Smash Pages Q&A | Lawrence Lindell + Breena Nuñez

The small press publishers discuss Laneha House, ‘The BAYlies’ anthology and more.

For 12 days, we’re looking back at the 2021 that was in the world of comics, with interviews, commentary and more. Check back often!

Lawrence Lindell and Breena Nuñez have separately been making comics for years, but recently the married couple teamed up to launch the small press Laneha House.

They’re publishing and republishing their work, including One, To Black Girl with Love and many other projects. They also have a quarterly anthology, also titled Laneha House, the fourth issue of which came out this month. They also publish The BAYlies anthology, which is a great collection of work from cartoonists form the San Francisco Bay Area.

I spoke with the two recently about their many projects and looking ahead to the future.

For people who don’t know, what is Laneha House?

Both:  Laneha House is a family run small press that publishes our work from us – Breena Nuñez and Lawrence Lindell – in multiple forms and the BAYlies magazine anthology. It’s also our last name we chose when we got married. 

It’s not just the name of your publishing house, it’s also the name of this series that the two of you are doing. For people who haven’t seen it, what’s in it and what’s in the third issue that’s about to come out?

Both:  The series is a $5 comic series. The third issue features comics and comic art done by both of us over the years. Some of the pages are from the archive of things that never quite became anything, others are rereleases and some are new. 

How do you decide what should be included and are you thinking about how the different stories relate to each other in each issue? I mean nothing has a theme but you’re also not just throwing whatever into each issue, so i’m curious about the curation and thinking behind each.

Lawrence:  There is no theme for the first 2 other than they are black and white comics. The third issue’s theme is kinda like an introduction to the many styles we both work in. It’s also the first to include single pages of illustrations and sketchbook art. I usually go through all of our stacks of sketchbooks, artwork and original comic pages and select the ones that feel good together. I run that by Breena – who gets the final say – and I put the comic together. I try to have each issue have a good range of what we do since we work in so many styles and formats. 

Neither of you has an ongoing serial or regular features in the series. It is just a collection of short pieces. What do you like about short comics and short stories?

Lawrence:  I feel like our regular features are being reserved for Laneha House Digital. I also love the idea of short stories because you get to pack more ideas into a single project. On it’s own these would have been singular mini comics. The goal of the series is to make a $5 comic that you get at least 4 mini comics in. Not a bad use of 5 bucks! [laughs]

Breena:  These Laneha House comics were also influenced by the existence of art books featuring people like Adrian Tomine or Jaime Hernandez. It’s nice to experience the breadth of their work, but also the evolution of each person’s cartooning style and seeing where it all started. Whenever Lawrence shows me spreads of some of our older work from a couple of years ago; and I don’t always look back in the past that often to appreciate how far my style evolved into what it is today.

You two also made a very different kind of comic together, One. Well, you sort of made it together? But talk about this idea and working together in this way.

Lawrence:  We originally made that back in 2017. It started with a one half drawing of my face, then Breena drew her face on the other side. We decided to continue that style for the comics. Each drawing a separate story on each side. We wanted to experiment with the form and how a comic can be read. And we made it together, but not in the traditional way of what people think of when you create a comic together and I feel that plays into the theme of making experiential comics. 

Breena:  The process sort of reminds me of that drawing game, “exquisite corpse”, where one person is creating a piece of the art and the other person is simply unaware of what’s being illustrated. But in our case I had no idea what kind of direction Lawrence was taking whenever it was his turn to draw on the page. The point wasn’t really about copying or mirroring each other’s cartooning style or narrative, but it was about improvising and seeing how people could interpret the comic themselves. 

I wanted to ask about The BAYlies, which is an amazing collection of work by BiPOC and queer cartoonists. where did this idea come from and how did you assemble it?

Lawrence: I started the BAYlies in 2018 as a way to connect and archive Bay Area Cartoonists of Color and Queer Cartoonists. Originally I was just gonna publish it as its own thing, since The BAYlies is it’s own thing, but we launched Laneha House around the time the kickstarter ended and since we would have been doing all the printing and distribution anyways, it made it easier to combine the two. 

We did a print zine back in december 2018. There are a few floating around. I took that same concept, but added a budget and more cartoonists. 

Are you interested in putting together another one, or editing more anthologies?

Lawrence:  I started planning for issue 2 and 3 around the time I planned for issue 1. So there will be more, but this year and last really did a number on us, so until we are finished distributing issue 1, I’m gonna hold off until next year for issue 2. 

You’ve been putting out these comics at a time when things have been shut down, the pandemic meant that we didn’t have shows and festivals. And what has it been like putting out work without that way of selling them, that way of meeting people and getting a response.

Lawrence:  We are fortunate that we have been doing this for a while and a lot of people are familiar with our work individually, so the transition has been easy. And we have been doing a lot of virtual workshops and panels, so we kinda get to meet folx and introduce them to our work. Since we are our own printers and distributors, we can do small runs that make sense for any situation. 

Breena:  Last year felt somewhat slow on my end in terms of creating comics during a good portion of 2020. As Lawrence mentioned, the pandemic was a heavy time for us, and as a college professor I had to really invest in time to learn how to adapt to online teaching modalities and be flexible with the needs of my students. But it did teach me the fact that creating content – both for reading/entertainment and learning – how important it is to connect to communities online because it allows us to really reach beyond our physical capacity. 

As far as Laneha House, what are your ambitions for the press and for the series? What both of you are thinking about as the end of the year approaches and looking ahead to next year?

Lawrence:  Laneha House Issue 4 comes out in December and Issue 5-8 comes out next year. Next year is all about color, so expect most of our releases to be in color. We have three releases left this year, and next year we have five releases scheduled so far. The hope is to get back to touring, but we already have some virtual panels and workshops lined up for 2022. We are also gonna continue our cartoon series The Lanehas and House and we have a few gallery exhibitions in the near future. 

On a personal level, I’ve got some more video stuff I’m currently editing for us and really want to expand on that aspect of the press. I want Laneha House to be known as an interdisciplinary small press. We both have a background in music, organizing events, and education. Breena studied graphic design for undergrad and I studied Animation/illustration, so it makes sense that we explore all of our practices and combine them together.

Breena:  I do hope that I’ll be in a place where I have more time to work and publish a long-form memoir, so I’m hoping to be better about finding a balance between teaching and investing in personal projects. As far as the press I’m thinking of designing some other things that I miss creating for tours like wearable merch like t-shirts or buttons. This might be beyond my capacity and skill level but I also think designing a little 3-D vinyl version of our press’s mascot – House – would be so dope! 

At one point we used to discuss being on tour not only just to sell comics but to also provide workshops to folks. As nice as it has been to work in the comfort of home, I do miss witnessing people’s growth during a workshop and sharing physical copies of zines and comics. Sharing the same physical space in the community is something I hope to see more of next year. As long as we’re still wearing masks and washing our hands.

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