Our Interview with Becky Cloonan
Becky Cloonan is the creator behind such comics as Gotham Academy, Punisher, and Southern Cross. She has a collection of her own independently published comics coming out at the end of the month, which you can snag from Image Comics! Outright Geekery’s Aaron Kessel had the chance to ask Becky several questions about her new book, By Chance or Providence.
Outright Geekery: By Chance or Providence is a collection of three tales written and illustrated by you. Each story is noticeably different, but the time period, love, and supernatural themes are common among them. What inspired you to create Wolves?
Becky Cloonan: Wolves started out in earnest, as a werewolf story. I’m a big fan of the werewolf being born of a curse, so I wanted to hint at that. There’s a much larger story involving the King, and the Queen, and how the curse started, but I’ll need some more time to get to that. For now, it stands on its own as a story of a werewolf and a curse. But the two aren’t mutually exclusive! I sat down to write a simple werewolf story, and now I have an epic on my hands. Maybe one day i’ll get to finish it!
OG: What about the Mire?
BC: This is a story about a young squire delivering a letter to a haunted castle in a swamp. The letter was a big theme, and I wanted to play a little with narration to see if I could get people to read the comic once, then at the end go back and read it again once they know the contents of the letter. I figured that if i could get someone to read it twice in a row, the story would seem longer than it actually was! Also several people have told me that this comic made them cry, which makes me feel really good.
Like Wolves there is a lot that happens off-panel. I felt like the back story of the characters is so large. I tried to include as much as I could through subtle hints, but really all of these comics could be double in length.
OG: Lastly, what inspired Demeter?
BC: Demeter is a can of worms! I’m gonna throw in some spoilers here, since there’s a lot to unpack. It’s probably the most personal comic of the three. Demeter is a tale of a selkie. Selkies live in the sea as a seal, but shed their fur and walks the shores as humans. Anna in this story loses her husband in a shipwreck, and makes a bargain that he will come back to live with her again, for seven years. So she keeps his seal skin locked up in a trunk at the foot of their bed, waiting as the clock gets closer to the hour he has to return to the sea.
From Anna’s point of view, she is fighting tooth and nail against the inevitable, unable to let go for whatever wretched reason. Colin on the other hand has been called back to life. As he returns to his watery grave, he does so with the knowledge of all he is leaving behind. He should have just stayed dead, and it was Anna’s selfishness who couldn’t just leave well enough alone. This is a story about fighting against the inevitable. It’s about the selfishness of relationships. It’s about that moment when the veil is lifted and you see things for what they are. And it’s also about revenge!
OG: Do you have a preference for writing or illustrating? What inclines you to do one versus the other, assuming you’re not doing both?
BC: If doing both isn’t an option, I think I prefer writing! Working with other artists is so much fun, and I’ve just got so many stories I want to tell. I’ve been lucky to work with some incredible writers, who I’ve learned a lot from. But in the end I think I need a break from working on other people’s’ scripts. It’s been really refreshing to work on my own ideas!
OG: You currently have series from DC, Marvel, and Image. What are the biggest advantages of working with each company?
BC: With Marvel and DC you have the advantage of working in some incredibly fun sandboxes. Working with licensed characters- and in the case of Gotham Academy, licensed cities specifically, give you a really solid foundation to build your stories around.
DC has been an amazing place to grow our original characters within the Gotham universe, and we were able to have our pick of C and D list characters to play with, no matter how obscure or out-of-left-field. They’ve also been really supportive. Likewise at Marvel, I’m working with the Punisher- who has a definite set of rules you can’t really bend, so the challenge there is how to work within those rules to create something new! Marvel has also been super cool about me making up new characters for every issue, villains and friends alike. I’ve also been working with some incredible editors at both companies, it’s been pretty much a dream, but not without its own challenges. I’ve learned so much!
Working with Image is a bit different. It definitely feels like we’re more on our own there, from getting solicitations in ourselves to getting the book lettered and put together, but Andy Belanger and I have a pretty good team. And although we don’t have an editor on the book (we really probably should though!), we have a lot of friends we trust to run things by if we get stuck on anything. The fun thing about Southern Cross that makes it totally special is that it is 100% us. For better or for worse, ha ha!
OG: Gotham Academy is coming a conclusion. How do you feel about the series ending? Will we see these characters again?
BC: It’s bittersweet, for sure! It wasn’t always easy, but overall Brenden, Karl and I have had DC’s support and guidance, and were able to tell the story that we set out to tell from the start. So if we are to continue, we’d have to regroup anyway. I think there’s some argument to be made about this series doing better in a direct-to-trade format as well, so if the series is going to move forward (the ball is honestly in DC’s court!) this is a perfect time to press pause and re-evaluate what would be best for the book! I love each character dearly though, this book is not only very personal and close to my heart, but holds a lot of fond memories as well. If anyone wanted to really get to know me, Gotham Academy is basically a road map of my heart.
OG: Punisher is blowing up comic shops monthly! Can you give us a hint as to what we can look forward to in upcoming issues?
BC: Punisher is back home in NYC!! We’re spending the next few issues on one-shots, so it’s an easy place for people to jump in if they’re new to it! Each issue will revolve around a different villain and type of crime. We might even see a familiar face pop up from the first twelve issues!
OG: Southern Cross is developing quite a following! What horrors can we look forward to?
BC: The second volume of Southern Cross is out July 19th, which picks up where volume one left off with an action thriller vibe! This story arc follows retired detective Hazel Conroy as she finds herself stranded on an oil rig on Titan, caught up in events beyond her control and understanding. There’s riots, murder, revenge, assassins, space drugs, knife fights, alien artifacts, ghosts, and of course, the search for the Southern Cross reaches an explosive conclusion!
Andy Belanger– who is just killing the art on this series, along with our colorist Lee Loughridge (seriously it’s a powerhouse of a team!)– is drawing the hell out of the third arc, which we are calling “The Crypt Dimension.” Hazel has assembled an unlikely crew, and they’re on a mission to send every dirty alien they find back beyond the veil. Expect to see some old friends, some new rivals, and a lot of psychedelic alien gore! It’s a trilogy, so this third arc will be the last. For now…
OG: Are there any creators that you would like to work with (again)? (cough American Virgin cough)
BC: I’ve been talking to Steve Seagle actually, about going back to AV! We’re both super busy, but at this point it’s totally a possibility! With my schedule though- I’ve got a graphic novel to work on after my current projects end which should keep me pretty busy until 2019!
OG: Lastly, what’s on your “to read” pile right now, comic or otherwise?
BC: Oh my god, I know I’m late to the party, but I just finished the first Outlander novel and right now all I want is to read stories about time travel and highlanders. I’m scared to start the second because I know I won’t be able to put it down! Plus I’m about to dive into Ngozi Ukazu’s Check Please! I picked it up at ID10T fest a few weeks ago- it’s a hockey romance comic. Her art is super cute, and it’ll be nice to read this comic in print instead of on a screen! Sometimes I listen to audiobooks while I draw too, right now I’m re-”reading” Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher series! If you like the games I recommend looking these up!
Want to know more about Becky Cloonan? Follow her on Twitter! Or check her website! By Chance or Providence will be available in comic shops on July 26th, and bookstores on August 1st, 2017.