Guest Interview: Shaenon Garrity

Conventions are of course a lot of fun…and also a lot of work.  As the weeks wind down to the third annual Intervention, we have been exceptionally busy behind the scenes to ensure that a great convention is pulled off.  Thus,  this week, we felt it was only appropriate to spotlight an Intervention guest who is no stranger to a busy lifestyle.

Intervention interviewed Shaenon Garrity, creator of no less than SIX comics.  In addition to her webcomic work, her writing and art has appeared in other venues as well.

As indicated on your site, Narbonic Trunktown have been completed.  As an artist in an atmosphere where webcomics seem to keep going forever, even when it is clear they have run out of ideas, how important are definitive endings to comic series?  How do you know when it is time to end a series?  What signs of “this should end soon” should other creators look for and any advice on wrapping them up nicely?

I usually do comics with a set beginning, middle and ending.  I’ve never really done an open-ended strip that could conceivably go on forever, so I don’t have any advice there.  End it when you get bored with it, I guess?

That said, I still draw short Narbonic stories for the Couscous Collective anthologies, and Tom Hart and I have talked about doing another chapter of Trunktown sometime.  So even finite stories can keep going in some other form.

In your various series, you share both writing duties (Skin Horse) and drawing duties (Li’l MelSmithson).  What do you believe the keys to true collaboration are?  Is it easy for you to fully explain to artists your vision for characters and situations?

I enjoy collaborating specifically because I don’t want to fully explain my vision; I like seeing what another person brings to the comic.  I’ve done many different types of collaboration now: writing scripts for another artist to draw, drawing from another artist’s scripts, and the more involved kind of collaboration I did with Tom Hart on Trunktown and currently do with Jeff Wells on Skin Horse, where both parties toss ideas around and work out a story together before the drawing begins.  I like to experiment with different collaborations to see what comes out.  Right now I’m drawing a comic adaptation of a story my seven-year-old cousin Joselyn wrote.  It’s called “The Adventures of a Cat-Loving Girl.”

Are any of Li’l Mel‘s stories based on events from your own childhood?

Oh, awesome.  Nobody ever asks about Li’l Mell.

“The Horror of Rukavina Caverns” is based on a story my eighth-grade English teacher, Mr. Rukavina, used to tell about being trapped in Seneca Caverns on a field trip.  He used to spend an entire class period telling us stories like that, and then our assignment would be to write our own version of it: “Mr. Rukavina’s Class Goes to Seneca Caverns,” “Mr. Rukavina’s Class in the Middle Ages” (based on his experiences in the Society for Creative Anachronism), and so on.  So that’s where that came from.

“Brain Wars” is based on being in Odyssey of the Mind, a hard-to-describe creative problem-solving competition that seems to be endemic to Midwestern school gifted programs.  I’m sure anyone who was in OM as a kid recognized it in the story, because it’s exactly like that.  I was always joining or coaching very bad OM teams.  My husband Andrew, on the other hand, once earned the coveted Renatra Fusca award for individual creativity for using the word “bouillabaisse” in the Spontaneous section of the competition.  He plays the teacher, Mr. Willey, in that storyline.

The most personal storyline in Li’l Mell is “Adjustment.”  It’s also my favorite, although that’s largely because Neil Babra did such a spectacular job on the artwork.

Once you have completed recapping every X-Files episode in Monster of the Week, is there another TV series you would like to tackle?

Dude, I just started Monster of the Week, and “The X-Files” is nine seasons long! That said, I have been thinking about various Star Treks..

Anything you’d like to add?

I can’t wait for Intervention!  Jeff and I had an awesome time last year.




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