Mercury rising: Hope Larson on the perils of making comics for teens
At CBR, cartoonist Hope Larson talks to Kiel Phegley about her new graphic novel Mercury, hitting stores April 6. Mercury tells the parallel stories of two teenage girls living 150 years apart in the same Nova Scotia town, and the very different paths their young lives end up taking. And to hear Hope tell it, creating a graphic novel targeted to teens opens up a whole host of headaches that even prose writers dedicated to that demographic don’t have to face:
The problems I’ve run into being a cartoonist in book publishing have usually been with things like swearing or anything that’s kind of ‘racy.’ […] They crack down way harder on that kind of stuff, because if you open the book and there’s a naked breast – if a parent opens that up and sees it, you’re automatically not selling the book to them. You have to be a lot more careful. It’s the same thing with dialogue. If a parent opens a [comic] and there’s ‘Shit,’ it can’t hide behind those other words….I don’t feel like I’ve had to compromise or make changes I really didn’t want to make in terms of content. I had to make changes to make sure my book got into school libraries and libraries in general, but my editors definitely let me know when something was going to be an issue. And most of the time, I figure it’s less important for me to have ‘Fuck’ in my story than for the story to be in a library where kids can get at it.
PG-rated language notwithstanding, if you tend to think of YA books and comics as rather gutless affairs, Mercury will set you straight — this book’s got an edge. In addition to Larson’s trademark hints of the supernatural, there’s a tinge of darkness that really flourishes by the book’s climax. I was really impressed by it — you can check out my review of the book to see how much.