Welcome back reader, to my Rose City Comic-Con Indie Creator Spotlight. If you haven’t read my No. 1, do so here. Indie creators are all around us, but how do we find them if we don’t actively search them out? I did just this while at RCCC, in Portland, OR. I hope you enjoy a snapshot of these creators who don’t or haven’t found themselves in the limelight (not yet, anyway).
Cassie Anderson, Matt Mair Lowery, and Lifeformed
Cassie Anderson’s artwork is cartoonish without being simple and minimal without being basic. It’s the style of art that reminds readers that reading comics should be fun but also allows for a breadth of emotion not always easily tackled. Think in the style of Avatar: The Last Air Bender. It can be goofy when it wants to be but digs deep when the big issues are on the table. It’s probably no surprise, then, that Matt Mair Lowery was drawn to Cassie’s art when he was looking for someone to illustrate is YA graphic novel about aliens and the end of the world.
With two volumes of Lifeformed already on the shelves, some weighted and adult themes have taken shape. Matt didn’t write his script with the concept of free will in mind but the more he delved into the main character, Cleo, the more the theme seemed an important one. We’ve all heard of the writer who finds their character running away with the plot, i.e. doing and saying things the writer never intended. But for Matt, the free will theme was one of discovery, rather than dealing with the rebellion of a character.
When it came to adapting the script to the page, Cassie had her work cut out for her. Matt originally envisioned Lifeformed as a TV show rather than a comic, and his script reflected this. Rather than panel breakdowns, he had directions. Cassie, however, enjoys the creative control this grants her. Cassie is free to envision characters as she sees fit. The product of this alien invasion apocalypse is a touching story about a girl who deals with love, loss, and what actions matter when you are the last human left.
Lifeformed is published by Dark Horse Comics. Check out the Lifeformed website, here.
Sam Rusk, Kristen Brown, and In The Basement
Comics have a long history of tackling big issues in life, yet Kristen and Sam have tasked themselves with a risky and refreshing topic: Atheism.
The protagonist of In The Basement, Gina, lives in a country town and goes to a private baptist school. She isn’t the most popular student among her peers or if truth be told, the faculty. See, she’s failing Christianity. How do you fail Christianity–she doesn’t know. Maybe that’s why she’s failing?
Now, Gina bares some resemblance to the writer of this duo, Kristen. One can’t help but guess at what parts of this comic are pulled directly from her life, and what is fiction. The story tackles big questions of belonging and self-actualization. But it’s all spliced with the dark humor of adolescence.
Her illustrator and wife, Sam, illustrates this piece with a contradictory style that is perfect for an eighth-grader questioning her positionality in the world of religious doubt. Where eighth-graders are typically dramatic and loud, (or so I’m told as my wife is an 8th-grade teacher) Sam goes out of her way to illustrate how subdued and squelched Gina is. When I asked how they collaborated on such a close-to-the-heart piece, they only shrugged. They said it was easy. This story was one they’d talked over for some time.
When Kristen originally drafted the script, she did so with TV in mind. (See the pattern?) Then it morphed into a comic she and Sam funded via Kickstarter. Sam typically plies her trade as a tattoo artist, so the stretch goals for the project sprung up organically. They created pins, posters, and stickers, some of which can still be found on the couples marketplace/website. The first two issues of In The Basement are there as well, so check it out, at creepcreeps.com