In the short term, you’ve got this year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival, kicking off tomorrow at the Toronto Research Library. In the somewhat longer term, you’ve got Marceline and the Scream Queens, set for monthly release starting in July. The common thread? The supremely talented Meredith Gran, who took time out from drawing Octopus Pie and packing for the trip to TCAF to talk to us about Adventure Time, her own comics, and the importance of having a dog in the house.
Fleen: Ready to start?
Fleen: Awesome. Let’s begin with Adventure Time; you’re about the 87th person in webcomics that’s found herself associated with AT in some way (and that’s not counting the people that work on the actual show). What do you think the appeal of working on somebody else’s creation is for all of these creators that have their own characters and stories?
Gran: Adventure Time is just so appealing to kids and adults. It’s very much an artist-driven series, and that really shows. I think the process itself is why so many artists want to be a part of it.
Fleen: So it’s like getting to do the biggest, bestest guest strip for a peer, instead of playing with a corporate character that’s been around since before you were born?
Gran: Yes, that’s a fair comparison.
Fleen: So how different is it doing a four-issue miniseries from your usual work patterns? Aside from the fact that you have an editor/checker making sure that you stay sufficiently on-model?
Gran: I believe it’s actually 6 issues [with 15 pages each] right now … unless I heard wrong.
Fleen: So 90 pages that make up one story — you’ve done Octopus Pie story arcs that have gone for a few months worth of updates, but no single story that long. How much of a shift is it to work with that much more story? Is it a matter of stretching or a matter of trying to fit all the ideas in?
Gran: Given the nature of the issues, it’s not too long of a story. The panel layouts will be less dense than my usual pages, and there’ll be lots of recapping. I’m also kind of splitting it into smaller episodes with a few ongoing plot threads, so it won’t be too epic, lengthwise.
Fleen: Do you think that your existing audience and your soon-to-be Adventure Time audience are going to overlap significantly or will these be two different sets of people? What will feel weirder —
if you get a student from your [upcoming] class at SVA saying, “I love Octopus Pie”, or “I love your Adventure Time comics”?
Gran: There’s inevitably going to be a lot of overlap. Most of the people who found out about the series off the bat knew about Octopus Pie. But Adventure Time will no doubt be more popular, and there’ll be more kids reading it. I’ll probably feel a little weird if someone under 13 reads both.
Fleen: Mind if we talk some more about that class you’re going to be teaching?
Fleen: What’s the scope of the class — comics as independent creator in general, webcomics in particular? Focus on the artistic side only, or also talk about the business/strategy decisions that you have to navigate ?
Gran: It is a webcomic-specific class, and I intend to go very light on the business/strategy. My goal is to get people starting good webcomics and updating them, and ask questions about strategy when they actually need to.
Fleen: How long do you have to work with the students — how many hours per class, how many classes in the term?
Gran: I’m pretty sure it’s a 3-hour, once a week course, for 1 semester.
Fleen: Been practicing your “professor voice”?
Gran: Haha. I’m not fooling anybody.
Fleen: I imagine one nice thing about the class will be it puts you around other artists on a regular basis. Has it been a transition for you since Pizza Island closed up shop to work more on your own?
Gran: Oh, yes. I work in my room a whole lot these days. It’s fine mostly, but the company of artists will be nice.
Fleen: It’s all just rappers¹ and dogs for days on end, huh?
Gran: Yes, we all play tug o’ war.
Fleen: You got the rights back to your first three books recently. With There Are No Stars In Brooklyn [published via Random House, incorporating the first three books] pretty close to sold out, what’s next for you on that end of things? Get the original three books back into print, or the stories since the end of Listen At Home²?
Gran: That’s something I’m currently working out. In all likelihood No Stars will find a new publisher. I’m definitely anxious to get it back into print.
Fleen: One of the things I really like about Octopus Pie is the sense that while characters are doing things, the other members of the cast aren’t static. It’s all well and good for Eve to spend a couple days getting thrown out windows by espresso cultists, but at the same time, Will and Aimee are having a quiet moment to themselves. Which characters are we going to get a peek in on next? Who’s demanding screen time in your head?
Gran: They’re all demanding screen time! And it’s a challenge deciding what to do next, because I want to keep the stories varied. I think Puget Sean and Marigold will be getting a story pretty soon.
Fleen: I’ve always wondered if Puget Sean had any stories in him. How about Manuel? Will we ever get a story entirely from his POV?
Gran: Probably not from his POV, since he doesn’t really have any brains. But there will be a story where Manuel’s role is pretty significant.
Fleen: Any other things that you’re waiting to get to? If there was a magic wand that you could wave over yourself and get the time each week to do one more project, what would you want to work on?
Gran: I’d definitely do some more animation. It takes so long, but I love making it, and start to miss it after a while.
Fleen: That’s everything in my notes. Anything that you wanted to bring up or promote?
Gran: Nah. You’ve covered the two things I do all day!
Fleen: Comics and playing with Heidi?
Gran: Yes, thank god for that dog.
Fleen thanks Ms Gran for taking the time to talk with us, and for revealing her secret to success: make comics all day long and play with your dog.
¹ Gran’s housemate is noted nerdcore rapper MC Frontalot.
² Comics from August, 2010 to the present day are not yet collected in print.