On this interview episode Gwen and Derek talk with Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag. Their new book Shattered Warrior comes out this week from First Second, and they discuss their experiences in developing the project and their process of collaboration. This is Sharon’s first graphic novel — she’s the author of over 25 prose novels — so she shares her journey of discover while working in a different medium. And while Molly is primarily known for her successful webcomic Strong Female Protagonist (co-created with Brennan Lee Mulligan), this is her first time in working on a longer, sustained narrative for print. Gwen and Derek talk with their guests about the genesis of this story, the excitement of world creation, and their thoughts on intended reading audiences.
For the month of December — the one-year anniversary of the webcomics series! — Sean and Derek are back to discuss three very different, very distinct, webcomics. They begin with Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag’s Strong Female Protagonist, a title that has been going strong since 2012. As described by its creators, the story concerns “the adventures of a young middle-class American with super-strength, invincibility, and a crippling sense of social injustice.” Although that may roughly encapsulate the premise, the webcomic is much more sophisticated than that. In fact, the guys spend a great deal of time discussing the creators’ ambitions with the story, both in terms of the art and regarding its subject matter. Derek wonders if Mulligan, especially in the fifth chapter, may be trying to juggle too much at one time, making his narrative almost top-heavy with its intended messages. Sean disagrees, but he does see the philosophical ambitions embedded in the text. And it is on the topic of philosophy that the guys segue into their next title, Corey Mohler’s Existential Comics. This webcomic is notable for two reasons: it’s the first gag-based, done-in-one kind of comic that the guys have ever discussed on the webcomics series, and it’s as funny as hell! It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this is one of the funniest titles ever discussed on The Comics Alternative, webcomics or otherwise. Mohler uses actual philosophers themselves, and the entire history of philosophical thought, as the grist for his absurd mill. In Existential Comics you’ll find the ancient Greeks playing Texas hold’em, Franz Kafka at the DMV, Diogenes encountering a commie-killing Abraham Lincoln, Albert Camus thwarting Rudolf Carnap’s barfly pick-up efforts, Søren Kierkegaard at a rave, a zombie God (animated by Arthur Schopenhauer) attacking Friedrich Nietzsche, Simone de Beauvoir hosting her own cooking show, and a wide variety of philosophers trying to play Dungeons and Dragons. Finally, Derek and Sean wrap up with a look at Bucko, a short webcomic by Jeff Parker and Erika Moen that ran from 2011 to 2012. As the guys discuss, part of the fun of reading this title is seeing how Parker and Moen kept trying to outdo themselves with unlikely plot twists and characterization that built do an almost chaotic crescendo. Sean, however, isn’t a fan of the story’s ending, which he sees as too convenient and too predictably Scooby-Doo-like. Still, you could read Bucko — along with Existential Comics — as a freewheeling antidote to those holiday blues.