Smash Pages Q&A: Sean Damien Hill

The artist of ‘The Hated’ discusses how he works, his influences, drawing horses and more.

Sean Damien Hill has been working on comics for years now, on projects ranging from Dark Shaman to Route 3 to The Gilded Age. His linework shows traces of a number of influences, finding ways to incorporate manga and classic American illustrators. The result is work that manages to be detailed and dynamic, with an impressive sense of design and layout.

Hill is an immensely talented young artist, and his new project, with David Walker, is The Hated #1. The comic is a Western set in an alternative world that Walker described as part spaghetti Western and part blaxploitation. It’s out now from Solid Comix, and Hill was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book and how he works.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Mark Schultz

The creator of ‘Xenozoic Tales’ talks about the Kickstarter project for three new books, which include an Al Williamson book and more.

Mark Schultz has had a long career as a writer and artist. People might know him for writing the long-running comic strip Prince Valiant, which he’s been writing since 2004. He’s written graphic novel The Stuff of Life and comics ranging from Superman to Aliens vs. Predator to The Spirit. As a writer and artist, he made the acclaimed series Xenozoic Tales, wrote the heavily illustrated novella Storms at Sea and has had a long career as an illustrator.

Today Flesk Publications launched a Kickstarter for three new books: a new Carbon, the most recent in a series of art books by Schultz; a new edition of Xenozoic; and a book about Al Williamson. Schultz was kind enough to answer a few questions about his work and the Kickstarter campaign.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Sarah Mirk

The writer, editor and journalist discusses her two most recent projects — ‘Year of Zines’ and ‘Guantanamo Voices.’

Sarah Mirk is mostly known as a writer and editor for her work at Bitch Media, and for her books like You Do You and Sex From Scratch. She’s also written comics for The Nib and Symbolia, and has done cartoons for The New Yorker.

This year, though, she has two major projects coming out that show the breadth and depth of her work and her talent. Year of Zines is out now. The book collects 100 of the comics that Mirk made in 2019 where she made literally a zine a day. In the fall, Abrams is publishing Guantanamo Voices, which Mirk wrote and edited, telling the stories of veterans, prisoners, lawyers and government officials, with a number of artists.

Taken together, the books show off the inventiveness, skill and roving mind of a creator who is clearly just getting started. More recently, Mirk has been covering the protests in Portland in work that can be seen on her Twitter and Instagram. Mirk was kind enough to chat about her work.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Steenz

The cartoonist who took over ‘Heart of the City’ this year discusses the comic strip process, her focus on the characters, her other projects and more.

Christina “Steenz” Stewart has been making comics for years, but earlier this year, she took over making the daily syndicated comic strip Heart of the City when its creator Mark Tatulli stepped down. Since then, as a reader I think she’s managed to improve the strip, but she’s also found a way to transform the strip while remaining true to what it’s always been. Instead of a gag strip, as Tatulli did, Steenz has focused more on character, introducing new people and grounding the comic and the characters as middle schoolers getting older and starting to see the world and their lives in new ways.

Even before taking over the strip, Steenz has emerged as a writer, artist and editor to be reckoned with. She was the artist of the award-winning graphic novel Archival Quality and is working on a graphic novel about the history of tabletop roleplaying. She’s been a contributor to anthologies like Elements and Dead Beats. A former editor at Lion Forge, Steenz edited the recent graphic novel adaptation of Work For A Million and teaches cartooning at Webster University. We spoke recently about how she worked on the strip, bringing her own voice and approach to it, and why she’s not addressing COVID-19 in the strip.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Cole Pauls

The creator of ‘Dakwäkãda Warriors’ discusses his work, making a bilingual comic, the influence of ‘Calvin & Hobbes’ on his comics and more.

In his comics series Dakwäkãda Warriors, which was recently collected by Conundrum Press, Cole Pauls tells a story that draws equally from pop culture and from Southern Tutchone culture. If that weren’t enough, the book is bilingual, intended to help teach the Southern Tutchone language. Before I reached the end of the book, I found myself not needing the notes as I had picked up the ability to read a few words. 

It’s hard to say what’s more impressive, the ways that Pauls is able to craft a comic that is both entertaining and educational, or the way that he manages to craft a story that references and pays tribute to his culture, that is wonderfully specific, but also uses these pop culture elements to make it familiar, though Pauls is intent on using and subverting the stories in interesting ways. 

Conundrum just announced that they’ll be publishing Pauls’ second book, Pizza Punks, next year, and we have a preview of the book here. I spoke with Pauls recently about his work, what he doesn’t like about a lot of indigenous picture books, and the influence of Calvin and Hobbes.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Jen Hickman

The artist of ‘SFSX’ discusses taking over the art for the comic, their new series from Aftershock and more.

Jen Hickman is an artist and writer who in recent years has made a splash in one comics series and one webcomic after another, showing a striking sense of design and composition and an ease at storytelling. They have been writing and drawing comics like Calvin and Long Haul, which appears on Filthy Figments, and has contributed to a number of anthologies including Femme Magnifique, Score! and Theater of Terror. Hickman remains best known for their work on a series of comics and graphic novels for a variety of companies including Jem and the Holograms: Infinite, Moth and Whisper, Test and BezKamp .

Hickman drew issues #4-7 of SFSX, and the collection SFSX: Volume 1, Protection comes out July 22. Hickman is not one for resting on their laurels, or even pausing, with a new series, Lonely Receiver, launching from Aftershock in September and more SFSX in the works.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Haejin Park, Paige Mehrer and Sophie Page

The folks behind Plum Press discuss their approach to publishing, their work on ‘Mirror Mirror 3’ and more.

Plum Press is a small publisher based in Brooklyn that consists of three creators: Haejin Park, Paige Mehrer and Sophie Page. Over the years, the three have made and released books, comics and zines like It’s True, It’s Yours, JAM, Loop Room, Love Bug and Rainbow Who Escaped to the Fridge.

The trio are behind Mirror Mirror 3, the new volume of the anthology from 2d Cloud, which has just been released as part of the company’s Spring 2020 line. I asked them a few questions about Plum Press and the book.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Matthew Dow Smith

The veteran creator of ‘The October Girl’ and more discusses his early career, posting new comics on social media during the pandemic and more.

I’ve been reading Matthew Dow Smith’s comics for decades. As I joked to him, he worked on some of my favorite comics of the ’90s – which also happened to be some of his favorites, before he got the chance to draw them. But before he worked on Starman and The Shade and Sandman Mystery Theatre – and went on to draw Day of Judgement, Batman ’66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel, The Keep, Bad Luck Chuck and many more – he got his start at Caliber Comics. While there, he was writing and drawing his own work, and writing both short comics and series for others to draw. In the years since, he’s been busy with a wide range of projects, but slowly over the past few years, he got back into writing comics. 

When the pandemic hit and the comics industry hit pause, Smith started writing and drawing again. He started by posting weekly installments of an autobiographical series My Life as Riley. Then he launched the serial Johnny Chaos, which wraps up this week, on social media and his Patreon. Next week he’s launching a brand new serial, Arch Nemesis, followed by another, Amelia Shadows: Daughter of Darkness, in August. He also has The October Girl, the first of a graphic novel series launching next year.

The final chapter of Johnny Chaos is out tomorrow, and I spoke with Smith recently about his career, how Doctor Who has influenced his writing and thinking about the future of comics.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Gabrielle Bell

The creator of ‘Everything is Flammable’ and ‘The Voyeurs’ discusses her latest short story collection, ‘Inappropriate.’

Gabrielle Bell is one of our great cartoonists. In books like The Voyeurs, Truth is Fragmentary, Cecil and Jordan in New York, and in the hundreds of comics she’s made for print and online, she’s developed a style and approach to storytelling that is deceptively simple.

I don’t mean her linework, which is beautiful and deliberate, but the way she approaches story. One can read a few of the realistic stories she tells, and think that one understands her work, but then she crafts a story in that same style with that same tone and approach, which goes off in strange fantastic directions. Some of them are colorful, fantastic tales. Others loop back and force the characters and the readers to reconsider the opening scenes differently. It’s this way that she seems to effortlessly move from dirty realism to magical realism, always grounded in lived in details and psychology, which allow the reader to feel grounded even as the story spins off in any direction.

Bell’s new book Inappropriate is the first since the release of her acclaimed graphic memoir Everything is Flammable. In these short comics, some of which have seen print in The New Yorker, Spiralbound and elsewhere, Bell effortlessly shifts from the autobiographical to the fantastic, the personal to the strange. Recently she also got attention for her comic Utopia, which was posted during the pandemic. It’s always a joy to pick her brain and Gabrielle took some time out to chat about the book, how she works and thoughts during the pandemic.

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