Smash Pages Q&A: Miss Lasko-Gross on Z2 Comics’ ‘Henni’

henni

Smash Pages is pleased to chat with Miss Lasko-Gross regarding her latest graphic novel, Henni, released by Z2 Comics earlier this year. misslaskogross tale about Henni, a young cat-like woman who hails from a community dominated by a harsh faith as well as an even more strict dogmatic mother, entered the comics industry in January at the exact same time the Charlie Hebdo terror strikes occurred. Essays such as this one helps remind readers what misguided people will do just out of fear for ideas, a concept explored in Henni as well.

Lasko-Gross’ earlier award-winning semi-autobiographical work, such as A Mess of Everything, might not come to mind when reading Henni, and yet both works share a bluntness and raw honesty that fuel Lasko-Gross’ narrative approach. The writer-artist’s newest work, which stars a character who faces stigmatization and far worse for daring to question her family’s faith, clearly strikes a chord with audiences. In a wide-ranging Q&A in which Lasko-Gross aptly notes “honor killings, attacks on school girls and artists not only occur, but are acceptable to some” brings home the point that this escapist story unfortunately has the means to speak to present-day atrocities. [Please note, this interview was conducted in early 2015, but logistics on Smash Pages’ end caused a delay.]

Tim O’Shea: No one could have envisioned the subplot of art as a form of protest against religious fanaticism would seem like such a prescient element in the wake of the Paris attack. As a creator, how satisfying was it you to see people use Henni as a conversation starter in a way about the senseless violence?

Miss Lasko-Gross: I think, unfortunately, whenever Henni was released, contemporary censorship and repression might have made it seem timely. Certainly when I was working on the book I had in mind the heavy sexism/racism/classism in the foundation of nearly every world culture and religion. I live in a lucky geographical/historical pocket of freedom and tolerance but that doesn’t change the tragic and violent truth.

We still live in a world where honor killings, attacks on school girls and artists not only occur, but are acceptable to some. Where otherwise “normal” modern people scoff at provable scientific facts and demand equal weight be given to their personal beliefs. Where people allow fear and hatred to erect artificial borders between groups of people. Henni certainly wasn’t intended as a didactic work, but I feel flattered that anyone would include it in an ongoing conversation that I feel passionately about.

What kind of religious or philosophical upbringing did you have? What kind of research did you to inform the religious/patriarchal elements of Henni?

I’d describe my family as politically progressive low-intensity Jewish. Even so, as a little girl, I still gave them a very hard time about the minimal level of religion they wanted me to practice. At the same time I was supposed to be learning about my own “true” faith, I was deeply into Folklore, Fairytales, Greek & Egyptian Mythology. I think I couldn’t help but notice the similarities in the underlying questions being answered. The world exists because…terrible things happen because… you must behave and nothing must ever change because…we’re better than other groups because… women are inferior because… I was young and unable to articulate why I didn’t want to participate, but knew I deeply mistrusted anyone who offered to do my thinking for me.

When writing Henni I did some general brushing up on comparative religion as well as reading “Guns Germs and Steel” for a bit of help with geological/geographic world building.

How early in developing this story did you realize you wanted it framed around a strong female lead–from the beginning?

I think a young girl was the only appropriate choice to serve the narrative. In the kind of isolated religiously fundamentalist village in which she lives, a male protagonist would have too many options in life. His opinions might be listened to, he’d have career/education choices etc… Only someone truly trapped and lowly in status would make sense.

At points in the stories you have Henni observe differences in housing structures/architecture in her journey, what prompted you to address cultural differences in such a unique (and great) manner?

The first “outsiders” Henni encounters, proceed to claim her as a trophy and take her to their village. A village that (to our eyes) differs from hers in only the most superficial ways. But because she has seen nothing of the world beyond her home, even the subtlest deviations seem other-wordily and significant. It’s a reminder that her naivete is not in sync with the readers perceptions.

Beyond Henni, who were your favorite characters to write in this first installment? Did you ever fight a temptation to make Henni’s mother a more sympathetic character?

I really enjoyed writing Henni’s mother, who does seem hateful and unfeeling. She is a fanatical devotee of the temple, who appears unmoved by the suffering of her family. I would argue however that she’s anything but indifferent, in her mind the only way she can “save” her daughters is to eliminate the subversive influence of her husband who (from her perspective) endangers their souls and pollutes their minds. I think, in the heavy pie incident you also sense her exhaustion after years of dealing with a “troublesome” daughter. She loves Henni (in her own rigid way) and wishes to “fix” and protect her. I think if I had made her softer or more willing to compromise her beliefs, henna’s prospects would be neither grim, nor the stakes high enough to further the narrative.

Is it fair to say outsiders are a character trait you like to explore in some of your stories (not just Henni)? If so, what is the appeal for you?

I try to always write characters that I’d want to read about (Preferably a virtuous freak over a dull golden boy) After all, how excited can you really be about the inevitable triumph of a powerful heroic figure? That’s also probably why, early on, indie comics seduced me away from the tights and benevolent fascism stuff. How can I care about a character who can’t really lose or doubt or fail?

What made you want to release Henni through Z2 Comics in particular?

Josh (Frankel) had a level of understanding and enthusiasm for Henni that made Z2 a great fit from the start. As an author/artist you give years of your life to the creation of a graphic novel so it’s ideal to work with someone full of great ideas and passion to match your own.

How much do you and fellow creator/spouse Kevin Colden bounce story elements off of each other while they are in process?

We lean on each other in the editing process, more so than during initial creation of our respective work. Quick questions fly back and forth, such as: “does this read visually?” or “would you see the dead hooker’s shadow from this angle? etc.. it’s a massive asset to have another set of eyes handy, especially someone well trained and honest and who’s ego can withstand a brutal critique. I’ve inserted connective panels because Kevin pointed out where a reader might get lost,. Some of his characters have spoken more naturalistically when I’ve pointed out a bit of clunky dialog. We are both better artists / writers because we never let each other get away with lame hacky shit.

Can you talk about the color choices you made with this project?

In the past I’ve also used a limited palette (“Escape From ‘Special’”, “A Mess Of Everything”). For Henni I focused on cool lilac, turquoise and black. It signifies to the reader that this is an enclosed world, not meant to represent literal reality. It helps create an atmosphere that feels “other.”

Is it true that some of the development of Henni was on a digital platform?

Henni started as a side project on the Comixology House of Twelve App. At the time I was working primarily on a nonfiction graphic novel, but Henni was too enjoyable and exciting a project to keep on the side. The story quickly unfolded faster than I could draw and the other book was abandoned to concentrate on Henni.

Smash Pages Q&A: Paul Cornell on Creator-Owned ‘This Damned Band’ from Dark Horse

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To say writer Paul Cornell executed the modern day equivalent of Jimi Hendrix setting a guitar on fire with his new creator-owned miniseries This Damned Band is an understatement. Cornell has teamed with artist Tony Parker and colorist Lovern Kindzierski on this one-of-a-kind mockumentary 1970s era period piece where a rock and roll band which acts like they worship the devil–only to realize they really do.

Thanks to Cornell for chatting with me about this Dark Horse published six-issue miniseries. Issue #1 was released on August 5, while issue #2 comes out on September 2. Part of me hopes to chat with Cornell after the miniseries wraps to find out more in terms of the Bowie and the Kinks anecdotes.

Tim O’Shea: Which came first the idea to tackle the 1960s/1970s era of music or the storytelling device do it as a mockumentary?

Paul Cornell: I think the band encountering the occult for real was the first thought, and the mockumentary style just felt like a good way to do that.

I don’t want you to spoil the story but am I right in thinking despite the death of Robert Starkey he plays a role of some kind in this miniseries?

It’s indicative of something, but it’s not going to be referred to in the strip.  By the time we get to the end, I think readers will have gotten something extra out of it.

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‘Crisis’ at 30, Part 12

“Someday this war’s going to end,” laments Robert Duvall’s Col. Kilgore to conclude his memorable joyride through 1979’s Apocalypse Now. Similarly, as we come to the final issue of Crisis On Infinite Earths, I find myself longing (just a little) for more panels overstuffed with characters, more conversationally-expository dialogue, and even more stakes-raising plot twists.

Still, Crisis had to end sometime. Last issue introduced the singular timeline and its history. It was the first step into an era that continues to inform DC’s superhero comics. As such, issue #12 — which appeared in comics shops some thirty years ago, during the first week of November 1985 — is about cleaning up the miniseries’ last bits of clutter and getting the merged timeline ready for all its prospective readers. It’s 42 pages of wall-to-wall action, executed skillfully by the creative team.

Dogpile
Dogpile

“Someday this war’s going to end,” laments Robert Duvall’s Col. Kilgore to conclude his memorable joyride through 1979’s Apocalypse Now. Similarly, as we come to the final issue of Crisis On Infinite Earths, I find myself longing (just a little) for more panels overstuffed with characters, more conversationally-expository dialogue, and even more stakes-raising plot twists.

Still, Crisis had to end sometime. Last issue introduced the singular timeline and its history. It was the first step into an era that continues to inform DC’s superhero comics. As such, issue #12 — which appeared in comics shops some thirty years ago, during the first week of November 1985 — is about cleaning up the miniseries’ last bits of clutter and getting the merged timeline ready for all its prospective readers. It’s 42 pages of wall-to-wall action, executed skillfully by the creative team.

Speaking of which, credits: Crisis On Infinite Earths issue 12 was co-plotted, scripted, and edited by Marv Wolfman, co-plotted and pencilled by George Pérez, inked by Jerry Ordway (who also pencilled one page), colored by Tom Ziuko, and lettered by John Costanza. Robert Greenberger was the associate editor and Len Wein was the consulting editor.

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All You Need to Know: Invincible Iron Man #2

iim2_coverRight off the bat, I think Bendis is a terrible Dungeon Master.

For those of you who have played D&D or other cooperative role-playing games, you know how hard it can be for the person running your characters through their adventures and that some of those people fall into the horrible pitfalls of being bad at planning a story. There’s one particular pitfall I like to call the Firm Boot of the DM, for when the story needs you to go somewhere and doesn’t care if you want to or not. Say there’s a wizard giving you a quest for no other reason than exactly that. Here’s your quest, go on and go adventure. You, as a player, may have questions or concerns or want some motivations from that wizard, but nope! Wizard is wise and unknowable and invincible so don’t start any fights with him, just take your quest and go. There’s always some larger war that wizard has to fight or some terrible burden he must carry, so don’t expect this Wizard to help you, just leave him alone to do some other grander thing and figure what to do next by yourself.

At least Doom gives Iron Man a next plot point to get to.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Ruth Fletcher Gage & Jackie Lewis on Oni’s ‘The Lion of Rora’

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To mark the recent release of co-writers Ruth Fletcher Gage and Christos Gage and artist Jackie Lewis’ original graphic novel, The Lion Of Rora (published by Oni Press), Fletcher Gage and jackiemakescomics were kind enough to grant me an interview.

Based on true events, the graphic novel tells the story of Joshua Janavel and the Waldensians, the first people in European history to rebel against their ruler for the purpose of religious freedom.

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Ellis, Warren Ellis declassifies his upcoming run on ‘James Bond’

Although he’s written his share of secret agents in the past — John Stone keeps popping into my head as I write this — Warren Ellis will soon get his hands on the ultimate super-spy when his run on Dynamite’s James Bond comic begins later this month.

Titled “VARGR,” the first story arc has Bond returning to London after a mission of vengeance in Helsinki, to take up the workload of a fallen 00 Section agent. In his latest Orbital Operations email, sent out this past weekend, Ellis shared several details about his upcoming run on James Bond — which, as a commission via the Ian Fleming estate, will feature the secret agent from the books rather than the movies. Or, as Ellis put it, “This is meant to be Fleming’s Bond.”

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Smash Pages Q&A: Eric-Nolen Weathington on ‘Modern Masters: Paolo Rivera’

While Eric Nolen-Weathington’s Modern Masters Volume 30: Paolo Rivera was released late in 2014, this has been my first opportunity to chat with one of my favorite interviewers in the comics industry about his latest projects. Added bonus, I had no idea that Rivera was mentored by David Mazzucchelli, so that added another layer of enjoyment for this interview.

For fans of Jim Aparo, there is good news about the long-awaited Modern Masters edition. More immediately though the next Modern Masters subject will be J.H. Williams III.

Thanks to Eric for the interview.

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Waid, Wu reveal ‘The Lipstick Incident’ in ‘Archie’ #4

Find out why Archie and Betty broke up Nov. 25.

Fans of the relaunched Archie series have two things to look forward to in issue #4. First, of course, is the addition of artist Annie Wu, who joins writer Mark Waid on the series, and second, the revelation of what exactly “The Lipstick Incident” was.

“Finally, the details of the #Lipstic​kIncident are revealed as we see what exactly broke up the power couple of Archie Andrews and Betty Cooper–and you’ll never guess!” Waid said in a press release. Waid and Fiona Staples, who drew the first three issues, have had fun teasing what exactly “The Lipstick Incident” is in the pages of the previous issues, and it’s nice they won’t keep us guessing much longer. Wu’s been doing some killer work on Hawkeye and Black Canary, so it’ll be interesting to see what she does in rebooted Riverdale. To get a taste, check out some preview pages below, along with all the various variant covers for the book

Archie #4, by Waid, Wu, colorists Andre Szymanowicz and Jen Vaughn, and letterer Jack Morelli, arrives Nov. 25.

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‘Nowhere Men’ returns with new artist Dave Taylor

Taylor takes over as artist from Nate Bellegrade with issue #7, which arrives in January.

Nowhere Men, the “scientists-as-rock-stars” comic by Image co-publisher Eric Stephenson, artist Nate Bellegrade and Einser award-winning colorist Jordie Bellaire, will return in January with a new artist, Dave Taylor (Batman: Death by Design, Judge Dredd, Prophet).

“It’s very cool to work on something you admire,” Taylor said in the press release. “My respect for the first series is making me work extra hard to fulfil Eric’s concept to the end, in fact, this is the best work I’ve done for years.”

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