Q&A

Hope Larson and Brittney Williams discuss 'Goldie Vance,' their upcoming teen detective comic book series

Scoot over Nancy Drew, there's a new detective on the way ready to make her mark in the sleuthing world.

Graphic novelist Hope Larson and artist Brittney Williams have teamed up for "Goldie Vance," a new comic book series about 16-year-old detective-in-training Marigold "Goldie" Vance, who dreams of one day becoming the full-time in-house detective at her father's Florida resort.  

"Goldie is someone who believes she can fix anything," says Larson. "She's fascinated by how things work, and how people work. She's grown up in Crossed Palms, a resort hotel where her dad works as manager, and sees all the moving pieces that make it run, which is helpful in solving a mystery! She works as a valet and is obsessed with cars."

Larson is the author-illustrator of the Eisner Award-winning "A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel," the adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's novel about a young girl's fantastic journey through time and space to save her father. Larson's resume also includes other graphic novels, such as "Mercury," "Chiggers" and "Who is AC?", as well as the short film "Bitter Orange" and the music video for Got a Girl's "Did We Live Too Fast."

For "Goldie Vance," Larson is collaborating with Williams, the artist on the newly launched "Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat" from Marvel Comics and the upcoming "Legend of Korra" original graphic novels from Dark Horse Comics.

"Goldie Vance" will be published by Boom! Box, an imprint of Boom! Studios that focuses on more experimental original series with a catalogue that includes "Lumberjanes," the Eisner Award-winning series set in a camp for "hardcore lady types," "Power Up," featuring the unlikeliest of magical warriors, and "Giant Days," about the university life of three best friends who met due to the proximity of their dorm rooms. 

The first issue of the four-part miniseries is due out in April. In addition to the main cover by Williams, "Goldie Vance" No. 1 will also have an incentive cover by artist Marguerite Sauvage.

Larson and Williams discussed the details of their new series over email.

How would you describe "Goldie Vance"? What can readers expect from the series?

Hope Larson: I like to pitch this book as, "What if Eloise of the Plaza Hotel grew up and became Nancy Drew?" It's a fun, action-packed, book that takes place in a Florida resort town during a heavily-fictionalized 1960s. We draw a lot of inspiration from that era's fascination with outer space and hot-rod culture.

Can you share some background on the project? How did "Goldie Vance" come to be and how did your collaboration come about? 

HL: Editors Shannon Watters and Dafna Pleban [from Boom! Studios] got in touch with me and asked if I would be interested in writing a girl-detective book. Who wouldn't want to write a girl-detective book?! They already had Brittney attached to draw, and seeing the character of her art has done a lot to flavor this project from the beginning.

Brittney Williams: Similar to Hope’s story, I was contacted by Shannon Watters and Dafna Pleban who gave me the opportunity to read the pitch. I instantly knew I wanted to be a part of it!

Hope, you're known more for your work in graphic novels -- is this your first comic book series? How did you decide on the serialized monthly comic format for "Goldie Vance" and what about the story lends itself to be told as a monthly comic series?

HL: This is my first serialized comic. Graphic novels are my first love and my true love, but there's a lot to like about the monthly comic format and I'd been wanting to try it for a while. It's been a fun challenge because there are never enough pages and it can be a struggle to cram in all the action and character bits I want to include, but it always works out somehow. I think working with restraints like these are good for a writer's brain.

"Goldie Vance" works well in this format because it's a mystery, and I can build a bit of suspense between issues. I like the natural storytelling breaks between books. It's similar to the way I now write graphic novels, since I've begun to build chapters into my books.

Will Goldie be more of a solo act, or will she have some help solving the mysteries she encounters? Can you introduce any of Goldie's "supporting cast"? 

HL: Goldie has a lot of help! Her "team" includes Walter, the smart-but-awkward hotel detective who she "assists" whether he likes it or not, and her best friend Cheryl, who works the front desk and dreams of becoming an astronaut. Goldie sometimes does function as a lone wolf, but it's when she does, without one of her less-impulsive friends to keep her in check, that she tends to get into trouble.

What do you think it is about mysteries and these mystery solvers that attract people to the genre?

HL: They're fun. They're exciting. They reel off snappy one-liners. They're great under pressure. They break the rules and often function as "bad kids," but since they're trying to help someone else, we accept it.

Did you grow up watching or reading any mystery series? Do you have a favorite series or character?

HL: I've read plenty of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. I loved Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, although I'm not sure I would technically call that a mystery series, and, of course, I'm a huge fan of "Veronica Mars" and Rian Johnson's genius film "Brick."

"Goldie Vance" is a four-part miniseries. Will there be a main mystery arc that spans all the issues? Or will there be individual mysteries to be solved within each issue?

HL: There's one big arc and each issue gives us another piece of the puzzle.

Can you talk a little about the character designs? Were there specific things you wanted visually from the very beginning? Did how the characters evolved visually inform their story at all?

BW: After reading the pitch and the character descriptions I instantly had ideas for most of the characters. I usually spend a few days just thinking about the characters and their world before I start sketching anything. When I do finally start drawing, I have a ton of ideas, and visually the characters are a lot clearer. In the beginning, I didn't have any specific ideas. I like to go in blank and let the story guide my imagination!

HL: I had very little to do with the designs. I contribute feedback, but Brittney is wonderful at what she does and I try to stand aside so she can do her thing. The important thing in character design for me, as a writer, is whether characters outwardly reflect their inner character.

Hope, as an author-illustrator on other works, how different is it for you when you have a collaborator to handle the art? Do you ever have the impulse where you just want to sketch something out as a reference? 

HL: Since drawing "A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel" I've shifted much more onto the writing side of comics-making. I've spent the past few years working with illustrator Rebecca Mock on two upcoming graphic novels, "Compass South" (June 2016 from Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and "Knife's Edge" (2017), and I have a short comic drawn by Kris Mukai in DC's "Gotham Academy Yearbook." Working with each of them has been wonderful, and each of them has taught me something new about working with a collaborator. Some artists want more specificity in a script; others want more freedom. Having a background as a cartoonist is helpful as a writer, because I know just how grueling it is to draw comics and it makes me do my best to write stories worth drawing.

Brittney, is there anything different for you when the writer you’re working with is also an artist? Is there like a special artist wavelength that makes communicating what each of you sees from script to panel easier? 

BW: Working with Hope is great! I’m always really excited to get each script. Her writing style is really fun, energetic and character driven so script to panel is no problem! I’d say there is a wavelength!

Brittney, in "Hellcat" and "The Legend of Korra" you worked with licensed characters. How does working on an original series with original characters compare to putting your own spin on pre-existing characters?

BW: Freedom! Working on original characters is always a blast because I like to go crazy and draw everything. With pre-existing characters, most of that is lost, but at the same time, it’s still a thrill. It’s an honor to be trusted with continuing their stories and sometimes, such as with "Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat," I was even given stylistic freedom. 

I think people more familiar with indie comics and webcomics have been aware of the diverse storytelling from a range of storytellers that exists for the readers who are looking for it, but that it's a bit more recent that the mainstream market has been paying attention to these creators and readers. Would you agree with that assessment? Can you talk a little bit about this shift?

HL: Diversity is a real buzzword right now. It's become a marketing term, and it can be gross to see it used that way. It can feel like pandering. A lot of creators and publishers really do want to make the world better (and make a buck, too), but since most of us in a position to sell books are straight white people, those efforts are frequently tone-deaf. I am a straight white person who wants her work to reflect the diverse world I live in, but in spite of my good intentions, I constantly make mistakes. Whenever possible, I seek out collaborators who are not also straight white people, because they catch problems in my work that I am oblivious to.

I approached "Goldie Vance" like a TV show. We have all these roles we have to cast, but because this book is pure bubblegum fantasy and 0% historically accurate, they could be filled by anyone. I left the casting up to Brittney.

And I have to ask. Why a resort?

HL: I'm fascinated by the secret lives of places, especially places that are meant to be glamorous. I like peeling back the shiny veneer on the surface to reveal the inner workings -- all the parts you aren't supposed to see.

Twitter: @tracycbrown

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