A common theme in Howard Shapiro’s stories is the significance of music. His first graphic novel, The Sterotypical Freaks, revolved around competing high school bands and how that competition and their dedication to the music defined each member’s life. In his latest book, Queen of Kenosha(Animal Media Group), music once again takes center narrative state. It’s the story of young singer-songwriter from Wisconsin, Nina Overstreet, who comes to New York City in the early 1960s to make it on the folk scene. What she unexpectedly finds is espionage and ideological conspiracy. Whereas in his earlier Forever Friends series of graphic novels Howard wedded music to hockey as the backdrop for his stories, here in Queen of Kenosha — the first book in what he’s calling The Thin Thinline Trilogy — he uses music within the context of geopolitical intrigue. In this conversation, Derek talks with Howard about the impetus behind his latest project, the importance of music to his storytelling, the kind of research he conducted to set the historical stage, and his plans for following up on his songwriting protagonist. Howard was on the podcast a couple of years ago when Hockey Karma was released, and it was nice to touch base with him again and discuss his subsequent work.
Derek is pleased to have Rich Tommaso back on The Comics Alternative. He appeared on the show last year to discuss his new series at the time, She Wolf, but this time he talks about Spy Seal, his intriguing new anthropomorphic espionage series from Image Comics. They begin by chronicling the genesis of the story, a comic that Rich began as a thirteen-year-old, and then discuss the development of the premise and the various choices Rich made in situating his narrative. One way that Rich describes his new series is by paying homage to Hergé’s Tintin, the globetrotting young investigator who always found himself immersed in adventure and intrigue.He also discloses many of the lessons he learned with his previous Image series, both She Wolf and Dark Corridors, his love of genre, and his need to move on — at least momentarily — from psychological horror and crime stories. Derek also asks Rich about his plans for future Spy Seal narrative arcs, the temporal settings of these plots, and the ways in which the uncertainty of creator-0wned series impacts a writer’s storytelling choices.