It's Not Easy Being Green: An Interview with The Green Avenger's Abby L.
Abby L., the creator of The Green Avenger, has created the Peter Parker of super-heroines... fallible, fun, realistic-looking and prone to weight fluctuations. Her superheroine saga often reworks standard superhero conventions either through flipping the genders (a character named Jack in the webcomic has been referred to as The Green Avenger's "Lois Lane") or simply by taking them in a new direction.
Tell us something about yourself, your background.
Well, I was born in a rustic log cabin in Springfield, Illinois, and later rose to greatness as the 16th President of these United States...
In truth, there's not much to tell. I've lived in Minnesota for my entire life, I was bullied as a child, and first became interested in comics as a socially-outcast youth, stereotypically enough. At the age of 11, my mother enrolled me in Tae Kwon Do, to try to give me some confidence, and it really worked. I got my black belt in November 2003, and it was the thing I've been most proud of myself in my life. So far, at least. Time will tell if I can top it.
When were you first seized with the urge to create?
Apparently at the age of three, which is how old I was in the earliest scribble my mother kept. The childhood nickname my father gave me was Doodles, because of my habit of drawing all the time. I got into writing at a very young age, after teaching myself to read. I wrote a horrifically bad novel at the age of 13, and a horrifically bad comic at the age of 17. I've been scrawling crude pictures and writing half-formed not-well-thought out stories for 16 years now, and I suppose it was inevitable that I'd eventually combine them and try to present them to the world in a misbegotten bid for attention.
What artists have influenced you most?
I've really lately been influenced by the character designs Paul Dini has done for the DC animated series, like Justice League, Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. I'm not such a huge fan of how he makes everything so very angular, but I do love the way that he creates such expressive, simple forms for the body. I also love the art of John Byrne, and I've been incorporating his influences into my style as best I can. His characters all have such engaging personality. Before that, it was all anime, of course.
What writers have influenced you most?
It's always hard for me to think of something for this question, but I guess I'd have to say Piers Anthony is in there somewhere, for giving me an idea about including humor in more-or-less serious writing, and the other way around. Lately I've been eating up everything by comics writer Brian K. Vaughan, and I can't imagine that hasn't had an effect on me.
How did you come up with the idea of The Green Avenger?
Actually the idea came to me during a work shift. I frequently work nights at the security office at my school and one weekend when my boss was away, an alarm clock started going off in her locked office. It went off for THREE HOURS. I've always been one to express my emotions through drawings, so I drew a picture of myself crouching in agony at the horrible noise. Idly I thought the image looked like a superhero being confronted with her one weakness, so I drew a cape and a costume. Actually, that situation was what prompted the storyline I'm working on right now, "Rise of the Alarmbot."
In what ways is the Green Avenger like you (except for the powers) and in what ways is she dissimilar? (And do you have a thing for cute firemen?)
On the one hand, we're basically pretty similar, we both like comics (though she's a Superman-lover and I'm a Bat-fan), we're both a tad obsessed with green, we react to things in similar ways, and we have the same speech patterns. And yes, we both have a bit of a thing for firemen. (Mine's more due to a terrific Japanese comic called Megumi No Daigo, out in America as Firefighter Daigo. I think she just has a thing for people who both give to others and are hot.) But on the other hand, The Green Avenger is a lot more daring and active than I am. She's also a lot less introspective, she goes and does things and feels things without thinking about how or why she does or feels them.
At the heart of it it really is all about the powers. It's about thinking about what life would be like if you were born with superpowers. Everybody thinks about how much easier life would be if they could fly, but before I started this comic I never thought about dumb stuff like how much it would hurt to be caught up in a headwind or how hard it would be to breathe at high altitude or how messed up your hair would get if it was long and you flew all the time. I'm also trying to explore the idea that having superpowers doesn't really make life much easier. It doesn't always make it that much harder, either. It just makes things different.
Who have been your favorite superheroes over the years? Your main character is engagingly fallible, despite her powers -- is that the kind of superhero you prefer? The Peter Parker/Spider-Man type of super-hero? Or do you prefer the Superman/Wonder Woman types, where their imperfections are just a disguise?
I like a lot of infallible golden-god superhero-types like Superman, Captain America, Wonder Woman etc, but I like them more as icons, as ideas. It's superheroes like Spider-Man that really hold my attention and get me interested in their characters, people who I feel like I could be friends with.
My favorite superheroes as a kid were always more the first type, like Storm, who I loved because she was so regal and cool. My favorite superhero right now is She-Hulk, because she reacts in interesting ways to the situations she's been put into. A blood transfusion turns her into this hulking, green supermodel, and she LOVES it. But she also has to come to terms with the fact that she's alienating the people around her, and she's using She-Hulk to hide from herself. Dan Slott (The writer on She-Hulk right now) does really well with this, he's excellent at switching from the happy-go-lucky to the introspective.
Do you have any opinions on the direction print comics (which are mostly superhero) are taking? Are print comics dying, or just migrating to new mediums (videogames, graphic novels, webcomics, movies, etc.)?
I certainly hope print/superhero comics are not dying, but I do have to say the market is pretty much flooded with them. Monthlies as a print medium is certainly outdated in my opinion, and I'm definitely hoping for a shift to graphic novels. I don't think that moving all a given company's comics online would be a good plan until we work out the kinks in the system. But I wouldn't mind seeing more Marvel and DC comics online if they could manage to create a better system than the ones they've been using thus far. Video games and movies have their place, to be sure, but I hope that comics retain their place. I think there's something powerful about sequential art, and having it on paper is very convenient. I certainly don't want to lose that.
What's been your favorite sequence in The Green Avenger so far? Other than the Green Avenger, who's your favorite character?
Oh jeez. I love so many sequences from this comic! But I'd have to say one of the ones that came out the absolute best when I did it was the one in this comic. I like the contrast between The Green Avenger's grace in the skies to her clumsiness on land, and I think the first panel came out especially well.
On the characters side, I love Jack, but that's just because I want me to love him. The character who is the most fun to write is The Brain, a character who speaks only in questions. It's so easy to create exposition with her around, and she's just so rife with humor. She's kind of a challenging character to write, as well. I love all of the hero characters, really, as they're mostly based on people I know.
What are your future plans, both for The Green Avenger and for other projects? Any plans or hopes for collecting her adventures in print?
I've invested a lot into The Green Avenger, and I've always had plans for an overarching plot with a definite ending. At this point that ending is years and years in the future, fortunately or unfortunately. I do have a few other ideas, waiting in the wings for me to either finish The Green Avenger or get enough down that I can manage two comics at once. None of them have a superhero theme, though.
And "hopes" accurately describes collecting The Green Avenger in print. I'd love to, but the first 70 comics are too small to print, which means I'll have to rescan and recolor all of them. Not to mention that there was a run where I colored the comics using grayscale marker, which effectively ruins the originals, but I can deal with that. I plan on doing it at some point, if only for myself and because Lulu makes it possible. If all else fails, I can definitely reprint at least the latest storyline and the Lady Groincrush stuff.