Anthology superstar Irene

Irene is a short story comics anthology put together by The Center for Cartoon Studies alumni Dakota McFadzean ’12, Andy Warner ’12, and DW ’12. The first volume came out in 2013 and has grown to 6 volumes, the most recent volume clocking in at 216 pages in 2015.

3 volumes of Irene

3 volumes of Irene

Dakota McFadzean is a Canadian cartoonist whose first book, Other Stories and the Horse You Rode in On, was published by Conundrum Press in 2013. For this collection, he won the 2016 Doug Wright Spotlight Award. Then his second book, Don’t Get Eaten by Anything, collected three years of daily comic strips called The Dailies drawn from 2010-2016.

Panel by Dakota MacFadzean

Panel by Dakota MacFadzean

Andy Warner is a contributing editor at The Nib and has taught cartooning at Stanford University, California College of the Arts, and the Animation Workshop in Denmark. His first book, Brief Histories of Everyday Objects just released with Picador. He makes comics in a garden shed in San Francisco and comes from the sea.

Panel by Andy Warner

Panel by Andy Warner

Irene 6 included some highlights of the CCS alum.

Front cover of Irene 5

Front cover of Irene 5

Back cover of Irene 5

Back cover of Irene 5

Shining star Luke Howard ’13 is an Ignatz-nominated cartoonist: Promising New Talent 2014 for his oh-so-creepy Trevor. He is also currently a teacher at CCS. This year he released two comics, Our Mother (Retrofit) and Talk Dirty to Me (AdHouse).

© 2016 Abram B. Olson All Rights Reserved

Panel by Luke Howard

Ink-pounder Tillie Walden ’16 was a first-time contributor in volume 6. She recently won Ignatz awards for both outstanding artist (for her debut graphic novel End of Summer with Avery Hill and Retrofit) and promising new talent.

Panel by Tillie Walden

Panels by Tillie Walden (’16)

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Visiting Artist: Spike Trotman

Spike's visiting artist board, drawn by Luke Howard

Spike’s visiting artist board, drawn by Luke Howard

C. Spike Trotman is a cartoonist and owner of Iron Circus Comics. She is a Kickstarting pro, running eight Kickstarters since 2009. She started with the first volume of her web comic, Templar Arizona.

© 2016 Abram B. Olson All Rights Reserved

Spike was animated and gregarious. And she spewed forth the backwaters of the comics scene.

© 2016 Abram B. Olson All Rights Reserved

In 2005, she began posting Templar Arizona online. In 2007, it won the Rising Star Award from the Glyph Comics Awards. It is an ongoing story with a character driven storyline. Her readers were clamoring for a print edition of Templar Arizona, so she funded that first volume using essentially a tip jar on her website.

© 2016 Abram B. Olson All Rights Reserved

Then in 2012, she was on the hunt for erotic comics geared for female readers. A small anthology called Smut Peddler had ceased putting out issues. She asked so many times when the next one was coming that she ended up doing it herself. She funded it through Kickstarter, and it was a smashing success. She even applied her fearlessness to ask Emily Carroll, at the beginning of her rise to stardom, to do her cover. And so began her publishing company, Iron Circus Comics.

© 2016 Abram B. Olson All Rights Reserved

This model has become the basis of her business. Through Iron Circus Comics, she has published other anthologies, including Sleep of Reason (horror) and New Worlds (science-fiction). As with erotica and Smut Peddler, she sees a hole in the market where she is looking for comics that she wants to read and makes an anthology to help fill that hole.

© 2016 Abram B. Olson All Rights Reserved

And now she is expanding into single creator/team comics. She published (and edited) Shadow Eyes by Sophie Campbell and Erin Watson about an aspiring vigilante teen. More recently, she published The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal, E. K. Weaver’s web comic. Spike is extremely excited about this comic because she is stepping up her game yet again.

© 2016 Abram B. Olson All Rights Reserved

Then right after leaving us in White River Junction, she started yet another Kickstarter for her next project, an erotic graphic novel, Letters for Lucardo. And all this is the briefest look at what she has accomplished. We can only expect more from this rock star.

© 2016 Abram B. Olson All Rights Reserved

Photos courtesy Abe Olson.

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Cider Press 2016

It is becoming tradition at CCS, three years running now, to do a cider pressing at the beginning of the school year. Alums, student, and staff gather together to crush a bunch of apples. We crush the life out of the apples to steal the nourishing nectar that will give us the power of a thousand apple cartoonists.

Apples are crushed to smitherenes.

Apples are crushed to smitherenes.

To strengthen our resolve, we are provided with plenty of pizza from a nearby restaurant where hundreds of cartoonists have gorged to their cheezy delight.

Luke and Dave bring the traditional pizza boxes in the glowing evening sun.

Luke Howard and Dave Lloyd bring the traditional pizza boxes in the glowing evening sun.

And finally.

It is time.

XX tossing in apples for XX to crush in the cider press.

Someone tosses in apples for Trevor Richardson (’18) to crush in the cider press.

XX poking apple smush back in for XX to finish pressing.

Rachel Ford (’18) poking apple smush back in for Hillary Mullins (’18) to finish pressing.

The juice is gather and poured into a tapped bucket. The most noble bucket. From this bucket, each alum, student, and staff can drink their fill of cider until bursting, and then fill more bottles to bring home.

Catherine Garberino ('17) pouring some fresh apple cider into the jug.

Catherine Garberino (’17) pouring some fresh apple cider into the jug.

When the cider gets too heady, some of the staff burst out in feats of strength and cunning. Students are awed. Alums are reminded of their own time being awed by the towering pillars that run our little community.

Luke Howard, master of all trades, juggling his way into the apples' hearts before tossing them to their doom.

Luke Howard, master of all trades, juggling his way into the apples’ hearts before tossing them to their doom. Catherine Garberino ducks in fear of an angry, rogue apple.

And then the evening begins to draw to a close. Jugs are capped. Cups are licked. Battles are fought and won for unclaimed bottles through the time-honored tradition of arm wrestling.

XX is very happy with her cider. Laura Martin looks on in jealousy.

Whitely Foster (’18) is very happy with her cider. Laura Martin (’17) looks on in jealousy.

Towards the end of the evening when the pizza has cooled and the ground glistens in drips and rivers of apple cider, Bagel the daschund/chihuahua nearly steals the show that rightfully belonged to the apples. Fortunately, the reining apples had juice and pulp strewn about to tempt Bagel away from her adoring fans.

XX holds Bagel, an unofficial mascot of CCS and part of the glorious Howard household.

Whitely Foster (’18) holds Bagel, an unofficial mascot of CCS and part of the glorious Howard household.

Photos courtesy Abe Olson.

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Visiting Artist: Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi is an Iranian-born French graphic novelist, cartoonist, illustrator, film director, and children’s book author. She created Persepolis, an autobiographical graphic novel about her childhood through early adult in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. It was later adapted to an animation of the same name.

Laura Martin's doodle from Satrapi's talk.

Laura Martin’s (’17) doodle from Satrapi’s talk.

Satrapi was the first Leslie Speaker Series at Dartmouth for the new season. The series is “dedicated to bringing in voices from a diversity of cultures, from within and without the United Sates.”

Sandra Bartholomew's ('17) sketch notes from Satrapi's talk

Sandra Bartholomew’s (’17) sketch notes from Satrapi’s talk

After Persepolis, she continued her memoirs with Embroideries, about her female relatives discussing their lives in Iran; and Chickens with Plums about her uncle, the lute player, who is ready to die after he realizes he cannot replace his broken lute.

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Visiting Artist: Jo Knowles

Knowles's visiting artist board, drawn by Luke Howard

Knowles’s visiting artist board, drawn by Luke Howard

Jo Knowles is a prose writer and teaches writing at Southern New Hampshire University. She mainly writes YA novels. She was an engaging and organized speaker, and quite funny.

© 2016 Abram B. Olson All Rights Reserved

Michelle Ollie talking with Knowles

Michelle Ollie talking with Knowles

Knowles’s first novel, Lessons From a Dead Girl (Candlewick, 2007), received The Pen New England Children’s Book Discovery Award and was named A New York Library Book for the Teen Age.

Knowles talking about character flaws

Knowles talking about character flaws

She talked about making characters real by including strengths and flaws. Power relationships between characters can really be a driving force for how to explain their relationships. A character can have different power dynamics with different characters depending on the setting. Characters don’t need to be overtly demanding about their powers; it can be shown through non-verbal actions.

Knowles's with a novel thumbnailed on a single sheet of paper

Knowles’s with a novel thumbnailed on a single sheet of paper

She talked about story boarding an entire novel on a single sheet of paper. The only information included in each chapter is the emotions that start and end each chapter and a tid bit of information.

Jacob Buessiere asks Knowles' a question. Also shown: Steve Thueson, Robyn Brooke-Smith, Rainer ERER, A, A, and A.

Jacob B. asks Knowles’ a question. Also shown: Steve Thueson, Robyn Brooke-Smith, Jarad Greene, and Moss Bastille.

Knowles and Howard can both answer questions.

Knowles and Howard can both answer questions.

Photos courtesy of Abe Olson.

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Natural science anthology on Kickstarter

Greetings from the world of science! The natural world is a wonderful place to explore, and it is very explorable through comics. Awesome ‘Possum, Volume 3, is a natural science comic anthology exploring the natural world. It is run by CCS alum Angela Boyle (that’s me), and it is now live on Kickstarter.

The third volume includes 45 creators, double the size of volume 2, and quadruple the size of volume 1. This volume has over 350 pages of black and white comics and illustration. This volume had open submissions, and a lot of CCSers applied.

Angela Boyle is a natural science illustrator, cartoonist, and editor. Her favorite animal is the Brazilian tapir. She owns two corgis, Nisa and Ernie. She has run Awesome ‘Possum since 2014. The anthology started after Angela took a natural science illustration certificate program at the University of Washington. She and her classmates weren’t ready to stop learning, and thus the anthology was born.

Allison Bannister (’15) is cartoonist originally from Kansas. She loves cats, tea and dinosaurs, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Communication.

From Allison's comic "Xiphactinus"

From Allison’s comic “Xiphactinus”

Bill Scavone, a medical illustrator, lives in VT with his wife & kids, cat, dog, goats, ducks, chickens, and bees. He’s taught life drawing at CCS since 2008.

From Bill's comic "Apis Mellifera and Varroa descrutor"

From Bill’s comic

Bridget Comeau (’15) is a self-proclaimed gnome queen, mushroom enthusiast, and lover of all woodland creatures. In addition to her comic, she is offering fantastic mushroom charms as a level on the Kickstarter.

From Bridget's comic "The Degu"

From Bridget’s comic “The Degu”

Hedj (’17) is a cartoonist from rural New York. When not drawing, Hedj enjoys cooking, costuming, catching salamanders, and crying about cartoons.

From Hedj's comic "Don't Call it a Comeback"

From Hedj’s comic “Don’t Call it a Comeback”

Iris Yan is a Brazilian-Chinese cartoonist who is a professionally trained aura reader. She believes life is humorous and likes to make funny comics.

From Iris's comic "How I Met Your Father"

From Iris’s comic “How I Met Your Father”

Kelly L. Swann (’16) enjoys telling characters’ stories through comics, as well as illustrations & portraits. She also enjoys studying history, films, people & drumming. Kelly is also offering a custom illustration in the Kickstarter.

Vulture illustration by Kelly

Vulture illustration by Kelly

Moss Bastille (’17) spends his time making comics and trying to trick people into thinking he’s an adult. He  was raised by squirrels.

From Moss's comic "Holy Fire"

From Moss’s comic “Holy Fire”

Ross Wood Studlar is a park ranger at Yellowstone. He practices martial arts and cooks a wholesome pasta salad.

From Ross's comic "Ressurection"

From Ross’s comic “Resurrection”

Salakjit (’16) was born in Bangkok, Thailand and raised in Queens, NY. She is a cartoonist, illustrator, and printmaker. When she’s not making art, Salakjit enjoys reading, sleeping, and eating spicy food.

From Salakjit's comic "Matriarchy"

From Salakjit’s comic “Matriarchy”

Shashwat Mishra is an Indian artist who has seen the Royal Bengal Tiger in the jungle on two different occasions and lived to tell the tale. He also loves a good steak.

From Shash's comic "Terrors of the Deep"

From Shash’s comic “Terrors of the Deep”

Stephanie Zuppo (’15) is a cartoonist and educator living in Burlington, VT. She writes & draws the series Belchville, VT, which contains a lot of moose. Stephanie is also offering lasercut wood with an image of a moose from her comic as a level on the Kickstarter.

From Stephanie's comic "Moose Decline"

From Stephanie’s comic “Moose Decline”

Tom O’Brien’s (’15) previous works include Rita, Madam Geneva, and Pouty Pope. He lives in Troy, NY.

From Tom's comic "Bats in Flight"

From Tom’s comic “Bats in Flight”

You can help fund the third volume through the Kickstarter until 3pm on October 21, 2016.

Posted in Cartoonist, CCS Alumni, New Book, Self-publishing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Visiting Artist: K. L. Ricks

K. L. Ricks with her visiting artist board, drawn by Luke Howard.

K. L. Ricks with her visiting artist board, drawn by Luke Howard.

K. L. Ricks is a freelance illustrator and cartoonist. She graduated from the Rhode Island
School of Design and now lives in Massachusetts. She is best known for her horror comic “Country Darkness” on Hazlitt.

© 2016 Abram B. Olson All Rights Reserved

Ricks was a fantastic, warm, and thoughtful speaker. She discussed her background studies and spent a good portion of time providing a demo. She works a lot with sumi ink because it works well to create fine, dark lines as well as beautiful gray washes.

© 2016 Abram B. Olson All Rights Reserved

Ricks discuss her tools, mainly sumi.

© 2016 Abram B. Olson All Rights Reserved

Ricks getting down to work.

In progress shot of Ricks' demo.

In progress photo of Ricks’ demo.

She is committed to healthy work ethic and recommends people forgo the work to the bone attitude for a healthy life style full of plenty of water and sleep. “Self-care and self-love is paramount to being able to keep going in the short and long-term,” as she put it in an interview with Sonic Yonix.

As with most visiting artists, Ricks had a good time with Luke Howard, program coordinator.

As with most visiting artists, Ricks had a good time with Luke Howard, program coordinator.

Sandra Batholomew ('17) doodled notes at Ricks' talk.

Sandra Batholomew (’17) doodled notes at Ricks’ talk.

Sandra Bartholomew also drew some faces in the crowd.

Sandra Bartholomew also drew some faces in the crowd, the faculty!

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Visiting Artist: Jim Woodring

Woodring's speaker board by Luke Howard

Woodring’s speaker board by Luke Howard.

Jim Woodring is an epic cartoonist. He is best known for his wordless comics, Frank, named after the main character.

Jim Woodring during his talk

Jim Woodring during his talk at CCS.

Most recently, he published Fran (Fantagraphics, 2013), a Frank story, the sequel (and prequel?) to Congress of the Animals. All of his books, starting with Frank, Volume 1 in 1994, have been published through Fantagraphics, which must be a great working relationship since they are both located in Seattle.

The Frank character and world have inspired animators to bring the vision to life through animated shorts. Nine of these shorts were collected on the 2007 DVD release, Visions of Frank: Short Films by Japan’s Most Audacious Animators.

Woodring with his books

Woodring with his books

Woodring learned to draw “in the time-honored way” of the autodidact: getting used books about drawing and then practicing. And practicing.

Woodring and fellow Liniers in what must be a fascinating conversation

Woodring and CCS fellow Liniers in what must be a fascinating conversation.

In 2011, he created a working, seven-foot dip pen. He has done demonstrations of the pen. Woodring is a great lover of the pen and ink medium, so he wanted to explore that to it’s largest depths.

Here are some notes by Sandra Bartholomew (’17).


Photos courtesy Abe Olson,

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Luke Howard

Luke Howard (’13) is currently the co-teacher and program assistant at The Center for Cartoon Studies. As anyone at the school would tell you, the titles do not do his hardwork justice. At TCAF, he released his first published book, Talk Dirty to Me, with Adhouse. More recently, his second published book, Our Mother, was released through Retrofit. I interviewed Luke in the Schulz Library to discuss his comics like and his new comics. What follows is the edited interview.

Luke Howard being so Howard.

Luke Howard being so Howard.

A: So my class was the first class (Class of 2016) that you were a teacher for (in Publication Workshop)?

L: It kind of happened in stages. But your class is the first class I full-on taught for (in 2014). I was sort of TAing for Jon (Chad) for a year before that. But it was kind of like I was officially the co-teacher for your year.

A: OK. So who was your thesis advisor and why?

L: My thesis advisor was Joe Lambert (whose book I Will Bite You happened to be on the table at that time). It was for a number of reasons. One being that I’m just kind of obsessed with him as an artist. I think he’s one of the best comics creators of our generation. Another reason being that he was local. He’d been through the process, so I knew that he’d have insight how to get through thesis year. And he was somebody that I randomly emailed when I was considering whether to come to the school. And his honesty when it came to both the pros and cons when it came to CCS gave me insight into how I think he would approach being a thesis advisor. That he wouldn’t pull his punches, and he’d offer actual useful criticism.

A: So if you could have picked any cartoonist living or dead as your thesis advisor, no limitations, who would you have picked?

L: Well, I’m a firm believer in not actually choosing too big of your heroes. Like my big heroes being someone like Chris Ware or Seth. I think it’s unwise to choose them as advisors. But in the dead realm, I think I would choose George Herriman. Krazy Kat. I’m just kind of obsessed with him as a cartoonist, but also just Krazy Kat in general. How he tells stories. And the kind of disjointed way that he tells them. I’m really interested in basically that kind of storytelling. That not everything needs to make sense for it to be a good story.

Luke with Steve Bissette.

Luke with Steve Bissette.

A: So I know in your thesis, you did a different style (of art) for every story. Have you narrowed down your style, or are the two books that are coming out this year in different styles?

L: They’re different, but I think I’m starting to see more common threads as time goes on. I’m noticing that there’re visual tics that come out when I’m not thinking about it. Certain ways that I pull a line. Or where I realize that I’m doing this more out of muscle memory and less out of a stylistic choice. So I think I’m definitely on the path towards finding my specific style or voice or whatever. But I think it’s still got a ways to go.

Luke with Sophie Yanow, fellow for 2014-15 and graduate of the Class of '16

Luke with Sophie Yanow, fellow for 2014-15 and graduate of the Class of ’16

A: So Talk Dirty to Me is purple and orange?

L: Haha. It’s blue and pink.

A: And how’d you pick your colors?

L: Originally it was just the gray scale. Like when it was first published as just part of the Maple Key anthology. And I had no intention of going beyond that, like adding a tone or whatever. But then when I hooked up with Chris Pitzer and Adhouse, I had been playing around with the idea of self-publishing it, so I had done a version that had tone, and it played around with color. And then it was designed to be like bright neon green. So it was gonna be like this bright neon green with blue line art.

A: So kind of like I Will Bite You.

L: Yeah, some crazy vibrant color. But then Chris and I kind of were passing back and forth different color palettes, and we kind of settled on really liking the blue and pink, especially because it kind of had a gender context to it that I think added to the story. That was sort of Chris’s thought, like, blue and pink, that’s sort of like male and female, and it’s kind of about the sexual relationships between men and women.

A: But you didn’t use it to color code characters, like in that book . . . Mazzuccheli’s. . . .

L: Asterios Polylp. No. No. It’s a much simpler approach to color.

A: It’s just like black versus tone.

L: Yeah, basically, like, the line art color and a tone color.

So thoughtful

Every once in a while, Luke has a serious side.

A: So I know it’s way more expensive to self-publish color. Why were you going to make the expense to self-publish in color?

L: ‘Cause I have a really hard time thinking in black and white. I hated drawing it (in b/w). Things don’t really feel complete until color is involved. ‘Cause I feel like I do a lot of story telling in the color phase. Like a lot of intention and meaning kind of comes to fruition in the color phase that I don’t even realize was originally there. I’ll start coloring something, and new kind of meanings will start popping out to me. Like if I color it this way, I can bring new meaning to the topic.

A: So given the choice, you would not do black line work with color. You would always do color on color.

L: Or I would treat the black as it’s own color. Kind of like Sophie Goldstein in The Oven. It’s black and color, but it’s really about how those two colors mix.

Taking notes

Oh, no. It’s his serious side again!

A: What’s your favorite thing to draw?

L: My favorite thing to draw. . . .

A: ‘Cause I can’t think of any themes off the top of my head.

L: Yeah, like you think of Tillie (Walden), and you think of giant people or cityscapes or something like that.

A: Yeah, that’s exactly my question.

L: I don’t know.

A: Well, one of my favorite stories from your thesis was the goldfish.

L: Ah, yeah. Well, definitely childhood is like probably my biggest thing. Or the thing that I find comes up a lot. I’m noticing that there are specific kinds of narrative devices that come back up a lot, and one is children dealing with trauma. Which isn’t an original thing by any senses, but my own personal issues that I work through in stories. Weirdly, like, a person or two being trapped in some place and trying to get out is another.

A: Sort of like The Junc (White River Junction, VT) for ya?

L: Ha. Yeah, I don’t know. I had this story Trevor that’s a guy trapped with a rabbit in this cabin. And them kind of not getting along over time. And my story for Retrofit has a bit of that as well. Like two characters that are trapped that kind of hate each other. I think that makes sense! I think that’s probably what it’s like in my brain.


I didn’t think this level of seriousness was possible for the Lukester.

A: Is Talk Dirty to Me your first publisher printed book?

L: Yes. It’s my first story that I’ve done all by myself that’s being published. That has like an ISBN number and stuff.

A: And I guess you’re instantly getting a second book this year as well with Retrofit.

L: Yeah, I didn’t plan that, but I had approached both of them with some pitches, and they both kind of happened. Like, I didn’t expect the Chris Pitzer/Adhouse thing to happen, so I agreed to the Retrofit thing, but then Chris got back and was like, “I’m interested, too.” And I was like, “I can’t so no to either of these.” So it kind of was a little bit of a big watershed moment.

Finally, back to a more normal Luke, teaching with Jon.

Finally, back to a more normal Luke, teaching with Jon.

A: How finished were the books when they said yes? Because you’d already started on Talk Dirty to Me.

L: Talk Dirty to Me probably could have been finished as it was. It had been done over six chapters through Maple Key, but I wasn’t happy with where it was. So I ended up redrawing about half the story. That’s what I spent most of December, January, and February doing was getting rid of a chapter, changing the whole ending, drawing new pages, redrawing some pages, relettering a bunch of stuff ‘cause I felt like the lettering wasn’t quite up to par.

A: Very smooth. I didn’t notice any bumps when I was reading through it. I never could have picked out a spot where you had edited.

L: I think it was a cool experience to have it released in this kind of serialized way with Maple Key. And then getting the chance to kind of revisit and be like, “How would I make this better?” I think that’s like the normal editing process that happens. You turn it in to an editor, and they say, “Change all these things” or “It would work better if you did this.” But you know, you don’t get that a lot in small press. That is what I’m starting to learn. They just want to publish your vision. But you’re kind of completely in control of whether the story works or not. So kind of getting to visit the story again for a second time and redoing stuff was like my own chance to edit it to something that I actually felt more strongly about.

Luke keeps it professional with CCS founder and teacher James Sturm.

Luke keeps it professional with CCS co-founder and teacher James Sturm.

A: So would you want to do that again, where you do the whole story and then submit that to a publisher, and then when they say yes, go through and re-edit. ‘Cause that’s quite a long period of time, typically.

L: I mean, I think ideally you would just feel like you nailed it the first time through. Ha. And I think that, you know, with stuff like the Retrofit story, it’s just kind of like I do it, and then I turn it over to them, and it’s just kind of how it turns out. There’s not gonna be a round of editing or anything. But I do think that it definitely has made Talk Dirty stronger. So if there was a way to build that into the process, I think that’s smart. Even though I hated it. It’s hard to go back and be like, “I’m going to throw away this huge chunk of pages that I just spent like 3 months on.” In film, they always say you’re not succeeding unless you leave blood on the cutting room floor. Which I always just hated. The idea. But it’s true.

A: Well and ideally, with comics, you would do it in the thumbnail stage.

L: Right. And I don’t thumbnail. So that’s probably a burden I put on myself, to do the editing after.

A: Hahaha. You sweat it out and then clean it up. So is the art for the Retrofit book done?

L: It’s almost there. . . . It’s due May 7 for the art work.

During the summers, Luke teaches workshops with Beth Hetland. You would never guess the energy they bring from this photo.

During the summers, Luke teaches workshops with Beth Hetland. You would never guess the energy they bring from this photo.

A: That was different from Talk Dirty to Me where you had the whole thing and then went back and edited it. With Retrofit, you hadn’t done any of it yet?

L: Yeah. Retrofit does things in a very interesting way where they’re kind of just like, “We like your stuff. Would you like to do a story?” And then I came back saying, “Sure, what do you need to know about the story? Do you need to know the size, or how long it’s going to be, or whether there’s color or not, or what it’s called, or what the story is about?” And they were just like, “Nah, just send us it when you’re done.” So there’s a lot of faith, I guess, that what the artist delivers is going to be something they’re cool with publishing.

A: I mean, I guess that makes sense. They’re like, “I love your work. Make a book. We’ll help you put more of your stuff in the world.”

L: Right. It’s like the opposite of handholding.

Jen Hayden wasn't fooled by Luke being serious for an instant.

Jen Hayden wasn’t fooled by Luke being serious for an instant.

A: And you already have the Retrofit subscribers who didn’t know you are now going to be new fans. I’m assuming.

L: Right. Hopefully. But there’s that obvious benefit that there’s some really big names in that Kickstarter that Retrofit did, like Eleanor Davis. My book, I know because of the release time, is going to be shipped along with Eleanor’s book. So there’s gonna be that pressure, but also like, “Well, if they want to look at Eleanor’s book, they’re gonna have to look at mine.”

Here's Luke being professional again with Michelle, but he doesn't know Michelle secret love of silliness. (It's not that secret.)

Here’s Luke being professional again with Michelle, but he doesn’t know Michelle’s secret love of silliness. (It’s not that secret.)

A: So you work full time for the school? Or almost.

L: Yeah, because I have two jobs. So half of my full-time job is all the visiting artist and design stuff and all that. Basically the program-coordinator side. And then there’s teaching, which kind of fills out. So when you put that all together. . . .

A: Cool. So how many hours a day do you typically get to draw. Or do you draw like one day a week?

L: I usually draw all weekend. I find it really hard to draw in the week. I always say I’m going to. Like when work is over, I’m going to do a page. But that rarely happens. When I’m writing something, I’m usually writing constantly, throughout the day in my head. And so in the writing sense, I can do that at any time. But when it comes to actually pumping out pages. . . . You know, Friday, Saturday, Sunday are my days off, so I just kind of load it all onto those three days.

A: So you do 40 hours a week over 4 days?

L: Yeah. And part of that is so I can have Friday, Saturday, Sunday. But I’m starting to realize it’s not a sustainable model. You gotta have at least one day off. I mean, not everyone does. Some people can’t handle not working.

Luke might like his thesis too much.

Luke might like his thesis too much.

A: So you’re still working on Our Mother. You’re done with Talk Dirty to Me. Are you already planning your next book? Are you already sending out pitches, or writing, or coming up with ideas?

L: I have a script that’s written for something that I was hoping to put out for CAB. And then I have a bigger thing that I was originally working on for Chris Pitzer, like as a pitch for Chris, before Talk Dirty to Me was on the table. That’s sort of like the kind of next big passion project that’s ahead. But that’s a bigger thing, so I don’t know when I’ll be able to muster the energy again. I definitely feel a strong desire to get back to doing shorter things for a while. I have this silly self-published thing for SPX that’s just completely sloppy and the complete opposite of trying to do a polished, finished thing. ‘Cause I feel like, even though what I’ve been doing is good, I need to do something fun for a while.

A: Goof off time.

A: What would you call your fans? Like Lady Gaga calls hers “little monsters.” And Benedict Cumberbatch’s are called “Cumberb*tches.”

L: Uh. . . . You know, there’s just. . . . I don’t have fans. I mean, I’m sure I have fans or people that like my work, but I don’t think I’ve reached that level.

A: You can still name them. You can prepare for the future.

L: What do you think? Give me some ideas.

A: Lukers.

L: Lukey-Loos.

A: Ooohoo, I like that.

L: I think I like Lukey-Loos.

Luke gets real with Dave Humphreys.

Luke gets real with Dave Humphreys.

A: Ok, final question. In this library, what is your favorite book?

L: Well, I know what my favorite book is. Aw man, and you know, I probably need to change my answer to one of the questions. Definitely my favorite book, which isn’t in this library because it’s at home and I’ve had it at home almost all year . . . even though I constantly get emails from the school being like, “You need to return this,” and I’m like “No, I’m keeping it!” . . . is The Art of Living by Saul Steinberg. It’s just a collection of  Steinberg sketches. And right now he is like by far the cartoonist I’m most obsessed with. So he could be another answer to that question where I said George Herriman. But now that he’s popped back into my head, right now he might be the guy. Him or, like, William Steig. I just love them. They are so great.

A: That’s it, unless you have anything else you want to say.

L: Uh, I do want to say that I could not have been more lucky than to have Chris Pitzer as the first person I published with. I think he ‘s just like the right level of laid back but also really, really kind. He’ll like hold my hand when I need it, but he also knows just the right amount. I just think he’s a really strong publisher. And I hope his books continue to do really well. ‘Cause he just has amazing design sense.

A: Yeah, he’s got a nice table at cons.

L: Plus he’s like a handsome Southern gentleman.

A: Ha, what you aspire to be.

L: Some day.

Here's the Luke we all know and love.

Here’s the Luke we all know and love.

Photos courtesy Abe Olson.

Posted in Cartoonist, CCS Alumni, Interview, New Book, Self-publishing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luke Healy

Luke Healy, an Irishman, is publishing part of his thesis project. Just before graduating from CCS in 2014, he won a MoCCA fest Award of Excellence from the Society of Illustrators for his comic Of the Monstrous Pictures of WhalesNobrow Press just published How to Survive in the North. I emailed with Luke while he was at a pit stop with email on his current adventures backpacking the west coast of North America. What follows is the edited interview.

Luke's thesis project.

Luke’s thesis project.

Angela: You graduated CCS in 2014. Who was your advisor?

Luke Healy: Jason Lutes was my thesis advisor!

A: I am assuming that his massive research on Berlin is what made him a good adviser? And he’s awesome, of course. What in particular drew you to him? You did the second year low res?

L: Y’know, I think Jason just has a great head for narrative. He’s a great editor. Kind of like a comics doctor. He looks at your work, and can diagnose the flaws you don’t even know are there.

Interestingly enough, Jason wasn’t my first choice of thesis advisor. I didn’t initially think of asking him, because he’s a CCS faculty member, and I had assumed I’d have some access to him throughout the year anyway. I was paired with a cartoonist who I won’t name, that ended up flaking out pretty immediately, and then I learned that I’d have to leave the USA for the first semester of my second year. At that point, Jason seemed like the obvious choice, and it became clear pretty immediately that he was the perfect choice all along.

Luke drew a lot during his time as a TA for Jon Chad and Alec Longstreth in the Cartoon Studio summer workshop

Luke drew a lot during his time as a TA for Jon Chad and Alec Longstreth in the Cartoon Studio summer workshop

A: If you could have had any advisor living or dead, no limitations, who would it be?

L: I have to say, Jason was really the perfect advisor for this project, but I’d love to pick Posy Simmonds‘ brain. Or maybe Andrew Hussie. That guy is next level.

A: Could we talk about coming to CCS from across the pond? Was there a lot of culture shock? Was it your first time leaving ireland?

L: It was far from my first time leaving Ireland. The summer before I moved to White River Junction, I actually backpacked around Europe on trains by myself, so I have always loved to travel.

That being said, I hadn’t been to the USA since I was a child, so there was definitely some culture shock. I’ve obviously watched a lot of American movies and TV (ask anyone, I have a bit if an American accent) but there are some things that doesn’t prepare you for. The food for example. I’ll never forget stopping at a Cracker Barrel on a road trip down to SPX a couple of days after I moved over. I may still be in recovery.

A: Oh yeah. I remember, Pigs I think? Your comic about traveling on the train. [Note: It is Eat the Pig and it is not as bad as he claims it is. :) It also appears to no longer be available.]

L: Yup. It’s a terrible comic, and I hope nobody has to read it again, haha. I made it specifically with my CCS application in mind, and I got in, so I guess it was good for something!

A: What about Cracker Barrel threw you for such a loop? I’ve never been.

L: The portions are huge and disgusting. Don’t bother trying it out.

Thesis 2

Pages from Luke’s thesis project.

A: So first I should have asked why you are taking this trip away from the internet. How’s the timing work out with the books you have coming out this year?

L: Well, the timing is pretty inconvenient, honestly. When I graduated CCS, I had a bit of a “what do I do now?” moment.

I graduated in May, and I didn’t hear back from Nobrow until October or November I think, so I didn’t know the book was going to be a thing. I heard about this trail (the Pacific Crest Trail, a wilderness trail that runs 2660 miles through California, Oregon, and Washington, connecting Mexico and Canada) and became a little obsessed with it. I had no experience backpacking, so I set the date 2 years in the future to leave time to prepare. It was really helpful to have a goal again. Gave me structure.

Then I heard from Nobrow, and worked on the book during that time, and when I learned it would be launching during the time I was planning to be on trail, I had to have a long think about what I was going to do.

Eventually, I decided that I wouldn’t postpone this trip. I agonised over the decision, but I knew that in the end, there’s never a good time to take five months out from your life, and if I delayed now, I’d end up putting it off forever.

Nobrow have been really gracious about it, and I’ll be doing lots of promotional stuff once I finish in September. I’m hoping to be at SPX this year, where the book will be having its American launch, and I was also just invited to an Italian comics festival, so hopefully that will work out too.

Luke helping me in the lab during the summer woskhop.

Luke helping me in the lab during the summer workshop.

A: How is it publishing your thesis? It was completely drawn when you submitted it to Nobrow, or did they find you? Or somewhere in between?

L: I won’t lie, it feels weird to be publishing my thesis. I’m very proud of How to Survive in the North, but in some ways it still feels like student work to me. Not that it isn’t professional quality, but I did all of my research for the book at the Dartmouth Rauner Special Collections Library just across the river in Hanover, so I strongly associate the stories in the book with that time.

I pitched the book to Nobrow with the same draft that I turned in for thesis review. The book was all written and roughly pencilled, with about 30 pages of finished art. I ended up changing a lot for the Nobrow edition. Almost all of the pages were redrawn, and a good chunk was rewritten. The final published version is also about 60 pages longer than my thesis version.

I met Tucker Stone, Nobrow’s US sales and marketing director, at the industry day of my second year. He liked my work and encouraged me to send a pitch, but other than that I just followed their submission guidelines. They had, and possibly still have, an open submissions policy.

Nobrow's cover of How To Survive in the North

Nobrow’s cover of How To Survive in the North

A: How long did the research part take you? How did you come up with such a research heavy semi-fiction tale? Would you call this semi-fiction?

L: It’s actually a pretty huge coincidence. Months before applying for CCS, I had been looking up some photo reference for a comic, and a really striking photo of a woman named Ada Blackjack was among the Google image search results (I think I had been searching for a picture of a parka or something). I clicked through to her Wikipedia page and read her story and was fascinated.  Then I just sort of forgot about her.

When it came time to choose a thesis topic, I remembered her, and decided it might be fun to adapt her story into a comic. Then, when I went to do a bit more digging online, I discovered, by a massive coincidence, that all the primary sources about her expedition were in a library only ten minutes from CCS. I couldn’t believe it. I got to read her actual 90 year old diary, written on receipts for a photo shop while she was marooned on an Arctic island. It was insane. The scope just grew from there.

I think the best term is fiction “based on a true story” as I interwove a separate fictional narrative into the book, but you can really categorize it however you like.  Research took about three months.

A: Did you work with an editor through Nobrow? Or did they leave you alone to work on it? How did the editing process work in either case?

L: Nobrow were pretty hands off throughout. I kind of got to do whatever o wanted, which I was happy with. I was assigned an editor near the end of the process to help smooth things out, which was definitely useful.

A: When you finish a book, are you already ready to start your next project or do you need time to unwind before coming up with your next project?

L: I took a couple of months off after finishing the book, but I had written a pretty substantial short story while I was drawing up the last half of How to Survive, so I just drew that, and it will be out in September. As for my next long book, I’m not sure when I’ll start working on it. I already know what I want it to be about. It’s more personal, more like a memoir about my teenhood, so that will be an interesting change of pace. I don’t know when I will be ready to start working on it. Right now I am trying to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada, so it will definitely have to wait at least five months, haha!

A: What’s the project out in September? Is that also through a publisher?

L: It’s a 60 page comic entitled The Unofficial Cuckoo’s Nest Study Companion. It’s definitely my most ambitious comic to date, and attempts to combine elements of comics, prose and scriptwriting. I’m really happy with how it came together.

I’m going to self publish a small edition of the comic, to have at SPX (with the help of CCS alums and my fellow Dog City editors Simon Reinhardt and Juan Fernandez). After that, we’ll see. I’ve had interest from a publisher, so it might possibly come out through that channel. But get a copy at SPX if you want one!


Page from the Nobrow edition of How To Survive in the North

A: What’s your favorite thing to draw?

L: My favourite things to draw are birds, and little people in uniforms.

A: What is it about birds? Even more, what is it about little people in uniforms? Do you mean “little people” or tiny drawings?

L: I’m not sure. Birds are just satisfyingly aerodynamic and pointy.

I mean tiny drawings. I like to draw small, and mostly try to have figures less than half of the panel’s height over most of the page. Not sure why, I just think it works better.

Luke was a very helpful TA in the lab during the summer workshop.

Luke was a very helpful TA in the lab during the summer workshop.

A: What’s your favorite comic?

L: My favourite comic is Apartment 3 by Pascal Girard. I got it in 2012 and it’s still the best comic I’ve ever read.

A: Is Apartment 3 only in French? I don’t see it on Amazon, but I am a huge Pascal Girard fan. What is it about that comic you like so much.

L: I have a mini comic of Apartment 3, and it is in English, but I am not sure if it is available to buy anymore. I got it in 2012. It is just so succinct and humane. It makes me emotional every time I read it. I think about it all the time.

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