Welcome to another installment of Sunday Comics! This week, I’m joined by Julia Gfrörer, author of Black is the Color and Laid Waste. Most recently Julia is the co-editor of Mirror Mirror II with Sean T. Collins, and to be published this spring by 2D Cloud. Mirror Mirror II includes contributors Lala Albert, Heather Benjamin, Al Columbia, Dame Darcy, Renee French, Simon Hanselmann , Aidan Koch, Jonny Negron, many other great comics-makers. 2D Cloud is currently running a Kickstarter for the Spring 2017 releases, which closes less than a week from this posting. Please enjoy this interview with Julia, and you can back Mirror Mirror II by visiting www.kickstarter.com/projects/2dcloud/spring-2017.
Max Morris: Your most recent project is co-editing Mirror Mirror II with Sean T. Collins, which is set to be released by 2D Cloud for their Spring 2017 collection. To my knowledge, this is the first anthology of comics work you’ve edited, but please let me know if I am incorrect. How was your experience of putting this book together?
Julia Gfrörer: It certainly deepened my empathy for people who regularly curate anthologies—it’s a lot of work, like herding cats. But it was also really a pleasure to work on, and gave me and Sean an opportunity to hone our vision of what matters most to us in art, writing, and comics. We’re honored to be able to work with so many incredible artists, many of whom are already well-known but have very different audiences, and get new eyes on their work.
MM: One piece that piqued my interest was the inclusion of Clive Barker as a contributor to Mirror Mirror II. However considering your books Too Dark to See and Laid Waste, horror has always been a definite theme in your narratives. Can you talk about how Barker’s work appearing in Mirror Mirror came to be, and other editorial choices you made when selecting contributors and final pieces for Mirror Mirror II?
JG: In contrast to the more elusive, abstract approach of Mirror Mirror II, we wanted to focus on overtly narrative work. We believe profoundly in the power of horror stories to address otherwise unapproachable subjects with commensurate intensity and awe. Barker has been a great influence on us both in that regard. He and Sean have known each other for quite a while, so when we began to conceptualize what the book would be, he was one of the first creators we approached.
MM: Treating Comics as Literature has always seemed to be a key aspect of how you approach your own work. How would you describe your own approach to making work of this nature? Do you feel a kinship or excitement toward current creators today making similar work?
JG: Comics is a medium, it’s not a genre. Maybe not all comics are “literature,” but I don’t think comics in general are inherently low brow any more than, say, film or theater are. I can’t make work and at the same time plan whether it will have artistic merit. I assume that as long as I work with rigor and sincerity, the finished product will be meaningful to someone.
MM: You have discussed in previous interviews the influence of figure drawing and painting in the application of comics work, mentioning artists like Alice Neel and Käthe Kollwitz. When I consider the impact of your use of body language and expression, I think of the subtly of much of your characters acting on the page. What are your considerations for drawing the human figure in your own work?
JG: Both Kollwitz and Neel depict abjection, the vulnerability and degradation of the body, in ways that are both expressive, maybe theatrical, and at the same time deeply humane. What I strive for is something like that, but sequential: to show bodies that are fragile and indecorous, that betray emotion over time. I like to draw someone’s eyes wandering as they move from thought to thought, or their body reacting to what someone else said before they can form a deliberate response, or their strong hands and vacant faces as they perform familiar chores. I don’t know whether I think of the body as a friend.
MM: Laid Waste, your most recent book from Fantagraphics, was published last October, and you’ve published shorter works that you’ve had at comics shows and on your Etsy page. What are you working on currently? Do you have larger projects on the horizon?
JG: This week I’ve been drawing a t-shirt design featuring a portrait of Boudica for a friend’s band, Wax Idols, and finishing up this sequel to my 2010 book Flesh and Bone. Sean and I are working on another porn minicomic based on Edgar Allan Poe—this one’s based on “The Mask of Red Death” and should be out by the fall. And I’m always working on my own comics, but I like to do it in secret. You won’t hear about them until they’re done, or nearly done.