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‘Lumberjanes’ and more: An Interview with Comic Book Artist Brooke Allen

brooke allen comics
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We chat with super cool comic book artist Brooke Allen, who’ll be visiting the Little Red Dot in September for the Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention

Did you grow up reading comic books, or do you have a comics-obsessed kiddo? Then we’ve got a treat for you! Brooke Allen, an illustrator and toy maker spoke with Sassy Mama ahead of her appearance at the Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention (STGCC) on September 10 and 11.

brooke allen writer

Ms. Allen is most well-known as the first illustrator of Lumberjanes, a comic about five friends at a summer camp that is stranger than any of them had ever planned for. Whether dealing with an old woman who turns into a bear or three-eyed supernatural creatures, the characters use their brains and combined skills to win the day.

Before interviewing Ms. Allen, I read the Lumberjanes comic, and immediately showed them to my daughter Elanor, age 7. She’s now a huge fan, and is known to even use some of the signature phrases—What the junk? and Friendship to the Max! I highly recommend Lumberjanes for all kids in primary school through adults. (P.S. If you’re looking to pick up comic books in Singapore – including Lumberjanes – I highly recommend heading to Absolute Comics, B1-17 at Plaza Singapura!)

While most comics are aimed at boys/men, there are few women-centric comics that are kid-friendly, and Lumberjanes helps fill that void. Other recommended titles include Ms. Marvel, which features a Muslim lead character; DC Superhero Girls, which features familiar faces like Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn aged down to attend Superhero High aimed at girls 6-12; and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur which features a young black girl and her dinosaur. For fans of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic tv show, there are comics as well. If you were a fan of the The Baby-Sitters Club, there are also new graphic novel adaptions.

lumberjanes-comic

When did you first know that comic book artistry and toy design were your passion, rather than another medium?
I’ve always wanted to be an artist ever since I was very young. I would draw comics about my dogs and carve animals out of wood and clay. I didn’t get serious about comics as a profession until I was around 13 or 14, when I started reading indie comics. My master plan at that age was to create my own cartoons and animated films. However, after attending an introduction to 3D animation class at Ringling’s precollege program, I realized my heart was really in the storytelling and I was terrible at the technical aspects of animating, so I focused on comics. In school I continued to sculpt characters and eventually made my first resin cast figure. It wouldn’t be until a few years later when I was living back at home, largely unemployed, and depressed that I would dive head first into toy-making as a creative outlet. Thankfully making toys and art was much more than a depression project, as it helped connect me to other artists and ultimately let to me landing gigs at Boom! Studios (publisher of Lumberjanes).

lumberjanes comic character

Everyone has heard of Superman, Batman, The Avengers, and Wonder Woman. However, a growing number of fans have embraced Lumberjanes, a comic about five friends at a summer camp that isn’t what it seems, and their camp counselor Jen. Who is your favorite character? Who do you most identify with? Who is your favorite character to illustrate?
My favourite character is probably Jen because I’m always drawn to the characters who have the thankless job of being the voice of reason or authority to a wily, adventurous bunch. The character I identify most with is probably Molly because she’s a little more introverted and unsure of herself than anyone else in the group. My favourite character to draw, hands down, is Ripley. She’s so wild and constantly moving it’s fun to draw such an emotive and dynamic character. Drawing her happy and climbing all over the other characters makes me happy!

One of the things I love about Lumberjanes is how diverse the cast is, both in terms of race and sexual identity. Can you talk about the importance of diversity and representation in the context of Lumberjanes (and comics in general)?
Diversity and representation is hugely important in comics (and entertainment in general), if not for the simple fact that everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in media then because it’s honest and compelling storytelling to populate the worlds you build with multifaceted characters from any number of intersections of society, race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability. Not to do so is not only myopic, but also a dishonest portrayal of society and the world at large.

brooke allen drawings

I’ve noticed you’re not currently illustrating Lumberjanes. What are you currently up to and will you be back?
It’s true, I’ve been on a Lumberjanes hiatus to pursue some other projects with friends. I’m currently working on a comic with Kevin Panetta (Zodiac Starforce) for the digital comics app Stēla and a couple other titles that have yet to be announced. I’ve also been illustrating Chris Grabenstien’s children’s chapter book series Welcome to Wonderland published by Random House. I hope to jump back on an arc or two of Lumberjanes in the future, but in the meantime we have such awesome artists (Carolyn Nowak, Carey Pietsch, Rosemary Valero-O’connell, and Ayme Sotuyo) doing a wonderful job in my stead that I’m having a great time just being a fan and picking up the comic as a reader.

lumberjanes-bear-lady

What would you say to a parent who doesn’t view reading comic books as equivalent to reading a book? How do we convince them that it’s just as valuable as a traditional book?
How indeed! I know a lot of librarians and teachers here in the States are wising up to the benefits of comics as a storytelling medium and have been championing comics as a learning aide more and more.

Well established book publishers are expanding their catalogs to include graphic novels. In fact the crossover goes both ways, with notable prose authors like Margret Attwood and Ta-Nehesi Coates now writing comic books for Marvel.

There’s even been a couple studies that show reading comics actually increase vocabulary because they introduce just as many challenging words and concepts, but have the visual component to help the reader retain and understand it. There’s a stigma that comics are only about superheroes or low-brow comedic entertainment, when in reality comics are a medium containing many different genres with a myriad of non-fiction titles that tackle heavy concepts. They’re the perfect vehicle of information for visual learners as well as help introduce a new skill set to those only comfortable with reading prose.

brooke allen comic book writer

Can you tell us what you’ll be doing at the Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention? Is there an opportunity for fans to see you speak/will you be doing autographs?
I’ll be doing some panels, interviews, signings, and have a table where I’ll be selling books, doing sketches, and hopefully I’ll have a limited run of toys as well. I’m always open to chatting with fans so definitely stop by the table and say hi!

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Brooke Allen will be making her first appearance at the Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention (STGCC) on Saturday, 10 and Sunday, 11 September, 2016 at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Level B2, Halls E and F.

www.singaporetgcc.com

All images courtesy of STGCC.

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