Smash Pages Q&A: Erica Schultz

The writer and instructor discusses the new ‘Legacy of Mandrake the Magician,’ her work at The Kubert School and more.

Mandrake the Magician was one of the great classic adventure strips. Created by Lee Falk, who also created The Phantom, the strip ran from 1934 until 2013 and told of a stage magician and hypnotist who also traveled the world fighting criminals and occasionally supernatural forces.

The comic strip ended in 2013, but now has a new life in comic books in the new series Legacy of Mandrake the Magician. The new series from Red 5 Comics and StoneBot Comics launches next week; it’s about a young teenager named Mandy who’s trying to figure out her own talents and her own relationship to the original Mandrake.

The writer behind the comic is Erica Schultz, who readers might know from her work on comics like Forgotten Home, M3, Xena and Charmed. She’s also an instructor at The Kubert School and was kind enough to answer a few questions about what’s essential about the character, what elements needed updating and why Mandy has a secret identity.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Chuck Brown

The co-creator of ‘Bitter Root’ and ‘On the Stump’ discusses both projects, his background, the Harlem Renaissance and more.

2020 has been a big year for Chuck Brown. Bitter Root, the Image series he makes with David Walker and Sanford Greene, wrapped up its second story arc and received an Eisner Award for “Best Continuing Comics Series.” Brown also launched On the Stump, a new series from Image Comics.

Since it first came out, Bitter Root has been acclaimed as one of the best American comics in recent years, but for Brown its the culmination of many years’ work, and a long friendship and collaboration with Sanford Greene. The two have worked together on different projects like Rotten Apple at Dark Horse and 1000 on Webtoon. That’s in addition to Brown’s other comics work including The Quiet Kind, Godstorm: Hercules Payne and Trenchcoats, Cigarettes and Shotguns.

Bitter Root: Rage and Redemption, the second volume of the series, is out this week. And the first week of November sees the release of the collection of On the Stump. Brown and I spoke recently about his career, these two different books, and using history as setting and subject.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Ryan North and Albert Monteys

North and Monteys discuss how they approached adapting Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ into a graphic novel.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut is one of the seminal novels of postwar America. Part science fiction tale, part story of World War II and the firebombing of Dresden from the point of view of American POWs, the story of Billy Pilgrim was an immensely important novel and for many their introduction to the late, great novelist Kurt Vonnegut. It is also not an easy book to adapt and defies adaptation in a number of ways, which makes the success of the new graphic novel all the more impressive.

Ryan North is the person behind the weekly Dinosaur Comics, the writer of Marvel’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and the writer of How To Invent Everything. This isn’t his first time tackling literary legends after writing Romeo and/or Juliet and To Be Or Not To Be (both with the help of William Shakespeare). Albert Monteys is an artist and illustrator know for his work on the weekly magazine El Jueves, the series Carlitos Fax and the monthly publication Orgullo y Satisfacción, which he co-founded. His comic Universe! was published online by Panel Syndicate and nominated for an Eisner in 2017. 

As someone who has read almost everything Vonnegut ever wrote and has always held the book in great regard, the graphic novel manages to capture and reinvent the spirit and the substance of the book in ways that are shocking, making the story a new experience, even though I knew the text so well. I had to ask the duo a few questions about how they worked and their own relationship to the material.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Pia Guerra

Comic artist turned political cartoonist Pia Guerra discusses how her work has changed, the current political climate and more.

Pia Guerra is best known among comic book readers as the artist and co-creator of Y: The Last Man, but in recent years she’s spent much of her time and energy writing and drawing gag cartoons and political cartoons for The New Yorker, The Nib and other publications. In 2018 a collection of her political comics titled Me the People was published by Image Comics.

Guerra is living in Vancouver and I reached out to ask about how her work has changed, inking and what she’s working on now.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Alexis Fajardo

The award-winning creator discusses the latest chapter in his ‘Kid Beowulf’ graphic novel series, which is currently up on Kickstarter.

Alexis Fajardo is an Eisner Award-winning editor, writer and artist who is the editorial director at the Schulz Studio. He is also the cartoonist behind the Kid Beowulf series of graphic novels. The middle grade series focuses on Beowulf and Grendel, from the epic poem Beowulf, who in this version are twin brothers, exiled from home and wandering the world, encountering other characters from fiction and mythology.

Fajardo has just launched a Kickstarter for the fourth graphic novel in the series, Kid Beowulf: The Tarpeian Rock, which takes the brothers to Rome where they meet another set of famous brothers as the series takes a turn. He was kind enough to talk about the book, mythology and the influence of Star Wars.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Ally Shwed

The cartoonist behind World Citizen Comics’ ‘Fault Lines in the Constitution’ discusses illustrating abstract concepts, her publishing company Little Red Bird Press and more.

Ally Shwed is the writer and artist behind Fault Lines in the Constitution, the second book in the World Citizen Comics publishing line at First Second Books. Originally a text book written by Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinson, the book takes a look at how the United States Constitution was drafted, the debates behind its writing, and how those arguments and decisions continue to reverberate today.

People might know Shwed for her work on The Nib, where she’s written and drawn a number of excellent pieces, or for her work as one half of Little Red Bird Press where she’s edited two anthologies, Blocked and the recent Votes for Women. We spoke recently about illustrating abstract concepts, the struggle to craft a style that looks easy and what we can learn from what the suffrage movement did during a pandemic.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Ned Barnett

The creator of ‘Social Distancing – Life in the COVID-19 Pandemic’ discusses the pandemic, T.E. Lawrence and more.

Ned Barnett has made a series of graphic memoirs in recent years like No Rest for the Anxious, Hallo Spaceboy and last year’s Dreamers of the Day, which is part autobiographical journey and part exploration of the life of T.E. Lawrence. In these books and in short comics for a variety of outlets and anthologies, Barnett has shown a great talent for historical detail and capturing those small human elements that are often glossed over, giving readers a different and deeper look at the people and the era in the comics.

More recently Barnett made Social Distancing – Life in the COVID-19 Pandemic, which ran on Line Webtoon. From day to day the comic has taken different forms and approaches, but it is very consciously an effort to make a document of these times, of the elements of this crisis that are unique and that have precedent. He and I exchanged e-mails recently about the pandemic, T.E. Lawrence and thinking about what’s next.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Matt Lubchansky

The associate editor of The Nib discusses their work on the recent anthology ‘Be Gay Do Comics.’

Matt Lubchansky is the Associate Editor of The Nib and there, in their webcomic Please Listen To Me, and in New York Magazine, Mad Magazine, and other outlets, they create deeply and overtly political comics that are also absurd and satirical.

Lubchansky cited The Far Side as one of their great influences, and that sense of absurdity and play can found in all their work. Earlier this year Lubchansky was a finalist for the Herblock Prize, and The Nib and IDW have just published a new collection Be Gay Do Comics. We spoke about their career, coming out, autobiographical work and the upcoming anthology FlashForward.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Michael Avon Oeming

The award-winning writer and artist discusses his latest work, ‘After Realm,’ the influence of Norse mythology on the story and much more.

Michael Avon Oeming is the award-winning writer and artist of books like Powers and The Mice Templar, Takio and Hammer of the Gods, Bastard Samurai and The United States of Murder, Inc. In recent years he’s drawn Cave Carson for DC’s Young Animal imprint, and wrote and illustrated Dick Tracy Forever at IDW. His current ongoing project is After Realm, which comes out quarterly from Image Comics.

The story of an elf named Oona, After Realm takes place after Ragnarok. Oeming has been using Kickstarter to help fund the series, but other readers can pick up the third issue this week. It’s a story of battling trolls and other creatures, a tale of exploration and crafting maps, of rediscovering what has been lost. As Oeming and I discussed, Oona is very much a hero for this moment, in ways that he never could have anticipated. We spoke recently about epic fantasy, how the meaning of myth is in the telling and the personal nature of a story that might seem anything but.

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