Smash Pages Q&A | Jeremy Holt

The writer of ‘After Houdini’ discusses their two recent projects, ‘Made in Korea’ and ‘House of Slay.’

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

Jeremy Holt is the writer behind a number of comics including the books After Houdini and Before Houdini, and the Comixology Original series Virtual Yours, but 2021 has been a big year for them. The six issue miniseries Made in Korea that Holt made with George Schall came out from Image Comics, with the collection coming out in January. It’s a stunning story, but perhaps even more than being a good story about artificial intelligence and a world where “synthetics” live amongst us, it’s notable for how Holt managed to find a new angle on the idea. Holt is open about being an adoptee and framing the story of AI as a story of adoption is incredibly obvious, but that metaphor adds insight and clarity and reframes a lot of the issues in important ways.

Last month Tapas began serializing House of Slay, which Holt made with cover artist and designer Kevin Wada, artist Too Lee, colorist Kimi Lee, and editor Alex Lu. The story features fashion designers Prabal Gurung, Phillip Lim, Laura Kim of Oscar De La Renta, and Tina Leung and Ezra J William and turns them into superheroes. After a year with two very different high profile projects, I reached out to Holt to talk about artificial intelligence, how projects cross-pollinate, and finding their voice.

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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.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Shaenon Garrity on ‘Willowweep Manor,’ ‘Skin Horse’ and more

The editor, web cartoonist and writer discusses her latest graphic novel and the end of her long-running webcomic.

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!

Shaenon Garrity has been working in comics for years. An editor at Viz Media, she’s a longtime web cartoonist starting with Narbonic, which she launched in 2000, and she’s been a comics critic for nearly as long in the pages of The Comics Journal and other publications.

Garrity currently makes the webcomic Skin Horse with Jeffrey Wells, and this year saw the release of the graphic novel The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor, which she made with Christopher Baldwin. The book stars Haley, a lover of gothic romances who finds herself in a gothic romance. Except it’s not, and she has to find a way to navigate her way through a very different kind of story. The book is wildly inventive and laugh out loud funny, which are two things that I always expect from Garrity’s work.

We spoke recently about gothic romance, mad scientists and ending her long-running strip Skin Horse next year.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Mike Cavallaro talks ‘Free Speech Handbook’

The creator of ‘Nico Bravo,’ ‘Parade (with Fireworks)’ and more discusses his work in adapting Ian Rosenberg’s ‘The Fight for Free Speech’ into a graphic novel, his ‘comics graffiti’ approach to the art and more.

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

Mike Cavallaro is the artist behind the new title from First Second Books’ World Citizen Comics, Free Speech Handbook: A Practical Framework for Understanding Our Free Speech Protections. For people who know Cavallaro as the creator behind the acclaimed Nico Bravo graphic novel series, it seems like an odd project, but Cavallaro’s entire career has been marked by the way he moves from one project to another, adjusting his style and approach for each.

Cavallaro has drawn a number of graphic novels including a pair of fantasy stories with Jane Yolen (Foiled! and Curses! Foiled Again!), a dark science fiction tale with Adam Rapp (Decelerate Blue). Cavallaro made two different projects with J.M. DeMatteis (Impossible, Incorporated and The Life and Times of Savior 28). That’s in addition to his own work, which includes the Eisner nominated Parade (with Fireworks) and his work as a member of Act-i-vate.

Free Speech Handbook is based on Ian Rosenberg’s book The Fight for Free Speech, which looks at ten landmark court cases that defined the First Amendment and relates them to contemporary controversies and cases. Like all of the World Citizen Comics books, it tackles a complicated topic in a way that tries to give people an understanding of not just what it means, but of the history behind it and the people who took up the fight for freedom. Cavallaro was kind enough to talk about making nonfiction, what makes Mark Siegel such a great editor and how Frank Frazetta inspired his style for this book.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Natasha Donovan on ‘Borders’

The artist and cartoonist discusses adapting Thomas King’s short story into a comic, working digitally, the often-thankless work of mothers and more.

Natasha Donovan has been working for many years as a picture book artist and cartoonist. She drew the Mothers of Xsan series of books written by Brett D. Huson, and the graphic novel Surviving the City, written by Tasha Spillett. She’s contributed to many anthologies, including This Place: 150 Years Retold and The Other Side: An Anthology of Queer Paranormal Romance. She also drew a story in the upcoming Marvel’s Voices: Heritage #1.

Donovan’s new book is Borders, an adaptation of the acclaimed short story by Thomas King. The fable-like tale is about a mother and son traveling from Canada to the U.S. to visit family, and when asked their citizenship at the border, the mother responds “Blackfoot.” It’s a book about strength, resisting categories and the imaginary lines that divide us. Adapting and drawing the story required a fine touch, and Donovan was masterful at depicting silence, telling it from the point of view of a child who doesn’t quite understand what’s happening, but is reflecting back on these events years later. It’s a striking book in so many ways.

Donovan was kind enough to talk recently about the book and how she works.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Bill Campbell talks ‘The Day the Klan Came to Town’

The writer and editor talks about his latest graphic novel, which is based on true events that occurred in Carnegie, Pennsylvania in 1923.

Bill Campbell is a writer and editor who readers might know from his books like Sunshine Patriots, My Booty Novel, Baaaad Muthaz, or anthologies like Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany; APB: Artists against Police Brutality. He’s also the founder and publisher of Rosarium Publishing, which has been publishing a great lineup of books and comics including The Hookah Girl and Other True Stories by Marguerite Dabaie, Box of Bones by Ayize Jama-Everett and John Jennings, and Ghost Stories by Whit Taylor.

This year PM Press published The Day the Klan Came to Town by Campbell and Bizhan Khodabandeh, which is arguably Campbell’s finest work to date. Based on true events in Carnegie, Pennsylvania in 1923 in which the Klan targeted a town of African-Americans, Catholics, Jews and immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe. It is a disturbingly contemporary tale and Campbell took time out to talk about the book and his work. 

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Smash Pages Q&A: Terry Blas on ‘Lifetime Passes’

The writer and artist discusses his new graphic novel ‘Lifetime Passes’ from the Surely imprint at Abrams Books.

Terry Blas has been writing and drawing comics for years. A member of Helioscope Studio, he’s written graphic novels like Hotel Dare and Dead Weight, and made the webcomic Briar Hollow.

His new book Lifetime Passes, which he made with Claudia Aguirre, is the debut book from the Surely imprint at Abrams Books. Curated by Mark Tamaki, the imprint publishes LGBTQIA+ stories by LGBTQIA+ creators, and this book feels very much of a piece with Blas’ other work, while also being deeper and powerful in really interesting ways. It’s a darkly comedic premise that is thoughtful and moving and in Jackie, the main character, Blas and Aguirre have created one of the great teenage characters in comics.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Matt Madden talks ‘Ex Libris’

The writer, artist, editor and teacher shares more about his latest, postmodern graphic novel from Uncivilized Books.

Matt Madden has been an acclaimed artist, not to mention editor, translator and teacher, for years. His 2005 book 99 Ways to Tell a Story is not just a great book about comics, but a great book about storytelling and art. In the years since, Madden co-wrote two textbooks with his wife Jessica Abel, Drawing Words and Writing Pictures and Mastering Comics, in addition to many other projects.

His new graphic novel Ex Libris is his best work to date. As visually stunning as it is intellectually dynamic, the book tells the story of a character who walks into a room and proceeds to open the books on a shelf, all of which are comics, each of which is a very different kind of story drawn in a different style. Madden is very consciously responding to work like Italo Calvino and Julio Cortázar, but doing so in a way that its uniquely comics and doing so in a way that is uniquely his own.

Other cartoonists might be able to work in as many styles and approaches as Madden is able to do here, but he’s not interested in simply drawing differently, but in crafting a narrative and in finding ways to use that style in the service of a larger more complicated story. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give Ex Libris is that I reread the book shortly after finishing it for the sheer pleasure of enjoying how every element came together.

Madden was kind enough to talk recently about the importance of play, the influences on his work, and how the four years he spent in Angoulême were pivotal to his career and finding his place in comics.

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Smash Pages Q&A | David Hajdu talks ‘A Revolution in Three Acts’

The music critic and writer discusses his new graphic novel that explores the lives and work of three of vaudeville’s biggest stars.

David Hajdu is an an acclaimed critic who’s best known as a music writer in magazines like Rolling Stone and The New Republic, Entertainment Weekly and The New York Review of Books, and in books like Lush Life and Positively 4th Street. Hajdu is also one of the great writers about comics.

His 2008 book The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America is simply one of the best books written about comics. In his book Heroes and Villains, in between articles and essays about Billy Eckstein and Dinah Washington, Mos Def and Joni Mitchell, were essays about Joe Sacco and Dan Clowes, Jules Feiffer and Marjane Satrapi.

Hajdu is currently the music editor at The Nation magazine and in the past two years he’s written two books very different from his previous work. 2020’s Adrienne Geffel was a novel written in the form of an oral history about an avant garde musician in 1980’s New York City. His new book is a graphic novel that Hajdu made in collaboration with his friend the artist John Carey. A Revolution in Three Acts: The Radical Vaudeville of Bert Williams, Eva Tanguay, Julian Eltinge looks at three of vaudeville’s biggest stars and the ways that their work was not what we typically think of vaudeville. Instead they were pushing boundaries and defying genres and expectations in ways that make them very modern. We recently spoke about the book and his work and trying to focus on creative work.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Tina Horn talks ‘SfSx: Terms of Service’

The writer, journalist and podcaster returns to talk about the latest volume of her erotic science fiction series with artist G Romero-Johnson.

Journalist and podcaster Tina Horn made a splash in comics when Safe Sex (or SfSx) was released by Image Comics in 2019. Originally developed at Vertigo before the imprint shut down, the comic was masterful.

Horn was a natural at writing fiction, her use of language was powerful, and the way she melded it to a science fiction thriller plot that addressed sex and gender, fascism and politics in exciting ways. The second volume of the series has been released a graphic novel, and it is even better. SfSx: Terms of Service deals with men’s rights, incels and sex robots; it looks at desire and power, and the violence inherent in repression. Horn is so precise with her language, and here she’s been able to examine the language around and dynamics of group identity, which can be helpful and allow people to build community, or can be harmful and be used to give individuals the illusion of autonomy so that people in power can control them. 

Describing the book in purely analytical terms does it a disservice, as Horn and artist G Romero-Johnson craft a story that manages to be as thrilling as it is erotic, and a great science fiction tale that’s so day after tomorrow that calling it dystopic or cyberpunk misses just how contemporary this book is. Horn was kind enough to take time out to talk about how she worked, the genius of Swamp Thing, and rethinking what “bimbos” mean.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Jon Adams + Ellis Rosen on ‘Send Help!’

The two cartoonists talk about their latest project — a collection of comics, games, puzzles and more about being stranded on a desert island.

Jon Adams and Ellis Rosen are cartoonists and illustrators who separately have contributed to The New Yorker, MAD, McSweeney’s and many other outlets. Together they’ve teamed up to edit the new book Send Help!: A Collection of Marooned Cartoons.

More than just a collection of comics, it includes a forward by Emma Allen, an afterward by Bob Mankoff, along with biographies of people famously stranded on desert islands, games and puzzles, along with cartoons by artists familiar to comics readers including legends like Rob Chast and Mort Gerberg, and many others like Ivan Brunetti, Liza Donnelly, Liana Finck, Emily Flake, Matt Furie, S Gross, Pia Guerra and Ian Boothby, Miriam Latin, Peter Kuper, Terry LaBan, Hartley Lin, Michael Marlin, Hilary Price and Shannon Wheeler.

Adams and Rosen answered a few question about their hilarious and bizarre book, which is out now, and that after more than a year of pandemic lockdown feels very timely and very timeless. 

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Smash Pages Q&A: Scott Snyder on ‘Clear’ and more

The writer and teacher discusses the first three comics released through his exclusive deal with comiXology Originals.

Scott Snyder made a splash earlier this year by announcing eight new comics coming out digitally through comiXology and then in print from Dark Horse Comics.

Three very different first issues have already come out from the line:

  • We Have Demons, which re-teams Snyder with Greg Capullo after the duo’s long run on Batman and other DC projects.
  • Clear, a cyberpunk tale featuring art and colors by Francis Manapul.
  • And Night of the Ghoul, a monster horror tale drawn by Francesco Francavilla.

With these three books out, I checked in with Snyder about the books and how they represent what he’s thinking about right now.

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