Smash Pages Q&A: Elizabeth LaPensée on ‘Deer Woman: An Anthology’

The professor, writer and game designer discusses her latest anthology, a collection of stories about resistance, healing, empowerment and hope.

Elizabeth LaPensée seems to lead many lives. She’s an assistant professor at Michigan State University, a visual artist and also designs games like Thunder Strike and Honour Water. She’s also a comics writer and artist and editor. Her work has appeared in both volumes of the MOONSHOT anthology, and she’s also made a number of webcomics including The Nature of Snakes, Fala, and The West was Lost. LaPensée is also writing and drawing short comics and editing or co-editing a number of upcoming anthologies including Sovereign Traces: Not Just Another and Relational Constellation.

Her comic Deer Woman was a success and struck a chord with many readers and creators and this fall Native Realities Press is publishing Deer Woman: An Anthology, which LaPensée co-edited, featuring the work of a number of creators who use the story of the deer woman to tell stories of resistance, healing, empowerment and hope. After a successful Kickstarter, the anthology is out this fall and LaPensée spoke about the project and her work.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Andrew White and Madeleine Witt

The editors of ‘Warmer: A Collection of Comics About Climate Change for the Fearful and Hopeful’ discuss putting together the anthology as well their own stories that appear in the collection.

Andrew White and Madeleine Witt are the editors of the new anthology Warmer: A Collection of Comics About Climate Change for the Fearful and Hopeful, which debuted at SPX last month. A collection featuring 16 stories by 19 creators, the project tries to consider the impact of global climate change from different perspectives. It’s about eco-anxiety, and responding to a world changing around us in very fundamental ways.

The anthology features the work of a number of talented cartoonists including L Nichols, Caitlin Skaalrud and Maggie Umber, as well as stories from Witt and White. The project refuses to be hopeless and yet does not traffic in “feel good” platitudes that suggest “everything will be fine.” I spoke with Witt and White about the project and walking that line in this important book.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Liniers on ‘Good Night, Planet’

The creator of ‘Macanudo’ discusses his latest project from TOON Books, humor and how his daughters influence him

Since 2002, Liniers has been entertaining Argentina with the daily comic strip Macanudo and for English language readers, the fourth collection of translated strips will be published in the spring. He’s also been drawing album covers and New Yorker magazine covers, and even had a recent comic in the pages of The New York Times. Since 2013 he’s made three children’s books, all of which have been published by Toon Books.

His most recent book is Good Night, Planet, which has also been released in a Spanish language edition, Buenas Noches, Planeta. It is funny and sweet with a sense of strangeness and a feeling of adventure. It also feels like autumn in New England. Liniers and his family have been living in Vermont for the past year where Liniers was a fellow at the Center for Cartoon Studies and we spoke recently by phone about the book, the strip, humor, how his daughters influence him, and not being Woody Allen.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Michel Fiffe on ‘Zegas’

The ‘Copra’ creator revisits its predecessor, which will be collected and released by Fantagraphics.

Today Michel Fiffe is best known for Copra, the acclaimed Suicide Squad-inspired adventure story that he self-publishes. Before he made Copra, Fiffe started self-publishing with the series Zegas. It only lasted three issues, but the stories of siblings Emily and Boston Zegas take place in an unnamed city and combines quiet realistic stories with dynamic styles, wild backgrounds and interacts with the story in interesting ways. I made the comparison to George Herriman’s Krazy Kat who had wild backgrounds and used them to convey a feeling. Zegas doesn’t take place in a science fiction city, but it captures a lot of the energy and craziness that comes from moving to a big city and experiencing urban life for the first time.

Fantagraphics has just published a collection of Zegas, along with a brand new story Fiffe created for the collection. He continues to publish Copra, with issue #31 out now and a fifth collection coming out early next year from Bergen Street Comics, and is creating a new series Negativeland on Patreon. In addition, this week brought the news that Fiffe is working on Bloodstrike, the 1990s comic created by Rob Liefeld. This interview was conducted before that news broke.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Teva Harrison on ‘In-Between Days’

The Governor General’s Literary Award finalist discusses her graphic memoir, the first comic to be a finalist for the prize in any category.

When Teva Harrison was 37, she was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. This terminal diagnosis changed Harrison’s life and her work. Trained as an artist, Harrison turned to narrative for the first time and began making comics and writing stories about living with her diagnosis, coping with the many problems, and imagining a path forward. Harrison’s first book, In-Between Days, is a collection of her comics and prose, many of which appeared in The Walrus. The book was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction in Canada, the first comic to be a finalist for the prize in any category, and pieces which appear in the book have been nominated for The National Magazine Award and the Canadian Magazine Award.

In-Between Days is not a saccharine, overly sunny book that claims a positive attitude is the key to survival; rather, Harrison’s work is the embodiment of Antonio Gramsci’s oft-quoted statement, “I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.” Harrison’s book is dark but not despairing, and that’s because of her personality. She is making comics and writing stories, going on safari in Africa and taking part in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade and climbing mountains. Harrison knows that cancer will kill her, but she is determined every day to not let it destroy her. The book is passionate and overwhelming and unsparing and joyous and unsentimental and beautiful and painful. It is human and humane, and it will stay with you. As Harrison put it, “Life is rich. It is absolutely an adventure, still.”

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Smash Pages Q&A: Stephanie Graegin on ‘Super Manny Stands Up!’

The young picture book artist talks about the backstory of the greatest superhero story of 2017.

In recent years, artist Stephanie Graegin has established herself as one of the best young picture book artists. If anyone wasn’t convinced of her talents, this year saw the release of three picture books that Greagin illustrated, including one based on the Elvis Presley song Love Me Tender, two novels that she illustrated, in addition to her debut as a writer and illustrator, Little Fox in the Forest.

The sheer volume of work she’s able to draw is impressible, but she is also very good, and there is so much detail and nuance in her work to pour over. From a day in the life of a city park to what it means to have a relative suffering from Alzheimer’s to the nature of being a collector to the small joys found in everyday, Graegin finds a way to blend a playful style with the profound in a way that brings these humanistic stories to life. Moreover she does so with such care and detail, as though each page is a world.

This summer saw the release of Super Manny Stands Up! which was written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Graegin. It is a story about the power of imagination and the way that it can influence and change lives, and is, quite simply, one of the best and most important superhero stories of the year. Super Manny is the hero we need and thankfully Stephanie Graegin is one of the artists we have. She answered a few questions about how she works, and how her superpower seems to be not sleeping.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Kim Dwinell on ‘Surfside Girls’

The animator discusses her first graphic novel, surfing, the ocean and more.

Kim Dwinell has been teaching and working in animation for years, but this years she’s written and drawn her first graphic novel, Surfside Girls, Book One: The Secret of Danger Point. The book, which is out now from Top Shelf, is a beautifully painted young adult mystery/adventure story. Two 12-year-olds, Samantha and Jade, live in the sleepy beach town of Surfside and become involved in s series of strange occurrences that include the titular Danger Point, ghosts, the town’s history, and a group of boys who find what they think is a baby pterodactyl.

There’s a timeless quality to the adventure, but Dwinell is also threading other more complicated stories in the background, stories of the town, of the history of California, and the result is a book that manages to capture some of that spirit and energy found in Scooby Doo and a lot of other old mystery stories that so many of us fell in love with as kids, and establishing a rich setting. This is Dwinell’s debut book, but the way she uses design and layout throughout show just how much she understands about how comics work. Summer is over, but I reached out to Dwinell to talk about the book, her background in animation, and the ocean.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Étienne Davodeau on ‘The Cross-Eyed Mutt’

The French creator discusses his latest graphic novel from NBM, a very serious comedy about a security guard at the Louvre.

Étienne Davodeau’s graphic novel The Cross-Eyed Mutt, recently published in a translated version from NBM, has a hilarious premise. Fabien is a security guard at the Louvre and when he meets his girlfriend’s family, they tell him that they have a painting from their ancestor. “Would our ancestor’s painting have a spot in the Louvre or is it an insignificant piece of crap?”

The book is the latest in a series of graphic novels published with the Louvre, and Davodeau uses the situation as a chance to tell a story that, like his Lulu Anew and The Initiates, manages to both poke fun at eccentrics and deeply honor unusual ways of looking at the world – sometimes simultaneously. It is a book that is profound and joyful and very funny about what we love about art and museums, about what we remember, how we see ourselves, and in the end, how we live our lives.

The Cross-Eyed Mutt is in short, a very serious comedy, and it is one of the year’s best books. Thanks to Terry Nantier and Stefan Blitz at NBM, I had a chance to speak with Davodeau about spending time in the Musée du Louvre, his own thoughts on art, and whether we might be able to get my great-uncle’s work into the museum.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Janice Macleod on ‘A Paris Year’

The author and painter discusses her ‘comics-adjacent’ books on the City of Lights.

Janice Macleod doesn’t make comics, but her Paris Letters are clearly comics-adjacent. For years she’s been painting images of Paris and elsewhere and combining it with text, a story or her own observations about the place or events. She detailed the story behind how she ended up in Paris, crafting these letters and selling them through etsy in her bestselling book Paris Letters. The book is essentially a how-to guide for leaving your job and becoming a flâneur in Paris, a description she enjoyed.

Her new book is A Paris Year, which is an artist’s book, a datebook-like volume of drawings, photographs and stories about the city.

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