Comics That Nourish: An interview with Stephen McCranie

Comics That Nourish: An interview with Stephen McCranie

We are thrilled to welcome cartoonist Stephen McCranie into The Reading Realm today to talk to Richard Ruddick about his sci-fi comic Space Boy

Find out more about Stephen here!

How does it feel to have your work published by Dark Horse who are such a big name in the industry and have published so many popular titles in the past? Is it daunting or has their reputation helped inspire you?

Working with Dark Horse has been a delightful experience– My editor, Shantel LaRocque, has been extremely supportive of the Space Boy series from the beginning, and has not only worked hard to realize the book series, but also provided me with some great freelance work drawing short comics for MineCraft. Having worked with a big publisher previously to create my kid’s series, Mal and Chad, it was not a difficult transition.

Being both an author and illustrator do you have a preference out of the two or do you enjoy them both equally?

I would say as a comics creator, story trumps art for me– I push my drawings just barely past the point where they are legible and clear, and then move on to the next panel. My work from an illustration perspective is not particularly impressive, but that is a price I’m willing to pay to produce at the speed I do. As long as the characters are true and the stakes are interesting, then I’m good to move forward!

How does being responsible for both writing and illustrating affect the creative process for you? Do you always work to a specific routine or does it depend on which one you prefer at that time?

In much of the traditional comics industry, writers create scripts and hand them off to artists for illustration. To me this is an inherently disjointed process that doesn’t make full use of the comics art form. For one, I think it’s a mistake to assume that images are merely a means to express an idea. I believe images are a mode of cognition, a way to think of ideas as well as express them.
I do script much of my work, but when I need to create an action scene, I abandon my keyboard and pick up my stylus. Using images to create action and movement is much better than using words. With images I can literally see the gravity of a character’s body as they travel through space, as well as their interactions with the environment around them. As I consider an image and what images came before it and what images must happen after it, the scene begins to form. This is, in my opinion, a superior way to approach this kind of sequence.
Buy the comic here!

Your work covers a very diverse range of topics including self-help and time travel. Did you set out to make sure you intentionally explored a broad range of subjects or is it just a case of where each project takes you?

Yes and no. Rather than having a single theme in my work, or a particular answer I wanted to deliver, I decided to have a thematic question. Namely, “How can we reach each other when there are such great barriers between us?” In my attempts to answer this question, I have covered a broad range of topics. So in some sense I have meandered quite a bit, but in another sense, I have been only talking about one thing. Space Boy is an exploration, an attempt to find hope for myself and my readers.

Space Boy covers a lot of important messages about growing up that will help prepare younger readers for future situations. Was this your intention or just a happy coincidence that came from writing about teenagers?

My goal as a cartoonist is to make comics that nourish, and my hope for Space Boy is that anyone, young or old, might find useful information for navigating life.
I’m happy to be speaking to teenagers at this time, because I think they have a lot stacked against them. Society and technology have grown deafeningly loud, and sometimes it’s hard to find meaning and hope in the noise. I want my readers to have good tools for dealing with depression, loneliness, and the complexities of relationships. I hope the reading experience I’ve created with Space Boy gives them a way to process and cope with the hard things in their life.

I love the distinctive style of your work especially in Space Boy, do you have any advice on how aspiring artists can develop their own style?

Keep copying! Style comes from imitation. You will copy all your favorite artists, and then one day you will find your voice has emerged from the unique constellation of your own influences.

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Mr Ruddick’s class ask:

My current year 5/6 class have been obsessed with Space Boy this year and are desperate to ask a few questions about it:

What inspired you to create Space Boy? (Isla)

I drew a comic to answer that question! Here is the link to it! Enjoy!

 What inspired you to create graphic novels instead of standard novels? (Ella)

I like the pictures. It’s really fun to see what’s happening in a story, and not just read about it.

How did you come up with all the ideas for all of the gadgets and electronics? They’re my favourite part. (Maddox)

 Almost all the gadgets in the comic are based off real technology that we are already developing! I wanted to explore a world that might actually exist in the next fifty to a hundred years.

What inspired you to make Amy come from space rather than starting on Earth? (Annie)

I moved a lot when I was a kid. It’s really hard to move from a different place. You have to learn new things and make new friends. That’s something I experienced a lot, and I put that experience into Amy.

What flavour would you be if you were in Space Boy? (Owen) 

I don’t know! As I mention in the first book, it’s very hard to know your own flavor. Someone has to decide for you, I think.

Will you always illustrate Space Boy or will you ask someone else to do it in the future? (Isabella)  

I will always do it, until it is done, which is hopefully in the next couple years. (fingers crossed!)

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