FlameCon 2018: Writer Sina Grace Talks Iceman, Dad Jokes, and Li’l Depressed Boy

Sina Grace is a veteran L.A. based comic book writer, artist, and former editor whose body of work ranges from graphic memoirs like Not My Bag, Self-Obsessed, and Nothing Lasts Forever to an Iceman ongoing series for Marvel Comics. He has also done the artwork for the cult Image comic The Li’l Depressed Boy, which is written by Shaun Steven Struble. Self-Obsessed was made into a webseries starring Grace as himself and co-starring Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Amber Benson and Adam Busch.

At FlameCon, I had the opportunity to catch up with Sina Grace and chat about his upcoming Iceman miniseries and some other projects.

Graphic Policy: You’ve got the new Iceman coming up. What sets apart this miniseries from your initial run on the character?

Sina Grace: I’m really excited that I get to come back to the series after a passage of time. So, Bobby’s sort of done with the chapter of growing he went through in those first eleven issues, and in this one, we get to see him a little more settled in his skin. The reader will have so much more fun watching him do what he wants to do now that he’s like, “I am an omega level mutant. I am awesome.” He’s finally settling in.

With that comes a lot more fun and also some new challenges.

GP: What are some of those challenges?

SG: I’ve always thought that if you’re known for being an omega level mutant that means people with good and bad intentions are going to be paying more attention. Their eyes are on you. I’ve made it no secret that Mr. Sinister is the bad guy, and he kind of realizes that there’s something special about Bobby. Because Bobby is realizing there’s something special about Bobby. And you don’t want Mr. Sinister to be obsessed with you, I’ll leave it at that.

Then, similarly, we see Emma Frost come back into the fold, and their relationship is so rife with tension. I think one of the last times they had a very big talk about him, she seemed to be disappointed by his immense potential and how he never lived up to it. This series is really going to focus on him living up to his potential and being around people who can bring more out of him.

GP: I’ve talked to a lot of Iceman fans online, and they’ve wanted him to have more romantic and definitely more sexual relationships. What is Bobby’s dating and romantic life going to be like in the new series?

SG: I’m excited to keep Bobby single for a while. I think it’s going to be really fun to have him be single in the Marvel Universe and sort of show what that whole world looks like. How easy or how hard is it to be a mutant and in the X-Men and looking for romance. Usually, with all these other X-Men, they can date within the pool, but aside from Pyro, who they just wanted it to be what that evening was, there aren’t a lot of suitors out there.

He is dating. We get to see what that looks like for him. It’s adorable, but I’m not ready to have him fall in love just yet.

GP: You’re working with a new artist on the series, Nate Stockman (X-Men Blue). What has collaborating with him been like?

SG: Nate Stockman, and I’ve been so lucky because I’ve been saying this about the other artists, is really collaborative and so open minded in terms of taking notes from a writer who knows how to draw and has drawn comic books. Nate is injecting this level of humor that we didn’t quite hit with the previous artists, and I’m so happy because again and again I will say that this arc is a celebration. We got the book back. Bobby is a happier person. We’re just here to have a blast. It’s like a bonus round.

Nate really brings that energy. He’s just so happy and kind, and that’s all you can ask for in a collaborator. He also has really good insights as a storyteller and has helped me become a better writer in the end too.

GP: I saw Bishop on the cover of Iceman #1. What role is he going to play in the series?

SG: He’s mainly in issue one. He does show up at the end of the arc. I wanted a character where it’s the same thing as Bobby Drake. He’s always kind of around. But he’s always in the periphery. Bishop is like that too. There’s a lesson to be learned in the first adventure with them preventing the Mutant Massacre together that I felt he was able to speak to Bobby in a different way and help him understand things. I’ve always been drawn to the character, and I wanted to spend some time with him and see how his brain works. He’s cool.

GP: Yeah, wielding that big gun in X-Men Legends was when I fell in love with him.

SG: He’s also lived out the thing he needed to do in this timeline, and again, he’s in the periphery and on a similar, but different journey. So, I wanted to have these two personalities next to each other for that adventure.

GP: One thing that stands out about your Iceman is that he makes a ton of dad jokes. Why did you decide to make that a big part of his personality?

SG: It’s one of the consistent things about him. If you go through all these books, he makes really dumb jokes. His humor is a little stale, but I had to lean into as a writer because if you only do one or two, people think you can’t write a good joke. So, I kind of had to write 10 or 15 so readers would understand this is about the character kind of cracking wise.

Also, we talk a lot about how Bobby had been hiding a part of his identity from everyone. He’s filling the air. He’s nervous. These are nervous jokes. We’re going to be massaging that in the story talking about that, and how he changes on a micro-interaction level. Maybe, he’s gonna fill the air a little less with dumb jokes, or maybe his jokes will just be good. We shall see.

GP: Yeah, they’re a big part of his character. So, the X-Men have been used as a metaphor for LGBTQ themes for years. What experiences do you as a gay man bring to these characters that a straight writer couldn’t?

SG: I talk a lot about how the power of diverse storytelling lies in the details and specificity. On the way to the interview, we were talking about how opening up the restrooms at FlameCon and making them gender free opened my eyes to “Now I can’t just pop in and pop out. I have deal with a line.” But, cool, I’m aware of my privilege.

There’s no way you can have insight into a story so it’s not even in your eye line. But we bring the specifics of what the experience feels like. Case in point, in issue six of the first series, he falls head over heels with a guy he meets in L.A., Judah Miller. And he thinks about wanting to move to L.A. Resisters, and people who didn’t the like book as a whole, thought that was dumb, and gay Twitter had my back and was like, “No, girl, listen. This is what happens when you just come out, and you’ve spent your whole life thinking you can’t have something.”

You do latch onto the first person who gives it to you and make very questionable decisions about moving across the country. I almost moved to Seattle for love. So, the thing I bring where I can have a character do something that works for the sake of dramatic storytelling, but is still rooted in a reality. I think if a hetero, cis writer did this, it would come off more problematically.

GP: Speaking of your experience, you’ve written a lot of autobio comics, like Self-Obsessed and Not My Bag. How do you switch gears from writing so personally about yourself to writing about a corporate property?

SG: I think actually switching back and forth makes doing both easier for me. I have a space where I can be myself and talk about myself and reconcile questions about the world that I have that may not be interesting to everyone. I have a space for that with an audience that is willing to watch me go down these paths. And, then, because I have this safety valve, I can really look outside myself when I’m speaking to an audience that is 10,000 to 20,000 readers, and I can think about stuff that a larger group of people would want to have explored.

I like that I have both. What’s awesome is that Marvel readers aren’t like, “Let’s go look at your slice of life tales.” They love action books so it’s very safe space to go down some deep ends.

GP: In those autobio books, you have playlists, and I low key got into Jenny Lewis because of Nothing Lasts Forever. Do you have playlists for Iceman?

SG: I create playlists for any character with a big speaking role in my comics because I find music to be a fascinating look into someone’s psyche. On a very surface level, it’s a good way for me to be like “My brain is different from his brain.” So, Bobby listens to stuff I don’t listen to.

I joke that I don’t much care for The Weeknd, but Bobby likes him. He likes the War on Drugs a lot. I don’t mind them. They’re actually good. But I wouldn’t have pursued them. They’re in his wheelhouse. They’re what he likes. I was dating a guy, and we spent the date joking about what he would listen to versus us. The great debate is if Bobby Drake listens to Coldplay. I don’t have the answer yet.

It’s a good exercise. Like for Daken, I was listening to a lot of dark, nihilistic, and loud music like Health and Nine Inch Nails. Dirty Beaches too. He’s a very swagger-y guy. It’s a cool tip to tell burgeoning writers. This is how you get into a different groove and force yourself into something: a different conversation.

GP: That’s good advice. I have one last question. I’m a big fan of The Li’l Depressed Boy. Any news on that front?

SG: Our only goal with this new series of The Li’l Depressed Boy is to have the entire arc done before we put it on the calendar. I don’t think anyone likes when a book ships late, and the series comes from a personal place for both [me and Shaun Steven Struble]. We’re just letting it take the time it needs. But there are pages drawn. There is a ton of script written out.

Shaun and I are lifelong friends and partners so as long as we’re in love with each other and the book, it’s always going to be on our minds and always going to be made. Having the book come out on time and having it be the best it can be is more important than anything. No rushing for us.

Iceman #1 will available from Comixology and local comic book stores on September 12, 2018

Follow Sina Grace on Twitter.

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