March is the brilliant graphic novel trilogy chronicling the experiences by Congressman John Lewis during the Civil Rights Movement. Co-written by Andrew Aydin and Cong. Lewis with art by Nate Powell, the award-winning trio talked to the Los Angeles Times about the graphic novel on Facebook Live.
Category Archives: Interviews
From writer Matt Kindt and artist Tyler Jenkins comes a rural mystery series chronicling the tragic lives of the Grass Kings, three brothers and rulers of a trailer park kingdom, a fiefdom of the hopeless and lost, of the desperate poor seeking a promised land. Eldest brother Robert leads a grief-stricken life, having lost his daughter to a tragic accident, followed by his wife disappearing one morning never to return. When an enigmatic young woman named Maria flees to their community in search of safe haven, Robert takes her in. Will his decision lead to ruin and retribution dooming the Kingdom?
In two issues Grass Kings has created a fleshed out world that’s a weird reflections on recent events and whose relevance can’t be debated. I got a chance to talk to Jenkins and Kindt about the series and some of its influences.
Graphic Policy: Where did the idea for Grass Kings come from?
Tyler Jenkins: This is a more difficult question than it appears. The initial thought was simply my reaction to thinking about the loss of a child. (How I would deal with that? Could I deal with that?) And a separate reaction to living out here in the country. HOWEVER, this barely scratches the surface of what this book has become. Matt has brought so much to making this an actual story, an actual journey. It cannot be understated how awesome Matt is. This book is so much better because of Matt.
Matt Kindt: Tyler came to me with the idea and the title—of this community that decided to live off the grid—with a sort of pseudo-monarchy of three brothers that lead the community. And we had a long conversation over the emotional impact of losing a child—which was also integral to what Tyler brought to me. So we talked for a long time about the ideas and what kind of story we wanted to tell—throwing music and songs back and forth to get a feel for the general mood and tone of the thing. From there, I tried to break these big ideas into a plot that would sort of hit all the beats we wanted to hit and set the tone. It’s really a strange one from a creative standpoint. I’m usually the one bringing the idea to the table and then shaping it with the artist, but in this case, Tyler had all the basics and I helped him form it. I can honestly say I’ve never worked like this before, and at first it was a little uncomfortable for me—I felt like I needed to stay true to Tyler’s idea and the themes he brought to the table. It was kind of difficult for me to get into the writing at first. Eventually I had to will myself to just forget that Tyler was a person with feelings and just steal his idea and run with it. (Laughs)
GP: Tyler, how did Matt come on to the series?
TJ: I asked him to write it, and BOOM! backed me up (because they are super smart) and voilà. Then the actual work began of turning this into something meaningful and communicative.
GP: Tyler, the world is very thought out, design-wise. How has the process worked between you and Matt to flesh out the way this world looks?
TJ: It’s not mysterious in any way: Matt and I talk about stuff, we say all the thoughts that come into our heads, we throw out the stupid stuff, explore the good stuff, and then I draw it. Like every project I work on, I don’t always know what it’s going to look like until I start drawing. The look is a reaction to the emotional content of the piece. If a publisher came to me and said, “We have this project, can you draw like ‘this’ on it?”, the answer would be, “No,” or rather, “I don’t know.” I just draw and play around and experiment, and the look of the thing handles itself.
MK: We kicked it back and forth a lot. Usually, I ask an artist what they are in the mood to draw—just random stuff—but Tyler came to me with that list already in hand. The old planes and the bird sanctuary were all these elements that he was throwing at me, and it’s fun to write a story like that, to figure out how (and if) you can work that into the narrative. It ends up being much richer for it—putting all those layers of ideas together—it’s why collaboration can be so great sometimes. You get something greater than the sum of the parts.
GP: We’ve seen a rise of individuals who want to live independently from society and the government with their own community and have attempted to seize land. Has that been on your mind as you create this world?
MK: I can honestly say, no. I think it can be a creative trap to let current events and headlines sway a project. You really run the danger of ending up with something that’s dated and too topical. Honestly, what this town is doing has been happening since the beginning of time. I think it’s not so much about any kind of government but more about humanity’s definition of what “property” is and how that differs from era to era and culture to culture.
TJ: This is not some treatise on breaking away from society. This is not a “how-to.” Every human is part of a society, and every person has to answer the question of how they will interact with that society. I personally believe that most people are not looking to leave society; they are looking for identity. And if the identity they chose is, “the guy who does not give in to society,” well, that is more of an identity thing. I think there are some massively shitty societies out there, and some massively shitty governments (I am from Canada by the way, ha-ha). Government is a reflection of society, art is a reaction to society.
Grass Kings is for me a reaction to society, a reaction to how I feel about a lot of things. It is not a thought on those people who want to pull away from society, it is about how I personally feel, and conversely, how I don’t feel. True art has the artist in it, but once it is published, it’s now about the reader, and how they feel about things. Your reaction to my work says more about you than it does about me, and maybe, it will help you learn something about you, as it is certainly making me learn about me.
GP: Since there’s real people who are similar to these individuals, are you taking inspiration from that?
TJ: Somewhat, ha-ha. No names, no names! And at the same time, as in any personal work, each character has a little bit of Matt and I in them.
GP: There’s multiple layers to the story, the greater political of folks not happy about this community being independent and Robert and his daughter, the latter being very personal. Why’d you decide to balance both in the story as one or the other could easily be a series by itself.
TJ: I think, because that is how real life works. It’s never that simple.
MK: I think the entire thing is personal. Politics in many ways is just a way of expressing power. How we express that power is what’s makes it interesting. Lord knows, we have super heroes expressing their power all over the place all the time, but what gets overlooked is the ramifications of that expression. What’s the aftermath like?
GP: Each issue so far has shown the history of people taking land from each other, I have to believe you’re trying to make a point or statement with that Matt.
MK: I did a book a few years ago called Red Handed, which was a crime book that sort of explored the definition of what constituted a “crime.” One of the “criminals” in the book, we find out in the end, was simply stealing dirt. Piling it in a wheelbarrow and moving it back to his place. The idea in that book—and really the larger theme in Grass Kings—is that same idea, this strange notion that we can somehow “own” land. Historically, it’s really what every war on Earth has been fought about. It’s been dressed up a million different ways, but controlling a patch of land is always what it comes down to. That’s not what Grass Kings is about really—that’s up to readers to figure out—but it’s definitely the backdrop that we’re using to tell our story.
GP: Tyler, the art is beautiful. How long does it take you to create an issue?
TJ: It takes about three weeks, give or take. I work in bursts and spurts and fits.
GP: I can see this series reading different before and after this past Presidential election. Has that shift in US politics impacted the story at all?
TJ: It hasn’t for me, story-wise. But I know it will read differently. It is not a metaphor, or anything for the current political U.S. situation, but it IS about real people, real people who struggle and live and want to be free and happy and alive. It’s not about some bloated jackass so out of touch with reality he (or she) might as well be on Uranus.
GP: What else do you all have on tap that folks can check out this year?
MK: More Grass Kings! And my continuing murder-mystery Dept. H; Ether, which just wrapped up with David Rubín, and a slew of great Valiant books.
GP: Thanks so much for the interview!
Tee Franklin discusses passion project Bingo Love, a graphic novella she created with artists Jenn St-Onge and Joy San. The project was posted on Kickstarter in mid-March and quickly reached its funding goal. Among other unique aspects, Bingo Love is a type of story that doesn’t exist anywhere else in comics–find out why you should check it out.
Graphic Policy: First, thank you for taking the time to speak to me! Would you mind introducing yourself?
Tee Franklin: Thanks so much for having me. I’m Tee Franklin, a writer with story in a few books, maybe you’ve heard of Image Comics’ Nailbiter and IDW/DC Comics Love is Love. I’m also the creator of #BlackComicsMonth.
GP: Your new comic, Bingo Love, is debuting on Kickstarter. Can you describe the project?
TF: Bingo Love is Black Mirror’s San Junipero meets Academy Award winning Moonlight. It’s got love, heartbreak, tragedy, and a honeymoon to Iceland.
GP: Based on the previews, the art and writing mesh beautifully. How did this creative team come together?
TF: The art and colors are absolutely a match made in heaven. I actually put out a tweet looking for LGBTQ women artists and colorists and Joy dropped her link in the tweet. Jenn and I have been trying to find the perfect project for us to work together on and Bingo Love worked out perfectly. After seeing the first page by both women, I knew this was going to be huge.
Editor Erica Schultz has been a great friend for years and she knows I have a phobia of the red ink, so she edits with various colors. Erica knew of Cardinal Rae’s lettering work and vouched for them.
We are The A-Team!
GP: You also have some great stretch rewards. Could you tell us about them?
TF: Oh goodness, we have skype sessions with Kelly Sue, Scott Snyder, Gail Simone and Steve Orlando. Script and portfolio reviews from Al Ewing, Kieron Gillen, Patrick Thorpe, Shawn Pryor, Bryan Edward Hill and Erica Schultz, Of course variants from Nilah Magruder, Genevieve Eft, and Carla McNeil.
I’m truly blessed that there are so many creators who were willing to donate their time to help Bingo Love come to fruition.
GP: You’re also curating the Mental Health Anthology, which is set for crowdfunding later this year. I’ve noticed you’re using two different crowdfunding platforms. Is there a difference in how each platform allows you to fund and market these projects?
TF: The Mental Health Anthology will be happening later this year or possibly next year, depending on how things go. I will say that I was not mentally prepared to read a lot of these stories that many have shared and I have to practice self-care. This anthology is still happening as it means a lot to me.
The reason for Indiegogo is because Kickstarter doesn’t allow funds to go to charity and this project’s funds are going straight to charity after printing and shipping expenses.
GP: Your works have also covered a number of different genres. How do these allow you to explore different types of storytelling? Is there a genre you haven’t gotten to write or draw yet that you’d like to?
TF: I’ve built several worlds in my head. I had a very rough childhood, young adulthood and adulthood, so for me, my escape was the worlds that I created. I’m blessed that I can write different genres and not just known as the “horror” writer or the “all-ages” fantasy writer.
As far as what I’d like to write, it would just be DC Comics Vixen. I’m not a huge cape fan, but boy oh boy would I love to get a chance to write Vixen. I even have the pitch ready to go upstairs in my head.
GP: What drew you to comics as opposed to other forms of storytelling?
TF: Comics are just so damn cool. I got into comics as a child and even though it was all superheroes, there was something that grabbed my interest. As an adult, I’m over the capes. I want murder, mayhem, horror, dragons, romance, mystery, robbery, etc.
Just give me anything besides capes and make sure that there’s representation in the book!
GP: What freedoms does crowdfunding allow you as opposed to traditional publishing?
TF: I wouldn’t consider it freedom, it’s just me writing from my soul. These stories aren’t stories that traditional publishers wants, because they believe it won’t sell. The problem is they don’t know how to market these books and truly believe that POC won’t buy any books that tell vital stories. Judging by the Kickstarter being funded in 5 days, I beg to differ.
Do better publishers, the people want these stories by creators of color. Representation Matters.
GP: I remember reading you saying during Oscar season that there were no comics out that reflected the themes or experiences of the characters in Hidden Figures, Fences, or Moonlight. What were some of the thematic influences for Bingo Love?
TF: Yep. I definitely did say that. There are books out there, but they’re written by white creators and it doesn’t have the same narrative as these Oscar-nominated books. A few days before the Oscars, I watched Moonlight, (I heard about it, but never got a chance to catch it until it came out OnDemand.) and realized that the movie reminded me of Bingo Love.
These stories are needed, not just for film and tv, but also in books.
GP: What are you most excited for readers to see with this comic?
TF: Everything! This love story is one for the ages, it spans across a lifetime so there’s a wedding, a honeymoon, and DRAMA! We want to tell this vital story and hope that it resonates with everyone. I’d be over the moon if a senior citizen reached out to tell me that they lived this story.
GP: Is there anything you’d like to discuss that I didn’t ask you about?
TF: Thanks so much for interviewing us for Graphic Policy. I know this is a different type of comic, but sometimes you need to embrace something that’s not the norm. Love is Love is Love is Love and this comic has so much love in it. We want everyone to be open and respectful to those who love differently than they do. We need more love and kindness in the world.
GP: Thank you again!
It’s not likely that Frank Gogol (The Comic Jam) is very different than you. He loves comic books, he’s known his share of tragedy in life. Like many of us, he has a love for writing, too. However, unlike many of us, Gogol has taken the numerous sorrows of his past and put them into comics. His new book Grief deals with the tragedy and loss he’s experienced in a relatively short life in ways that are fresh, varied and engaging.
In an effort to further pursue his dream, he launched a Kickstarter this week that you can view by click here. He took a moment to discuss the writing process, his inspiration and what has guided him during this time.
Graphic Policy: Grief draws a great deal from your personal tragedies in life. How long have you been writing these stories?
Frank Gogol: I feel like I’ve been writing these stories all my life, but the truth is I finished the first script, which was for the story “Embrace” in March of last year. I’ve always wanted to write comics, and had a few false starts over the years, but at the end of the 2015 I had to tell myself to commit or move on. So, I committed and signed up for the Intro to Comic Book Writing course with Comics Experience under the guidance of former Marvel and IDW editor Andy Schmidt. And it was like that class unlocked something in me. After that, the stories started to pour out and I wrote all of the stories in Grief in about six months.
GP: The stories in Grief are extremely varied in their content. Would you say this is a reflection of dealing with your singular emotional conflict in various ways? Or are each of these a catharsis of their own memories?
FG: The variety of the stories is both by design and by accident. Let me explain. When I had begun writing these stories, they were never meant to share space in any kind of collection. I had talked with Steve Orlando (Justice League of America, Supergirl) about breaking into comics, and his advice was to finish some stories, show some range, and get a portfolio in front of some editors, and so that’s what I tried to do. And it was about the time I had five or six of the stories that I started to see that, while they were incredibly different in terms of content, they did share a thematic link in that they were all about characters that were grieving. So, I ran with that and started crafting the next few stories to fit that thematic through-line.
The stories themselves, for the most part, deal with things that have happened in my or around my life. Some of them, like “Prayer” are essentially autobiographical, while others like “Cassandra” were inspired by events I witnessed and tied to stuff that was going on in my life. All of these stories, though, are cathartic. Stories and storytelling are how I’ve coped with and moved passed (mostly) my traumas.
GP: Drawing so much from experiences that are so tragic and yet unique to you, what do you think will appeal most to the average reader?
FG: What I think is so great about anthology-style books is that because there are a variety of stories, even if one story doesn’t speak to you, another might. There’s something for everyone. And I think that’s one of the virtues of Grief. If you don’t like stories that are dramas, there’s a couple of sci-fi stories in there for you. If you don’t like superhero stories, maybe the horror stories will be more your speed.
Grief is something that is universally experienced, so even if a reader doesn’t know first-hand what it’s like to raise an autistic son, they will understand how it feels to be frustrated or to feel like a failure.
GP: How has your life been changed as product of working through these stories?
FG: Truthfully, I think I’m in a much better place than I was before writing the stories. I had thought I had worked through a lot of the traumas in my life, but writing these stories really showed me how much further I had/have to go. I think certain terrible things we carry with us for the rest of our lives, but there’s definitely a healthy way to carry them, and I think that’s where I am now.
GP: Working with a wide variety of artists in this anthology series, how decide you assign them to each story? How much of the artist’s own personal trauma and tragedy were considered?
FG: One of the best and worst things about being a comic creator in the internet age is that you can work with virtually anyone anywhere on Earth. It’s great because you can find collaborators from different places and with different backgrounds. The downside is that it’s tougher to build relationships with your collaborators when you only ever communicate with them via email.
So, I don’t know for a fact that any of my collaborators incorporated any of what they’ve been through into their art, colors, or letters. But I am a firm believer that life experiences, good and bad, influence how creators make their art, so I’m sure that my collaborators’ experiences are there on the page.
GP: In the Kickstarter, Grief is an exclusively digital book. As a creator, where do you think the future of comics lies? Is a peaceful co-existence between physical and digital or will be left behind?
FG: I know that some people are concerned about digital coming in and replacing paper comics, but I don’t think that’s something to worry about. For me, each serves a similar, but different purpose. Paper comics are for reading, but also collecting and bagging and boarding. Digital comics, though, are for reading and re-reading. Over the last few years, especially as I’ve been studying comic writing craft, digital comics have just made more sense for me. I read comics, but I revisit the stories and study the art, so having them larger and on my computer screen really helps with that. I do still buy some paper comics, but it’s mostly writers I follow and my friends who are getting books printed. Otherwise, I stick to digital.
GP: Your Kickstarter looks amazing, by the way. Being your first, what help did you receive or what insight helped you to forge something as impressive as this?
FG: Thanks! I really was a labor of love.
If there is one person I am most indebted to for how the campaign page turned out, it’d have to be Tyler James from the ComixLaunch podcast. I started listening to ComixLaunch about a year ago, thinking that someday I’d run a Kickstarter, and the knowledge Tyler offers how Kickstarter is invaluable.
That said, many, many people helped me with getting this page right. I’m a part of a couple of online communities, and I reached out to the members of those communities often for feedback, and that was really helpful, too.
And, on top of all of that, it certainly didn’t hurt that by day I worked in marketing and have a background in graphic design.
GP: In terms of being promotion and getting the word out, as a new writer leading indie talent, I imagine it’s difficult to really get your project out there. What have been the keys to your success in that regard?
FG: That’s probably the biggest hurdle in front of any new creator. Those online communities I mentioned have been a big help with starting to build a following, though. Reddit communities and Facebook groups geared toward comic books are really great spots to share indie comics because they are extremely targeted to begin with. I think, for me, the key to getting people excited about my work has been interacting with them. It’s one thing to write a story and share it. It’s another, more powerful thing, to connect with a reader through a story.
GP: What advice would you offer to other people who are looking to get their own comic book project funded and developed?
FG: I’m not sure I have anything thing revelatory to offer that hasn’t been said before and often, but the piece of advice that really helped me was to start and finish a project. I started with very manageable 5-page stories, which allowed me to start and finish a project easily and learn the process. It’s got a domino-like effect. You finish one, and then you finish a second, and then a third, and it gets easier each time.
GP: Moving forward, do you feel Grief has helped you leave some of the heartache and pain behind you?
FG: Yes, definitely. I don’t hold it as an absolute truth, but I do think that a lot of people write because they have stuff to work through. It’s definitely true for me. Like I said earlier, some stuff we carry with us forever, but we can learn to carry it in a healthy way, and writing Grief helped me to do that with some of my traumas.
GP: What story are you working on next?
FG: I’ve got a couple of scripts ready to go right now. I’m always trying to do or learn something new when I write, so no two are the same, either. One story is Silence of the Lambs meets superheroes. Another is an all-ages story that deals with what it’s like to be adopted. There’s a third script about artificial intelligence and guilt. I’m not sure which will be next just yet, but I do know I have a lot of stories to tell still. Right now, I’m focusing on making sure the Grief Kickstarter campaign is a success and offers backers a lot of value.
You can check out the Grief Kickstarter here.
Patrick Healy is a writer/artist who makes pins and chews bubble gum. He has ample amounts of both. But you can find his pins here.
Today Charles Soule is one of the most prolific comic book writers having tackled top properties for both Marvel and DC Comics, and has had comics published by what seems like every major publisher. But Soule had to start somewhere and in this Retro Friday flashback we’re bringing back an interview with Soule from Baltimore Comic Con 2010 when he was just launching his breakout comic series 27 as well as the gem Strongman.
Ryan K. Lindsay is an Australian writer who has written the EIR all ages one-shot he Kickstarted with Alfie Gallagher, the critically acclaimed Negative Space miniseries at Dark Horse with Owen Gieni on art, the upcoming Beautiful Canvas from Black Mask with Sami Kivelä, the CHUM mini with Sami Kiveä, and he also made Headspace at Monkeybrain Comics/IDW with Eric Zawadzki + Sebastian Piriz/Marissa Louise/Dee Cunniffe on art. He wrote a short story for the Vertigo CMYK anthology and was blessed to see Tommy Lee Edwards illustrate it, his Fatherhood one-shot was once one of the top selling ComiXology Submit titles, and he once sold out to write a My Little Pony Rainbow Dash one-shot.
He has a brand new project, Ink Island, currently running on Kickstarter. I got a chance to talk to him about the all-ages comic.
Graphic Policy: Ink Island just went live on Kickstarter. Could you describe the project a bit?
Ryan K Lindsay: INK ISLAND is an all ages one shot comic that’s about two children – my own two children – who are the caretakers of a lighthouse whose function is to keep the monsters in the dark away. So when the globe breaks, they have to scramble to fix it, and in that moment, my daughter is kidnapped.
From there we have a story that’s about conquering fear, and gender roles, and sibling relationships. The book has some beautifully funny moments, mostly because my co-creator/artist Craig Bruyn brings an extremely expressive and cheeky art style to this book, but we also want to drop some real emotion in when we can.
Our campaign is allowing us to fund a print run of the book, and get Craig paid, and get a set of teaching resources into the hands of people who want to read and then analyse this comic.
GP: Craig Bruyn’s art is great! I know you’ve referenced Skottie Young when talking about the art, but it also reminds me of Justin Bleep, who has this really dynamic style. Besides gorgeous art, what does Craig bring to the story?
RKL: Craig brought a lot of heart to the story. The way he brings out the character moments, whether they be human or Inky, was such a delight to unfold. And then there’s his story capabilities, his knack for being able to take a page of story/information and tell it in a coherent and dynamic way. Craig knows from page layouts, and you can see he’s always working to get the right angle or showcase the best panel.
He’s also just the biggest gentleman to work with. He’s stupidly humble, he’s insanely reliable, and I love that the final beat of the issue was actually all his idea.
GP: In addition to the plot, what sets this story apart from other books aimed at a similar audience? In other words, are there things missing from the genre that you wanted to include?
RKL: I’d feel arrogant to say I’m crushing the all ages funk in a totally new way and better than others, but the things I wanted to focus on in this book were the ideas of overcoming fears, and what gender roles look like as presented to small children.
The main act change of the book revolves around Parker realising his sister, Elliot, has been kidnapped and then having to step up to mount a rescue mission. But we never see what Elliot is doing so we can’t confirm whether she really needs rescuing at all. It’s a big aspect of the comic I wanted to unpack in general, but also very specifically between my two children. My son is very thoughtful and empathetic whereas my daughter is a UFC-level weapon. But they both crossover in that they’d each help the other whenever they thought it was needed.
But I think, for me, it wasn’t about bringing something incredibly new to the genre because it was more about proving I can also play in this genre. Most of my other work is so dark and brutal, I wanted something my kids could read. Something my class could read.
GP: You’re also no stranger to Kickstarter–this is your fifth! For you, what is the draw of a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter?
RKL: I love Kickstarter. That ability to connect with your readership directly is amazing. I specifically love it because for one month you can offer a slew of special items that will only ever be available for that month. I’m doing an Audio Commentary for this comic, and have done so on previous comics, and those have never been available again.
You could sell the comic on your site forever and a day, but there’s no excitement, there’s no necessity. With Kickstarter, you create the excitement and immediacy through a well-run campaign, and readers respond fantastically well.
GP: How does your experience as someone who teaches comics influence how you create them?
RKL: It influenced me many years ago because I didn’t just try to write comics, I studied them first. I studied, I learned by doing through dozens of unpublished [and unpublishable] scripts, and then I started branching out from there.
Now that I’ve written a few things, I do try to write with an eye for the things I like to analyse in the works of others, but I try not to be too obvious about what I’m aiming for. You want it to feel natural, not forced. And I don’t want to be didactic in my narrative approach or explanations. My stories better not read as lessons, they should grab an emotion before they then slip up into your brain.
GP: That’s really fascinating–the balance between writing comics that can be used as a teaching tool and comics that are interesting and gripping, plot-wise. On the flip-side of this, why do you think comics make such a great teaching tool?
RKL: Comics are exceptionally great tools for teaching reading because there’s so much reader engagement required. It’s a great medium to have story/information presented – through text and images, and how they interact – but then there’s the subtle stuff that’s there, so it’s not blindly inferred, but it’s still up to the reader to analyse, such as colours or how much is skipped over in the gutters. There are so many elements to a comic that you can spend a long long time pulling the threads apart.
I also think there’s the aspect that comics don’t feel confrontational. They are inviting, they’re pretty, and people mistake that for meaning they are for struggling readers, and while you can see why they’d appeal to someone who doesn’t want to stare down a wall of text in a novel, that does not necessarily equate to comics having easy or simple stories.
GP: Do you have favorite comics to teach?
RKL: I teach young kids, so I love using books like HILDA, because man-oh-man do I love Hilda. That book is phenomenal, and so easy, and yet so textured and layered. I also dig BONE, and THE SMURFS and certain superhero books if they aren’t too violent.
If I’m teaching adults, you can’t go past BATMAN: YEAR ONE. I’d love to teach THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST, or PAPER GIRLS.
GP: I took a class in college where BATMAN: YEAR ONE was on the book list, but not required, and I always find it interesting to see which books people choose to teach because it varies so much. Are there certain things you think we can learn from superhero books versus creator-owned books?
RKL: I believe the only thing you learn from comics is how to makenglod comics, so cape or by shouldn’t matter – however, having just completed the DC Writers’ Workshop with Scott Snyder, there is one big difference.
Superhero books can play more operatic, the stakes can be elevated. There’s nothing like the literal fate of the world to make a comic sing, whereas sometimes you don’t need that and you just need a personal take.
Consider THE VISION against DAYTRIPPER. Themes crossover but one book gets to play against the might of every Marvel hero, whereas the other is real that it can better grind your heart up.
GP: What’s the biggest challenge of creating an all-ages comic?
RKL: Not killing a bunch of characters off at the end. I love noir, and my mind skews to warped endings, so that’s a big one. Then there’s the matter of making it engaging, having some big “Oh, cool!” moments, because I never feel like I do that part all that well.
I want to use rich language, and I’m happy if kids have to pause to ask a parent what a word means, but I don’t want the verbosity to drive anyone away. There’ a balance, and I’m sure I’ll find it one day.
GP: Ink Island is also a huge departure from many of your other comics. Do you have a preferred genre? Do these different genres allow you to experiment with different types of storytelling?
RKL: My preferred genre is a sci fi/crime blend. It allows me to play with broken noir characters, but in a world that incorporates the fantastic. I love shattered endings and I love creating my own tech that I can explain however I want without being tethered to actual real world limitations or research.
I try to experiment with my storytelling all the time. I’ve used first person narration captions, omniscient third person, and no captions. All are different muscles for me. I like fracturing timelines, or using unreliable narrators. It often truly depends on the lead character and the tone I want to set. Those are the two keystones to lock in that inform all choices beyond that.
After interviewing Shelly Bond, Brian Miller, and Kristy Miller about the big picture aspects of the Femme Magnifique Kickstarter, I had the opportunity to talk with several of the anthology’s creators about the specifics of their stories. I chatted with writer Mike Carey, writer/artist Rori!, and writer Robin Furth via email about their comics featuring Rosalind Franklin, Shirley Chisholm, and Ursula K. Le Guin respectively.
Mike Carey is a British comic book writer and novelist, who is best known for his work on Vertigo’s Lucifer, Unwritten, and Hellblazer, which he wrote for 40 issues taking over from Brian Azzarello. Carey has also written Marvel comics, like X-Men Legacy and Ultimate Fantastic Four, and a film adaptation of his novel The Girl with All the Gifts starring Gemma Arterton was recently released in February 2017.
Carey is writing a story about the British chemist Rosalind Franklin, who was involved in the discovery of the DNA double helix. James Watson and Francis Crick received the Nobel Prize after her death in 1958 and were “informed by some of Franklin’s work which they had obtained without her permission”. He says that Franklin’s life “illustrates very poignantly how the scientific establishment of that time was saturated with institutional biases and unacknowledged power politics” and basically “operated like a boys’ club”. Carey and Eugenia Komaki’s Femme Magnifique comic will “present a vignette from this sad story – and reflect on the Nobel Prize’s history in the process.”
Carey is collaborating on the comic with Eugenia Koumaki (Womanthology) with whom he says he has never worked with before. He “met her at a comics convention in Athens… and admired her art-especially her wonderful figure work”, which he describes as “simple, but immensively expressive”. Carey was also her sponsor when Koumaki applied for DC Comics’ New Talent Program.
The next creator I talked to was the writer/artist Rori! She is the creator of the autobiographical, slice of life webcomic Tiny Pink Robots, and one of her most recent projects was #100days100women where she drew a portrait of a great woman from history every day and posted it on Twitter. Rori! is co-writing (with her husband Gibston Twist) and drawing a story about Shirley Chisholm, who was the first African-American woman to be elected to Congress in 1968 and be a major party U.S. presidential candidate in 1972.
Graphic Policy: Why did you decide to write and draw about Shirley Chisholm for Femme Magnifique, and how has she inspired you?
Rori!: I think some of it was admiring her personality, she was very caring, but also no-nonsense, she didn’t let people push her around, and she had guts, lots of guts. She didn’t “wait her turn” for opportunities people were trying to keep from her, she confronted that head-on. She was a dynamo! I also loved her politics, she saw and thought deeply about the world around her, about the systems of oppression, and how to disrupt those. She cared so much for the disenfranchised, the voiceless. She was a champion of the people, and in the 1970s, she was well-known as this. That her story has faded is a true shame, you read her speeches and she was so ahead of her time that she was ahead of ours.
GP: What have been some of the challenges and/or reward from doing a comic in an anthology format versus a webcomic, like Tiny Pink Robots?
R!: Well, it’s a delight having a professional editor, for one (and Shelly is amazing!). Which is good, because it’s been a huge challenge to distill Shirley Chisholm’s story into three pages! Of course on a strip-style webcomic, your storyline is generally completely open-ended, especially on an autobiographical one like mine. I like that, though it’s also nice to create something finite. More long-form, story-style comics are my first love (I’m currently working on an adaptation of the Snow Queen). I do enjoy anthologies, though, the opportunity to share a book with other amazing creators is fantastic.
GP: Shirley Chisholm is best known as the first African-American woman to be a major party U.S. presidential candidate. What do you think has to change in the United States for us to have our first female president?
R!: Ah! This took me a bit. Short answer: the Electoral College. Straight-up, Hillary received significantly more votes than her opponent. Millions more, tens of millions of Americans WERE ready for a female president, but the system in place denied that. In many ways, the Electoral College, a relic created by landed white men to placate slave-owning landed white men, is an embodiment of the systems that are made to keep disenfranchised people out of power, and a small, homogeneous minority IN power. Those systems must be recognized, resisted and dismantled so that we see not just the first female president, but the SECOND, and so on, as well as more women and marginalized people in all positions of authority. In addition, we have to continue to work on the hearts and minds of Americans, to dispel bigoted notions. (And that includes ourselves.)
I think there are more Americans that are on their way to accepting diverse leaders, especially when it comes to women and some people of color. (We still have a long way to go as far as different religions, recent immigrants, and trans/non-binary people go among other things.) But it’s not enough to educate toward openness and acceptance. It’s not enough to dismantle the exclusionary systems. We have to do both. That’s what we need. And we need to internalize that getting that milestone of “first” is amazing, but it’s just the beginning. Unless we create a system where the “first” can truly unleash a flood of diversity, they just becomes a token, or trivia, and their influence is diminished. It’s like Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s quote about the Supreme Court having “enough” women when there are nine on it. There’s a lot of history to catch up to; a lot of lost time and talent to make up for.
Finally, I got to interview Robin Furth and discuss about her comic about legendary science fiction and fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin that she is doing with artist Devaki Neogi (Skeptics) for Femme Magnifique. Furth was a research assistant for Stephen King and wrote The Dark Tower: A Complete Concordance (2006) that was nominated for a Locus Award for Non-Fiction. As far as comics, she has worked as a co-writer on Marvel’s Dark Tower adaptations, wrote the one-shot Legion of Monsters: Satana, and has been published in anthologies, like Girl Comics, Womanthology, and Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu.
Graphic Policy: How does Ursula LeGuin inspire you, and why did you decide to write about her for Femme Magnifique?
Robin Furth: Ursula Le Guin has been a hero of mine since I read The Wizard of Earthsea when I was thirteen years old. I’d always been an obsessive reader, especially of fantasy (The Chronicles of Narnia were my favorite books when I was a child.), but the profound themes of the Earthsea novels were a revelation. I identified with Ged, the protagonist of the story, and the tale of him summoning a shadow from the netherworld, and then being relentlessly pursued by it, chilled me to the bone.
In the years since that initial reading, I’ve returned to the Earthsea books many times and have sought out all of Le Guin’s other work. In my opinion, Le Guin is one of the finest living American authors. Few people can pen novels, criticism, and poetry with an equally masterful hand, but Le Guin accomplishes this with fluidity and grace. Many of Le Guin’s books are classed as young adult fiction, but the ideas explored within her novels are very mature. She writes about alienation, the search for self-knowledge, power abuse, inequality, and environmental destruction.
Another reason that Le Guin’s writing is so perfect for Femme Magnifique is that gender is such an important topic in her work. Le Guin was born in 1929, and over the course of her life, she has witnessed tremendous social upheaval, both good and bad. But one of the subjects she returns to over and over is what it means to be a human being, whether male or female. When she published the first Earthsea book in the late 1960s, the women’s movement was just getting underway. The hero of that novel was a magically talented young man from a world where women’s enchantment was considered base. To learn his craft, Ged journeyed to the island of Roke and to the wizard’s school, where the mages were celibate, and women were forbidden from becoming students. However, in one of the short stories recounted in Tales from Earthsea, we learn that Roke’s original mages were both male and female, and that their powers were equal. The division of the sexes and repression of women’s magic came later.
The acclaimed novel The Left Hand of Darkness is an even more stunning examination of gender. In that book, the inhabitants of the planet Gethen are androgynous, and only become male or female during the short fertile period of kemmer. To make matters more intriguing, a Gethenian never knows whether he will play the female or the male role, and so any Gethenian can father a child or become pregnant.
GP: How did your background as Stephen King’s research assistant and the author of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: A Complete Concordance influence your work on Femme Magnifique?
RF: My Dark Tower Concordance has had an indirect but important influence on everything I’ve written since then. It was such an intensive training ground in the art of fiction and world building, and I had the honor of traversing that landscape with Stephen King himself. I learned a tremendous amount. It was because of my work in Mid-World that I became a consultant and a co-writer for Marvel’s Dark Tower comics. (I’m now a consultant for the upcoming Dark Tower film as well.)
Before the Concordance appeared in print, I was publishing mainly poetry. But when Dark Tower moved to comics, I had the chance to explore another medium I loved. So, I suppose that my Concordance was my way into comics and ultimately into Femme Magnifique.
GP: What role do you think fantasy stories with a diverse cast of characters, like the Earthsea books, play in the sad, xenophobic political reality of 2017?
RF: Le Guin’s vision is unique in its poetry and its breadth, and she constantly makes us question what it means to be human and what it means to be humane. The protagonists of her novels are from many different races, and she constantly examines issues of gender equality (or inequality) and the horrors of power abuse. By writing about alternate societies and cultures, Le Guin creates mirrors in which we can examine our own world with a more critical eye. In The Word for World is Forest, she explores the utter destruction wreaked upon indigenous peoples and natural environments by so-called “advanced” cultures. In The Left Hand of Darkness, she asks what it would be like to live in a world where there is no gender. In the Annals of the Western Shore, she explores the injustice of slavery. Ursula Le Guin makes us think, and that is something we desperately need to do.
GP: And just for fun, what is your favorite Ursula Le Guin novel or short story, and why?
If you’d asked me this question ten years ago I would have said the Earthsea books, but now I must say that it is Le Guin’s vision that I love. If you stranded me on a desert island but gave me a library of Le Guin’s work to keep me company, I’d be happy.
With the new Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie coming out nationwide today, I thought now would be a good time to write my interview with the most well know of all the Power Rangers Jason David Frank.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason at Rhode Island Comic Con in November. I have been a huge fan of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers since it first aired in August of 1993 and have been a huge fan of Tommy Oliver and the Green Ranger since he made his Power Rangers debut in October of 1993.
Graphic Policy: Thank you for granting me this interview.
Jason David Frank: Thank You
GP: As you are one of my childhood heroes I am incredibly honored to be doing this. I don’t want to spend a whole lot of time talking about the Rangers, because I am sure everyone asks about your time with the Power Rangers, however, you have been doing this for 21 years as a ranger with Super Power Beat Down and Bat in the Sun Productions.
JDF: I think it is a little longer than that, I think 23 years about a year before the show started. Pretty much 23 years
GP: Ok so did you think that back in 1993 that you would still be doing this for 23 years?
JDF: You know man I just look at life as what I look at it today. I like to put as much energy time and focus into your day so you can have a future. Like for me, I don’t look at what tomorrow is going to bring. I look at how much I can do today in order to have a successful tomorrow. Like the most challenging things about the shows (cons) for me is that I try to hold myself in a high standard where I want the last person, thousandth person to come in line and be treated like the first. And that’s something you have to work and strive to be the best you can. So, I think putting 110% energy into the day actually got me a future. You know because I don’t think anyone wants to see me 20 years down the road and I look now and oh my gosh I’m going to be 63 or whatever. But I am happy and blessed to be who I am and what I do and you know I obviously embrace it.
GP: Well that’s awesome and you know, I have to say I follow all your social media’s YouTube channel and everything and I read the comments on you and you are true to form man, and I have to say you care about us and thank you we appreciate that.
JDF: Thank you, I try to uphold to high standards for myself. Only you can set your standards and I believe the fans make me and I really truly believe and I count my blessings, that’s the only way I can get through this stuff. Is that I am making people smile, doing interviews do whatever else that makes people happy and that makes me happy.
GP: That’s great. So now you have this new role for Valiant with Ninjak vs the Valiant Universe. How did this project come about, did they reach out to them or did they reach out to you?
JDF: So, with the new role as Bloodshot for Valiant. They have a series called Ninjak vs the Valiant Universe and it’s produced by Bat in the Sun. And Aaron called one day and said you would be perfect for Bloodshot. I didn’t know much about Bloodshot, so I read every single book and I am actually a big fan of Valiant and a big fan of Bloodshot it’s kind of the independent comic cons you know the independent comic label that like has all these cool superhero characters under it.
GP: Alright, awesome. Now you’re a busy man between My Morphin Life, Bat in the Sun Productions, The Rising Sun Karate School, all the conventions you do. Man, when do you get time for yourself?
JDF: Well don’t forget the My Morphin Vlog I just started.
GP: Yes, and the My Morphin Vlog (on YouTube)
JDF: I have to balance it a little bit. I really enjoy what I am doing. So, I mean it’s an outlet for me, so obviously, I am working all the time, but it’s like for me it’s an outlet. Like you know it’s a healthy outlet for me. Instead of doing other stuff, I don’t drink I don’t do all that stuff so there are a lot of unhealthy outlets out there, and I kinda just keep this as an outlet. So, the more you see me, the healthier I am I guess.
GP: OK, alright that is always good. Lastly, and to be honest with you I don’t know too much about it myself, but the one thing a lot of fans don’t know about is Jesus Didn’t Tap. So, what is it about and why is it so important to you?
JDF: Jesus Didn’t Tap, Jesus didn’t give up, you know Jesus didn’t just quit on us. Like, you know he got crucified for all of his sins for us. And I am a believer in a relationship with God and Jesus and I don’t push that or force that on anyone. I think that’s what people appreciate about me is that I feel that people have their own rights to what they believe in and stuff. But I just have a personal relationship God and I’ll testify that I am blessed. As you can see today (I have) the biggest line out of everyone the most loyal fans because people want to be, you know, you can just feel it, you can feel the love I have. And I try every time I come in here, I try to be like my Pastor, I have a Pastor Keenan, when I shake his hand he never makes you feel like he’s in a rush. He gives you eye contact, he makes you feel love and that’s the only way to get through this. Is that I have to think of my Pastor. When someone comes up I shake their hand, give them a hug, look them in their eyes and I think a lot of people don’t do that. So, Jesus Didn’t Tap to me is important, because it means that he never quit, never gave up for us to actually be here on Earth
GP: That’s awesome man, that’s awesome! That’s all I got for you man. Thank you so much for your time
JDF: I appreciate it, buddy.
GP: It’s been a pleasure and definitely an experience I will always remember, thank you.
I waited in line for 3 hours just to shake his hand and speak with him and I can attest that everything Jason David Frank said in our interview is 100% accurate. He cares deeply for his fans and he really is humble about it and even when he is in between fans he is entertaining the crowd waiting for him. It was really amazing to see. I would like to sincerely thank Jason and his team for being amazing people. If you haven’t had the opportunity to meet him at a convention and you are a fan of the Power Rangers or Bloodshot for that matter, then I would highly suggest you do. You will not be disappointed.
At New York Comic Con last year, comiXology announced a line of original digital comics from various publishers and featuring various genres. One collaboration was Valiant High, a new take on Valiant Entertainment‘s impressive line of characters.
Valiant High is a hilarious reimagining of Valiant’s award-winning superhero universe by writer Daniel Kibblesmith and artist Derek! Before they became the world’s most formidable heroes, they were roaming the halls at a super-powered preparatory academy where Aric “X-O Manowar” Dacia is a record-setting running back, Colin “Ninjak” King is a debonair foreign exchange student, and Coach Bloodshot is way too into dodgeball! Now… Faith “Zephyr” Herbert is about to discover it all for the first time as the newest girl in school!
The first issue was an original fun take on the characters and second issue out this week! We got a chance to talk to Daniel Kibblesmith and Derek Charm about the series and some of its influences.
Graphic Policy: How did you come on board Valiant High?
Daniel Kibblesmith: I had done some miscellaneous work for Valiant, mostly humor shorts in anthology issues, like the amazing Unity #25. Then-Valiant editor Tom Brennan sent me an e-mail asking if I’d be interested in pitching on a “teen soap opera,” without yet revealing what the idea was. It turns out Valiant and comiXology had both been circling the idea of doing Valiant High, and were looking for people to pitch on the concept.
Derek Charm: I was actually initially just brought on to do character designs and help visualize what High School versions of the Valiant heroes might look like. Originally I wasn’t sure I’d be able to draw the book, since I’ve already got a monthly deadline with Jughead, but the designs and back and forth process was so much fun it became something I really wanted to make time for.
GP: How much of it was fleshed out at that point as far as the characters and world?
DK: They had a few preliminary suggestions, all of which I ended up keeping, I think — Harada as the Principal, obviously. Bloodshot as the shouty dodgeball-obsessed gym coach. I also got to see some of Derek’s designs early enough in the process that I could get inspired by the choices he was making, and it helped me flesh out the backstories of characters like Ninjak, or Gilad, based on their look and attitude.
DC: I was sent Daniel’s original pitch document, but was left pretty much on my own to come up with everyone’s looks and how their super suits might transfer to something more casual while still retaining something of their iconic elements. I went back and forth a lot with Daniel and the editors to make sure every character was close to what they were envisioning.
GP: A thing that sticks out to me is that the characters are reduced to their basic self and they really fit the archetypes of teen high school movies. That wasn’t something I really thought about before reading this. Was that something that you noticed before this?
DK: Not until it was part of my job to think of the Valiant cast in terms of archetypes, and then map those archetypes onto OTHER archetypes of high school stories. But that was definitely the goal, same as any alternate universe story, to boil them down into their core character, so you could drop them in a new setting and it would still feel like “them.” Then the fun of it was seeing how all the jigsaw puzzle pieces fit together, like making the armored XO Manowar an “armored” football star, or figuring out Dr. Mirage would be a science teacher and not one of the students, hence being a “Dr.”
GP: The comic really plays for comedy, not just in the story, but the art as well. It could have easily been a teenage drama. Was there thought about approaching it as a drama?
DK: The key phrase for me was always “soap opera” — which means a variety of tones and feelings are in play. I think the most satisfying stories play a variety of notes, and obviously, I love writing the jokes. But I wanted all the emotions to feel real, and the stakes to seem as high as they are when you’re that age. Plus, I tried to put at least one fight in every issue, because at the end of the day, these are still Valiant superheroes. I think the premise is so inherently heightened that it has to be on the baseline of comedy, but I hope it’ll dredge up people’s actual teen angst as well.
DC: It’s pretty light for the most part, but there are definitely some dramatic and action-oriented moments that come up later on in the story that were a lot of fun to draw.
GP: It being a digital series, how does that impact you as a writer and artist. Is there any difference than a physical comic?
DK: I’m new enough to scripting comics in general that I don’t play with the medium too much, but I definitely had a few rules in mind for a digital-exclusive release. For one thing, there’s no double-page spreads, just single-page splashes. Part of that was needing the real estate for telling a story with so many characters, but I was also aware that it affects my reading experience when I have to turn the device sideways and adjust to new dimensions.
DC: It was something we talked about. For the most part, I’m treating them as regular comic pages, but definitely keeping comiXology’s Guided View in mind as I go.
GP: Have either of you thought about taking advantage of some of the things you can do with digital like panel flow?
DK: I didn’t write in anything in particular, but as a commuter, I was really excited to read it in Guided View on my phone for the first time.
DC: For sure, I’ve found jokes work really well with the Guided View pacing. There’s a lot of repeated panels and held expressions that underline punchlines when you can’t see what’s coming. It’s like every panel is a page-turn.
GP: Were there any Valiant characters you wanted to include but didn’t get a chance to?
DK: It’s such a huge cast that a few got cut for time, or were reduced to background extras. I don’t want to reveal who, because I’d love to do a follow-up where we get to expand the world a little. For now, we packed in as many heroes as we could fit, and there’s still more coming in the next few issues that haven’t been revealed yet. Stay tuned.
GP: Do you have any favorite teen movies or stories? Any influence this series?
DK: My major influences were other High School Alternate Universes, of course, like the X-Men: Evolution cartoon show, or the weird, self-contained world that is the Avengers Academy App. Other big ones, oddly enough, were Power Rangers, or even Saved By The Bell, in the way they had such a limited cast of characters outside of the heroes and kept the action more or less confined to one location. I came to it late, but Archie and The Riverdale universe was obviously an influence. The big difference being that for our first glimpse of Valiant High, it felt early to expand the world to include the kids’ parents, pets, bedrooms, etc. But the biggest influence, and not-at-all high school related, was Marvel’s 1602, which is another AU that turns everyone into archetypes and then looks for the way they click in another time and place (in this case, the Elizabethan era).
DC: Daria and Strangers With Candy are probably my top High School-comedy influences, not just for this series but for everything. A lot of accidental Daria References worked their way in to this series.
GP: What other projects do you have up this year?
DK: Reading everything drawn by Derek. And some things not yet confirmed, so the best way to keep up would be to follow me on Twitter at @Kibblesmith. And watch The Late Show With Stephen Colbert at 11:35 ET on CBS (after your local news).
DC: I’m still on Jughead through the rest of Ryan North’s run, and then the beginning of the next one with the new team. It’s been fun jumping between the sci-fi/super hero aspects of Valiant High and the more down to earth world of Riverdale.
Femme Magnifique is a recent successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $97,447 to publish an anthology of comics about inspirational women from history and the contemporary world. The Kickstarter was run by Kristy Miller, the VP of Development at Hi-Fi Colour Design; Brian Miller, a comic book colorist and the founder of Hi-Fi Colour Design; and Shelly Bond, the former executive editor at Vertigo and the current editor of the Black Crown imprint at IDW. Hi-Fi has colored many bestselling comic books, like Harley Quinn, Batman: The Dark Knight, and various Doctor Who comics for Titan ,and Bond has been the editor or assistant editor on such comics classics as Sandman, Lucifer, Fables, and iZombie.
A couple big reasons for Femme Magnifique’s appeal as a KickStarter is the all-star lineup of comic book creators, like Marguerite Bennett, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Gerard Way, Kieron Gillen, Annie Wu, Mags Visaggio, and many more. There is also the variety of women featured in the book from historical figures, like Harriet Tubman, Ada Lovelace, and Hatshepsut to more modern women, like Broad City‘s Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, Michelle Obama, and Bjork. Actors, musicians, scientists, politicians, writers, astronauts, and even cartoonists are represented in the pages of Femme Magnifique. A few I personally am looking forward to are Gail Simone and Marguerite Sauvage‘s Kate Bush story, Gerard Way and Marley Zarcone‘s (Shade the Changing Girl) Joan of Arc comic, Chynna Clugston Flores‘ (Blue Monday) story about Rumiko Takahashi, the creator of the manga Inuyasha, and Tini Howard (Skeptics) and Ming Doyle‘s comic about the Beat poet and artist Diane di Prima.
I had the opportunity to chat with Kristy Miller, Brian Miller, and Shelly Bond via email about the inspiration for the Femme Magnifique Kickstarter, switching from creating fiction to non-fiction comics, the role of the anthology in the current American political climate, and most of all, about the amazing women whose stories will be told in this anthology.
First, I asked Shelly Bond about the inception of the Femme Magnifique project.
Shelly Bond: The idea for Femme Magnifique was simmering for a while, but crystallized in early November thanks to two quite disparate events that occurred back-to-back.
Of course, the first one is obvious: discovering the outcome of the US presidential election. I had just returned from a convention in the U.K. We sleep with the TV on so while I was enjoying (?) a fitful slumber I was rudely awaken from my jet-lagged haze by what I thought was a Black Mirror version of the news. I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears. Clearly, it was a devastating, missed opportunity for women.
The second event occurred on the following night. I had a ticket to finally see Roisin Murphy, my favorite female frontwoman, perform live — at LA’s legendary El Rey Theatre no less. There’s no magic quite like a seeing a singer/performance artist whose lyrics are clever and insightful, replete with poetry and bombast. Bowie would have applauded her seamless, onstage costume changes, with resplendent masks that would look at home on a Dave McKean comic-book cover. The show was at once mesmerizing, decadent, discordant — but it was the crush of the enraptured dance crowd that ultimately sold me on bringing Femme Magnifique to life: A group of people coming together in art and appreciation.
I couldn’t wait to put out a call-to-arms within the comic book community, to turn the onslaught of anger about the Trump election results into positivity. So, we could become a fortress of knowledge. And change.
The following day I reached out to fellow comics pros Brian and Kristy Miller of Hi-Fi Colour Design, and we agreed to put our skills to good use and turn this social and political firecracker into Femme Magnifique, which is nothing but a celebration of women. Dreamers, achievers, glass ceiling crackers, fearless innovators of our history.
Next, I asked Kristy Miller and Brian Miller several questions about the role they played in Femme Magnifique.
Graphic Policy: How did you all get involved in the Femme Magnifique Kickstarter, and what day to day role do you play in the project?
Brian Miller: The election result came as a shock. I didn’t know what it would mean for my friends in the LGBT community and for women’s rights, but like many I was concerned. Frustration and anger weren’t the answer, and I was wondering how I could use my talents to effect change in a positive way. When Kristy and I spoke with Shelly, we knew Femme Magnifique could be the voice of positivity for women, who are feeling threatened or oppressed by the incoming administration.
In addition to coloring some of the stories in Femme Magnifique, I’m also helping with the layout and design of the book and much of the behind the scenes work on the Kickstarter campaign. When you are crowdfunding a graphic novel anthology, like Femme Magnifique, the Kickstarter campaign can become a second full time job. I’m so thankful for the fans and contributing creators who have helped get the message out about the campaign. If it were not for their tweets, Facebook posts, and helping to keep Femme Magnifique at the forefront, I don’t think we would be as far along as we are today. It’s been thrilling to see the outpouring of support so far.
Kristy Miller: Shelly was the driving force of starting this project. She came to Brian and me with the idea, and we immediately jumped on board.
I joke that my role is the voice of reason. Shelly and Brian are visionaries and artists, who want to do as much as they possibly can creatively. I want to know how much is it going to cost, what are the deadlines, is that even possible? I am handling the back-end business aspects and things like contracts, money, trafficking the art etc. The not-so-glamourous-but-keep-eveything-in-order side of things.
GP: Why should comic book fans pick up Femme Magnifique, and what can they expect from the book?
BM:I hope many comic books fans will take a look at Femme Magnifique. There are incredible stories in the book written and drawn by fan favorite creators. I believe if you enjoy Michael and Laura Allred on Batman ’66 and Art Ops, you will love their story about Jane Fonda in Femme Magnifique. Fan favorite writers, like Kelly Sue DeConnick, Alisa Kwitney, Matt Wagner, Gerard Way, and others, are each contributing unique stories about women, who inspired their lives and enhanced their journeys.
Anyone who is a fan of Gail Simone’s writing for Red Sonja, Deadpool, and Batgirl will be delighted with her story about Kate Bush in the book. Bringing the visuals to these stories is a roster of artists including Brian Stelfreeze, Marley Zarcone, Tess Fowler, Elsa Charretier, and Sanford Greene just to name a few. There are so many talented creators contributing to this graphic novel anthology, and I believe all comic book fans will be thrilled to own a copy.
GP: Kristy, how did your background as an archaeologist and anthropologist inform your work on Femme Magnifique?
KM: I have taught a variety of college classes on women in history and women in other cultures. I am always amazed when my students have never heard of women I think of as household names. Women, like Hatshepsut (Egyptian Pharaoh,) Pauline Cushman (American Civil War spy), and Margaret Mead (Cultural anthropologist), should be role models for everyone, yet many have not heard of them.
I ask my students to compile a list of their favorite/most inspirational woman in politics, music, science, history, the women’s movement, their family etc. There are a lot of blank lists. Why can you think of 20 men in those roles, but are hard-pressed to think of one woman? I am also a PhD candidate in Education, and I created the Teacher’s Packet reward level for the Kickstarter. I will be writing curriculum based on Femme Magnifique that can be used in a variety of classes and for a variety of ages.
Femme Magnifique will showcase women as the role models they have always been. Hopefully, we will share the lives of some women that you may not have known about before. Not only are we spreading the stories of these women, but we are also sharing the medium of comics. Comics can be a hard sell, not fine art, not literature, but in Femme Magnifique, we will show you that comics are indeed both.
GP: Brian, how did your background as a comic book colorist inform your work on Femme Magnifique?
BM: Shelly, Kristy, and I all agreed color should be an important aspect of Femme Magnifique. Part of that meant inviting a handful of other colorists to join Hi-Fi on this project. While Hi-Fi is comprised of female and male flatters and colorists, we wanted to be inclusive and bring in some talented people who we had not had the opportunity to work with one-on-one previously. I’m proud to say colorists Tamra Bonvillain, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and Rick Taylor will be joining Femme Magnifique along with Hi-Fi to color these inspiring stories based on real women.
When it comes to coloring the individual stories, our goal is always to serve the story the writer has crafted and complement the artwork. In my mind, the color should never distract from the story or overwhelm the art. When we get it right, the color is good, but also subtle. It doesn’t shout unless needed, for a special moment in the story, or perhaps an effect like a flashback. I also believe it will be key for each story to have a color palette that suits the subject of the story and the time period. The color choices for the story of Brenda Starr creator Dale Messick set in the 1940s will be unique when compared with the color selections for Joan of Arc. When the book is complete, the stories should flow from one to another naturally, without shocking the reader, yet each have their own distinct flavor. This is the challenge we attempt to answer when coloring a large graphic novel anthology like Femme Magnifique.
GP: For the most part, Hi-Fi Colour Design works on superhero comics. What have been some of the challenges and rewards of switching from telling the stories of masked heroes and Timelords to depicting real people?
BM: Hi-Fi has been fortunate to color a variety of super-hero, independent, and alternative comics over the years. We love coloring the Justice League, The Flash, or Spider-Man, just as much as we enjoy working on Doctor Who, The X-Files, and G.I. Joe. At the end of the day, our focus is on great visual storytelling, and being able to apply those storytelling skills to stories based on real people is incredibly rewarding.
As an example, while I was reading Cecil Castellucci’s script for “The Right Stuff”, featuring real-life astronaut Sally Ride, I was inspired to research more about NASA’s space shuttle missions than I ever knew before. Artist Philip Bond shared information about various women astronauts and the different space suits they wore in flight. This motivated me to dive deeper and look through hundreds of reference photos to see the colors and materials used in the space suits and read more about women astronauts. All of this information informs the storytelling in the colors for the story. It also allows me to better complement the words written by Cecil and the artwork drawn by Philip. Plus I discovered more about space exploration than I knew before.
This sense of discovery and being inspired to learn more about the amazing women in Femme Magnifique is one of the reasons I enjoy this graphic novel anthology so much. Coloring one story changed my life and inspired me to get outside my comfort zone and learn something new. I can only imagine how I’ll feel after I’ve colored 20 or more of these stories.
GP: Since Femme Magnifique is all about shining a light on inspirational women, what are some women that have personally inspired you in your own lives?
BM: I did not grow up with very many strong female role models in my life, but fortunately I have met many in the comic book industry, who have inspired me and and led by example. First is comic book colorist Adrienne Roy, who passed away in 2010. Her coloring work inspired me as a child and continues to influence me to this day. Her use of warm and cool colors for visual storytelling remains the gold standard for all colorists.
Cartoonist Paige Braddock inspires me with her strength and vision. She works in a corporate environment by day and creates amazing comics like Jane’s World and Stinky Cecil after hours. She’s a true role model for our industry. I had the pleasure to work with writer Gail Simone on Birds of Prey for several years at DC, and she set the bar for putting female heroes at the forefront in comic books. She showed readers the characters could be strong, smart, and sexy without being sexualized. Gail broke down barriers and opened a lot of doors in the industry. Readers and creators owe her a debt of gratitude for dragging the comic book industry kicking and screaming into this century.
Shelly Bond is more than a super-editor, she is a visionary. When you look back on her body of work, you see brilliance at every turn. I’m so grateful she has shared this with me on projects like Bite Club, My Faith in Frankie, American Virgin, and New Romancer. Read one of these stories, and you will understand how she sees the world, why she makes the creative decisions she makes, and why she keeps pushing for greatness and never stops. When you see the big name comic creators associated with Femme Magnifique, that’s all Shelly. She doesn’t have to convince, cajole, or beg anyone to be here creating this graphic novel anthology… We all want to do this, we all want to work with her again and again!
This list would not be complete without including my partner in Hi-Fi, and in life, Kristy Miller. She commands respect in our industry. Everyone in the industry wants to work with Hi-Fi because they know, with Kristy in charge, their comic will exceed expectations and meet the deadline.
KM: I’m lucky to have had many strong women in my life. My grandmother was a librarian and my mother was a teacher, both went to college and always told me I could be anything and do anything I wanted in life. I knew at an early age I wanted to be an archaeologist, but most people didn’t even know what that meant. The only role models they could come up with were Indiana Jones, and that guy who found King Tut. When I went to college, one of my advisors told me I should probably switch majors to history or mythology so I could stay home and maybe teach. That just made me try harder to become an archaeologist. I was on my first dig in the Middle East by age 22. There were a few mentions of women in my textbooks, but nothing substantial.
I will never forget, in 1994, a book came out called Women in Archaeology. It covered women working in various parts of the world and even the pitfalls of being a female archaeologist. I read that book cover to cover and wondered why no one ever told me about these women before. I want Femme Magnifique to be a book that girls and women can turn to and say , “See, I can do that.” or even better find that their career path isn’t mentioned in one of our stories but still be inspired enough by other women to know she can make it on her own.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this interview featuring some of the creators of Femme Magnifique!