Rocketing from Avery Hill to a Retrograde Orbit in Kristyna Baczynski’s new graphic Novel

artist spotlight, comic, Comic spotlight, First Impressions, interview

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Over three years ago, and twice as many old fashioned’s, I found myself so completely  moved and drawn in by Kristyna Baczynski’s comic “Vessel” that I somehow ended up writing close to a thousand words about it. Diving deep and gently dissecting it.

A little excessive maybe for a comic comprising eight pages? Well, you can imagine the strange mix of excitement and trepidation I was feeling this week as the Leeds based creator announced her first full length graphic novel to be released by Avery Hill Publishing this September to nicely coincide with her home cities celebration of comics, Thought Bubble. You can expect a full review here around about this time 2019. Maybe.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, for years really. Alongside my other freelance commitments and part-time jobs, making a longer comic book could never quite fit into that scenario” said Baczynski of her previous work on her shorter self published comics, including the poignant and touching “Hand Me Down”, nominated for best Graphic Short in the 2016 Eisners. Having quit her lecturing job to go into comics and illustrations full time, Retrograde Orbit will mark her first foray into full length graphic novels and the first to be picked up by a major publisher. “Avery Hill had always been interested in and supportive of my work so we decided to finally get the ball rolling together” Baczynski commented on the subject of her new home with the publisher, who also announced new books from B.Mure and Tillie Walden to be released this autumn, “Avery Hill wanted the ball to be science fiction, so that was a nudge that started things off”.

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While another of her stories, the quietly sweet and hauntingly introspective “A Measure of Space” featured sci-fi elements with it’s cosmic disaster, Retrograde Orbit already feels like it’s fully embracing the genre, set on a mining planet at the edge of the solar system and the experiences of Flint as she grapples with her own notions of home and the possibilities of leaving it. Her unique composition and panel layout is something I talked about endlessly before and Retrograde Orbits structure clearly sets out to firmly launch her latest works sci-fi premise beyond just the, admittedly gorgeous, looking futuristic set dressings  “The mechanics of the story are based on the cycle of planets in a solar system, so that took some time to get right. I’m also trying to avoid sci-fi exposition. As much as I love Geordie LaForge and his technobabble, I wanted the science fiction world to be an immersive setting, a narrative metaphor, instead of something that needs explaining all the time”

Coming out in September it should come as no shock that Retrograde Orbit’s launch will coincide with this years Thought Bubble which as well as being a genuinely welcoming and uplifting showcase of comics talent, has also snagged a fair few exclusive releases for their comics celebrations in past years. “Thought Bubble 2018 will be my tenth show. That’s wild. So, we decided to pitch the release date for then” shared Baczynski when asked about the seemingly cosmic connection of convention and release dates “I absolutely love Thought Bubble; it’s my hometown show, they have always been supporters of my work and raise the profile of my home city. Not to mention all my comics friends visiting for a weekend every year. It’s the best. I’m so excited to share the book with them in September.”

A big thank you goes out to Kristyna for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk to me. You can find more of her work here and learn more about Retrograde Orbit over at Avery Hill.

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Interview: The Opportunity Zoo- Leo Magna discusses his return to the world of Furpilled

artist spotlight, interview

Lately life has been full of these weird little coincidences. Last week I started on what I’ve been jokingly calling a super-secret project for another website at the encouragement from one of it’s other contributors. Part of this was writing about the web comic Furpilled. Drawn by Leo Magna it’s a delightful anthropomorphic slice of life comic featuring a colourful cast of LGBT characters in Santa Monica, California. Focusing on the everyday exploits and romantic lives of this group of friends, it ran for eight years, won an Ursa Minor Award and ended in 2011. In the upcoming article I encourage people to check it out, making the claim that it still deserves some attention after all this time, and sang the praises of his new comic Perception.

The very next day, after a four year hiatus he sends out a message that Furpilled will be back, with both comics alternating and updating once a week. Surprised and delighted by it’s return I got in contact with Leo Magna to talk about the sudden announcement and his plans for the future.

What’s been happening in your own life that has prompted you to revisit the world of Furpilled and How much of this was fans asking for more?

Well, when I decided to end the comic it was because it was at a good point to end it, and my life was about to get hectic. I was about to move across country for school, so I figured that it was time. All of the stories for the characters were converging to a point where it seemed appropriate to stop. Now that I am done with school and I have more time on hand, I figured that it could be a good time to re-start it. I get at least one message a week regarding the comic, so the fans asking for it is definitely a big factor for it.

Did you ever expect there to be such a dedicated fan base for the comic even after all this time, considering that you originally intended it to be only a handful of pages?

Honestly, no, I never thought that there would be such a dedicated fan base. To this day it surprises me. And I am really thankful for them. They are why I’m still drawing.

The series came to an end four years ago and tied up a lot of the loose ends and story-lines. Did you want this to be a definitive ending at the time, or was it always your intention to write more stories with the characters? Will it be picking up where it left of or four years later?

Because Furpilled is a slice-of-life comic, there are always stories to tell. The stories really will never end until I decide to drive all the characters off the cliff.

Time has passed, yes. So there will be a time gap for Husky and the gang. This new series will pick up four years after we last saw the gang, and we get to see where they are now. The majority of the stories will take place four years after, but some of them will be from that gap.The previous ending was appropriate for the problems that the characters were facing then. Andy and Indigo starting up as a couple, Husky and Saetto getting over their exes and start trusting each other, Chris letting go of his past and ending a bad relationship.

Out of all the cast, is there a character you would like to develop more in the new run that you didn’t get a chance to originally? Is there any character you feel more confident in writing after this time away from them?

For this new series I want to focus more on Husky, Andy, and Indigo. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I think their stories will be interesting because they will be so opposite. I’ve always liked contrast like that.

In Furpilled the characters, although they had difficulties and low points,always had a strong supportive social group. What led you to want to explore the other side of this with Perception? Which side have you experienced the most in your own life?

The strong social circle that all the characters in Furpilled have is based on my own circle of friends. After having moved away from them, and after so many years in the LGBT community, I started to realize just how lucky I was to have them all. I never felt out of place with them because they were all equally as eccentric as I am. Very few of them were “straight” in the strict sense of the term, so my sexuality was never really an issue. When I started Furpilled, they definitely were my inspiration, so while we touched on the subject of coming out, we never really had stories for that.

All the characters in the comic are openly gay (or bisexual) and older in age than the characters in Perception. Perception is meant to explore what it’s like to come out, and discover that you’re not the only one out there that’s different. There is also this added pressure that Joe feels to want to have his fraternity brothers perceive him as a regular guy, because he thinks that they are all just regular guys. But that’s the funny thing, there is no such thing as a “regular guy”. That’s where we start in the story, with Joe waking up from a drunken one night stand with another guy, and immediately regretting it.

The landscape in terms of LGBT in America has changed substantially in the last four years since Furpilled ended. Although still not fully accepted at large, there has been progress with marriage rights and such. Will any of this play into the comic and to what degree? Are there any particular changes you would like to explore?

Oh gods yeah! Can you believe it! four years ago I couldn’t get married, and how here I am thinking about dinner for my husband! It’s crazy! And it’s not just here, all over the world things are changing. It’s a great time to be alive. These new chapters will definitely touch on that. I don’t want to give too much away as far as ideas go, but count on marriage and transgender issues coming up.

The cast is made up mostly of LGB characters, with Ian being non gender binary. Have you ever considered including a trans character in the comic?

Well, I don’t think this was expanded much in the comic, but Ian’s ex (she shows up briefly) is transgender, so the thought was always there. As for these new stories, spoilers, Yes.

What else in terms of mainstream or furry comics are you enjoying right now?

Neil Gaiman picked up Sandman again, and I can’t tell you just how much I love that. As far as furry comics, Circles just ended last January, and it broke my heart. There are a couple of online comics that update on FurAffinity that I like to keep up with, Seattlefur by RainYatsu, and Deceit by Mad-Dog.

As with other story titles in Furpilled this one is derived from a song? Are there any clues we could glean from listening to the Goldfish track?

Yes, Goldfish – Choose your own Adventure. And no, there aren’t any clues, really. I love to listen to music when I draw, so I put on random songs. For every chapter, though, a song will come up that just resonates with the theme of the story. Then I proceed to listen to it on a loop until I’m done with the chapter.

Both Perception and Furpilled will be updating exclusively through Leo’s Patreon Page. The first four volumes of Furpilled can be read online or purchased from Sofawolf Press

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Something Awesome: Gregory L.Reece’s Muliversity Reviews

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This is a strange one, pointing out the work of another reviewer, but I’ve been encouraged recently to start including anything that I love and that others will love in turn. So here goes…

While I’ve found myself following more and more series in single issues this year, I’m still something of a ‘trade waiter” when it comes to the big two, Marvel and DC. I do pick up a few recent releases in singles that I simply can’t wait on and that I think need a little extra support to keep the sales numbers up, I prefer to wait and get shelf worthy trades and binge read. Most of the single issues I pick up month to month now tend to be from Image and Boom, great comics but also gorgeous physical items. Between the great quality paper, printing and awesome design they just feel special.

The sheer, ridiculous amount of ads and the cost, especially with DC comics really puts me off and while I recognise that adverts as perhaps a necessary evil, one every couple of pages usually kills the flow of a story for me cold stone dead. This has meant that I’ve missed out a few brilliant series lately that it’s killing me waiting for the trades. For example, Grant Morrison’s universe hopping magnum opus, Multiversity.

This time it’s not just because I’m a huge, quote him at least twice a day, Morrison fan but because of a series of spectacular review from Gregory L. Reece on Popmatters. I’ve had a few conversations about the concept of the review as an art form, and it’s something that really interests me and effects me on a day to day basis.While I’m not calling anything I’ve written ‘art’, I always strive to put a little something extra into anything I’m writing about, making it an enjoyable piece in itself. I find too many sites to be really slight, or just regurgitate press releases without adding any of their own opinions or thoughts.

Reece really fits into this category. Drawing upon his own personal experiences with as much work as the comics he covers, each of his reviews is a beautiful pieces of work in themselves, such as his deeply moving review of the first issue or his dissection of the dissection in Pax Americana.

This is what comics journalism should be like.

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Multiversity: Pax Americana #1

Multiversity: The Multiversity #1

Multiversity: The Multiversity The Just #1

Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes #1

Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1′ – Don’t Read This Comic