Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Back in mid-May, Molly Crabapple and John Leavitt launched their latest project, Puppet Makers, at Zuda Comics. When Crabapple gave me the head-up about the project a few weeks back, I immediately recalled our enjoyable last interview (August 24, 2009), and decided to go for another round of questions. Here’s the official synopsis on the project: “Versailles 1685, France has industrialized centuries before her neighbors but focuses on creating exquisitely ornate robotic shells for the aristocracy called, DOLLIES. Towering, lavishly expensive, and run on electricity provided by damming the Seine. Only the court elite wears Dollies, but their upkeep is beginning to bankrupt France. During the king’s birthday party, his Dolly explodes but is found to be empty. Rumors fly, blaming THE SMASHERS, a ring of Luddite terrorists who may lurk within the palace. The church’s cardinal sends a neophyte priest, JEAN JAQUES, to uncover Smashers at court. Amidst the contrary, conniving and self-indulgent upper class, Jean is thwarted at every turn. As he begins to uncover the truth behind the king’s disappearance, he finds that decadence and deceit may be a greater threat to the throne of France and his own life than her missing monarch.”
Tim O’Shea: What is the core appeal of steampunk fiction for you as a creator?
Molly Crabapple: I started drawing steampunk pictures in college. A teacher assigned me to design a skateboard deck, and, rebellious thing that I was, I thought it would be hilarious to imagine kateboarding as the sport of trussed Victorian ladies. I drew a board titled “Lady Etheldrina’s Wheeled Conveyance”, which shows a bouffant haired aristocrat on a skateboard, which is then being hauled by her maid.
Molly Crabapple is a successful entrepreneur (as the founder of the Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School) and storyteller. After a recent book tour to support her new Fugu Press book, Scarlett Takes Manhattan, she indulged me in a quick email interview. Her graphic novel is described (on the book’s back cover) as “A young woman orphaned in tragic circumstances (by a pair of copulating circus elephants) rises to become the foremost burlesque performer of her era: Scarlett O’Herring.”
Tim O’Shea: How did the book land at Fugu Press?
Molly Crabapple: Years ago, I did a catalog cover for a company owned by Christophe (big cheese at Fugu). When he decided to found a comics publishing company, he asked if I had any ideas for graphic novels. The rest, history…
O’Shea: You clearly love to explore the art of sexuality through your work. In those terms, what was the most enjoyable or challenging scene to convey in Scarlett Takes Manhattan?
Crabapple: I actually loved the scene where Scarlett is working as a dock prostitute and is able to avoid an unpleasant client with the help of a watermelon. Sadly, a watermelon was worth more than a blowjob in 1884.