Talking Comics with Tim: Colleen Coover

In 2004 I was fortunate enough to interview Colleen Coover--during her Small Favors days/on the eve of the creation of her and husband Paul Tobin's all-ages Banana Sunday. I enjoyed her art then, but never hoped for how effectively Marvel would tap her fantastic style for many of its books and characters.  Much to my delight, it seems like Coover's reputation and fanbase is growing larger every day. Last week saw the release of Girl Comics No. 2, which featured a two-page opening piece by Coover as well as a Shamrock eight-page adventure drawn by her (and written by Kathryn Immonen). We briefly discussed it, as well as her other current Marvel work (such as the Hercules back-up tale in Thor and the Warriors Four)  for this brief email interview. I look forward to down the road when Coover flexes her "writer muscles" (as she calls them).

Tim O'Shea: Marvel's keeping you busy at present. How did the Hercules the Olympian Babysitter story land on your table?

Colleen Coover: The book's editor Jordan White asked me to come up with a Power Pack backup story for a four-issue mini series. I was flipping through Bullfinch's Mythology one evening, and I came up with the Hercules story when I woke up the next morning. At the time I didn't know that the Alex Zalben's main story was a team-up with Thor, titled Thor & The Warriors Four, so it was a happy coincidence that I used one of Marvel's other mythological characters!

O'Shea: Speaking of Hercules, can you single out a scene that was the most enjoyable for you to draw?

Coover: It was great fun to draw the flashback of little baby Herc throttling the pair of serpents that Hera had sent into his crib, and her sour face later when adult Hercules has bitten his thumb at her as he sets out to perform his Labors.

O'Shea: The fun that you inject in your art is more than just putting a smile on the characters' faces. Can you talk a little bit about how you inject Coover-iness (aka joy) into your characters?

Coover: It’s all about cartooning and acting—thinking about how the body language of a character tells the reader what’s going on in their head. When I’m cartooning a figure I often think of their skeletons being made of rubber, which gives them a little more “bounce” and liveliness.

O'Shea: That being said, despite the innate charm and warmth to your approach, I wonder if there are any Marvel characters that defy the Coover powers (for instance, have you ever tried to do a Coover-fied version of Thanos)?

Coover: We shall see! I did draw perhaps the cuddliest Man-Thing ever. And even the zombies in my backup for one of the issues of Models, Inc. were kinda cute. I have to think my biggest challenge will be the Red Skull, if and when that happens.

O'Shea: To what extent do you contribute to the remaining Girl Comics (2 and 3) issues? As a reader, can you single out creators that you're looking forward to seeing in the Girl Comics project?

Coover: I did a two-page intro for each of the three issues, all in the same basic format of 12 panels on one page and a full splash on the next. And then I drew an eight-page story starring Shamrock, written by Kathryn Immonen and beautifully colored by Elisabeth Breitweiser. I believe that story is to be in issue two. I’m looking forward to seeing Louise Simonson and June Brigman reunite for a Power Pack story!

O'Shea: I greatly enjoyed your Redwing story in the recent Tails of the Pet Avengers one-shot--any interest in more Redwing stories?

Coover: Thanks! Joe Caramagna wrote that piece, and it was a hoot to draw all the motorcycle chasing and birds flying around. The Pet Avengers is always fun to work on—I think it’s one of those books that even “serious” comics readers allow themselves to enjoy for the sheer fun of it!

O'Shea: Is Marvel trying to coax you into a regularly monthly assignment or are they and you content to stick with shorter miniseries assignments as your schedule permits?

Coover: I like to mix it up a lot, so it’s nice to be able to hop from book to book. I certainly wouldn’t have the speed as an artist necessary to do a full issue every month! But lately I’ve been working out my writer muscles, and I’d eventually like to write for other artists, so we’ll see how that goes in the future.

O'Shea: You recently went down to Texas for Free Comic Book Day--how did that go?

Coover: AWESOME. Paul and I had never been to Austin before, and Randy Lander of Rogues Gallery was a terrific host to us. The fans were great and the kids were all so polite!

O'Shea: How did the pinup of Dan DeCarlo’s Jetta come about?

Coover: I’ve been acquainted with the editor Craig Yoe for a number of years, and when he asked me to be a contributor, I jumped all over it!

O'Shea: What's on the horizon for you?

Coover: Paul and I are working on cover designs for our graphic novel Gingerbread Girl, which is going to be published by Top Shelf sometime late this year or early next.

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