Smash Pages Q&A: Marco Finnegan on ‘Crossroad Blues’

The artist discusses his collaboration with novelist Ace Atkins, his work for the ‘Where We Live’ anthology, his upcoming Young Adult graphic novel, and more.

Marco Finnegan was a comics novice when Last Fair Deal Gone Down was published in 2016 by 12 Gauge, though he’d been working as an artist for some time. The book was his first collaboration with the writer Ace Atkins, and the two have established a close working relationship. Their second collaboration is out now from Image Comics.

Crossroad Blues is the adaptation of Atkins’ debut novel. The two have set out to adapt all of Atkins’ Nick Travers stories to comics. The stories are about a former football player turned academic, blues researcher, and harmonica player. In this book Travers tries to find a missing researcher, and gets involved with a strange cast of characters including an Elvis-worshipping hitman, who are trying to uncover – or hide – the true story of the legendary musician Robert Johnson.

People who follow Finnegan on Twitter know that he seems to always be posting drawings and sketches, and has mentioned working on comics for younger readers. I reached out to ask about working with Atkins, and find out more about his other comics projects.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Eleanor Davis on ‘Why Art?’

The creator discusses her latest graphic novel from Fantagraphics, political activism, PowerPoint and much more.

In her new book Why Art? Eleanor Davis tackles some of the questions around what art is, how we respond to it, how artists think about it and try to use it. Which may sound dry and perhaps dull but in Davis’ hands the idea becomes something strange and unexpected and at times laugh out loud funny. Davis describes one character in the book, “If she were a bad artist her art would be a lie and people would hate it. Instead, somehow she has made the statement into her truth.” This statement could be applied to Davis and her work. For many of us over the past few years she has become one of the essential cartoonists working right now.

Davis has also become very political active and currently serves as the membership coordinator for Athens for Everyone. We spoke recently about her book, political action, finding one’s artistic voice and coming to understand that everything is easy. She also mentioned the graphic novel she’s working on now and she answered, why art?

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Smash Pages Q&A: Hazel Newlevant on ‘Sugar Town’ and more

The comics creator and editor discusses her own projects, including her next graphic novel, working at Lion Forge and more.

Hazel Newlevant has been making a big impression in comics in just a few years. She received a Xeric grant for Ci Vediamo and a Queer Press Grant for If This Be Sin, and last year received an Ignatz Award for her minicomic Tender-Hearted. Newlevant is also an editor at Lion Forge Comics, and has edited the anthology Chainmail Bikini and co-edited the recent Comics for Choice with Whit Taylor and O.K. Fox

Sugar Town, which was published late last year, is her longest single work to date and her best. The book is an emotional and thoughtful look at falling in love and exploring the emotional work of polyamory. It felt like a breakthrough for the creator in a number of ways. Newlevant and I have spoken before, and I reached out to talk with her about the fact that she’s had a very busy 2017, the ways she used color in Sugar Town, and her upcoming graphic novel No Ivy League.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Dean Haspiel on New Brooklyn, his new play and more

The comics creator and playwright discusses The Red Hook, War Cry, his newest play and much more.

Dean Haspiel has always been a busy creator. Right now he’s writing and drawing War Cry, a weekly superhero comic for Line Webtoon, which wraps up next month. It’s a sequel to The Red Hook, which will be published as a print collection by Image Comics in June, part of the New Brooklyn Universe that Haspiel has overseen.

This month Haspiel has the world premiere of his new play in New York. The Last Bar at the End of the World is Haspiel’s third play and his second in two years. Haspiel has been one of those creators doing many things, from making his own comics, drawing books written by other people, working in television and film. This fall The Alcoholic, which Haspiel drew, will be reissued in a 10th anniversary edition. There will also be a collection to Haspiel’s The Fox: Fox Hunt series coming out from Archie Comics.

An Off-Broadway play, an indie superhero, a realistic graphic novel, an Archie superhero – and the fact that Haspiel is able to move from one to other with such ease is just one of the reasons his work has always stood out.

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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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