Smash Pages Q&A: Mark Russell on ‘Billionaire Island’

The writer of ‘Second Coming’ discusses his new release from Ahoy Comics, which imagines an island where the rich escape from the end of the world.

Mark Russell has made a name for himself as one of the leading satirists in comics and a deeply subversive writer. I think it’s fair to say that no one envisioned The Flintstones or Snagglepuss the way that Russell wrote them, as these complex, thoughtful and tragic stories that addressed social issues in such pointed ways.

In addition to those books, there’s the two books where, with Shannon Wheeler, he reinterpreted The Bible (God is Disappointed in You, Apocrypha Now). He also wrote The Wonder Twins series for DC, which recently wrapped up, and Second Coming, which was originally going to be published by Vertigo, but the company dropped the series about Jesus becoming roommates with the world’s mightiest superhero. 

Russell is back with a new series from Ahoy Comics, Billionaire Island. Taking place in 2044, it concerns an artificial island where the wealthiest can take their money and avoid the problems that come from dealing with humanity – and all the problems that the wealthy created. It is funny and outrageous – and someone is probably working on how to build such an island as we speak. I spoke with Russell about the book, being outrageous and taking guidance from Winston Churchill.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Lynsey G.

The co-founder of Oneshi Press discusses the Kickstarter campaign for a second volume of ‘Tracy Queen.’

Lynsey G. has been working as a professional writer for years, but it’s only in the past few years that the writer and editor turned her eye to comics, writing work like Tracy Queen and Pack. In 2015 she and her partner Jayel Draco founded Oneshi Press, where Lynsey not only publishes her own work, but edits and publishes a semiannual anthology, which just released its ninth volume. 

On the heels of that, Oneshi is kickstarting the second collection of Tracy Queen by Lynsey and Draco, which launches today. The comic is hard to describe – as we get into in our conversation – but at its heart it’s about a woman who finds herself, but still struggles to change some of her behaviors. It’s a story about sex work and sex workers and in the second volume the book really hits its stride, managing to capture both the thoughtful and emotional journey that Tracy is on, while also telling a story that revels in its own craziness. Much of the book’s charms come from the ways that it balances those two elements and Lynsey and I spoke recently about comics, writing, her many projects and complicating the idea of helpfulness.

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Smash Pages Q&A: gg

The creator of ‘I’m Not Here’ discusses ‘Constantly,’ her latest book from Koyama Press.

Since discovering gg’s comics a few years ago, I keep revisiting them. More than simply her work itself, I find her attitude and approach toward her work something that I strive for in my own life. She continues to work in a way that seeks to find the best approach, the best way to tell a particular story, and using the work not to capture or express her own feelings, but the work allows her to find a calmness in her own life. And she maintains a detachment from how it gets received. The work must be what it needs to be.

The way she described her process sounds so much to me like how many poets have talked about their work. When reading her work, one is often reminded of poetry, perhaps because she is less interested in plot and narrative, and more concerned with other elements like tone and feeling — in her new book, especially.

Since I spoke with gg in 2017, she’s been posting work extensively on Patreon and Instagram and just came out with a new book from Koyama Press, Constantly. We emailed recently about the book, poetry and how her process changed for this project.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Robin Galante

The San Francisco-based artist discusses her work for the podcast ‘Nocturne,’ ‘The Bold Italic’ and more.

Robin Galante is a San Francisco-based artist whose work I first noticed as part of the great podcast Nocturne, where she drew the show’s logo and makes an illustration for each episode. Last year she published two visual essays in The Bold Italic, and continues to post work on Twitter and Instagram.

One of her biggest subjects is her neighborhood and more broadly, the city of San Francisco. Galante depicts the ways that the city is changing, and in documenting it is celebrating what is there and what we need to fight for to make urban life worth living. We spoke recently about her work

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Smash Pages Q&A: Gengorah Tagame

Alex Dueben goes back to the vault to share an interview with the legendary creator from 2017 on ‘My Brother’s Husband.’

Gengoroh Tagame is a comics legend, though many fans around the world may not know his work. He has long been acclaimed and beloved for his series of gay erotic comics, something that he’s achieved more attention for in recent years here in the U.S. with the publication of The Passion of Gegoroh Tagame and other books. His most recent project is the award-winning My Brother’s Husband, which after being released in hardcover in two volumes, is available now in an oversized paperback.

The book tells the story of Yaichi, a divorced father in suburban Tokyo who is visited by the widower of his twin brother, Ryoji. Mike wants to know and understand his late husband’s family, and Yaichi’s daughter is eager to, but what follows is a thoughtful meditation on prejudice, gender, conformity and identity. It is a hopeful and moving story about family life, masterfully told by one of the great cartoonists of his generation. At one point in the interview I mentioned the late Robert Mapplethorpe, an artist who remains beloved and perhaps best known for his erotic work, but who was a great portrait photographer with a gift for capturing people. Tagame has spent his career working as an artist, but while most straight people might be able to simply say that he was a great draftsman, he’s much more than that. What has made him great is his skill at body language, at conveying subtlety, depicting hidden or buried emotion. This is a project where he is putting those skills to work in a different way, and one that will hopefully introduce him to even larger audience.

I had the opportunity to interview Tagame in 2017, when the first volume was released in North America, although the article was never published. The collected paperback edition of My Brother’s Husband comes out today from Pantheon Books, and I’m happy to show this conversation with one of the world’s great cartoonists.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Niki Smith

The creator of ‘The Deep and Dark Blue’ discusses the graphic novel, its main characters, reversing tropes, the color blue and not owning a pencil.

Niki Smith’s second graphic novel, The Deep and Dark Blue, is a departure from her first book Crossplay. Blue, out now from Hachette, is a middle grade story of twin princes who, after a coup, have to hide out as girls in The Communion of Blue, an all-female magical order based around weaving and spinning and the magical properties of the color blue. The book plays with the trope of gender bending that has been popular for centuries, but for one of the twins, living as a girl isn’t an annoying burden, but offers her the chance to live as her true self.

The book is also a great medieval adventure as two sheltered children are given a crash course in the world around them that involves politics, conspiracies and magic. The book itself is designed and colored in a way that practically jumps off the page. Smith and I have talked before, and I was thrilled that we had the chance to discuss Grayce and Hawke, the color blue and not owning a pencil.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Malaka Gharib

The creator of ‘I Was Their American Dream’ discusses zine culture, being creative every day and more.

Malaka Gharib has been making comics and zines for years now, including The Runcible Spoon, a zine about food and fantasy she’s been making since 2010. Last year her first book I Was Their American Dream was released, looking at growing up as a Filipino-Egyptian in the United States and exploring questions of race, identity and belonging in different ways. 

Gharib has an active and entertaining Twitter and Instagram presence where she’s regularly making art, putting together things like a “5 minute zine” or other small projects. In her day job, Gharib is a writer and editor at NPR in Washington, D.C. She recently made an episode of the podcast Life Kit, about weaving art into your everyday life. We spoke recently about the book, zine culture and trying to make one creative thing a day.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Sophie Campbell

The writer and artist of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles discusses what she has planned for the series and more.

Sophie Campbell has established herself as one of the great comics voices of her generation. From her dynamic artwork that redefined Jem and the Holograms and Glory, to the seven volume series Wet Moon that she wrote and drew, to the science fiction superhero saga Shadoweyes, Campbell has built a unique body of work and in 2020, she’s trying something different.

Though Campbell has previously written and drawn Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics over the years, she took over writing and drawing the series with issue #101. With issue #102 out in stores this week, we spoke recently about what she has planned for the series, the new status quo she’s overseeing and her journey from fan to creator.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Ray Fawkes

The creator of ‘One Soul’ and ‘Possessions’ discusses the process of creating ‘In the Flood,’ his latest release from comiXology Originals.

Ray Fawkes is the writer of a long list of comics series including Constantine, Wolverines, Batman Eternal and Gotham by Midnight, but for many of us, no matter how many comics he writes, he will always be the cartoonist behind a long run of graphic novels and comics series including One Soul, Underwinter, Intersect, Possessions and The People Inside. He’s a creator who seems to effortlessly move between forms and approaches and genres

His new book is In the Flood. A digital comic that’s out now from comiXology Originals, Fawkes made the book with Lee Loughridge and Thomas Mauer, and though it’s hard to talk about the book involving a couple separated by a flood without giving some of the story away, it very much fits in with Fawkes’ other comics which he’s written and drawn. I spoke with Fawkes recently about how the book required a different way to work, how having a messy studio helps him to craft order on the page and his drawing practice.

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