Following last month's debut of Sarah Oleksyk's "Previously Possessed" at MySpace Dark Horse Presents, September's issue of the free webcomics anthology features another rising star discovered by the publisher at the Stumptown Comics Festival back in April. "Steak and Kidney Punch" by Liz Greenfield, a Netherlands-born cartoonist living in Manchester, England, is the latest original project to appear on Dark Horse's online spotlight for new talent. How did this bi-national artist happen to be in Portland, of all places, to have her work reviewed by one of comics' premiere indie publishers? CBR News spoke with Greenfield to get the full story.
"Steak and Kidney Punch," centers around a young girl having a friend over for dinner. The friend is a pre-teen professional boxer -- or so he says. "The idea was tailor-made, or made up entirely on the spot, if you will," Greenfield told CBR. "A BBC documentary about child boxing had recently captured my imagination. Dark Horse offered me a platform to develop this fascination into something real and, I hope, also entertaining."
The story changed a bit from how Greenfield initially imagined it. "It started out as an action-packed scene, like something out of 'Fight Club,' but when I gave it some more thought, I realized what compelled me to watch that film a second and third time was not its explicit violence, but rather the mentally unstable protagonist," she explained. "I decided to focus upon one kid, and what impact the boxing has on his daily life."
If all goes well, the cartoonist hopes to return to "Steak and Kidney Punch" for Round Two. "I do have more characters and situations in mind," Greenfield said. "Page three of the story even alludes to an entire league of young boxers, including Thai and Mary. I could develop this into a book-length thing, definitely. I foresee a story with more punches flying."
Greenfield came to Dark Horse's attention while traveling in Portland to celebrate her twenty-first birthday. "In Europe, the drinking age is between 16 and 18, so turning 21 is, well, anticlimactic," she said. "I considered celebrating in New York City or Seattle, but my friends were at the Stumptown Arts Festival. It was a great excuse to finally see Portland."
Greenfield admitted she was not familiar with MySpace Dark Horse Presents prior to the festival. "I'm not very good at these social networking sites," she said. "I had been inactive on MySpace for a while prior to the invitation." Greenfield was also unaware that she would be presented with the opportunity to pitch a comics project at the festival. "It happened so suddenly that I didn't have time to be flustered or incoherent until later. I was invited to their table near the main entrance, where [editor] Scott Allie laid down the rules and asked if I was interested. To paraphrase my response: 'Yes. Yes, I am.'"
Greenfield's previous longform comic project, "Stuff Sucks," was published online and later printed as a series of six CD-sleeve-sized issues. A complete set is available from www.stuffsucks.com, which also contains Greenfield's latest sketches and news on her upcoming projects. "'Stuff Sucks' is a romantic adventure comic set in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where I grew up," she said. "It was 90% derived from personal experience, a good first project in the sense that it practically wrote itself. I self-published it online for two-and-a-half years, and towards the end I wanted to sink my teeth into subject matter less trivial than music snobbery and petty crime, you know? It is my only long-running comic to date.
"This year I've been focused on stand-alone comics for magazines, and commissioned comics like 'Steak and Kidney Punch.' Long-running projects are like serious relationships in many ways. The space between is crucial time for reflection and reassessment. I've been experimenting with lots of new art materials and writing formats, and it has been marvelous. I'll start on another long project as soon as I'm ready for that level of commitment again."
Whether or not Greenfield decides she to go steady with "Steak and Kidney Punch," she clearly views the Stumptown Festival and resulting MySpace Dark Horse Presents strip as exciting developments in her cartooning life. "It was a great experience; I enjoyed it very much," she said. "Working with [Dark Horse's] Sierra Hahn and Scott Allie was amazing. I was worried that having editors would bring limitations, but, if anything, their input really helped me refine the work and gave the story more room to breathe.
"It's funny how life works sometimes. Being approached by Dark Horse on my 21st birthday was a better gift than I could ever have asked for, and I'm very glad it led to 'Steak and Kidney Punch.'"