Smash Pages Q&A | Andrew J. Kunka

The professor and author discusses his new book about the life and work of the late cartoonist Howard Cruse.

Andrew J. Kunka is the author of the book Autobiographical Comics and a professor of English at the University of South Carolina Sumter. The comics scholar’s new book is The Life and Comics of Howard Cruse: Taking Risks in the Service of Truth.

The book looks at the life of the late cartoonist Howard Cruse, but it primarily takes a deep dive into a lot of the short comics work that Cruse did over the course of his career. Cruse is known as the godfather of gay comics and is known for his graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby, his long running comic strip Wendel and his role as the founding editor of Gay Comix. His short comics work, from the earliest stage of his career and the comics he drew in the later years of his life, have been understudied, and Kunka does a deep dive into why these comics, which are reprinted in full, are important. It is a thoughtful and deep analysis and celebration of an important and understudied cartoonist.

Kunka was kind enough to take some time out to talk about the book and his work.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Amy Kim Kibuishi

The creator of ‘The Rema Chronicles: Realm of the Blue Mist’ discusses the recently released graphic novel from Scholastic.

Amy Kim Kibuishi was part of a generation of cartoonists who emerged as a force in the early 2000s. Kibuishi was an acclaimed web cartoonist, one of the contributors to the legendary Flight anthologies and a winner of the Rising Stars of Manga competition. Her Sorcerers and Secretaries duology were released through Tokyopop in 2006 and 2007.

Her new book The Rema Chronicles: Realm of the Blue Mist has been a project that Kibuishi has carried with her for many years. It began with her webcomic Reman Mythologies and has evolved into this new graphic novel series, the first volume of which is out this month from Scholastic’s Graphix imprint. 

It’s great to have new comics from her again, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions about carrying the story with her for so long, and how the meaning has changed.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Emma Hunsinger + Tillie Walden

The creators of ‘My Parents Won’t Stop Talking!’ discuss the new picture book, their creative process, the differences between making comics and children’s books, and more.

Separately Emma Hunsinger and Tillie Walden have crafted impressive bodies of work. Tillie Walden is the Eisner Award winning cartoonist of Spinning, On a Sunbeam, Are You Listening? and other books. Emma Hunsinger is known for She Would Feel the Same, which was published by Shortbox, and How To Draw a Horse, which was published in The New Yorker and nominated for an Eisner Award, a National Magazine Award and a National Cartoonist Society Divisional Award.

The two have collaborated on a new picture book, My Parents Won’t Stop Talking! which is hilarious and visually exciting. The main character Molly just wants to go to the park, and what follows is deeply relatable but also beautifully bizarre and inventive in all the best ways.

I spoke with both Hunsinger and Walden about the new book, the differences between creating children’s books and comics, their inspirations and boring “adult chit chat.”

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Smash Pages Q&A | Alek Shrader

The opera singer and comics writer discusses the graphic novel adaptation of ‘Carmen’ that is currently being crowdfunded by the Arizona Opera.

Alek Shrader is a an opera singer and director, and the writer behind the new graphic novel Carmen. It’s an adaptation of the opera by Georges Bizet, one of the most popular and successful operas of all time, which has been adapted to other mediums a lot of over the years.

Joining Shrader on this project is the great P. Craig Russell, who has adapted many operas in the past, and artist Aneke, who is drawing the critically acclaimed Bylines in Blood on the stands now. The project from Arizona Opera is being kickstarted now, and I spoke with Shrader and about his background as a comics reader, his approach to adaptation and his thoughts on the opera.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Otava Heikkilä

The Finnish cartoonist discusses the latest volume of ‘Letters for Lucardo,’ which is currently being crowdfunded by Iron Circus Comics.

Otava Heikkilä has been making the series Letters for Lucardo in recent years, and this week Iron Circus Comics will be crowdfunding the third volume in the series, Letters for Lucardo: The Silent Lord.

The series is about the relationship between a vampire and a mortal, and Heikkilä has brought a unique take and sensibility to the project. It’s a beautiful drawn and very delicately told love story with explicit sex scenes and it’s been striking to see how Heikkilä has grown as an artist and storyteller.

I’ve spoken with Heikkilä in the past, and we spoke briefly about this third volume, which is being crowdfunded starting today through April 28.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Alisa Kwitney on ‘G.I.L.T.’

The comics writer, novelist and former Vertigo editor discusses her latest comic from Ahoy Comics, which she describes as ‘The Golden Girls’ meets ‘Sex and the City’—by way of ‘The Twilight Zone.’

Alisa Kwitney is a name familiar to many comics readers. For many years, she was an editor at Vertigo, overseeing The Dreaming and many other projects, in addition to being the Eisner-nominated writer of comics like Vertigo Visions: Phantom Stranger, Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold and A Flight of Angels. She’s also written number of other comics, including Token for the short-lived Minx imprint and Mystik U. Kwitney is also a well known novelist of books including The Dominant Blonde, Sex As a Second Language, and Cadaver & Queen, in addition to being one-half of the people behind the Endless podcast.

In the new Ahoy Comics series that launches next week, Kwitney and artist Alain Mauricet introduce us to G.I.L.T. An acronym, we come to learn, that stands for “Guild of Independent Lady Temporalists.” The book opens in 1973 before jumping to 2017 and to say much more would spoil it, but Kwitney was kind enough to talk about the book without, we hope, saying too much.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Kendra Wells

The creator of ‘Real Hero Shit’ discusses the role-playing origins of the graphic novel, working with publisher Iron Circus, their work at The Nib and more.

For years now, cartoonist and illustrator Kendra Wells has been one of those people making short comics for various outlets including The Nib, where they excel at finding ways to make readers laugh out loud as their blood pressure skyrockets, remembering just how angry they are at what’s happening in the world. Last year they collaborated with writer Sam Maggs on the graphic novel Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas, and Iron Circus just released Wells’ debut as a writer and artist, Real Hero Shit.

Real Hero Shit features a mismatched group of adventurers who, in between attacking each other, do actually stumble onto a mystery and manage to help a village. It’s funny and weird, and it manages to walk that very fine line of loving and paying tribute to the genre and its tropes, while also undermining and mocking almost all of them. And while it’s no surprise that Wells is able to write funny dialogue, they deftly manage to juggle writing a long narrative with character moments, humor and making a story that feel familiar but also surprising.

The first of hopefully many such books, Real Hero Shit is out now and next week, a new dating sim game that Wells is the lead writer for, Kiss U, goes live on Kickstarter. They were kind enough to answer a few questions about their book.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Alex Segura’s ‘Secret Identity’

The comics writer, novelist and industry veteran discusses his newest book, which combines his love of mysteries with the comic book industry.

Alex Segura is known to comics readers for various comics projects ranging from The Dusk to The Black Ghost to Archie Meets the B-52’s to the upcoming The Awakened, but the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Oni-Lion Forge has another career as a novelist. Segura has written an acclaimed series of novels featuring journalist-turned-private eye Pete Fernandez, and his new novel Secret Identity bridges these two worlds.

A murder mystery set in 1970s New York, the novel centers around Carmen Valdez, an assistant at Triumph Comics who aspires to be a writer. After a co-worker is murdered, Valdez tries to understand what happened. Chapters of the novel are also interspersed with pages from the fictional The Lynx comic book, which Valdez co-wrote in the novel, but are drawn by real-life artist Sandy Jarrell.

The novel is a departure for Segura, less focused on plot but more about character and atmosphere, focused on evoking another era and a look inside the comics industry of that time. It’s his best and richest work to date, and we had a chance to talk recently about the novel, which is out this week.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Nate Cosby on ‘Alter Ego’

The writer and editor discusses his latest graphic novel, which is now being crowdfunded on Kickstarter.

Nate Cosby has been writing and editing comics for years His work has included from Cow Boy, Pigs and other projects, including his latest graphic novel, Alter Ego.

Alter Ego stars Hollywood stuntman Ace Adams as two different superheroes. Cosby mentioned the late great Gene Kelly as one inspiration for their hero, and it’s easy to see the balletic acrobatics of Kelly’s The Three Musketeers in Ace Adams’ moves as artist Jacob Edgar depicts the character’s double duty as the heroes Whiz-Bang and The Black Dog.

The graphic novel is currently being kickstarted and Cosby answered a few questions about the book and his inspirations.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Eric Palicki on ‘Black’s Myth’

With the collection now out from Ahoy Comics, writer Eric Palicki talks about the first volume of the supernatural ‘L.A. noir’ comic ‘Black’s Myth.’

In the past few years Eric Palicki has developed his reputation as a writer and editor thanks to comics like Atlantis Wasn’t Built for Tourists, Fake Empire and No Angel, and anthologies like All We Ever Wanted, Dead Beats and This Nightmare Kills Fascists. For the Ahoy Comics series Black’s Myth, the collection of which was just released, Palicki re-teamed with artist Wendell Cavalcanti to tell the story of a werewolf named Strummer who lives in Los Angeles and avoids the supernatural world. Or tries to, at any rate.

The book is a dark noirish tale with a lot of humor, with Cavalcanti’s black and white artwork inside contrasted with the neon colors of Liana Kangas’ covers, the book screams “L.A. noir.” The supernatural angle, though, is all Palicki, and Black’s Myth feels like a book he’s been building towards, both in terms of subject and sensibility, and in his skill at storytelling.

The trade collection of the first was just released with a second volume coming out in the fall, and Palicki answered a few questions about the book.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Jeffrey A. Brown

The pop culture scholar discusses his latest books on superheroes, diversity and gender.

Jeffrey A. Brown is an associate professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and over the past few years has written a number of books that have looked at comics, fandom and popular culture through the lens of gender and race. Some of those titles include The Modern Superhero in Film and Television; Beyond Bombshells: The New Action Heroine in Popular Culture; Dangerous Curves: Action Heroines, Gender, Fetishism, and Popular Culture; and Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans.

Last year Rutgers University Press published two books by Brown. At the beginning of the year they published Panthers, Hulks, and Ironhearts: Marvel, Diversity and the 21st Century Superhero and at year’s end, Love, Sex, Gender, and Superheroes. What struck me most about his work is the way he manages to combine a broad reading – his new book looks at the comics and how portrayals have changed over time, film and TV adaptations, fan fiction and porn parodies, and everything in between. He combines a close reading of the comics with a broad look at these subjects across media and culture, and he does so in ways that fans can relate to and talk about.

We spoke in late 2021 about his new book and his work more broadly, and the need to be a fan of what you study.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Sarah Winifred Searle on ‘The Greatest Thing’

The creator of ‘Sincerely, Harriet’ discusses her latest graphic novel, mental health management, making zines and more.

Sarah Winifred Searle’s new book The Greatest Thing is a thoughtful and raw book about teenagers that, like all her work, is brutally honest but not unkind, looking at mental health and the possibilities of art. It is a quiet story about high school outsiders who are creative and rebellious in their own ways, struggling with their own issues as much as they push against their small town and expectations.

Searle is the cartoonist behind Sincerely, Harriet, which I talked with her about when it was published, and many other books and short comics. I was thrilled to talk about her new book, which is her best work to date.

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