Colleen Coover: Monkeys and Cubbies!
Interview by Logan Kaufman, Adventures Underground
Colleen Coover is a comic book artist and illustrator living in Portland, Oregon. She is the artist for Banana Sunday, a comedy for young readers written by Root Nibot, and the creator of the erotic romance Small Favors. Her illustrations have appeared in the magazines Curve, Girlfriends, Computer Source, and Nickelodeon Magazine. Colleen was born in Iowa in 1969.
Logan Kaufman: You broke into comics by sending a packet of work to Kim Thompson at Fantagraphics, and were welcomed aboard with open arms. Sounds like the easiest thing in the world.
Colleen Coover: The easy part was sending in the packet to Kim. But it contained over 100 pages of finished art that took a year and a half to draw! That's like four issues worth of material done before we got started! So, no, not easy. I am occasionally asked ny new comics artists how to get published, and I always tell them, "you have to FINISH something." It's difficult to spend a long time writing and drawing a comic without knowing if it's going to be picked up by a publisher, but that's the only way to show that you can get the job done.
Logan: Were you expecting some rejection, or did you have a fair amount of confidence in your work by then?
Colleen Coover: I was pretty sure that someone would pick up Small Favors, whether Eros or NBM or whoever. I felt that it compared well with the quality of a lot of other adult comics, and again, there was four issues worth of comics ready to go! I went to Eros first just on the basis of its size relative to other adult publishers in the US.
Logan: Do you get a whole new set of nerves kicking in after something is first accepted? Are people going to go over this with a magnifying glass in one hand a Psych 101 textbook in the other?
Colleen Coover: With the first issues of Small Favors, I just wanted people to evaluate it as a comic, not just as porn. And I wanted them to not think it sucked. Happily, they didn't! Now I have a weird sort of disconnect between my work and the published piece. By the time anything I draw gets published, I have a whole new deadline or project to worry about! What is brand-new for the readers is old news to me. But I still do Google searches to see what people are saying. Logan: Lately you've been collaborating with your partner Paul Tobin on Banana Sunday and other short pieces. Do you enjoy that collaborative process more than doing everything by yourself?
Colleen Coover: What most people don't kow is that I've been working with Paul all along. He got me into creating comics with a few short pieces in his comic Attitude Lad, which was published by Caliber Press and then Slave Labor Graphics in the early-mid 90's. He's been my advisor and coach from the beginning, so working with him is perfectly natural. How it would be to work with another writer, I have no idea.
Logan: Small Favors was all Colleen, however, right?
Colleen Coover: Yeah, though Paul was always there for me when I needed advice or ideas, and in the beginning I needed a LOT of advice and ideas!
Logan: With everything else you're working on, is Small Favors officially on the back burner at this point?
Colleen Coover: Yeah, for the moment. I expect there will be more Small Favors in the future, probably in the form of the occasional special issue, but I really want to expand my range and do other types of stories.
Logan: Right now it is kind of interesting, because your two major works have covered the extreme ends of the spectrum as far as labeled genres go (All Ages and Erotica). Where do you expand to?
Colleen Coover: Our current project, the graphic novel Freckled Face, Bony Knees, And Other Things Known About Annah, is what I would term hesitantly "Lit Comics." Not sexually expicit, but for an adult fiction readership.
Logan: What led you two to settle in Portland?
Colleen Coover: We came from Iowa, which is a fine place to live, but there is very little there by way of a comic book community. In Portland you can't turn around without running smack into a cartoonist. So we came to find a city with other artists, and in order to have a bit of a cultural change from the state we had both lived all our lives. And since I don't drive, I wanted to live in a city with a good public transportaion system. Portland provides on all fronts!
Logan: Did you have any experience with Portland, or did you just hear that it was a good place for artists? It might just be Washington bias, but I would probably think of Seattle first with Fantagraphics and the large number of artists who live there.
Colleen Coover: We knew Portland mostly by its reputation, and we were attracted to the fact that there were not only the Fantagraphics crowd here, but also mainstream artists and writers, and three major publishers, plus a vibrant Small and Micro Press scene. And good buses!
Logan: Who else is working in Portland now that we should know about?
Colleen Coover: Greg Beans runs Tugboat Press, which is publishing a new quarterly anthology that's of much higher-than-average quality called Papercutter. The first issue had a sweet story by Aaron Renier, and Paul and I did a short piece for issue number 2, which should be out in the next few weeks.
Logan: Coming from the midwest, you've touted your Cubs fandom before. You know, the Mariners should have a pretty good team once they get rid of Carl Everett...
Colleen Coover: I really missed the local radio Cubs broadcasts this summer! Even though I was able to listen on the computer, it just wasn't the same without the other local fans. There's talk that the Marlins might move here - that'd be sweet!
Logan: They'll be in the National League, so you'll get to see the Cubs come to town, too. Your family might disown you for loyalty issues. Colleen Coover: I'm safe, because I'm the only member of my family who even knows the most of the rules of the game. I can't root against the Cubs, though. I'll watch their games, but if the Cubs are in town, they're my team!
Logan: The collected Banana Sunday is coming out in just a few days, what would someone not familiar with it need to know? What would someone familiar with it not already know?
Colleen Coover: All you need to know is that this is a comic created to be fun, so have fun reading it! And readers who are wondering if there's more to come will be happy to know that Root Nibot has a series of Banana Sunday novels in the works, featuring many of the same characters in a quite different story. We're scouting about for an agent to represent them at the moment!
Find out more about Colleen Coover at her journal.
Her artwork can be purchased at Comic Art Collective.
Interview Conducted by E-Mail, March of 2006
Copyright © 2006 Adventures Underground