Smash Pages Q&A: Erin Williams

The creator of ‘Commute’ discusses her latest project for “The Believer,” her nontraditional approach to page design, the long-lasting effects of trauma and more.

In the February/March issue of The Believer magazine, Erin Williams has a new short comic “Dust and Doubt” which builds on the ideas and concerns of her acclaimed debut book Commute. One of the best books published last year, Commute was a look at Williams’ day but also at her life, at the male gaze, at taking up space in the world, about alcoholism and trauma, and how we dissociate in order to survive. It’s about what it means to live in a culture that tries to monetize this trauma, promising a “cure” for the trauma the society causes.

Reading Williams’ work, one sees echoes of other creators who have used the medium in nontraditional ways to try to convey these physical  understandings of how being in our bodies, the complicated interactions of mental and physical pain of the aftermath of trauma and finding not just new ways to consider this but depict and convey that experience. In both this short comic and her book, it’s clear that Williams doesn’t think in terms of a comics page or that formatted structure of paneled designs, instead using the openness of the page to explore how the words and the images can interact. We spoke recently over email about her work.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Gina Biggs

The webcomics creator discusses the science fiction romance ‘Love Not Found,’ Filthy Figments, creating while being isolated and more.

Gina Biggs is best known as the cartoonist behind a great series of webcomics that she’s been making for more than a decade, including Red String, Erstwhile and her current project, Love Not Found. She is also the founder and editor of the website Filthy Figments, which turns 10 this year. Long one of the very best collections of erotic comics on the web, Filthy Figments has published a long list of talented creators, including Megan Rose Gedris, Molly Ostertag, Sarah Searle, Niki Smith and others making comics than aren’t simply inventive and interesting and visually dynamic by the standards of erotic comics, but exciting work by any standard.

Biggs’ current ongoing comic is Love Not Found, a science fiction romance set in a world where physical contact is rare. In the second chapter, one character has a line which has long stayed with me, “Sex is great. Why complicate it with emotions and touching?” In the time since I first reached out to us finishing this interview, that scenario went from science fiction to the norm for so many of us. We spoke over email about her career, Filthy Figments, upcoming plans, and how Love Not Found feels like a very different comic right now.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Elle Power

The cartoonist discusses illustrating the novel ‘Goldie Vance: the Hotel Whodunit,’ based on the BOOM! Studios series.

Goldie Vance: the Hotel Whodunit is a new novel based on the comics series created by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams. Lilliam Rivera wrote the novel, but artist and cartoonist Elle Power drew the novel’s cover, interior illustrations, and two eight-page sections of comics in the novel.

Power has been drawing comics for years, including the fourth volume of the Goldie Vance series, and we spoke over email recently about Goldie, the unusual process of working on this book and thinking about what comes next.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Maria Scrivan

The creator of the comic strip ‘Half Full’ discusses her new graphic novel, ‘Nat Enough.’

Nat Enough is the debut graphic novel from cartoonist Maria Scrivan. People might recognize the name, as she’s been making the daily comic Half Full since 2013 in addition to contributing to Mad Magazine and other publications.

The book is about Natalie adjusting to middle school and the way her best friend has changed, as well as trying to meet new people while feeling like she’s good enough. It is a painfully relatable middle school story and I spoke with Scrivan over email about trying to capture that voice, structuring a book length narrative and having already finished a sequel.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Sophie Goldstein and Jenn Jordan

The duo discuss their latest graphic novel, “An Embarrassment of Witches,” now available from Top Shelf Comix.

An Embarrassment of Witches is the new book from Sophie Goldstein and Jenn Jordan. Goldstein has made a name for herself in recent years with her comics like House of Women and The Oven, but before those books came out, Goldstein and Jordan made the webcomic Darwin Carmichael Is Going to Hell, a colorful romp about life in Brooklyn where mythological creatures and minor deities live next to artists and hipsters, and the protagonist is dealing with a karmic deficit and trying to save his immortal soul.

An Embarrassment of Witches is very much a related project, mixing the fantastic and the mundane in different ways. The book is about the friendship of Rory and Angel, two longtime friends after college, each of whom are foundering in different ways that strain their friendship. It’s about relationships and changing relationships with parents. It’s also about interdisciplinary magicks, botanical alchemy, and combines these elements in a way that makes the world feel new and fantastic, but is always about character and emotional above all.

I met Goldstein and Jordan years ago at Webcomics Weekend and was thrilled to talk with them about their new book, which I think is the best work they’ve done to date.We spoke recently over email.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Tyler Chin-Tanner

The co-publisher of A Wave Blue World discusses his latest writing project, “Mezo: Volume One,” and much more.

Tyler Chin-Tanner is the founder and co-publisher of A Wave Blue World, which in the past few years has built a reputation as a dynamic small publisher with an editorial focus and point of view all its own. The company has published a long run of anthologies like Dead Beats, From Hell’s Heart, All We Ever Wanted: Stories of a Better World and This Nightmare Kills Fascists. That’s in addition to books like Dead Legends, Kismet: Man of Fate, The Killing Jar and the recently released Cayrels Ring. In the past year the company has been ramping up production, hired new people including comics veteran Joseph Illidge.

A Kubert School graduate, Chin-Tanner has been making comics of his own for years including Adrenaline with James Boyle. He has written a new project that the company just released, Mezo: Volume One, Rise of the Tzalekuhl. The first volume of a fantasy series, it draws upon Mesoamerican lore and settings for a story that doesn’t look and feel like a typical fantasy story. Chin-Tanner talked to me recently about the book’s origins, the company’s name and plans for the future.

Please note this interview was conducted earlier this year, before the coronavirus made its impact on, among other things, the comics industry.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Melody Cooper

The filmmaker and playwright discusses her plans for Humanoids’ ‘Omni.’

Melody Cooper is a filmmaker, TV writer and playwright who was a resident at Yaddo and is currently in the HBO Access writing program. Her new project is the Humanoids series Omni.

Taking over writing the book from Devin Grayson, Cooper is continuing the politically charged stories of Dr. Cecelia Cobbina, who continues to try to uncover what’s behind the ignition of superpowers in the world. Cooper answered a few questions about how she works, politics and writing the smartest woman in the world.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Simon Roy, Daniel M. Bensen + Artyom Trakhanov

The creators of ‘Protector’ discuss the miniseries, how they collaborate and more.

Simon Roy first came to a lot of people’s attention with Prophet, or perhaps people know him for his projects like Habitat or Jan’s Atomic Heart and Other Stories. His new project, which has been coming out from Image Comics this year, is the miniseries Protector.

A collaboration with novelist Daniel M. Bensen (Junction) and artist Artyom Trakhanov (The 7 Deadly Sins), the book is a science fantasy adventure set in 3241 AD in the remote regions of North America (or what’s left of it) as Iron Age humans are dealing with demons and aliens and slavers and warring tribes. Issue #3 is out this week from Image, and I had a chance to speak with the team about the project.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Tracy Butler

The creator of ‘Lackadaisy’ discusses her new Kickstarter for an animated version of the popular webcomic.

Tracy Butler has worked as a game designer and illustrator, but for many of us, Butler is the best known as the person behind the webcomic Lackadaisy. Set in St. Louis during Prohibition, the comic has followed a band of anthropomorphic cats in story involving speakeasies, bootleggers, jazz musicians. It manages to both simultaneously romanticize the past, while never straying into sentimentality. Butler depicts the hardships, the violence, the sacrifices, the tough choices and losses that characters face along with many of the real life details and complexities that marked that period.

Butler’s new project is an animated version of Lackadaisy. To help her, she’s enlisted Fable Siegel, an animation veteran that Butler is co-directing the film with, and C. Spike Trotman, the woman behind Iron Circus Comics. The Kickstarter for the project launched this week and hit its goal in a matter of hours, but Butler answered a few questions about the project and offered us a look at some of the design work for the film.

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