Smash Pages Q&A: Sophie Labelle

The creator of ‘Assigned Male’ discusses the long-running webcomic, her upcoming tour and more.

Sophie Labelle has been making the webcomic Assigned Male for years online and in collections like Nice Gender! Did your mom pick it out for you? and Dating Tips for Trans and Queer Weirdos. Labelle described the comic as “a bunch of very sarcastic and sassy trans and queer teenagers.” Which is true.

The adventures of Ciel, Stephie, Frank, Eirikur and others are funny and relatable, but they’re also thoughtful and poignant. Labelle has been making three and four panel comics for so long that she clearly understands the rhythm and style of them, but doesn’t necessarily deliver a punchline at the end of every strip. Sometimes she wants to make a dramatic point, other times she wants she to shock us. There are strips that have punched me in the gut and there are strips that have made me laugh out loud in public.

Labelle is touring the United States this fall and she has a novel coming out next year, and we spoke recently over e-mail about the strip, how she works and community.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Gustavo Borges on ‘Petals’

The Brazilian creator discusses the American printing of his wordless tale, his webcomics and more.

Petals, the new book out from BOOM! Studios, isn’t a new release. Gustavo Borges, who wrote and drew the book, originally published it in his native Brazil in 2015. The book is presented as an oversized hardcover and the wordless tale owes as much to picture books as it does to comics. The story of three characters – two foxes and a bird – dealing with a hard winter, it manages to be both sweet and fable-like, but also serious. It’s a story about three people coming together to survive a long, difficult winter and the result is a book that is truly striking and moving.

This is Borges first book to be released here in the United States, but he’s been making comics for many years. He’s made webcomics like Edgar and A Entediante Vida de Morte Crens, and books like Escolhas and Até o Fim. Borges was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Craig Hurd-McKenney on ‘The Magic If’ and more

The publisher of Headless Shakespeare Press discusses his return to publishing, his latest Kickstarter and more.

Craig Hurd-McKenney was writing, editing and publishing comics for years in the early 2000s. He edited and published the anthology Stalagmite, collaborated with Rick Geary on multiple books and received a Xeric grant to publish The Brontes: Infernal Angria. After many years away, Hurd-McKenney has come back to comics with a new printing of a comic he’s written and published through his own Headless Shakespeare Press, with some other comics available for free on the site, a Kickstarter for a new book and plans for at least two more books a year for the next few years.

The Magic If is a departure for Hurd-McKenney. While most of his work is fantastic, this is a comic about a relationship involving a self-destructive magician, and the result is a deeply felt story about jealousy and anger, and a queer romance that isn’t like anything else on comics stands right now.

I asked why he wrote about the Brontes, why he left comics and coming back after years away. Hurd-McKenney is also currently running a Kickstarter campaign for Some Strange Disturbances, a Victorian Horror comic featuring artwork by The Magic If art team, Gervasio and Carlos Aon. It went live after this interview was conducted.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Jamila Rowser

The co-founder of Geek Girl Brunch and former Girl Gone Geek blogger discusses two comic projects, ‘Wash Day’ and ‘Wobbledy 3000.’

Jamila Rowser is familiar to a lot of people in the comics community because she created Straight Outta Gotham, co-founded Geek Girl Brunch and launched the blog Girl Gone Geek. This fall though she’s doing something different, turning her attention to writing comics.

Wash Day is a comic drawn by Robyn Smith which was kickstarted earlier this year and is out now. In addition to an English language edition, there’s a Spanish language edition of the comic, Dia de Lavado, which is also available. Rowser is following that up with her second comic, Wobbledy 3000, which is drawn by Sabii Borno and is out this month as a digital comic from Black Josei Press.

The comics are very different, made with different artists and approaches, but both of them demonstrate Rowser’s skill at dialogue, her subtle talent of characterization and, through this, a very nuanced and lovely consideration of friendship. One book may be realistic and set in the here and now, and the other is science fantasy, but they are both an effort to tell slice of life narratives, and explore the lives of characters who are rarely explored in comics. Taken together, the comics show Rowser is very interested in finding ways to use the medium to convey and explore personal experience, to both break new ground and be a part of the medium and its traditions. I caught Rowser in between shows, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions.

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Smash Pages Q&A: L Nichols on ‘Flocks’

The ‘Ley Lines’ creator discusses the collected edition of ‘Flocks’ from Secret Acres, music, engineering and more.

L Nichols has been serializing Flocks for years, working on the comics memoir in between other projects, including overseeing the acclaimed quarterly comics series Ley Lines. Flocks is out now in a collected edition from Secret Acres. Also out now is the new issue of Ley Lines, which is written and drawn by Nichols. Nichols and I have met at various shows over the years but never sat down to talk.

Flocks is an immense achievement, but it’s also striking how well Nichols made the individual issues stand on their own and how well they work as chapters of a book — and how well it comes together into a thoughtful and emotional story arc. It is one of the best of the year, but also deserves a place among the very best graphic memoirs ever made. We spoke recently about Beethoven, engineering and religion.

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Smash Pages Q&A: e jackson

The cartoonist and scholar discusses ‘It’s Discourse, Archie’ and much more.

e jackson is a cartoonist and scholar. They have been drawing comics and illustrations for a few years now, making minicomics like Flux and Love Bites, webcomics like Warm Blood and Baby, and appearing in anthologies including We’re Still Here. They cohost the podcast Drawing a Dialogue with Cathy G. Johnson and are currently in the PhD program in Comics Studies at the University of Florida.

One of jackson‘s recent minicomics, It’s Discourse, Archie, captures a lot of what makes their work so interesting and so unique. The comic is autobiographical but states very clearly that it’s talking about issues as a way of commenting on the show Riverdale. The way they play with the expectation of autobio comics and of fanfiction, while also explaining and addressing ideas and theory. These are many of the same concerns that e addresses in their scholarship and I reached out to talk about how they work and being a comics creator in between classes.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Stephanie Phillips and Jamie Jones

The creators of ‘Kicking Ice’ from Ominous Press discuss their graphic novel about hockey, overcoming bullying and breaking down barriers.

The graphic novel Kicking Ice debuts this week at New York Comic Con. Written by Stephanie Phillips with line art by Jamie Jones, and published by Ominous Press, the book is the story of two girls, Bella and Skye who become fans of hockey – especially the NWHL – and become hockey players.

It’s about hockey, it’s about overcoming bullying, and breaking down barriers, but it’s also about being young, about being passionate, becoming obsessed and having the opportunities to pursue that passion. The book is also supported by the National Women’s Hockey League, including a forward by the commissioner and appearances by players in the story.

I spoke with Phillips and Jones about hockey, collaborating with the NWHL, why the book is set in Connecticut – which they don’t say is because the Connecticut Whale is best pro hockey team out there, but that’s clearly what I’m choosing to read into their answers – and their hopes to make a second volume and tell more stories.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Kat Fajardo

The recipient of last year’s CXC Emerging Talent Award discusses drawing a ‘Descendants’ graphic novel for Disney, editing the ‘La Raza Anthology,’ creating comics on Twitter and much more.

Last fall Kat Fajardo received the CXC Emerging Talent Award for her work as both a creator and member of the comics community. She’s the woman behind Bandida Comics, and Gringa, and contributed to Dirty Diamonds, Symbolia and other anthologies and magazines. Fajardo also co-edited and contributed to the anthology La Raza: Unidos y Fuertes.

More recently, Fajardo has been drawing diary comics, which she’s been posting on Twitter. Fajardo drew the comics adaptation of Melissa de le Cruz’s novel The Isle of the Lost, which is out this month from Disney/Hyperion. She’s also a contributor to the anthology Tales from La Vida. I reached out to ask about her work.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Eric J. Garcia is Drawing on Anger

The creator of El Machete Illustrated discusses the latest collection of his work from Latinographix.

Since 2004, Eric J. Garcia has been making the weekly syndicated political cartoon El Machete Illustrated. The strip is brilliant and scathing look at veterans issues and immigration, imperialism and history. Comics are just one of the many field Garcia works in. He’s a teaching artist, a muralist sculptor, and painter who has created public art projects and whose work has been in museums around the country.

The Latinographix imprint is publishing a collection of Garcia’s comics, Drawing on Anger: Portraits of U.S. Hypocrisy, a selection of his work from 2004 to 2017. Garcia is also one of many contributors to the new anthology Tales From La Vida: A Latinx Comics Anthology. Drawing on Anger comes with advance praise from cartoonists and scholars, and like all great collections manages to provide a sense of not just what Garcia thinks, but how he thinks.

Garcia will be at SOL-CON this weekend at Ohio State University in Columbus, where the book will be debuting, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about his comics work.

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