Laying bare her process as an artist and creator during an insightful and informative Saturday afternoon spotlight panel at WonderCon, Hope Larson told fans she “can’t imagine being a comics writer who hasn’t drawn comics before.” The Eisner Award winner joked about the evolution of her process from being an overzealous college student to adapting “A Wrinkle in Time” and more.
Though often identified as a “middle-grade/young adult author,” Larson’s mass appeal was evident as one looked at the gathered audience composed of teens and adults of both genders, all of whom were eagerly listening to every word as the creator spoke of her decade-long transition from working as an artist in Photoshop “version 0.whatever” to picking up a pencil after the completion of her contribution to “Flight Vol.2.” She amusingly recalled being “bullied into it by her friends” who were “the backbone of that project.” Her artistic progression came hot on the heels of “Flight,” which in her own estimation “literally took months” and led to a desire to produce something more “handmade” instead of digital.
Larson spoke of being inspired by the clean brush lines of her contemporaries such as Craig Thompson or Seth, telling the crowd she had to find a familiar aesthetic that, in her own words, “felt like something I could achieve.” She couldn’t recall exactly what led to the aesthetic of “Salamander Dream,” but she pointed specifically to the work of Seth as an inspiration. “Salamander” developed from an “incredibly minimalist story” and was mostly about the design. Her second work, “Gray Horse,” came quickly on the heels of “Salamander.” So closely, in fact, that she identifies both books as having the same ideals, calling them “halves of the same idea.”
The next evolutionary leap Larson spoke of was her shift of focus from design to story. The genesis of her next artistic stage came between “Gray Horses” and “Chiggers” and stemmed from a desire to produce a “more traditional book.” This led to a shift in aesthetic as well as her writing style. “Chiggers” was the first part of a narrative stretch for Larson, as well as the first work with a publisher that would give feedback. Later in the panel, Larson revisited the initial insecurity she felt in this situation, having “never being edited, ever,” explaining how she now enjoys the editing process. She was happy to declare she now treats any edit as a puzzle she is eager to solve, claiming she enjoys the editing stage almost more than the initial writing.
Larson next project was “a little bit rougher than ‘Chiggers.'” she explained “Mercury” had confounded her editors and publishers at Simon and Shuster as it was, in their eyes, a young adult book and a shift away from her previously established middle-grade writing style. Whilst talking about the editor’s issues with “Mercury,” she called for a brief spoiler alert with at least one person chose to leave the room momentarily. Larson playfully joked, “we’ll never get them back now.”
Upon the return of the now spoiler free attendee, Larson shifted the discussion to losing her editor and how she’s had to stand her ground with Simon and Shuster as they’ve dealt with company restructuring. Upon gaining a new editor and having worked everything out, she explained how the “trauma” of this led to her just wanting to write exclusively and not draw. Thankfully, this hasn’t been the case, but in her own words, she “pretty much took a year off from [drawing].”
These days, Larson explained she’s writing what she refers to as “effortless scripts” for a new book titled “Who is AC?” Set to be illustrated by another female artist named Tintin Pantoja, Larson gushed about Pantoja, calling her “so talented — it’s like getting to watch a Saturday morning cartoon just for me.”
At this point, the floor was opened up to questions. Larson was more than happy to talk about her time in college as an animation student, even though she felt “it was so long before I started drawing comics that I had forgotten all of it.” She happily gave another audience member a brief rundown of her daily routine before the Q&A shifted focus to “A Wrinkle in Time.”
Having been met by a few audible gasps when she mentioned that she would be adapting ” A Wrinkle in Time” earlier in the panel, Larson explained how her involvement in the project came about. Jokingly referring to “a dinky little interview” a year ago when she suggested that it would be the only other author’s work she could see her self adapting, she was contacted by the publisher and the estate of “Madeline L’Engle.” “I just can’t imagine a book that fit me as well as that one,” she said. “I wanted to be the one who was gonna screw it up.”