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HOPE LARSON:ON WOMEN AND WONDER, BUT NOT WONDER WOMAN

by Brian Clarey

Hope Larson’s career in comics — or, more properly, graphic novels — is something of an anomaly. With six major pieces under her belt, including the adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, published last year and earning her second Eisner Award, she’s at the top of a field that has traditionally and stubbornly been dominated by men.

“Marvel and DC are still mostly dudes,” she says.

And she eschews the medium’s most reliable device, the superhero, in favor of more human stories.

“I’ve never really been into superheroes,” she says. “I’ve been reading comics since I was a kid, a wide variety of them but never really superheroes. European comics — Tin Tin and Asterix were a big deal to me when I was a kid.”

From there she got into traditional Japanese manga, and then domestic indie comics. She was making her own art by then, and caught the eyes of a few industry professionals who steered her towards the visual narrative.

“The bulk of my work is graphic novels for young adults and children,” she says. “I think [comics are] just a really clear way to tell a story. It’s easy to convey images and ideas through comics and have them connect with younger readers because they grow up on such a visual world. It’s a very efficient medium.”

In the short “2 Rabbits,” from the collection Chiggers, she wrings a moment of true pathos from a roadside interaction with bunnies. Mercury is a romantic adventure with sinister undertones featuring teenage girls as protagonists. Who is AC?, which she wrote to Tintin Pantoja’s illustrations, is the rare superhero tale with another teenage girl at the center of it all. Her first film, the short “Bitter Orange,” depicts a somewhat more mature young woman at a moral and professional crossroads.

“Mm hm. I’m definitely a feminist,” she says, “and I definitely approach storytelling from a feminist point of view…. I don’t set out to write a story saying, ‘This is gonna be a story about feminism,’ ‘This is gonna be a story about strong women. I just tell a story and that’s what I want it to be about.”

A Wrinkle in Time, L’Engle’s classic tale of supernatural powers and inter-dimensional travel with a young, female lead and thoughtful allegory, falls right into arson’s wheelhouse.

“[The book] was a really big deal to me,” she said. “Growing up, it was one of those books I read many, many times, all five books in the series.

“I think I’ve drawn a lot on [L’Engle’s] writing as I have become a writer myself,” she continues. “She’s one of those formative influences. For me, getting to work on A Wrinkle in Time, I kind of felt like I got to go to grad school for Madeleine L’Engle for like three years on somebody else’s dime.”

The Eisner Award, for Best Publication for Teens, was a humbling honor.

“I was up against some really incredible people,” she says. “One of the things that’s weird about working in an industry this small, you know all the people you’re competing against, and I would have been happy to lose to any of those people.”

But, she says, “It means I’ll be able to work in comics a long time.”

Hope Larson sits on the Geek Girl Rising panel at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Visit her website at Hopelarson.com

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