Greg:What comic book influences inspired the work on Gingerbread Girl?
Paul: I think a lot of Colleen’s art stems from the teen humor comics of the 1960s, and from lots of other sources as well. Myself… yeah… I think so… I love the hectic pacing of the friendships, the drama of every moment, the whim of the relationships, etc. I suppose a lot of the physical and emotional pacing that I strive for was first “explained” to me through reading those comics.
Colleen: Those comics inform everything I do, but there are plenty of other influences as well. I think the Hernandez Bros’ work from the mid ‘80s shows up pretty strongly in Gingerbread Girl, as well as comic strips and gag strips from the early- and mid-20th century eras.
Greg: The storytelling in GG is very unique, as much of the story is told through peripheral characters of varying awareness, from a fake psychic to a pigeon. How’d you come up with this approach?
Colleen: I’ll let Paul handle that one as it came about in the script.
Paul: At the time I began writing Gingerbread Girl, I was irked at the proliferation of auto-biographical comics. Everyone that had a deeply personal tragedy, or “shocking” insight into their sexual habits, or a humorous degree of self-loathing… EVERYBODY was doing auto-bio comics. It was overwhelming, and, frankly, quite boring after not too long. Because of this, I started thinking of what I personally wanted to see in an auto-bio comics. First… I wanted it to be fiction… because the “real” auto-bios were too self-indulgent. Next, I wanted a truly interesting story… not just a story revolving around why this or that particular love affair / breakup was the Most Important Relationship Of All Time. And then I wanted a mystery behind the insights… a mystery that could only be solved by the interactions of witnesses that were maybe, possibly, telling the real truth.. At least as they knew it.
Greg: Annah’s something we don’t see enough of in comics; a bisexual woman who’s neither a “weekend lesbian” nor a male-sex fantasy. What went in to your handling of the character’s sexuality?
Colleen:I’d have to argue that in “real life”, Annah’s sexuality is pretty well the norm. At least, it’s the norm among the women I know!
Paul: I will never forget some of the missives that Colleen received when she began doing Small Favors and came out as bi-sexual. There were elements of ire from straight people, from lesbians, from everyone. An amount of people that had fought for their own sexual identity were now saying that bi-sexuality was wrong, or was greedy, or was for posers, or didn’t exist at all. It was a small group of people saying such things, but they were vocal, and much of how I see sexuality and / or people in general was formed at that time, and works its way into my stories, from time to time.
Colleen: One of Paul’s strengths as a writer has always been that when he creates a character who is not just like himself—a straight white guy who occasionally sports a magnificent mustache—he remembers that they are PEOPLE, not merely a jumble of identifying behaviors and catch phrases. By doing so he avoids writing to stereotype: the hallmark of bad writing.
Paul: Really, we pretty much all have quirky desires that put us in the margin of a margin. That’s one of the reasons that sex and relationships are so much fun… they’re adventures in understanding.
Greg: What are the artistic advantages of working in the cute milieu? How differently do you think GG would read if it was done in a photo-realistic style?
Colleen: I prefer the word “cartoon” to “cute”, I think. By which I mean that I use traditional cartooning techniques in my art to tell stories with visual iconography. It allows for the use of conventions like rebuses and paper doll pages to mix with the rest of the story without jarring the reader. Photo-realism tends to “ground” comics in a more real-world setting, which would have made Gingerbread Girl more of a downer whine-fest than the exploration of a quirky character that it is.
Paul: A “cartoony” style, for me, allows a greater sense of character, just like caricature is an “exploded” version of a normal personality trait. Cartoony styles have more life, to me, and they have the added bonus of allowing readers to template a lot of their own visual preferences into the characters / art… which brings the reader deeper into the story. Double plus.
Greg: Is this the last of Gingerbread Girl? Or will we see more of these characters?
Paul: No further plans for them at this time, but I never rule things like that completely out.
Colleen:This is one of those stories that exists on its own, for its own sake. Will any of the characters show up in future works? Maybe. But only if they belong in a new story, independent of Gingerbread Girl.
Gingerbread Girl is a “deluxe flexi-cover graphic novel” from Top Shelf for 12.95, coming in May 2011. Read preview pages from it online here
Greg Baldino writes for various publications and lives in Chicago, which is just so totally the type of city where someone like him would live. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org