Hope Larson is a cartoonist extraordinaire, with her beautiful back catalogue including the beloved graphic novel adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time and originals like Mercury and Chiggers. She's also a superstar comic book writer, with the gorgeous Goldie Vance and Batgirl under her belt! Hope is returning to cartooning with her lovely new coming of age book, All Summer Long from First Second, that she's written and drawn along with colors by MJ Robinson. I chatted with Hope about returning to illustrating her own stories, giving yourself permission, and her dreams for the readers of her newest offering.
Larson has for the past few years been predominantly known as a writer, with a sterling run on Batgirl and her creator owned comic Goldie Vance. So how did she feel about heading back into the realm of cartooning? "It felt good! There's something raw about cartooning. It's hard work, physically, and it's actually gratifying to draw all day, and afterward, to feel in your body that you worked. It's gratifying to see that stack of bristol board get taller as I complete pages. It's gratifying to finish a book and think, 'I did everything on the page.' Except for the coloring! I never do my own coloring. The colorist for All Summer Long was MJ Robinson."
Creating a singular narrative like All Summer Long has been a completely different process compared to writing an ongoing book at the Big Two. "One big difference is that with a graphic novel, I get to write the entire story in one go," explained Larson. "With an ongoing, I have an outline, but I'm writing the story in pieces and just kind of hoping it all gels in the end. Another big difference is that I'm free to do whatever I want with my characters, barring something that would be wildly inappropriate for kids to read. I'm not subject to approval from a corporate entity on my own books in the way that I am with licensed work."
All Summer Long tells the tale of a young girl discovering herself and her love for music over a summer break, and I was wondering what Larson had been hoping to put across with this particular story. "I've been thinking about this a lot as I do interviews and school visits, and I've realized that one of the big themes of All Summer Long--and both of its sequels, which I'm working on now--is permission. It's about being given, or giving yourself, permission to be an artist, or a musician, or a creative person, when the world at large thinks that's a waste of time," Larson says. "When I think back on all of the things I wanted to do but didn't, because I was waiting for someone to give me their blessing, it makes me sad. This is a book that says, 'Wanting to do the thing is enough of a reason to do the thing.' You're allowed to draw comics even if you 'can't draw.' You're allowed to play guitar even if you're 'not musical.' You don't have to be perfect, and you'll improve and find your voice along the way."
It's not just a lesson Larson wants to instill in her readers, but also one she craved as an artist. "I think this is a message kids need to hear, and it's also a message I needed to give to myself," she admits. "Even though I've been making comics professionally for a long time, I can sometimes feel rejected, or creatively squashed, or not good enough. In a lot of ways, I was writing this story as my own personal pep-talk."
The whole book looks to be filled with incredible energy and gorgeous illustrations, and Larson is clearly passionate about the project. When it comes to a favorite moment, she doesn't have a singular section, but she did have a moment she adored creating! "I loved drawing the concert scene later in the book," she recalls. "I wanted to capture the feeling of being at a show and being amazed and star-struck by a band, and I think I succeeded!"
When it comes to potential readers of All Summer Long, she says, "I hope they gain the confidence to explore their creativity, or push it further. My daydream is that this book becomes a massive hit, and all the kids who read it go out and start bands."
Are you excited to see Hope Larson return to cartooning? Just can't wait to relive your first teenage summer? Got a young one who'll love All Summer Long? Let us know below!
Images: First Second