Humanoids has a long and storied history of releasing compelling graphic novels from dynamic creators. But with its Life Drawn imprint, the publisher is expanding its scope even further, expertly showcasing “diverse voices and slice of life stories from different points of view.”
The latest such project from the imprint is Painted, from writers Helen Mullane and Kev Sherry and artist Katia Vecchio. (Sherry is also an indie musician, and features in the groups Attic Lights and Disco Mary.) The book, described as a “reflective graphic novel about girlhood and the patriarchy,” follows the life of beautiful supermodel as she recounts the stories and events that “brought her power… then tragedy.” It’s a powerful piece of storytelling, and proves to be vital reading for folks across the board.
Before the GN hits stores today (October 12), we caught up with all three creators to ask a few brief questions about the story, its development, and much more.
AIPT: Helen, how much did creating Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen help or inform writing this story? They’re both a kind of coming-of-age tale, albeit with some real differences.
Helen Mullane: Um, that’s an interesting question – Painted is very different from Nicnevin but they both speak to some of my most deep seated fascinations. Like Nicnevin, Painted is the story of moments that change the protagonists forever. I think the life of a teenage girl is full of these moments – you get your period; you learn about sex which holds its own strange, complicated power; you might reach your first true awareness of being disempowered by your gender; it can be a really fraught time. I think both books draw from the same well, but come at them from very different angles.
In terms of the technical act of writing comics, I learnt a lot from that first book that informed the process for everything after. Coming to Painted with a lot more experience, I was more aware of how what I wrote in the script would affect Katia, and was able to more effectively communicate the ideas that Kev and I had.
AIPT: Kev, how much commonality, if at all, is there between writing songs and writing comics?
Kev Sherry: I guess the difference is in how you then refine that raw material into a comic or a song. As a lifelong music obsessive and comic obsessive, I suppose I have an inbuilt understanding of what the form requires. (At least, that’s what I tell myself as I scream at the laptop because I can’t make the verse or scene fit the song or comic!) I think most creative processes all share that commonality of instinctive imaginative drift, whether you are playing a song, writing a comic or
just having a conversation with someone. It’s all just stuff we do, our minds inventing new realities as we go. And one idea always leads to another just like one sentence in a conversation follows another. Painted is filling my head these days, to the extent that my new musical side project, Disco Mary, is releasing a song on Oct 6th called “Kids Games,” which is inspired by the characters in Painted.
AIPT: Katia, what kind of thinking or conversations go into things like color choices, characters’ facial expressions and appearances, the overall settings, etc.? This story, visually speaking, has a very kind of timeless quality to it.
Katia Vecchio: Thank you! When we were starting to work on Painted, Kev had given me some brief descriptions of the characters and the fantasy parts. But he gave me a lot of freedom on everything and I threw myself into drawing the pages (it’s weird, it’s like I’d dreamed of Painted and already knew what I had to do!). Even the color choices were for the most part, very instinctive. But sometimes I had to figure out what I wanted to convey emotionally and the feelings that a scene gave me.
AIPT: Helen, how much of your own life or experiences or feelings winds up in a story like this? How do you control the kinds of energies and ideas that will inform the scope and path of this story?
HM: We all put a lot of our experiences on the page, that’s how we come to the conclusions we do about what each character will do – our experience gives us the why that informs the how. Painted was a very collaborative project, so that means that the energies and ideas were coming from both Kev and I, and then were filtered again through Katia’s experience and talent. When you have a blending of viewpoints like that you emerge with something entirely new, something that has a broader scope because everybody’s experiences inform the story. It’s all blended into a book that brings together humor, anger and hope in a really singular way.
AIPT: Kev, is there a certain power in telling this story with other collaborators? Not to drive the musician thing too far, but it’s almost like having a proper band.
KS: Ha! It is totally like being in a band. And like any good band, the strength of the work lies in collaboration, in the sharing and mixing of ideas from different minds. There’s nothing more exciting than creatively riffing off someone, your idea sparks a better idea from them, which sparks another idea… and on and on back and forth. It’s one of my favorite things. It’s actually when I feel most alive and most present in the world. The act of shared creating is what human beings are great at. With Painted, it would never have worked without Katia and Helen bringing not just their incredible talents and personal perspectives, but also a powerful intellectual and instinctive feminism that rooted the comic in reality.
AIPT: Katia, you’ve got such a lively and joyous art style. Is it challenging, in any way, to tackle a story that’s ripe with such tragic energy and heavy emotionality?
KV: With Painted, I thought that a more joyful style with bright colors would have been more suitable for a story with teenagers as protagonists and that it would have highlighted a little the innocence and vulnerability of those years. I also thought that the contrast between the liveliness of the art style and the mature topics of the story would have been interesting and more energetic. To be honest it wasn’t easy. When you draw a story with strong messages, you think you have to give everything you can in the pages to convey those emotions to readers. But the dramatic shots you choose and the character expressions are very important and useful during these phases.
Interior pages courtesy of Humanoids.
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