Independent comics are created by a small team of people, or even just a sole person, with small budgets and huge aspirations. There’s usually no outside money if self-publishing, or aiming to release on a small press. There’s not even a huge crowd who genuinely enjoys small press/indie/underground comics. So why do it?
Well, indies are usually home to some the most painstakingly heartfelt reads you can find. They can evoke an emotional response by conveying ideas with a combination of words and sharply drawn out expressions. The bulk of indie comic book artists are deeply connected with their work — especially those projects created by just one person. Typically, these books are made of the blood, sweat, and tears of people who choose to speak through cartooning.
It’s a difficult task, yes, but comic creator Anna Bongiovanni has achieved moderate success in her field. She self-publishes zines and comics, with “Out of Hollow Water,” being her debut full-length comic. We had a chance to talk a little bit on her influences and why she chooses comics as her outlet.
Mass Appeal: Who are you?
Anna Bongiovanni: Well, my name is Anna Bongiovanni. I’m a professional cartoonist. I was born and raised in Alaska, but have been living in Minneapolis since graduating from Minneapolis College of Art and Design. My most recent graphic novel, “Out Of Hollow Water,” was published last October by 2D Cloud. Otherwise, I self-publish most of my work. My work tends to be either super upbeat and super queer, or kinda dark, introspective, and weird.
MA: Why the comic medium?
AB: I grew up reading comics so it felt pretty natural to want that juxtaposition between words and art. It’s just what felt the most satisfying when I was trying to tell a story. After a few years of attending my local university, majoring in elementary education (I dislike kids. This was the worst thing I could have decided to do) and spending ALL my free time drawing comics, I realized that I was just wasting my time. So I transferred to MCAD and began my career as a “professional cartoonist.”
MA: What are most of your comics about, subject matter wise?
AB: Well, that depends. I like to draw a lot of queer characters, and these comics (and illustrations) tend to be lighthearted and more character driven. Talking specifically about “Selfie,” as well as “Grease Bats,” which is an online comic I do. I would usually put my comics in the ‘alternative’ comic realm.
“Out Of Hollow Water,” along with a few I’ve done for anthologies, deal a lot with trauma, guilt and shame, and body horror. The opposite side of the coin than my others, I guess.
MA: Do you intend to be a major voice for queer comics? What is the importance of queer comics, to you?
AB:Oh man, I don’t think I intend to be a major voice, but I do plan on continuing to draw them. I draw comics with queer characters because I’m able to draw people that feel like home to me, they are based mostly on my friends and I. And these are the fuck-ups that I would wanna read about when I pick up a comic, so I might as well draw them myself.
MA: So you pretty much draw what you’d wanna read?
AB: Yeah, in a way. With “Out Of Hollow Water,” I wanted to make something that felt really honest and true, and maybe it isn’t a pleasant read, but it’s still something that would interest me if I picked it up (and wasn’t the creator of it).
MA: What’s your book about?
AB: I have a tough time personally describing it. It’s a dense and scratchy graphic novel that explores trauma, surviving trauma, pain, and the female experience. It sounds quite dark and it is, but the reviews have been quite positive, about it being an emotional and powerful graphic novel.
MA: Women in comics is not as rare as people think. How do you feel about the comics community in general being more and more female-oriented? Indies, at least.
AB: Yes, only speaking about indie comics, because mainstream comics have such a far way to go, it causes nausea.
I feel pretty at home with the indie comics community. There are a lot of women here, possibly because they feel so pushed away from mainstream comics, but also I feel that indie comics really value everyone’s perspective and where they come from. This can also be said about GLBTQ in indie comics as well.
But it’s not perfect, not at all. For example, Mari Naomi’s recent experience.
I think indie conventions and zinefests are working on combating this, and other harassment. I can think of a few conventions/zinefests where safer space rules and regulations are set up. Conventions being accountable is a big step in the right direction.
MA: What’s the fault with mainstream comics? Is there any you read or are interested in?
AB: I honestly don’t even read mainstream comics anymore. They just bore me. I used to read (and to be honest still do on occasion) Archie, but that’s it.
MA: Where do you pick up your art style from?
AB: I think growing up reading Archie comics had a lot to do with the way I draw my characters. Otherwise, I experimented a lot and will change the medium I use depending on the project. I recently have been drawing a lot with pencil on vellum, because I like the marks it makes on the paper and I can work pretty quickly with it.
MA: A lot of your work can come off as eerie. That’s something I think is the total opposite of what Archie offers…Which makes a bulk of your work really interesting. You can flip moods pretty well.
AB: That’s true. My editor at 2D Cloud, Raighne Hogan, was talking to me about that one day. Just saying how he loves my work which is darker and creepier, but is also really glad I can make things that are more upbeat. When I first published “Selfie,” he was all, “It’s nice to see this! You’re happy!” I really enjoy being able to create all sorts of things, I don’t ever want to limit myself
MA: What’s next for you?
AB: Well, I am in the works on a comic called “Donut Shop.” I am applying for some grants to help me finish it. It’s really hard to try and draw full time while also working full time! I am also working on making “Selfie,” into a ful-length graphic novel for next year that’ll be published by 2D Cloud.