With the ringing of a cell phone and a shower of rose petals, bookish teenage Lin transforms from an ordinary new-girl-in-town to a badass, spear-wielding superhero ready to battle a binary villain in the pages of Hope Larson's newest graphic novel, "Who Is AC?" Larson, who is best known for her winsome, magical works including "Chiggers," "Mercury" and her recent adaptation of Madeline L'Engle's "A Wrinkle In Time," is approaching the superhero genre for the first time -- with a twist.
This stand-alone book, illustrated by Tintin Pantoja, is closer to shojo manga and anime than your typical cape-and-cowl hero comic: think "Sailor Moon" with an extra helping of quick-witted, sarcastic humor. Pantoja compliments Larson's fiercely independent characters with bold black and white artwork that blossoms into purple highlights when Lin becomes her alter ego, AC.
An unlikely heroine, Lin would rather spend her time creating a 'zine for the local bookstore shelves than fighting bad guys. However, an unseen world of magic-via-technology infiltrates Lin's reality, forcing her to save the day rather than simply writing about it. No pressure, right? Wrong. An anonymous blogger has a lot to say about the new hero in town, and isn't shy about sharing his or her scathing reviews. Between trading blows and mending mistakes, Lin begins to discover exactly who she is, and who she wants to become.
Comic Book Resources spoke with Larson about her new work, digging a little deeper into the story, her collaboration with Pantoja and the possibility of finding more answers to the question, "Who Is AC?"
CBR News: I love that your first superhero story is still quite nerdy at its core, Lin being a writer, and technology being the platform for her powers. What inspired you to tell a superhero story?
Hope Larson: It's been three and a half years since I wrote the script, and at this point I'm not sure anymore. I was watching a lot of Sailor Moon around then, and there had probably been a round of "why-aren't-there-more-female-superheroes?" discussion online. I think there had been an article about it on Jezebel, as well. Honestly, though, I thought it sounded like a fun thing to write, and it was.
With regard to female superheroes, Lin represents a lot of qualities that aren't prevalent in the comics world. What do you think is missing from female superheroes in comics right now?
Most of my experience with superheroes comes from manga, which was the big influence here. At the moment, I don't think comics has a "Sailor Moon" or a "Revolutionary Girl Utena" and I wanted to create something like that -- a series that was fun, full of romance and rose petals, where surviving the school day is as important as saving the world.
For this book, rather than illustrate it yourself, you collaborated with Tintin Pantoja. How did that happen?
I never saw this as a book I would draw myself, and I was also busy drawing "A Wrinkle in Time," so I put out a call for artists on Twitter and Tintin sent in her portfolio. Everyone responded positively to her work, so she got the job.
How much input did you have on the art, and how much did Tintin have on the story?
I had a bit of input on the art, but I didn't want to squash Tintin, either. I did what I would want a collaborator to do with me, which was to leave her alone and let her do her job. Afterward, our editor and art director and I sent her our notes at once, so she wouldn't be overwhelmed with notes from a bunch of different people.
Tintin didn't have any input on the script, mainly because she came on board after it was written. Our editor sent me notes, I made the revisions and Tintin started drawing. I did make a lot of changes to the text after the final art was completed, adjusting it to better complement what she'd drawn. If we were given the option of doing additional books about these characters, she would definitely have more input.
People always say that you have to write what you know. Lin's zines are about a brave heroine -- did she know on some level that she was destined to be a hero, or was she chosen to become a hero because she was already brave?
I see her as a person who doesn't think she's brave or strong, and wishes she were. She's writing a character who's strong in ways she wishes she could be, but isn't (in her opinion).
I noticed that the ideas both Lin and Melly put out into the world came to influence their character arcs. Melly's sadness and negativity made her vulnerable to an attack -- do you believe that the ideas you put out into the world will realize themselves?
The way you choose to frame yourself influences the way others see you. The persona you choose, online or off, does have an effect, which is why so many people are concerned with their online 'brand.' But what I was thinking about while writing the book is how the Internet has become a receptacle for the deepest, darkest feelings of so many people -- including me -- and what if someone could take the secret outpourings of your heart and turn them back on you?
I read that you and Tintin were interested in writing more AC stories. Any updates on plans for future AC books?
I would love to, because this was conceived as the first book in a series. It's the pilot episode -- self-contained, but we've just introduced the cast. We're just getting started. Whether or not we get the chance to draw additional books depends upon how well this one sells.
If you do get the opportunity to continue the story, what kind of powers could we expect to see evolve in Lin?
That would be a spoiler!
Hope Larson and Tintin Pantoja's "Who Is AC?" is available in bookstores now and in comic shops April 24.