Colleen Coover: Q&A
Posted: Sunday, March 21, 2004
Posted By: Tim O'Shea
Colleen Coover is a creator that is on the fringe somewhat because of the sexual nature of her adult series, Small Favors (Eros Comix). This observation is not meant to dismiss her vast storytelling talents in the slightest, not that I think Coover would care what I think, though. She clearly enjoys her work, as evidenced by the product itself and this interview. Hereís hoping that more folks find out about her work in the near to long term as she broadens her potential readership base with projects such as the all ages Banana Sunday.
Tim OíShea: As the creator of an adult series, Small Favors, while at the same time developing a new all ages comic, Banana Sunday (with partner Paul Tobin),do you ever find yourself doing a scene for the all ages book and thinking to yourself "I could do something even more funny in this scene if this weren't all ages." Or are the two projects so distinctly different you literally are a completely different creator in each respective work. What I mean is, do you consciously shift into the "all ages Coover" creative mentality when working on Banana Sunday?
Colleen Coover: No, to both questions. I work the same way on both projects. Only the story is different. All the sexy stuff in Small Favors happens in the writing phase; once I start laying it out and penciling, itís all about the craft of telling a good comics story. In Banana Sunday, all the writing is Paulís job, but I approach the visual storytelling in the same way I do in Small Favors.
Small Favors has a specific theme: it is a sexual entertainment for adults. But once that theme is addressed in a script, itís my job to tell the story as well as I can. I need to make sure that the layouts flow, and that all the arms and legs on all the figures attach in the correct way, and it needs to be nice to look at. Thereís no special way that I work on sexy art as opposed to regular illustration. I donít need to sex up the art in any way, because all the sexiness is in the characters and their relationships and how they make each other feel. Thatís what I think makes Small Favors a successful comic; it does what itís meant to, without beating you over the head with vulgarity.
Banana Sunday is different in that it does not have a specific theme or audience. Itís a cute little story about a teenage girl with some monkeys. But it is the same in that I still need to make sure that the layouts flow, and all the arms and legs connect in the right way, and itís nice to look at. I simply have a different set of characters in different situations.
TO: How did you first develop Small Favors? What erotic and/or comedic storytellers influence your work?
CC: It started out as a couple of one-page gag strips based on some little sketches of Annie and Nibbil in my sketchbook. I did several short pieces in which they got fleshed out and gained more and more personality. Eventually, I wound up with about 100 pages worth of material, all stories of less than 20 pages, and I sent a packet of Xeroxes to Eros comics to see if they were interested in publishing. They were willing, so I cobbled together the first few issues of Small Favors from that material, with new stuff I did as we went along. By that time, Annie and Nibbil had fully-formed personalities and were helping determine their own stories, and it just went from there!
The biggest influences on my comics work have been Los Bros Hernandez and Milton Caniff, but there have been countless others, too. My favorite erotic artists are Frank Thorne, Guido Crepax, Milo Manara, Jordi Bernet, and several of the Japanese erotic artists who mostly seem to go under pseudonyms. Thereís a book called Adventures of a Lesbian College Schoolgirl by Petra Waldron and Jennifer Finch that was of great inspiration when I was starting up on Small Favors. And of course, Beto Hernandezí Birdland is a fearless piece of erotica that explores the outer limits of comic book sexual fantasy.
TO: Do you think working in a comic book store grants you an advantage, in terms of you better understand how to market yourself and target your work toward a certain market sensibility?
CC: It has helped me understand what sort of comics women and girls like, for sure. Long before I started work on Small Favors, I knew that lots of women who wouldnít consider reading a superhero comic had no problem picking up a couple of Adults Only comics for themselves. Knowing that there would be a female readership ready for it gave me the confidence to start creating a sexually explicit comic that would appeal to women and men. But the only person I target my work for is myself. If I didnít like a story I was doing, I have to think that it would show in my work.
TO: Looking over your blog, I ran across the following snippet in your San Diego convention report: "At some point, J. Michael Straczynski paused in front of me and I thrust some minis into his unsuspecting hands. He graciously accepted them and promised to read them."
After giving your work to high profile mainstream pros, have you ever later received feedback from them? Would you be interested in working for one of the big two companies at some point? If so, any characters in particular?
CC: Well, in Mr. Straczynskiís case, I gave him a few little Xeroxed mini-comics I made while goofing off at work. Nothing naughty, you understand. I didnít expect any feedback from that, and I donít even think I gave him contact info. I just like his Spider-Man, and that was a little thank-you gift.
I donít thrust Small Favors at people, because it is sexually explicit, and I feel itís inappropriate to force people to look at stuff that might embarrass them. I have met quite a few professionals, including those in the mainstream, who either were already aware of Small Favors, or asked to look at it. I have been profoundly gratified to have received almost unanimously positive feedback. I love hearing from anyone who enjoys my work, but to be praised by oneís peers is really special.
As for working on a title for Marvel or DC, yeah, Iíd love to! Iíd especially like to do some out-of-continuity stuff about some of the young girl heroes like Supergirl, Batgirl, or Mary Marvel, and I think a Lois Lane story could be fun. Paul and I had an idea about Millie the Model a while ago. And while weíre talking about franchise properties, I had a fun idea for a Buffyverse story with Spike and Drusilla the other dayÖ
TO: How long have you and Paul been developing Banana Sunday? Will you be self-publishing it, or shopping it around to other publishers?
CC: We had a very early incarnation we were fooling around with at about the time that I was just getting going with Small Favors. It got put aside, and sort of germinated in Paulís head until he had a more developed story in mind for the main character and her monkeys. He wrote the scripts for the four-issue series last spring. I was working on the first issue, when we decided that I ought to get the Small Favors color issue done for the fall, so again, I took some time away from the monkeys to focus on Annie and Nibbil. What weíre doing now bears very little resemblance to the original Banana Sunday.
We donít plan to self-publish, but we are not yet set on a publisher. Right now, weíre focusing on production.
TO: Is it an inherent rule of comedy that if you have a monkey in the story, laughs are bound to happen (aka 'Lance Link, Secret Chimp' Theory of Comedy)?
CC: If only it were that easy! Ya want comedy? Bring in the monkeys! But no, monkeys lend themselves well to comedy because they are animals that look like little people, but if they donít have good material, then you got nothiní.
TO: In a recent blog post, you commented on the demographics of comics versus manga. Do you think the U.S. industry should consider more romance comics to bolster female readership?
CC: Yes, absolutely! We need the comics equivalent of chick flicks. I want to see intimate stories about people (super-powered or not) dealing with the small conflicts that create romantic suspense. The fate of the world doesnít need to hang in the balance, just the fate of next Tuesdayís dinner date. I donít think the answer to wooing over manga readers is to emulate the ďmanga styleĒ of art, but to provide good stories that are pretty to look at and fun to read.
TO: What exactly is the Box Lunch project? Are there any other projects in development for 2004?
CC: Box Lunch is a guide to oral sex written by Diana Cage, the editor in chief of On Our Backs magazine. I provided illustrations for the book, which is scheduled to be published by Alyson Books in July, I believe.
In June, the second Small Favors collection is coming out. It contains issues 5 Ė 7, plus some extra goodies. At the same time, there will be a new edition of the first collection, which will be a straight reprint with a new cover.
Otherwise, Iím just working away at Banana Sunday! (And moving cross-country from Iowa to Oregon this summer, but thatís a whole other storyÖ)
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