During her first-ever appearance at Comic-Con International in San Diego, cartoonist Lucy Knisley — whose “An Age of License” was released from Fantagraphics this week — made time to speak with Albert Ching aboard the world-famous CBR Yacht. She discusses the four books currently on her plate, how “Relish” marked a turning point in her career and feedback she’s received from fans who made her recipes. Knisley, who is getting married soon, talked about “Something New,” which looks at wedding planning through an autobiographical lens, and how things going wrong might actually make for a better book. She also speaks about her new travelogue books from Fantagraphics (including “An Age of License”) and the adventures that inspired them, as well as recent work on Valiant’s “Harbinger” and why she hopes to draw more superheroes.
On “Relish” being a breakthrough book for her career: “French Milk” was my first book and it was a travelogue, so it’s very free form, still finding my style, still sort of discovering who I am as an artist, whereas “Relish” I was a little more established. It was also memoir rather than travelogue so it was a lot more sort of concrete storytelling.
On feedback from fans about the recipes in “Relish”: It’s really great actually because I find a lot of comic artists maybe aren’t into cooking or food and then I can sort of share this idea of a recipe with them and then suddenly it’s like, “I made that, and now I’m the best cook in the world!” And it’s like, “Yes!” Bringing the comics world and the culinary world together.
So far so good, for the most part. I’ve had people be like, “I substituted this thing for the recipe because I was out of this other thing, and it was terrible. I was like, “Well… don’t do that. I don’t know what to tell you.” “It’s your fault.” So I’ve been like, “Well, sorry.” But for the most part people are like, “Okay, those cookies are pretty good.”
On “Something New,” her book about the crazy world of wedding planning: It’s sort of a wedding planning from a tomboy, feminist, geek point of view, this idea about the wedding industry and sort of bucking traditions and trying to find my way in this crazy, like, kind of Wonderland world of nightmare princess times. [Laughs] But you know, it’s also like a great time and every generation sort of reinvents the wheel of marriage. Hopefully we’ll — it’ll get better and better and less like a chattel where women are sold [Laughs] and more like a cool partnership situation.
It’s pretty rigidly gendered. It’s pretty, like, the princess and the prince situation. It’s kind of cool to think about that whole, like, fantasy princess land thing. It’s slightly empowering because women had like no power in marriage for so long that for then to become this, like, bridezilla thing… like, “Good for you, Bridezilla! Yeah, feminism. Sure, be a bridezilla. Whatever you want. As long as you’re not chattel, it’s fine.”
RELATED: Lucy Knisley’s French Milk
On her two new travelogues from Fantagraphics: I did a lot of traveling in the year before “Relish” came out — First Second does thing where once you finish a book they wait about a year to put it out, so I had this year where I was sort of in limbo and I was like recovering from heartbreak and kind of in this weird state. I was like, ‘I’m gonna travel. I’m gonna take every opportunity to travel and this’ll be great.’ So I went on a bunch of trips, one of them was a comic convention in Norway, the Raptus Comic Fest, and they offered to fly me back from anywhere in Europe. So i just spent a month kind of traveling around, visiting friends, having like a weird love affair with a Swedish mathematician who lived in a commune… [Laughs] Um… so that’s what [“An Age of License”] is about, and it’s sort of about sex and youth and adventure and fun.
The second one, from Fantagraphics also, they kind of go hand in hand, is called “Displacement,” and it’s about when my grandparents went on an elderly cruise and I went with them. … That was kind of a weird one, yeah. The other side of the coin of like, responsibility and mortality and family, and stuff. So it’s this balance between youth and adventure and the [Laughs] opposite of youth and adventure. It’s a weird one.
On her recent “Harbinger” work for Valiant and her love of superheroes: I grew up reading — I mean a read a lot of Archie Comics, I read a whole bunch of things, but in terms of superhero stuff I was really into “Harbinger.” It was the thing that I really connected with as a kid. I think it was because of Faith or Zephyr, the female character in that who’s this antithesis of the spandex style, decorative kind of super hot woman that was existing in a lot of ’90s comics back then. Zephyr was kind of a little more active, not as passive, and she was just this kind of, like, chubby girl who could fly. And she was nerdy and I loved her. It was great and I was totally obsessed. I read the whole series and then it ended, and then I didn’t read superhero comics for a long time after that ’cause, like, my heart was broken. But yeah, when they relaunched the series I was really excited, and then totally thrilled when I got to do a little backstory and a cover for them.
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