Portland, OR is an embarrassment in riches in terms of talented comic book creators, and one of our very favorites is Colleen Coover. Recently, the Gingerbread Girl creator has had a lot of success with her new series, Bandette, with co-creator Paul Tobin.
If you’re in the Portland Area, be sure to stop by Colleen’s Bandette Gallery Reception on Friday, August 10th at our Portland Things From Another World shop, but you’ll read more about that later…
We had the chance to chat with Coover about her introduction to the world of comics, her favorite part about working in the industry, and what we can expect from her soon.
TFAW.com: What are your earliest memories of comics? What was the first comic you read?
Colleen Coover: I honestly can’t remember. My sister is seven years older than me, and our grandmother had already been giving her all the “stripped” coverless comics from the five-and-dime store where she worked. I’ve literally been reading comics since before I knew what the words meant.
TFAW.com: What inspired you to work in the comic book industry?
Coover: Again; early, early childhood. I remember “drawing” the characters from the Batman TV show. Batman was a scribble, Robin was a scribble with an R on his chest.
TFAW.com: How did you break into the comics industry?
Coover: Pretty much when I finished one comics story and did not stop. A successful comics career is not a matter of when you get your first paycheck, but when you put your first story out into the world. Submitting a hundred finished pages of Small Favors to Fantagraphics/Eros was probably the biggest step forward I’ve ever taken.
TFAW.com: How has your experience been as a female in the industry?
Coover: As opposed to my experience as a dude? *wink!* I’ve been gratified to have the respect of my peers and colleagues from the word go. I couldn’t ask for more than that.
TFAW.com: What’s your favorite part of telling stories in the sequential arts?
Coover: The best is when I draw something that tickles me in some way. It doesn’t have to be overt; once I cracked myself up by signing my name in a scrawl for a mock New Yorker strip. If I’m having fun drawing, that will communicate itself to the readers, and they’ll have fun too.
TFAW.com: What do you think comic book publishers should be doing or have been doing to attract female readers?
Coover: Diversification of genre, diversification of target age group, diversification of art and storytelling style. Most of the independent publishers have figured that out already.
TFAW.com: What aspect of comics have you struggled with, as a creator?
Coover: I will sometimes lose focus and dawdle on a project if I don’t have a definite deadline. Fortunately, I’ve had great editors and co-creators who help me stay motivated and keep on track!
TFAW.com: What advice can you give aspiring comic book creators?
Coover: I kind of hate the word “aspiring.” What’s that line from Rocky Horror? “Don’t Dream It, Be It.” If you are making comics, you aren’t aspiring to be a creator, you’re doing it.
TFAW.com: Who’s work has had an influence in your art?
Coover: Short answer: everything I’ve ever read. I’m always confused by artists who can point to a single source of inspiration and say “that’s it; that’s where I come from.” I like to encourage young artists who maybe haven’t grown up with comics the way I did to make an effort to read stuff from before they were born, especially, or if they’ve only read one genre, to make an effort to look out side of that. The more varied influences a person has, the richer that person’s art can be.
Some of my major influences are: Milton Caniff, Los Bros Hernandez, Alex Toth, Harvey Comics, Jack Kirby, Archie Comics, Hayao Miyazaki, Wendy Pini, Wally Wood, Darwyn Cooke, Peter Arno, and Jack Davis. I could go on.
TFAW.com: Who’s one woman in comics that you admire?
Coover: Marie Severin is a giant of American comics. She did it all, in every genre: coloring, art, and production work. Kate Beaton is one of my favorite contemporary cartoonists. She’s so smart and funny, and I love that she’s doing exactly what she enjoys. That’s what makes a person truly successful.
TFAW.com: What was the last comic you read?
TFAW.com: Can you tell us a little about your newest comic, Bandette?
Coover: Bandette, which is written by my husband Paul Tobin and drawn by me, is one of those dream projects where you get to do anything and everything you want to do. It’s a faux-French crime caper — “faux” in that neither of us is French or knows the language. It takes everything we love about European comics, ’60s spy movies, heist stories, girl detectives, and boy’s adventure stories and mashes it all up. It’s published digitally by Monkeybrain Comics through ComiXology [for just $0.99!, BTW].
TFAW.com: Later this week, your art gallery opens at our Portland shop. What piece are you most excited to show everybody?
Coover: I’m showing all 13 pages of the first issue of Bandette, plus two pages from another digital story called Rose’s Heart, which appeared in the Double Feature Horror #3 issue. Rose’s Heart is a story I wrote as an attempt to recreate the marvelously cheesy Gothic Horror-Romance comics from the early ’70s.
TFAW.com: What projects do you have coming up soon?
Coover: More Bandette! That’s going to be my focus for some time. I also have some work for a major book publisher starting up soon, and meanwhile I’m noodling away at writing the occasional gay romance prose story.
We want to thank Colleen again for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer all of our questions! If you’re in the Portland area, be sure to come to Colleen’s Bandette Gallery Reception on Friday, August 10. You’ll want to get to our new Portland Things From Another World shop promptly at 7:00, because the first 100 people will get a free Limited Edition Bandette Print, made especially for the show!
Have you read Bandette #1? Did you love it as much as we did? Let us know below.