Smash Pages Q&A: Ryan North and Albert Monteys

North and Monteys discuss how they approached adapting Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ into a graphic novel.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut is one of the seminal novels of postwar America. Part science fiction tale, part story of World War II and the firebombing of Dresden from the point of view of American POWs, the story of Billy Pilgrim was an immensely important novel and for many their introduction to the late, great novelist Kurt Vonnegut. It is also not an easy book to adapt and defies adaptation in a number of ways, which makes the success of the new graphic novel all the more impressive.

Ryan North is the person behind the weekly Dinosaur Comics, the writer of Marvel’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and the writer of How To Invent Everything. This isn’t his first time tackling literary legends after writing Romeo and/or Juliet and To Be Or Not To Be (both with the help of William Shakespeare). Albert Monteys is an artist and illustrator know for his work on the weekly magazine El Jueves, the series Carlitos Fax and the monthly publication Orgullo y Satisfacción, which he co-founded. His comic Universe! was published online by Panel Syndicate and nominated for an Eisner in 2017. 

As someone who has read almost everything Vonnegut ever wrote and has always held the book in great regard, the graphic novel manages to capture and reinvent the spirit and the substance of the book in ways that are shocking, making the story a new experience, even though I knew the text so well. I had to ask the duo a few questions about how they worked and their own relationship to the material.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Pia Guerra

Comic artist turned political cartoonist Pia Guerra discusses how her work has changed, the current political climate and more.

Pia Guerra is best known among comic book readers as the artist and co-creator of Y: The Last Man, but in recent years she’s spent much of her time and energy writing and drawing gag cartoons and political cartoons for The New Yorker, The Nib and other publications. In 2018 a collection of her political comics titled Me the People was published by Image Comics.

Guerra is living in Vancouver and I reached out to ask about how her work has changed, inking and what she’s working on now.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Alexis Fajardo

The award-winning creator discusses the latest chapter in his ‘Kid Beowulf’ graphic novel series, which is currently up on Kickstarter.

Alexis Fajardo is an Eisner Award-winning editor, writer and artist who is the editorial director at the Schulz Studio. He is also the cartoonist behind the Kid Beowulf series of graphic novels. The middle grade series focuses on Beowulf and Grendel, from the epic poem Beowulf, who in this version are twin brothers, exiled from home and wandering the world, encountering other characters from fiction and mythology.

Fajardo has just launched a Kickstarter for the fourth graphic novel in the series, Kid Beowulf: The Tarpeian Rock, which takes the brothers to Rome where they meet another set of famous brothers as the series takes a turn. He was kind enough to talk about the book, mythology and the influence of Star Wars.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Ally Shwed

The cartoonist behind World Citizen Comics’ ‘Fault Lines in the Constitution’ discusses illustrating abstract concepts, her publishing company Little Red Bird Press and more.

Ally Shwed is the writer and artist behind Fault Lines in the Constitution, the second book in the World Citizen Comics publishing line at First Second Books. Originally a text book written by Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinson, the book takes a look at how the United States Constitution was drafted, the debates behind its writing, and how those arguments and decisions continue to reverberate today.

People might know Shwed for her work on The Nib, where she’s written and drawn a number of excellent pieces, or for her work as one half of Little Red Bird Press where she’s edited two anthologies, Blocked and the recent Votes for Women. We spoke recently about illustrating abstract concepts, the struggle to craft a style that looks easy and what we can learn from what the suffrage movement did during a pandemic.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Ned Barnett

The creator of ‘Social Distancing – Life in the COVID-19 Pandemic’ discusses the pandemic, T.E. Lawrence and more.

Ned Barnett has made a series of graphic memoirs in recent years like No Rest for the Anxious, Hallo Spaceboy and last year’s Dreamers of the Day, which is part autobiographical journey and part exploration of the life of T.E. Lawrence. In these books and in short comics for a variety of outlets and anthologies, Barnett has shown a great talent for historical detail and capturing those small human elements that are often glossed over, giving readers a different and deeper look at the people and the era in the comics.

More recently Barnett made Social Distancing – Life in the COVID-19 Pandemic, which ran on Line Webtoon. From day to day the comic has taken different forms and approaches, but it is very consciously an effort to make a document of these times, of the elements of this crisis that are unique and that have precedent. He and I exchanged e-mails recently about the pandemic, T.E. Lawrence and thinking about what’s next.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Matt Lubchansky

The associate editor of The Nib discusses their work on the recent anthology ‘Be Gay Do Comics.’

Matt Lubchansky is the Associate Editor of The Nib and there, in their webcomic Please Listen To Me, and in New York Magazine, Mad Magazine, and other outlets, they create deeply and overtly political comics that are also absurd and satirical.

Lubchansky cited The Far Side as one of their great influences, and that sense of absurdity and play can found in all their work. Earlier this year Lubchansky was a finalist for the Herblock Prize, and The Nib and IDW have just published a new collection Be Gay Do Comics. We spoke about their career, coming out, autobiographical work and the upcoming anthology FlashForward.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Michael Avon Oeming

The award-winning writer and artist discusses his latest work, ‘After Realm,’ the influence of Norse mythology on the story and much more.

Michael Avon Oeming is the award-winning writer and artist of books like Powers and The Mice Templar, Takio and Hammer of the Gods, Bastard Samurai and The United States of Murder, Inc. In recent years he’s drawn Cave Carson for DC’s Young Animal imprint, and wrote and illustrated Dick Tracy Forever at IDW. His current ongoing project is After Realm, which comes out quarterly from Image Comics.

The story of an elf named Oona, After Realm takes place after Ragnarok. Oeming has been using Kickstarter to help fund the series, but other readers can pick up the third issue this week. It’s a story of battling trolls and other creatures, a tale of exploration and crafting maps, of rediscovering what has been lost. As Oeming and I discussed, Oona is very much a hero for this moment, in ways that he never could have anticipated. We spoke recently about epic fantasy, how the meaning of myth is in the telling and the personal nature of a story that might seem anything but.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Greg Anderson Elysée

The creator of Is’nana the Were-Spider discusses the new volume of the series, which is currently up on Kickstarter.

Greg Anderson Elysée is the creator of Is’nana the Were-Spider, the award-winning horror-fantasy series. Over the course of three volumes, the story has managed to navigate a world that’s mundane and also features the character interacting with mythological and folkloric characters from Africa and the diaspora. The new volume of the series, Showtime, is a change of pace for the series, a more playful story, but also a darker one, as the main character has to deal with what it means to be a young black man in America today.

Elysée is kickstarting Showtime, which runs through the end of the month, and he was kind enough to talk about his mythological influences and how he writes characters.

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Smash Pages Q&A: George O’Connor

The creator of the ‘Olympians’ series discusses his work on ‘Unrig: How To Fix Our Broken Democracy,’ the first book released under First Second’s World Citizen Comics publishing line.

George O’Connor is the acclaimed cartoonist behind the Olympians series of graphic novels retelling the Greek myths. Readers may know him for his earlier comics like Journey into Mohawk Country and Ball Peen Hammer, but his new book, Unrig, is something of a departure for him. 

Unrig: How To Fix Our Broken Democracy is the first volume of a new publishing line at First Second Books called World Citizen Comics. O’Connor worked with Daniel Newman, the president and co-founder of Maplight, a nonprofit that reveals the influence of money on politics. The book looks at how money has influenced American politics, how people and organizations with money have changed the system, and how individuals and local organizations have been fighting back. It’s an important book for many reasons, and I reached out to talk with George about the challenges of the project and what he learned from working on the book.

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