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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Smash Pages Q&A: Gale Galligan takes on ‘The Baby-Sitters Club’

The artist discusses her work on the popular graphic novel series as well as her recent Garfield fan comic, ‘Jon.’

A lot of comics readers know Gale Galligan for her webcomics and short comics like Patbird and Galesaur, 12 Days in Ireland, and Weeb, but this month her first full length graphic novel comes out from Scholastic’s Graphix imprint, which will likely introduce her to a whole new audience. The Baby-Sitters Club: Dawn and the Impossible Three is the fifth book in the graphic novel series. Galligan is taking the reins adapting and drawing the series from Raina Telgemeier.

Already hard at work on the second book in the series, Galligan isn’t slowing down at all, and showed up to this year’s SPX with a new minicomic, Jon. We talked about writing for kids, finding her own style, and Garfield.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Jennifer and Matthew Holm on ‘Swing It, Sunny’

The duo discuss their followup to 2015’s ‘Sunny Side Up’ from Scholastic’s Graphix imprint.

Jennifer and Matthew Holm have been collaborating for years now on two series of graphic novels for kids, Babymouse and Squish. The two have also made board books and a picture book together, and separately worked on other projects. Matt co-wrote and drew the recent Marvin and the Moths and Jennifer is also a Newbury Honor winning author of prose novels like The Fourteenth Goldfish and Turtle in Paradise.

In 2015, Scholastic’s Graphix imprint published Sunny Side Up, a stand-alone graphic novel about girl spending the summer with her grandfather in Florida. Sunny is back in a new book Swing It, Sunny, which picks up where the first book left off with Sunny facing middle school. I reached out to the duo by e-mail and we spoke about the book’s autobiographical elements, how they work together and what the heck swing flag is.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Catel Muller and José-Louis Bocquet on ‘Josephine Baker’

The duo discuss their work on the biography of the actress, dancer and Civil Rights activist.

Catel Muller and José-Louis Bocquet have been working together for a number of years, though American readers likely first read them in 2012 when SelfMadeHero/Abrams released Kiki de Montparnasse, which was awarded the Audience Prize at the 2008 Angoulême International Comics Festival. Bocquet is a writer, editor and former journalist with a long list of credits both in and out of comics. Muller, who goes by “Catel” has received a number of awards for her solo work and her collaborations including the 2005 Audience Prize at Angoulême for Le Sang des Valentines, and the 2014 Prix Artémisia for Ainsi soit Benoîte Groult.

The two have set out to tell the stories of great women and their most recent book is a biography of and tribute to one of the great figures of the 20th Century, Josephine Baker. Perhaps more beloved in France than in her home country of the United States, she was a dancer and actress. Baker fought her whole life for Civil Rights and was a member of the French Resistance. At the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, she told the crowd, “I do not lie to you when I tell you I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents, but I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee.”

The result is Josephine Baker, a lengthy book with more than a hundred pages of bibliography and supplemental material. It is also a visual masterpiece and perhaps Catel’s most inventive work to date. The two were kind enough to talk about the project and answered their questioned together. Thanks to Maya Bradford at Abrams for arranging this.

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