Plourde & Michaels Explain "How i Made the World"

Co-creators, Liz Plourde and Randy Michaels, met in college and eventually began collaborating on a series of semi-autobiographic comics. This month, "How i Made the World," one of the comics to win the final round of Xeric Grants is being published. The book features the character Liz in two stories; "The Monster," which takes place when the character is in college, and "Catman," set during her childhood.

But what makes the comic stand out is how, in just a few pages, the creators manage to establish the character and a tone so that even though the two stories are very different, they feel like a continuum, taking place in the same world to the same person.

With the first issue of "How i Made the World" arriving in June, the two spoke with CBR News about the comic, what receiving a Xeric Grant meant and thinking about the second issue.

CBR News: As this is your first comic, I was wondering if the two of you could introduce yourselves?

Liz Plourde: I was an English major taking creative writing courses when Randy and I met. I'd wanted to write stories since before I learned the alphabet, but my short stories at the time seemed to be missing an essential element.

Randy Michaels: My background is in illustration and TV production. I've loved comics since I was a kid, and still do. When I read some of Liz's short stories, I thought she had a "voice" that would make great comics. Her writing is smart and very funny.

Plourde: We both love a good yarn, and I think we recognized that right away about each other. I'd just been getting into comics when we met, discovering the work of Jaime Hernandez in particular.

What is "How i Made the World?"

Plourde: "How i Made the World" is a series of semi-autobiographical comic stories loosely based on me. "Liz" is a college student whose everyday experiences take on epic proportions. Randy and I both appreciate how the small moments that make up a person's day -- or life, for that matter -- can be compelling. 

Michaels: And relatable. I love superhero comics, but slice of life stories can also be powerful and strike a chord.

How did the two of you meet and what's your collaboration been like? 

Michaels: Liz and I were working on a nightly TV news magazine together and, in talking, we discovered we were both into the same TV shows and movies, and we loved talking about UFOs! We had a lot in common.

Plourde: I'd been writing short stories about college life, and Randy felt they would make good comics. He'd read a couple, adapted one into a 7-page comic, and we were both pleased with how that came out. The art seemed to compliment every element of the prose, especially the characterization, setting and humorous voice. From there, we began brainstorming ideas for an original comic series. 

As for our process, we talk things over while Randy sketches and discuss pacing and how individual scenes might play out on the page. Our process is very collaborative. I'll offer suggestions for the art, and Randy does the same with the writing. We're very much in synch. Any creative disputes are mediated by my dog, Thisbe.

There are two stories in the book, and they're very different. Why did you want to do that? 

Michaels: In our first story, "The Monster," Liz is a college sophomore struggling with a sculpture class midterm project that takes over her life. And in our backup, "Catman," she's about 7 years old and dealing with a tall tale her uncle told her. The stories are very different. We've got the same lead character but, of course, she's a different person at 7 than she is at 20. 

Plourde: We want to tell stories at different times in Liz's life and establish that concept right away. The character is the result of her many experiences, and we think it's interesting to reveal how a previous occurrence might relate to Liz's reaction to a situation later on or contribute to who she is now. Both "Catman" and "The Monster" share similar themes of obsession, the power of perception, and wonder in everyday occurrences.

You got one of the last Xeric grants. What did that mean to you and how did that help you put this book together? 

Plourde: We were working on "How i Made the World" when the Xeric Foundation announced they would award only one more round of grants. We had been aware of the Xeric Grant and how the foundation had given over $2 Million over a 20-year period to help self-publishing comic book creators. Actually, we had been ordering every Xeric-winning comic that was listed in the "Previews" catalog and loved the creativity and original ideas found in those books. 

Michaels: We had always planned on applying for a Xeric grant for "How i Made the World," but when we heard this would be our last chance, we moved things into high gear. This news motivated us to get the book in as close to a finished state as we could to meet their submissions deadline. 

The Xeric submission process is very thorough. They take it seriously, and that made us take it seriously. We provided them with our comic, a budget and a statement of purpose, among other things. 

Plourde: Getting the news that we received a Xeric grant was the best day ever. We'd pretty much been working in a vacuum until then. I love Randy's art, and he appreciates my writing, but I think we were both concerned that we were members of a mutual admiration society of two. The recognition and confidence placed in us by the Xeric Foundation was a real boost. That made us feel validated. 

We're extremely grateful to the Xeric Foundation for funding the publishing of our first issue. 

Are you thinking about a second issue?

Plourde: We're working on our second issue now, with stories that find Liz at a college party and exploring romance. We'd like to continue telling tales of Liz in college and beyond. But first we need readers to go out and pick up issue #1 (and tell their friends)!

"How i Made the World" is available this month. More information can found on their website: www.howimadetheworld.com

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