Mariko Tamaki is a superstar comics writer who made her name with her radical graphic novels Skim and This One Summer, which she co-created with her artist cousin Jillian Tamaki. She is now a regular writer at Marvel and DC, with credits on books like Hulk, Supergirl: Being Super, and the upcoming Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass with Steve Pugh. Adding a new string to her bow, Tamaki has recently taken on the adaptation of Carole Maurel’s Luisa: Now and Then. We spoke to Tamaki about the process of adapting a graphic novel from another language and what drew her to the beautiful Luisa: Now and Then.
Tamaki was approached by French publisher Humanoids—probably best known for printing the works of Moebius and Alejandro Jodorowsky—to work on the book, which tells the story of a woman who miraculously meets and befriends her younger self. It’s a beautifully rendered story that encapsulates the loneliness and existential nature of growing up while still being a hopeful and enjoyable read. Tamaki described the offer as “a very new kind of project for me so I decided to give it a try. Plus, it seemed like a really cool book.”
So what made the lauded writer feel like the time was right to take on adapting someone else’s work? For Tamaki, it was all about the challenge. “I had the script with the translation from French to English and the art to work with, and my goal was to try and, I guess, ‘smooth’ out some edges so the English sounded… spoken,” Tamaki said. “My main goal was to do nothing where and if nothing needed to be done. And for most of the book, nothing did need to be done. It was really very small things. Carole is an incredible writer and artist, and Nanette McGuinness did the translation, and from my grade 12 French she did an awesome job—and she had many amazing notes. I saw my job as just sort of like adjusting the silverware on the table.”
Adapting a comic is obviously a hugely different process than writing one, so I wondered just how Tamaki went about it. “I worked with the publisher using the script, as translated by Nanette; I tried to imagine Carole in the room, making sure I didn’t mess up her book,” Tamaki told me, before explaining that juxtaposition of her usual work and her new role. “Oh, it’s very different. I don’t feel any ownership of the story the way I do with books I’ve written or co-created, as in the case of comics. I’m incredibly proud of Carole and of Humanoids and of the work all their staff has done with this book, and I’m super happy to have been able to lend a hand in bringing this book to readers in the U.S.”
We’ve had a chance to read Luisa: Now and Then and it’s a stunning book. As our exclusive preview pages show, it’s a unique and sweet story, one which Tamaki can’t wait for readers to pick up. When I asked her what moment she was most excited about, she said, “All of them. The whole thing. I was particularly charmed by the ending. I hope readers are too.”
Will you be picking up Luisa: Now and Then? Already a fan of Carole Maurel? Let us know below!