art at each other for weekly themes!

Caitlin Rosberg: My work is kind of all over the place, but you can find links to a lot of it at my Tumblr, www.youruinedmychildhood.com, which is also packed with comic book things and feminist rants now and then.

Phew! Megan – what do you see as the next step, now? Are there plans for volume three at some point down the line, perhaps?

Megan Byrd: Volume three is definitely on the horizon! In addition to publishing, there are many things we’d like to do more of within the comic community. Tabling at more conventions, creating more publications like fan zines, and organizing more panels (we hosted our first panel at this year’s C2E2).

We want to continue to put ourselves out there so more women can see themselves in the comic community!

Interview: Ryan K. Lindsay Hoofs it to Kickstarter for ‘Deer Editor’

You guys, you guys! Deer Editor is a comic about a crime journalist who is also a deer!

So that’s likely got your attention. Written by Ryan K. Lindsay, drawn by Sami Kivela, lettered by Nic J. Shaw and edited by Dan Hill, ‘Deer Editor’ is a digital-only comic which hit Kickstarter a few weeks back. Quickly reaching the target of $1000 and then some, the story will only be made available online for the time being. If you back the comic at $1, you get the comic. YOU GET THE COMIC! That’s the sort of pricing which is unheard of on Kickstarter.

Ryan’s been making some waves in comics recently – he has a new series launched over at Monkeybrain, and was recently one of the contributors to Vertigo’s ‘CMYK’ anthology series, telling a story about boxing and revenge. But for this new story, he’s got such a simple setup that I just had to get in touch with him and find out more! And, gent he is, he agreed – read on to find out all about Deer Editor, and head on over to Kickstarter if you like the sound of it!

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Steve: What’s the basic premise of Deer Editor?

Ryan: Bucky is the editor of the crime beat at ‘The Truth.’ He’s also a deer. This issue sees him chase down a story involving a John Doe killer, a key to a public locker, and what might be the biggest narrative of political intrigue he’s ever covered.

The book is a black and white tale told in 48 tablet pages.

Steve: What defines Bucky as a character?

Ryan: Besides his rad antlers, the fact he’s incredibly dogged and has a true north on his moral code. Bucky finds a thread and won’t stop pulling until the sweater is gone and eventually the emperor has no clothes.

Steve: How early on did the idea of “oh, he’s a deer” come along to the story? Did you have the character planned out first or the story?

Ryan: The book came about because of a discussion of embarrassing typos. As soon as I typed the words ‘Deer editor’ the character came to me pretty fully formed. From there, it’s just polishing and finding out what sort of deer is he, how does he go about his business, etc. But the core trapping of ‘journalist’ + ‘deer’ were instant inception points. Then the story formed around him pretty smoothly.

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Steve: What kind of tone does the series have? Is this a world where nobody really minds that, y’know, their editor is a deer?

Ryan: Yep, no one minds at all. But the tone of this book is a serious crime story. There’s a heavy influence of Polanski here (especially CHINATOWN) with a soupçon of TERRIERS somewhere in there.

Steve: You’ve worked in comics journalism yourself for a while – did that develop your interest in telling a story about a journalist? (or is that just a coincidence?)

Ryan: I wanted to be a journalist for years. I have a misspent youth of writing movie reviews in a ledger, and writing reviews of basketball games I’d watch on TV. I was a huge word nerd and journalism scratched that itch as much as fiction did, and still does. I was finishing high school, and planning to go into journalism, when I got into a conversation with a guy who told me journalism was a hard game to crack. He asked me why I wanted to do it and I said because I liked writing and wanted to parlay into fiction eventually. He asked what else I wanted to be and I said the other option was teacher.

He told me to be a teacher and write at night. And here I am.

Steve: How did artist Sami Kivela come onboard the project? What does his style bring to the story?

Ryan: I was introduced to Sami by ‘Canadian Gent’ Ed Brisson and we haven’t looked back since. Sami has a great ink style for B&W and I’m a huge fan of his expressions and body language. The fact he can make a deer’s face show a range of emotions says a lot.

Steve: Why take the project to Kickstarter?

Ryan: I like Kickstarter. It’s a good distribution platform as well as a way to rally the crowd. The big thing for me, and for this campaign, is all the extras. I could put the PDF up on my site and hope traffic finds it but that’s a drop in the ocean. I could, and will, go the ComiXology Submit route but that’s just a few extra drops. What this campaign allows us to do is offer all these crazy extras and make them exclusive. The RKL Script PDF won’t be available for purchase anywhere else. The Talking Pin Ups won’t be done anymore after this campaign ends. It’s fun to really support the people in kooky ways who have come out to support us.

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Steve: How much research into Kickstarters and their pitfalls did you do before setting up this one? You seem to be aware of the now-infamous international shipping trap, and you also chose to complete the comic before bringing it to crowdfunding?

Ryan: Oh, man, I’ve been watching and loving Kickstarter campaigns for years. I’ve backed a tonne of them, and if you were to laboriously go through my twitter feed, you’d see loads of me talking about what works and what doesn’t and getting annoyed when people do the “wrong” things – PDFs of single issues for $10, that sort of thing. It does my head in.

So for this campaign, I’ve very keenly wanted to run it the way I want to see a campaign run. Cheap thrills, fun extras, lots of free downloads and stuff at checkpoints and stretch goals. And, yes, I avoided that international shipping because I have no desire to run the whole gamut of printing, packaging, and posting just to make a sub-$1 profit – or on the flip, put the issue up for $20 (or more) just to make a slightly more decent profit. I have no interest in that at all.

I did my due diligence, I read articles about people’s success, and their failure, and I then set out to do my best. I’m sure I’ve already made my own mistakes, but I don’t seem to be in the hole just yet.

Steve: There are lots of people involved with the book – you’ve invited Dan Hill on as editor. Do you find that you write best when you have an editor overseeing the project?

Ryan: I find everyone writes better when they have an editor, yes. Dan Hill is a good friend and my first reader on pretty much everything, and I’ve started bringing him in as editor because he’s got a wickedly sharp brain for story engine structure and character motivation, and he always asks me the right questions to get me around (or under, or phased through) barriers I’m facing.

I think everyone making comics, at any level, should bag themselves someone they trust to look over the work, make notes, and ask them a tonne of questions.

Steve: Not everybody comes up with a story concept and then holds back on immediately launching into a full series – Deer Editor is a one-shot, rather than an ongoing. What’s the intent of the story? Do you plan to use this to possibly launch further stories with the character down the line?

Ryan: Yep, I’ve gone for a one-shot, to start with because it’s feasible. It’s feasible to plan, write, get an artist down with, and draw an audience for a one-shot. People are more likely to invest a $1 into a PDF of a complete story than they are for just 1/6. I doubt I could Kickstart a whole mini, or ongoing, so I am being realistic. I think, and I hope, this is a smart move. You gotta pay your dues, and show you can close, so a one-shot is a perfect entry point.

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From here, oh, absolutely I have more stories to tell. I’ve already written the next script. If I have my druthers, I’d love to write Bucky for a long time, actually, in just a series of 1-3 issue stories.

Steve: What else are you working on at the moment? Where can people find you online?

Ryan: Headspace at Monkeybrain with Eric Zawadzki, Sebastian Piriz, Marissa Louise, and Dan Hill is still trucking along. #4 drops at the start of September, after a longer wait than we wanted, and it’s our best issue yet. It’s this weird pause in the grander narrative to explore character and location and really make the escalation into the end of the whole mess truly matter.

I also just had a story in the Vertigo anthology Magenta, from the CMYK Quarterly. It has Tommy Lee Edwards art, John Workman letters, and is called GLOVES. You can probably still find a copy on your LCS’ rack if you dig.

Beyond that, I’m angling a few new one-shots and pitches, all at various stages but I’m not one to tease so I’ll leave it be for now, but trust me when I say things are coming, and they are F.U.N.

As for online, you can catch me on twitter, and hit up my online HQ, I’m on tumblr here, or you can hit me up on facebook, where everyone is!

Interview: Becky Tinker and Joie Brown Bring Space Mischief to Thrillbent in ‘Everstar’

Only just launched in this past month, Everstar has quickly proven to be one of my favourite Thrillbent titles. Sure, it helps that it has robots, space adventures, lighthouses AND sailing in it – and who doesn’t love all four of those things? – but it’s mainly due to Becky Tinker’s light-hearted and bouncy script, and Joie Brown’s gleeful and vibrant artwork.

It’s the story of a young girl, Ainslie, a keen sailor and adventure fanatic who finds herself accidentally relaying a message into outer space which gets her – and her friend George – beamed up into a spaceship. Whereas anyone else might panic a little upon being shot into space, Ainslie takes to it immediately, forms a quick bond with the ship, and starts piloting it around the galaxy as the new captain.everstar5

She’s great, is Ainslie.

Anyway! With Everstar proving to be a warm, hugely enjoyable series, I was lucky enough to get the chance to talk to both Joie and Becky about their work on the comic. They talk about how the series came together, what it’s been like working with each other, the joy of designing spaceships and robots – and also where Ainslie’s name comes from….

Read on!

Steve: What’s Everstar all about? What’s the premise of the series?

Becky: The simple answer is it’s about a girl and her spaceship. Ainslie, a fun and reckless young girl, accidentally sends an intergalactic signal into outer space and is picked up by a rogue spaceship hiding out near Earth. Ainslie forms an immediate bond with the ship, and when danger strikes she takes the lead and flies it herself. It’s about adventure, curiosity, and finding the courage to become the person you’re meant to be.

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Ainslie (who sails in the first issue, by the way – are you fans of BRITISH HERO Ben Ainslie?) is a really fun lead character, and so far she’s had one laugh-out-loud moment in each of the two chapters. Is it fun to get to feature such a contrarian lead character?

Becky: You are the very first person so far to recognize where Ainslie’s name came from! I used to sail growing up and it became a huge part of my childhood. I knew I wanted the main character to be a sailor as well and Ben Ainslie seemed like the perfect person to pull her name from, what with him being the best of the best and all (and once I tried it out the name just fit her so perfectly). I hope you don’t mind that I borrowed a British hero for this…

Ainslie couldn’t be more fun to write. The humor often came out naturally while I was writing because her personality led to funny sequences so easily. She’s such a mischievous kid and she has so much energy that it’s a given she’d create these humorous situations all the time.

Joie: It’s most certainly fun to draw a character like Ainslie! She’s a rather mischievous and expressive gal, which makes for some great reaction takes and interactions.

What do you think are her most notable traits? What is it that defines her, as a person?

Joie: From my perspective, it’s her uncrushable spirit. She’s young and excitable, but she’s also brave and extremely dedicated to adventure. When she makes a decision, get out of her WAY!

Becky: Above everything else, she’s courageous, especially for someone her age. She has limitless amounts of confidence and she’s truly a natural born leader—which is a role we’ll gradually see her step into as the series progresses. She has a wonderful sense of curiosity, so you can imagine what being in outer space will do to that side of her. However, being wild, inquisitive, and fearless can make for a dangerous combination, and as a result she doesn’t always think of the consequences of her actions before flying off the handle.

How did her design come together, Joie? Did you go back and forth on ideas for her?

Joie: After reading the scripts, I had a pretty solid idea of what I wanted Ainslie to look like. I wanted Ainslie to be a little rough-and-tumble, but not straight up tomboy. I also wanted her to always sport a bandage on her knee. I sent a short written description to Becky, and amazingly we were on the exact same page. I did a quick sketch, and BAM– we had our Ainslie.

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On that – how did you first meet one another? When did you decide to work together?

Joie: Becky found me earlier this year at WonderCon. I had a booth set up, and she saw my work and contacted me the next day. The second I read the scripts for Everstar I was 100% sold on the story, and jumped at the chance to do the art test.

Becky: I was very lucky in that after the scripts were written, Thrillbent was very supportive in allowing me to find an artist that would fit well with the style that I had in mind. I found Joie at Wondercon and I loved her work, so I contacted her afterwards to see if she was interested in taking on the project. Fortunately she was!

How have you found the collaborative process?

Becky: It’s been fantastic. Joie and I work very well together and it’s been amazing to see the project coming to life through her artwork. Oftentimes she’ll come up with a design that’s even better than I had pictured in my head. From the start we had similar ideas about what it should look like, so it’s really been a great collaboration. I feel very fortunate to have an artist like her bringing Everstar to life.

Joie: Collaborating with Becky has been exceptionally easy and fun. We are on the same page about just about everything. Her writing is expressive and strong so I can easily picture what she’s going for.

When did the series first come to Thrillbent? How did they get involved as publisher for your story?

Becky: It was actually originally written as a television script. John Rogers, the co-owner of Thrillbent, read it and thought that it would make a great comic. I was asked to come in and pitch the idea as a comic series to John and Mark Waid, which I did and soon after I got the news that they wanted to do it as a Thrillbent original series. They had been looking to reach other demographics, such as kids, so it turned out to be the perfect fit. It was definitely a dream come true for me as I have been a lifelong comics fan but had never been sure how to get my foot in the door of that area of writing.

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So far the comic is grounded on Earth, but you’ve been steadily building up to the cosmic element of things – once you knew the comic would be published at Thrillbent, did that change the way you paced the comic? Knowing that Thrillbent publishes things in chapters rather than the standard comic format?

Becky: There was definitely a change in the way it was paced. I put a lot of thought into where each chapter should be broken up to make sure the story still flowed and the pace never let up. With chapters, you have a shorter amount of time to convince people that this is a story worth reading, so I tried to make sure that there were moments in each one that would hook the readers and make people want to come back for more.

As a digital comic, you can try a lot of things that print comics can’t – a sequence where she’s sat on a chair in chapter two, for example, rocking back and forth. How’ve you found writing and drawing a digital series which can experiment like this?

Joie: I went to school for illustration and animation, so getting to use a digital format like this allows me to use that knowledge to help sell certain sequences. The chair-rocking part you mention is my favorite. It had a great 1 -2 -3 punch to it that really helped show Ainslie’s childlike mischievousness and glee that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

Becky: On the writing side, it was both challenging and incredibly fun. With the Thrillbent format (overlays that change from one “panel” to the next), it adds a whole other dimension that you need to think about when writing the scripts. Once I got the hang of it, getting to write those types of sequences was an absolute blast. It leads to endless possibilities for what we could do visually, and we wouldn’t have that opportunity anywhere else.

Other series on Thrillbent use the format for horror reveals or action sequences, while I thought it would be fun to play around with things like physical humor and character expressions to keep in line with the tone of the series. Joie did a truly remarkable job in actually executing those sequences and making them transition well on the page.

Steve: Joie, can you tell us more about how you approach those sequences?

Joie: Becky’s scripts are infinitely helpful when it comes to pacing. She indicates to me if she wants an action to span over a few different “swipes” (Thrillbent terminology for when you click the “next” button on the comic), and I’ll sit and think through how best to show that to the reader. It’s almost as if the Thrillbent format is a comic/storyboard hybrid– it really opens up the possibilities for storytelling!

At this point the series hasn’t yet gone into outer space, but it looks like we’re on the verge of it! What can readers expect over the next few chapters?

Becky: There will certainly be a lot of excitement in the next few chapters! We’ll be seeing the story shift from Earth to outer space in what will hopefully be a really fun way. Readers will finally get properly acquainted with the spaceship Everstar and meet some new characters as well! Thus far we’ve gotten the setup for Ainslie being brought into outer space, and now we’re about to see that actually happen.

everstar

Steve: How are you approaching the sci-fi stuff, Joie? Are you going for a complete hi-tech and futuristic look at outer space, in stark contrast to the reality on Earth; or is your goal to make space look realistic, beaten, battered, and not so disconnected from life on Earth?

Joie: It’s a little bit of both, I’d say. The Everstar itself (the ship that we spot right at the end of Chapter 01) is heavily influenced by sailboats with a touch of steampunk thrown in. It’s technological and sleek, but has a bit of a connection to our own technologies here on Earth. The Jade, another ship that shows up later, has a sleek and predatory look that’s reminiscent of both a hawk and an octopus.

There will be some amazing technology, but almost everything is rooted in or influenced by things we’ve seen here here on Earth– particularly things that relate to the ocean. Cool hologram projections and giant gears? We’ve got a little of both!

Steve: I have to single out the robot character, Rusty – because everybody loves a robot. How did you get their design together? Was it inspired by anything in particular, or is this something entirely from your own imagination?

Joie: Rusty was really fun to design for me. How does one take a hunk of metal and make it emote? You’ve got to show the eyes to really sell emotion with it, and of course he needed arms that could flail and cross. I wanted Rusty to be able to express his short temper, yet still be comically wobbly. So, I ended up with a little bit of Short Circuit and Wall-E plus Gizmoduck from Duck Tales. Everything is more fun when it rolls instead of walks!

In comics, there’s a tendency for sci-fi stories to be aimed at boys, rather than girls. Is Everstar in part a deliberate attempt to shake that up a little?

Becky: Absolutely. There just isn’t enough out there for girls, and that was something that I certainly grappled with when I was younger as an avid sci-fi fan. When girls are featured, it’s often only in a supporting role. When I came up with the initial “kid in a spaceship” idea, I immediately wanted it to feature a swashbuckling heroine to help balance things out a little and hopefully provide young girls with a protagonist that they can relate to.

Was it important to you both that this be an all-ages series?

Becky: Creating something for kids and adults and everyone in between was one of my main goals in writing Everstar. I grew up on amazing comics and movies and the like that reached both kids and adults equally, so I’m always hoping to do the same in what I write.

Joie: I generally prefer working in the all ages genre when it comes to everything—not just comics, so yes it was rather important to me. I want to create stories and material that anyone of any age can appreciate and be entertained by!

everstar4

How long-term are your plans with the series at the moment? Do you hope for it to go on indefinitely, or do you have an endpoint in mind for further down the line?

Becky: Right now the first volume will be twelve chapters, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’re able to do more in the future! My hope is for it to go on much longer, as there are many more adventures to be had and storylines to explore. Whether or not we’ll get the greenlight to do more of Everstar is a decision that’s up to the Thrillbent team. Hopefully readers will respond to it and ask to see more.

Joie: I don’t know what Thrillbent’s or Becky’s plans are, but I’d love for it to go on indefinitely. I see a lot of potential for hilarity and adventures with Ainslie & company.

What else are you working on right now? Where can people find you online?

Joie: Right now I’m doing various freelance projects, including concept art for theme park rides, and my own comic book Heavenly Kibble Guardian Corgi. I’ve got a few other unannounced projects in the mix as well that’ll pop up eventually. People can find me at www.joieart.net, on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and DeviantArt too if they’re bent on seeing everything I’ve got! Feel free to reach out to me on social media; I love talking to and connecting with new people!

Becky: Right now Everstar is my sole comics endeavour, but I hope to be involved in a lot more projects in the future! Definitely check out Joie’s “Heavenly Kibble Guardian Corgi” comic. In the meantime I can be found on Twitter right here.

Many thanks to Becky and Joie for their time! The first two chapters of Everstar are available on Thrillbent to read for free – chapter three and beyond will require a Thrillbent subscription. WORTH IT!

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