Smash Pages Q&A: Ben Sears

The creator of Plus Man and Hank discusses his latest book, ‘House of the Black Spot,’ working with Annie Koyama, designing covers and more.

Comics creator Ben Sears is known for his brilliant use of design, color and composition. His Double+ series of graphic novels feature all-ages adventures about two characters, Plus Man and Hank, and their various escapades as treasure hunters, breaking into haunted houses and old tombs.

His new book House of the Black Spot from Koyama Press is something of a departure for Sears. The wild adventures take a backseat as Hank’s uncle, who raised him, has died under mysterious circumstances, and the two go back to Hank’s hometown to try and solve the mystery. The art in this book manages to be as exciting and dynamic as anything Sears has made.

While the story is a lot quieter than his previous books, Sears makes it as engaging and intense an experience as his previous narratives. It’s his best work to date, and I was thrilled to talk with Sears about how his work has changed, Patreon and working with Annie Koyama.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Vivek Shraya

The writer, artist, musician and performer discusses her collaboration with Ness Lee, ‘Death Threat.’

Vivek Shraya is a writer, artist, musician, performer who has consistently pushed boundaries between forms and genres. Given this, it was perhaps inevitable that Shraya would eventually make a comic.

Death Threat, a collaboration with the artist Ness Lee, was published earlier this year by Arsenal Pulp Press. In fall 2017, Shraya began receiving a series of threatening, disturbing letters and while terrifying, they were also visual in a way that Shraya couldn’t ignore. The result is a book about receiving such letters, about how to survive such an experience that is chilling, moving and deeply powerful.

I spoke with Shraya recently about comics, collaboration, and the connections between this book and her previous one, I’m Afraid of Men.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Sarah W. Searle

The creator of ‘Sincerely, Harriet’ discusses the book’s themes, her creative process and much more.

Sincerely, Harriet was released by Graphic Universe earlier this year but cartoonist Sarah Winifred Searle has been working in comics for years. Searle has contributed short comics to Jem and the Holograms, Gothic Tales of Haunted Love, Twisted Romance and Colonial Comics, among many others. She’s contributed to publications like Bitch, Symbolia and The Nib about subjects personal, historical and political.

Sincerely, Harriet is a middle-grade novel that like so much of her work is subtle and nuanced in ways that reward repeated reading. We spoke recently over email about the book, her upcoming graphic memoir and life in sunny Perth, Australia.

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Smash Pages Q&A: G.E. Gallas

The creator of ‘The Poet and the Flea’ discusses ‘The Plague and Doctor Caim,’ which she is currently crowdfunding.

G.E. Gallas has been making historical comics for years and is currently crowdfunding her newest project, The Plague and Doctor Caim, about a 17th Century plague doctor. The image of a plague doctor is familiar to a lot of people, but the reality and experience of that period is rarely explored.

Gallas is perhaps best known for her comic The Poet and the Flea, an amazing story of the great William Blake, and here she’s returning to historical fiction with a very different story and an aesthetic and design that draws form illuminated manuscripts. Gallas is currently crowfunding the book on Unbound and we spoke recently about the book, research, and what’s funny about the plague.

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Smash Pages Q&A: June Brigman

The cat is out of the bag for the Mary Worth illustrator

June Brigman has had a long, varied career in comics. She started working in comic books where she co-created Power Pack with Louise Simonson at Marvel, and drew a wide variety of projects including Supergirl, Star Wars: River of Chaos, and adapting and illustrating Black Beauty into comics. She’s also been working in comic strips for decades. She drew Brenda Starr from 1995 to when the strip ended in 2011, and since 2016 she’s been drawing Mary Worth seven days a week.

Brigman returned to comic books last year with arguably her best work to date, the miniseries Captain Ginger. The science fiction series features cats who have outlived the human race, and it’s a funny and dark and inventive story. The trade collection of the miniseries is out from Ahoy Comics this month, which also announced that there’s a sequel in the works – though readers are unlikely to forget the comic’s final page that sets it up.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Maria Llovet

The multi-faceted comic creator talks about illustrating Faithless, collaborating with Azzarello, and gives insight on her work.

The big name on the new comics series Faithless is writer Brian Azzarello, but it’s artist and colorist Maria Llovet who has really blown readers away with her style and aesthetic choices, her sense of fashion and her use of color. Her approach has helped to define and shape the book in the way that a good artist and a good collaboration should be able to do.

Llovet has written and drawn a number of books that were published in Spain, including Eros/Psyche, Porcelain, Heartbeat and Insecto. She also drew There’s Nothing There, which was written by Patrick Kindlon and published in the U.S. Spending some time on her website and social media, it’s clear that Llovet is a busy and inventive artist with an agile mind. She was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions by email about Faithless, another book coming out in the U.S. later this year and how she works.

Please note this interview includes preview art containing nudity that is NSFW or for kids.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Kelsey Wroten

The illustrator and cartoonist discusses her debut graphic novel, ‘Cannonball,’ from Uncivilized Books.

Kelsey Wroten is an illustrator and cartoonist who’s made an impact with her comics like Crimes and her illustrations, which seemed to have appeared almost everywhere in the past few years, from The New Yorker to Vice to Lucky Peach and elsewhere.

Her debut graphic novel is Cannonball, which was just released by Uncivilized Press. The book is the story of Caroline Bertram, a young writer who struggles with failure and goes on to have an even greater struggle with success. The book is more than simply a great character study, but throughout the book, Wroten is also illustrating in very different styles, the stories that Caroline is writing. In the final chapter of the book the story comes to a head not through text, but by utilizing the art as the real world and the world of her novel come crashing together in a striking way.

It’s a brilliant debut, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Wroten about writing complicated characters, structure, and color – as Avril Lavigne played in the background.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Marguerite Dabaie

The creator of ‘The Hookah Girl and Other Two Stories’ discusses her latest project, ‘A Voyage to Panjikant.’

Marguerite Dabaie is a cartoonist perhaps best known for The Hookah Girl and Other Two Stories, which was first self-published in two volumes before collected last year in a new edition by Rosarium Publishing. With Tom Hart, Dabaie made the sadly short-lived comic strip Ali’s House, which is available now on gocomics.com. She’s been a contributor to The Nib, The Believer, Electronic Intifada and many other publications, but her current project is the graphic novel A Voyage to Panjikant.

She is also the co-host and co-founder of Pete’s Mini Zine Fest, which will be held again in July in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I’ve long been an admirer of Dabaie’s work, and we recently spoke about her work, research and how she thinks about comics.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Rory Frances and Jae Bearhat

The creators of ‘Little Teeth’ discuss the recently released collection from Czap Books, how they first started working together and more.

Rory Frances had been making comics like Boys Are Slapstick for years before connecting with Jae Bearhat, who’s currently the editor of ZEAL Magazine. The two teamed up to make the serial comic Little Teeth, parts of which were first published on Hazlitt in 2015-16, and has just been published by Czap Books in a collected edition.

Little Teeth is a story of a group of friends living in an unnamed city. The characters are never named and the reader is immediately dropped into the story, to try and make sense of the relationships between characters and the larger dynamics. The anthropomorphic animals allow the creators to play with questions and expectations of gender and gender identity. There were scenes that made me laugh out loud and scenes that made me cringe in recognition. It is a thoughtful, funny and insightful comic about characters who are all too human, and simply one of the best graphic novels out so far this year. I recently spoke with Rory and Jae over Skype.

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