The all-ages BOOM! Studios series Lumberjanes, the highest-profile hit in its BOOM! Box line, has made the leap from comics to prose with the first of the Lumberjanes chapter books, Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power!, now on sale from Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams.
Writer Mariko Tamaki (Hulk, This One Summer) and artist Brooklyn Allen (one of the original Lumberjanes creators) are already working on the next two volumes, and we caught up with them last month at New York Comic Con to talk about the joys and challenges of moving Jo, April, Molly, Mal and Ripley from comics to prose.
CBR: Mariko, what was your first exposure to Lumberjanes?
Mariko Tamaki: I saw it when it first came out. I think it’s one of those lesbian word-of-mouth things, because it’s such a unique thing, and it’s one of those things that all of us were getting other people to read. I loved it immediately. I was waiting for something like this to exist, and I was so thrilled that it was awesome. It wasn’t just that you were like “Oh, it’s lesbians, and it’s kind of OK," it was like, "Oh, this is great!”
Brooklyn, you were part of the original creative team on Lumberjanes. How did that happen?
Brooklyn Allen: I had done a little bit of work for BOOM! Studios already, a couple of covers, so I had been in contact with Whitney Leopard, who was an editor there. Shannon [Watters] and Grace [Ellis] were putting together the pitch, and they just had text and no imagery for the pitch, and they were like, “We need something fast. I guess we’ll contact Brooklyn!” and they were like, “Hey, can you do this by tomorrow?”
Thankfully I was unemployed and living at home and super-sad, so I was like “I can do this! I’ve got all night!” So I did. And the rest is history.
That sounds like something out of a movie.
Allen: Yeah, it’s wild to think about it now. At the time it didn’t feel very special, but when I got Grace’s character descriptions and just describing the world, it seemed really awesome. Something about it, I was like, "Oh my god, this is so good." If I’m not part of making it, it doesn’t matter. It’s just good that it exists. I was already a fan of it in that moment. Happy to be along for the ride.
You were the artist for the series for a time.
Allen: Yes. I did the original character designs and they handed it off to Noelle [Stevenson] to redesign them. She did an amazing job. I can’t even imagine if that hadn’t happened. Then she came on as a writer and did all the A covers, and I did the interior artwork.
How long did you stay with that?
Allen: It must have been two or three years. I was working at a Trader Joe’s at the time, so it was really brutal. Eight issues in, it kind of wore me down, and I got to the point where I was sick all the time. I was gaining momentum, but until I had a big financial break, I wasn’t going to be able to quit Trader Joe’s and devote my full time to Lumberjanes, like I wanted to. So they brought in Carolyn [Nowak]. I came back for the next arc.
Mariko, how did you get involved with this project?
Tamaki: I got an email from my agent, and she was like, “Do you know the Lumberjanes?” And I e-mailed her back “Yes I do. I’m not leaving my hotel room until you call me. Call me now. I want to find out what this is!”
How did you approach turning a comic into a text-based story?
Tamaki: I really wanted to give all five characters a presence. I’m a really big Douglas Adams fan, so I thought if I give it this third person voice that’s knowledgeable and knows all the history so they don’t always have to say stuff -- you have a voice that can give background -- I thought that would work, and it was actually really fun to write. It was very easy to write, which was kind of a blessing, because I didn’t have much time.
We decided to make each book focus on one character more than the others, a little bit. The first one is about April, which seemed kind of a natural thing to do. Then it just happened! I was such a fan of the books, I was so familiar with them, that it was actually really easy to just write into that world.