Smash Pages Q&A: Melanie Gillman

The creator discusses ‘As the Crow Flies,’ now available from Iron Circus Comics, as well as the upcoming ‘Stage Dreams,’ Colorado, colored pencils and more.

Since it launched in 2012, As the Crow Flies has been a webcomic beloved by many people. Drawn in colored pencil by Melanie Gillman, the comic tells the story of Charlie, a black queer 13 year old on an all-white Christian youth backpacking trip. It is not just a striking beautiful comic that looks like nothing else, but it tells an important story in a thoughtful, nuanced way. It is a story of identity and religion, community and discrimination with a cast of real, relatable and beautifully drawn characters.

Gillman just finished writing a run of Steven Universe comics for BOOM! Studios and has already announced their next project, Stage Dreams, a graphic novel that Gillman described as a “queer western romance adventure story.” The first half of As the Crow Flies was just published in a print edition by Iron Circus Comics and Gillman was kind enough to talk about writing, life, Colorado and colored pencils.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Sophie Goldstein on ‘House of Women’

The creator of ‘The Oven’ discusses her new book from Fantagraphics, as well as science fiction, her next book and much more.

Sophie Goldstein is best known as the cartoonist behind the book The Oven, and the co-writer and artist of the webcomic Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell. She’s received multiple Ignatz Awards and her work has appeared in Best American Comics.

Fantagraphics has just released House of Women, the collection of Goldstein’s Ignatz Award-winning series. Goldstein and I have been meeting each other at comic shows for years and I last interviewed her when The Oven was released, shortly after House of Women Part 1 won an Ignatz Award. The new book, which Goldstein designed, is beautiful, and we spoke about the changes in her artwork over the course of making it, science fiction and her next book, An Embarrassment of Witches.

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Smash Pages Q&A: GG on ‘I’m Not Here’

The Canadian cartoonist discusses her latest project, published by Koyama Press.

GG is the pen name of a Canadian cartoonist who in recent years has produced a small but beautiful body of work. In a series of short comics like Semi-Vivi, Valley, Don’t Leave Me Alone and I’m Crazy she’s established herself as an amazing talent. GG’s artwork is clean and precise, and the clarity of the art stands in sharp contrast to her writing, where she leaves the meaning of the narrative up to the reader. There’s a way in which her comics are very quiet and yet simultaneously unsettling and off-putting. They’re tales of transformation, disruption, and told in a way that the reader is never instructed what to think, how to react or how to feel. The result can be unsettling and strange and a difficult read, as every panel should be scoured to understand what’s happening. It can also be transcendent and brilliant.

This year Koyama Press published I’m Not Here, GG’s longest work to date and her first book. It is arguably her best work to date. The book features a young woman who is caretaker for her mother and walks around town taking photographs. What happens next, well, that depends on the reader. As someone who has been a caretaker and likes to walk, I have my own take on what happens and what it means – which is no doubt different from many readers and no doubt different from GG – but that is precisely the response she wants to create. That sense of narrative uncertainty requires readers to engage with the story differently. I’m Not Here is quite simply one of the most affecting and best comics of the year and GG was kind enough to open about the book and how she works.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Tara O’Connor

The creator discusses an expanded edition of her ‘Roots’ comic from Top Shelf and her upcoming book from Oni Press, ‘The Altered History of Willow Sparks.’

Tara O’Connor’s Roots begins with her divorce as she falls into that fugue state familiar to many that accompanies the collapse of a relationship, moving back in with one’s parents and the very specific kind of depression that comes with those life-altering events. It also depicts how O’Connor pulled herself out of this, through work and starting a new project, and what happened when she traveled to Ireland to research her family history. The trip didn’t turn out the way she expected, and neither did the resulting book.

Roots was originally self-published a few years ago, but Top Shelf is now publishing a new, longer version of that story. In addition, O’Connor has The Altered History of Willow Sparks, a fictional graphic novel coming out from Oni Press early next year. Both are about changing one’s life and O’Connor sat down to talk about her work.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Anders Nilsen on ‘Tongues’

‘It’s a weird amalgam of other stories I’ve done.’

In recent years Anders Nilsen has published a number of books that have been hard to categorize. From Rage of Poseidon to Poetry is Useless to the reissue of his earlier Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow, Nilsen has shown himself to be not just a talented artist and storyteller but a gifted designer whose books are carefully considered objects in their own right.

As brilliant as each of those books are, like a lot of comics readers I’ve been waiting for Nilsen to announce his next big project. Big Questions, which was published in a single volume in 2011, was an epic story in a way that goes far beyond the book’s length. Nilsen has just published Tongues #1, the first part of a much longer story, and he was kind enough to take time to talk about the comic, his plans and the book’s landscape.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Jake Parker on Inktober and more

The founder of October’s ‘Inktober’ event discusses this year’s event, his latest chidlren’s books and his forthcoming graphic novel ‘SkyHeart.’

For some people, Jake Parker is the talented children’s book illustrator behind books like The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair, The Little Snowplow, and the just-released The 12 Sleighs of Christmas, written by Sherri Duskey Rinker. Some of us though remember Parker as one of the artists who first made a splash in the Flight anthologies and went onto write and draw the Missile Mouse series of graphic novels and The Antler Boy and Other Stories, which collected his short comics work.

He is also the man who started Inktober, which went from a personal challenge to himself that he posted online to something much bigger. This year Inktober was bigger than it’s ever been. In 2015, just under 330,000 posts on Instagram were tagged #inktober2015, and this year more than 3.2 million were tagged #inktober2017. This doesn’t mean that everything was without controversy. Parker responded to the question of whether it’s possible to participate in Inktober if one works digitally and Parker’s statement, which read in part “The spirit of Inktober is self improvement, and there’s no better way to master your craft than to draw without a safety net” was not liked by some people and so I asked him about Inktober and his new book.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Joseph Remnant on ‘Cartoon Clouds’

The creator of ‘Blindspot’ and artist of Harvey Pekar’s ‘Cleveland’ discusses his first solo graphic novel from Fantagraphics, balancing his work as a storyboarding artist with his own projects, and more.

Like most comics fans I first got to know Joseph Remnant’s work from The Pekar Project. The web project featured the late great Pekar working with a number of artists and Remnant went on to draw Cleveland, a very personal graphic novel written by Pekar that was published after his death.

Remnant was making short work in his comic series Blindspot, in addition to recording music and working on various other projects, but Fantagraphics just released his first solo graphic novel, Cartoon Clouds. The book is about a group of students who have just graduated from art school, and are trying to find their own way and understand their feelings about art. Remnant admits that working on the project over the course of many years has meant that his own feelings about the characters and some of the issues he raises in the book have changed over time, though his linework is masterful throughout.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Nilah Magruder on ‘M.F.K.’

The animator, illustrator and storyboard artist discusses the collection of her popular webcomic.

Nilah Magruder’s webcomic M.F.K. has been on hiatus recently but it remains a beloved by its fans (including me). The animator, illustrator and storyboard artist received the inaugural Dwayne McDuffie Award for the webcomic, an epic fantasy adventure about a hero on a quest – but not the kind of hero, epic or quest that most fantasy fans think about when they hear those words. Although it is very epic in a sense – journeys are hard for social recluses.

Last year saw the release of Magruder’s debut picture book, How To Find a Fox, and she’s currently working on a new book project, Creaky Acres. A print version of the the first three chapters of M.F.K. are out now from Insight Comics and Magruder answered a few questions about the book, promises she’s working on the comic, and more.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Roger Langridge on ‘The Iron Duchess’

The cartoonist discusses his latest book from Fantagraphics, as well as ‘Zoot!’, the status of ‘Criminy’ and more.

Roger Langridge has had a long career in comics, crafting a unique body of work that ranges from Fred the Clown to Abigail and the Snowman, The Fez to The Baker Street Peculiars, Art d’Ecco to Snarked. Langridge however is likely best known for a lot of the licensed projects he’s worked on which include Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow, The Muppet Show, and Popeye. It’s a shame, and not just because people who love The Muppet Show could pick up Fred the Clown and some of his other work and find that same love of wacky characters, vaudeville, silent comedy, music and hijinx.

Fred the Clown: The Iron Duchess shows Langridge’s love for old silent films, in particular those of the late great Buster Keaton. Langridge likes to use Fred as a character the way old silent comedians played the same “character” in one film after another. The book manages to combine a mad scientist, a wealthy man and his daughter, the making of a film, a horse, a pig, a train chase, and much more. It manages to be a madcap adventure, but also a beautifully structured story with multiple threads moving along and leading to some strange and hilarious surprises by the end. The Iron Duchess is out now from Fantagraphics Books, and Langridge has also released Zoot! #1, a new one-man anthology that is a available from his website.

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