Smash Pages Q&A: Jaime Hernandez on ‘The Dragon Slayer’ and more

The legendary cartoonist discusses his latest work for Toon Books, ‘Love & Rockets’ and more.

Jaime Hernandez has long been one of the great cartoonists. Love and Rockets has been acclaimed for decades and remains beloved by generations of readers. The series continues to come out regularly, and late last year Fantagraphics published the collection Angels and Magpies in addition to a Studio Edition, which reproduces nearly 200 pages of Hernandez’s original artwork.

Toon Books is debuting a new book by Hernandez, The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America. The book is his first for younger readers and adapts stories from F. Isabel Campoy and Alma Flor Ada, and features an introduction by Campoy about imagination and tradition.

Hernandez will be appearing at the MoCCA Arts Festival this weekend in New York City, where he’ll be in conversation with Marc Sobel on Sunday. He will also appear at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival in May as part of Toon Books’ 1oth anniversary celebration.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Tim Fielder on ‘Matty’s Rocket’

Tim Fielder’s graphic novel Matty’s Rocket would be an innovative, inventive and moving comic no matter what year it was published. In a year when Black Panther has made the term “Afro-futurism” ubiquitous, the book has managed to come out at just the right moment to find a larger audience, but also offer new ways to rethink and redefine the genre. This is a project that Fielder has been working on for years about a young woman growing up in 1920s Mississippi, who moves to France in the 1930s so that she can pilot rocketships.

It’s an amazing book told in a number of styles, from the sepia-toned Mississippi Delta of 1920s to the 1930s, which resemble a recolored silent film, to a 1960s that evokes the comics and science fiction imagery of the era. The book’s real strengths, though, lie not in its imagery, but in its writing. Matty’s Rocket is great fun, but to engage with the book and Retro-Afrofuturism – as Fielder calls his approach in the series – is to be forced to rethink not just the genre and the stories we know, but the world, and the assumptions that underlie them.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Sara Varon puts on ‘New Shoes’

Sara Varon is a cartoonist who can be hard to pin down. Since her debut Sweaterweather she’s made a series of award-winning graphic novels like Robot Dreams and Bake Sale, and picture books like Chicken and Cat and President Squid. Her stories feature animals and other characters, the art is playful, with stylistic influences ranging from animation to ligne claire. Her stories manage to tackle complex issues in thoughtful nuanced ways. It’s easy to describe her work as designed for young readers, but they’re layered stories with stories and themes that aren’t inappropriate for young readers. Robot Dreams for example might appeal to children because of the style and some elements of the story, but I think it remains a story best appreciated and ultimately understood by adults.

Her new book New Shoes is very much a part of this tradition. Set in Guyana – or at least a Guyana in a world with anthropomorphic animals – it tells the story of Francis the donkey, a shoemaker who is forced to leave his village for the first time. It’s a story about friendship and work, problem solving and crises. It also features Varon drawing capybaras and sloths, manatees and anteaters, among many other creatures. It’s a funny and beautifully drawn book about work and life, and it is the work of a great cartoonist at the height of her powers.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Saladin Ahmed on ‘Abbott’

Saladin Ahmed is an award-winning writer of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, best known for his epic fantasy novel Throne of the Crescent Moon. Last year he began writing comics at Marvel. His series Black Bolt was one of the most acclaimed superhero stories of the year, and he’s writing two new series at Marvel launching this spring including the much anticipated Exiles.

This year Ahmed also has a new comic, Abbott, drawn by Sami Kivela and colored by Jason Wordie. The five-issue miniseries from Boom tells the story of Elena Abbott, a reporter in 1972 Detroit who is dealing with social and political issues of the era in addition to a supernatural threat she’s trying to understand. The series and the lead character are very much a type, the noir influenced supernatural investigator and the series is reminiscent of Jamie Delano’s run on Hellblazer, which like this was a horror/fantasy story that was very political and concerned with social issues. It’s the story of a time and place that has a lot of echoes with today as Ahmed pointed out in our conversation.

The third issue of Abbott is out this week and Ahmed was kind enough to answer a few questions about the project.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Gabi Mendez on ‘Lemonade Summer’

Gabi Mendez has been making short comics and minicomics for a few years now. Her work has appeared in anthologies like The Wicked and The Tired and now Cow House Press has launched a kickstarter to publish her first book, a collection of short comics titled Lemonade Summer.

The stories in the book are told in a variety of ways about kids of different ages and backgrounds. The stories are very different but taken together, are about queer characters coming of age in the sort of nurturing, positive, supportive environments which are so rarely depicted. The result is an all-ages book about pirates and skaters, witches and road trips, about childhood adventures and teenage uncertainty. It’s a powerful debut that is emotionally raw while being sweet, funny, and playful on many levels.

Mendez is in graduate school at the Savannah College of Art and Design and I spoke with her after exams to talk about the book. The Kickstarter campaign for the all-ages book runs through April 6 and can be found here.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell’s ‘Bizarre Romance’

Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell are immensely talented and acclaimed creators. Niffenegger is the author of the novels The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry, and graphic novels like The Three Incestuous Sisters and The Night Bookmobile, among many other works. Campbell is the writer and artist of many comics. He drew From Hell and A Disease of Language, two collaborations with Alan Moore, in addition to writing and drawing Alec and Bacchus, all of which are among the best comics ever made. He has also written a new book about comics and comics history, The Goat Getters: Jack Johnson, The Fight of the Century, and How a Bunch of Raucous Cartoonists Reinvented Comics, which comes out this spring.

The two are also married and have been collaborating on a number of short projects for the past few years. This week Abrams is publishing Bizarre Romance, a collection of short comics and illustrated stories that they made together. It should be no surprise to anyone who knows their work that it is a broad-ranging collection of styles and approaches. These stories are sweet and funny, touching and strange, inventive and a lot of fun. They were kind enough to talk about their working relationship and the book.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Rick Stromoski on ‘Soup to Nutz’ and more

The cartoonist discusses his syndicated strip, a graphic novel he’s working on, how he works and more.

Rick Stromoski’s comic strip Soup to Nutz has been running on the comics pages since 2000. He had been syndicated before, but was better known for his illustration work, gag cartoons and greeting cards. He has won multiple division awards from the National Cartoonists Society over the years and has served as the organization’s president.

Soup to Nutz has its own sense of design, and it stands out on the comics page for the sense of humor, which has much more of an edge than other family strips, and for the character of Andrew, who remains unique. Stromoski has also been working on a graphic novel drawn in a very different style than the strip. Based on his mother’s life, this has been a project of many years that he’s close to finishing. We spoke recently about his strip, his graphic novel and how working digitally changed the way he’s able to work.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Gabe Fowler on Funhouse: An Interactive Book Fair

The proprietor of Desert Island Comics in Brooklyn discusses the upcoming event, scheduled for March 24-25.

Gabe Fowler is not a cartoonist, but he is a one of the people who makes the comics world run. He’s the proprietor of Desert Island Comics in Brooklyn, one of the great comic stores in New York, and which Fowler has made a hub of comics activity. He’s one of the organizers of Comic Arts Brooklyn, the annual comics show, and he also publishes Smoke Signal, a quarterly comics anthology, and published Resist!, the two comics edited by Francoise Mouly and Nadja Spiegelman last year.

Fowler is one of the organizers of Funhouse: An Interactive Book Fair, which will take place in Manhattan on March 24-25. The event isn’t just another comics show and isn’t quite a workshop, but rather something else, and I reached out to Fowler to ask about what the event will be and trying to make a different kind of show.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Anneli Furmark on ‘Red Winter’

‘It’s like all the characters in the book have their own universe.’

Anneli Furmark’s Red Winter is a stunning book. It is a love story where the grand romantic scene and gesture happens in the opening pages. It is a narrative that is fractured told from multiple points of view, none of whom understand everything that’s happening. It’s about the politics of 1970’s Sweden and how they intersect with people’s lives. It is an impression of a time and of a place that is rendered and colored beautifully that lingers lost after one finishes reading he last page.

Furmark was kind enough to answer a few questions about her book and how she works.

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