I had the pleasure to sit down at Wondercon and conduct an interview with Hope Larson and Brittney Williams, the creative team behind the new BOOM! Box series, Goldie Vance. The book is available in stores now and having had a chance to read the first issue I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the other BOOM! Box titles.
Joshua Stone: Can you introduce yourselves?
Hope Larson: I'm Hope Larson. I am primarily a kid and YA author. I did the adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time a couple years ago. I've done books for Simon & Schuster, Oni Press, and AdHouse Books. Now I'm working for BOOM! on Goldie Vance, which is my first creator owned, issue based comic.
Brittney Williams: And my name is Brittney Williams, and I am the artist on Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat, and now the upcoming Goldie Vance with BOOM! Studios.
JS: How do you feel being with the BOOM! Box imprint? With some of the other books that have come out, Lumberjanes and Jonesy, I think the bar has been set pretty high. How does that feel for you, any pressure?
HL: For me it's a pretty low pressure situation because my editors, Shannon Watters and Dafna Pleban, got in touch with me and basically asked for a girl detective book and I was able to just write my own version of that and pitch it back to them. It just felt like they asked me for what they wanted and I was able to deliver it pretty easily and having Brittney on board as a co-creator has been absolutely incredible. I couldn't have asked for anyone better.
BW: It's the same for me. Of course, everyone knows Hope is an amazing writer. I don't feel any pressure, but at the same time when I see the book in my hand in print then I am probably going to start feeling something. Right now it's weird, I am just sitting in a room drawing, but when I actually see it in print that is when things turn into a realization.
JS: You know it's out there and people are looking at it.
BW: Exactly. Oh no, I drew this and now people are going to be reading and looking at this.
HL: We're still kind of in the bubble because it's not out yet so it doesn't feel totally real. I think it will probably feel like a lot more pressure when the book starts coming out and people start reading and responding to it. By then we won't be able to change anything anyway because it's all written.
BW: I know it's so scary with art and writing. It's the scariest thing. I will go back and look at a panel and it's like "Whoa", I should have paid more attention to that hand. Stuff no one else really cares about, but it's just silly stuff.
JS: How did you come up with the idea for the book, besides being asked to do a girl detective book?
HL: For me it was one of those ideas that came to me pretty much fully formed, which is not a frequent occurrence. I think it was just bits and pieces of other ideas that had never quite gone anywhere over the years. I had been wanting to set something in a hotel or apartment building for a long time, and have this closed, small world. This was my opportunity to do that. I was thinking it's like Eloise at the Plaza Hotel meets Nancy Drew. That was the idea that I had right off the bat and I have just sort of been building on that. I set it in Florida because I've been doing this research on Florida for another idea that didn't come together. So I mashed these things together and I love writing period pieces so we set it in the early 60s. Sort of like a quasi-early 60s or an alternate Earth early 60s.
JS: When I read it I was thinking The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, because it's set in the hotel and they are raised there. Did that in anyway enter your thoughts?
HL: No, I've never seen The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, but we can claim that as an influence. Why not?
JS: You'll get that "people who grew up watching it on Disney crowd."
HL: Exactly. All The Suite Life of Zack and Cody fans who have grown up are now ready for Goldie Vance.
BW: My siblings and I used to watch that all the time. That was like our summer show. I don't know if there's any influence from there for me.
HL: I hope so, that's cool.
BW: I don't know. It's of course about the two twins growing up in the hotel and getting into all these shenanigans and stuff. I never thought about that. I have no idea if I was influenced by that. Maybe, maybe. I have no idea.
HL: There's a slapstick influence from that creeping in?
BW: It could be, it could be. It was a really slapsticky kid comedy.
JS: Have you worked together before?
HL: No, this is the first time.
JS: How did the pairing take place?
HL: It's actually interesting. The way it was presented to me, which it turns out I misunderstood, was that Brittney was already attached to the project before I came on, so that was what I thought. But it turns out Dafna just loved Brittney's work and really wanted to get her on the book. So I thought they already got this great artist, this is fantastic, and I was the missing piece. But they got me and they went and got you after.
BW: Because of course they sent me your outline and the character descriptions, and just from there I went and did visual development type stuff, like character design and settings.
HL: All this crazy world building stuff.
BW: That's my favorite thing, world building.
JS: I love the back of trades when they show how the characters developed artistically. This is how it started and then it went all the way to what the final product is.
BW: Oh yeah, there's a lot of how it started stuff, with the characters and the hotel; there are so many sketches.
HL: It's really, really cool, because I don't think I have ever had an artist on board with a project as early as Brittney was. Brittney's been on board since I sent this one page pitch to Dafna and Shannon. That went straight to you I think, and then you started working on designs and environments right away before I had really even wrapped my head around the entire idea.
BW: I just fell in love with it. I was like I have to start drawing this. I'm reading it and I'm getting all these ideas and I just have to start drawing it.
HL: The awesome thing about that is Brittney's art and the way she saw the characters and the way she saw the world really strongly influenced the way I was thinking about it. It's more of a true a co-creator situation than I usually find.
JS: Goldie as a character, she's this strong female lead that knows what she wants and knows what she's about in the 1960s. With the 1960s as the backdrop, are you going to explore some of the issues that a girl that age, in that time period is going to face?
HL: No, because our world is just not like that. It's a kinder gentler 1960s where we take the stuff we like and throw the rest out. This is just supposed to be a fun lighthearted book and we don't want to get into sexism and racism particularly. They are plenty of books that do that very well. I think my fear is that if we go there then it's going to take over everything and it's going to become a book about that.
BW: That's true. Growing up, one of my things every time I read a book about an African-American character, in anything before the 70s, was I just wanted maybe an African-American Tom Sawyer. Someone who just goes on adventures and they don't have to worry about the world being a terrible place. Of course learning about those things are really important, but it's great to have a lighthearted book that doesn't necessarily focus on how terribly racist, segregated, sexist, and everything else that time period was.
HL: We're not trying to sweep anything under the rug. I think about this a lot, I know we are going to get criticized a lot for this book, because it is such a tightrope walk, but one of the things I think about a lot is live theater. As I understand it is colorblind casting across the board. That is the way I think about this particular book. These roles could basically go to anybody.
JS: Is this set up for a miniseries or ongoing?
HL: It's a miniseries and I guess we'll see how the orders come in if it goes to ongoing or not.
JS: If it goes beyond the four issue miniseries, do you already know the next story arc?
HL: No, not at all. We'll cross that bridge. I'm a little busy right now. I would love to write more for sure. It feels like we are just barely getting to know these characters in the four issues and it would be really cool to take it to the next level.
JS: Even though you don't know the next story arc you know what these characters will grow into?
HL: I have rough ideas. Honestly, I'm just trying not to think about it too much because if it doesn't go to series it feels like a wasted effort. If it does go to series I think we already know these characters pretty well and we know what sort of shenanigans they would get up to.
For further musings from Joshua Stone you can follow him on the Twitter @1Nerdyone