Thursday, August 30, 2012

Beauty and the Beast of an Internet Kind: Interview with Web Comic Creator Megan Kearney

Web comics. I can easily say that it is one of the big nerd trends I have yet to get into. Maybe its because my reading taste is beyond picky, but only up until recently have I taken an interest to getting into them and trying to understand them. So with that then came an random day that I ended up on my favorite time steeler, Tumblr. One there I stumbled upon the trailer below, for a project I became incredibly interested in. Below is a simple and fun interview with creator of a new Beauty and the Beast web-comic, and trust me: I really think you should check this out! I present to you with creator of Beauty and the Beast, Megan Kearney and her fabulousness!

Tell us a bit about yourself. Life, dreams, job, all the important basics!

Ooh, the basics, huh? Well, I was raised in a Navy family, so I got dragged around the country a fair bit as a child. I was always a voracious reader and loved telling stories and drawing, so I kind of retreated into that. I did my BA in fine art at the University of WIndsor, with a minor in English and earned my BAA Honours in animation at Sheridan College. Now I live and work in Toronto, which has a lot going on in games, animation and comics. Ultimately, it would be wonderful to do Beauty and The Beast full time, but right now I balance between drawing Beauty and The Beast and freelance gigs doing illustration and artwork for iphone apps.

When did you discover Beauty and the Beast?

To be really honest, I don't know. I've known some version of the story as long as I can remember… My first conscious memory of Beauty and The Beast relates to the Disney version, specifically, getting into an argument with my little schoolfriend about whether it was a towel or a diaper in the bath scene. I read The Blue Fairy Book at some point when I was seven or eight, so I knew Lang's version, which is more or less based on Beaumont's.

What was the first adapted version you saw of Beauty and the Beast?

I'm quite sure it must have been Disney. My father used to bring back the VHS releases from the US when he went away on postings, and he would sit and watch them with me in the basement. I would only ever watch the videos once, because they were too scary for me!

What is your favorite versions? Film, stage, whichever!

This is tough, because there are a few versions I love. My favourite film adaptation is Panna a Netvor, a 1976 horror-influenced Czech film by Juraz Herz. It makes use of really schlocky film techniques, but has the most engaging, sympathetic, troubled Beast of any version I've seen…and the only really handsome prince! I also have a love of the Disney version, which breaks a lot of the "rules" of a Beauty and The Beast story's structure, but is so fully realized and fleshed out that you can't help but be washed away by it. I was lucky enough to meet the producer, Don Hahn, while I was in school, so I have a nice autographed print from the Disney film above my desk! 

In print, I love both of Mckinley's novels deeply. Beauty is a really solid, sweet retelling, and Rose Daughter has an intricate grandness to it, even though it kind of muddles around towards the ending.  I also like Angela Carter, and I'd love to do an illustrated version of The Courtship of Mr. Lyon one day.

Tell us about your web-comic!

Haha, what shall I tell you? It's going to be a three act structure that uses the template of Beaumont's version as a starting point, but differs in the details. The comic launches September first, and the prologue and first chapter will be available right away. From there, it will update weekly.

Whose story do you think your version is about more - Beauty or The Beast?

It's a double billing, definitely. I think the reader will get to see things more through Beauty's eyes, especially in the first act, but The Beast's internal journey is just as important as Beauty's. A love story can't just be about one person.

Why did you decide a web-comic as the platform for your retelling?

Initially, I intended to write a novel (well, actually, I intended to write a poem, and it spun out of control) but after about three years of on-and-off work on a prose version of the story, I realized that a lot of what I was doing was writing stage direction. I'm trained as both a fine artist and an animator, so I think very visually. A few people had suggested to me that  it might work better as a graphic novel, but I was resistant. Transitioning from prose to visuals is hard, because you lose your ability to get inside the character's heads, and you're suddenly forced to solve things that you can leave ambiguous in prose -- The castle, for example. Before, I wrote it as a kind of fluid, shifting mysterious space. Now I need to know architecturally how that space works and how to depict it. The Beast is another one of those tricky things…. 

I'm getting longwinded here, but essentially, I decided a web comic format would let me practice visual storytelling without needing to go fully professional with it, and reach an audience who cares about this story (and besides, Robin McKinley has already had the last word in Beauty and The Beast prose adaptations. Everything since then has been kind of superfluous).

Why does Beauty and the Beast mean so much to you?

It speaks to my issues! Haha, really, though, as a child and an adolescent I identified with Beauty's intellect and alienation, and the fact that she had to take care of everybody all the time. Now that I'm older, and maybe a bit more damaged, I sympathize with The Beast's predicament….To me, the relationship between Beauty and The Beast is a powerful one, because it takes the form of a slow courtship. The two don't connect immediately. There's give and take. Initially, Beauty is repulsed by him. But by the end, the two have connected intellectually and spiritually, and his appearance doesn't matter to her anymore. In most versions, he reaches his full potential when he lets her go. She reaches hers when she realizes her love and returns to him. It's a story about the slow journey to intimacy --knowing oneself in order to know another.

What other fairy tales do you enjoy?

I've been so focused on Beauty and The Beast during the last few years  that most other fairy tales have faded into the background. As a child, my favourite was East of The Sun, West of the Moon, because of the northern setting, and the fact that the story kept going after the initial curse was ended. My thesis film at Sheridan was fairy tale inspired, though it became its own thing in the end. Most people guess it was based on Hansel and Gretel, but it actually started out as a retelling of the fairy tale Brother and Sister… Now, I'm very interested in Salon Tales, such as The Subtle Princess or The White Cat, and the women behind them.

Do you think your interests such as fairy tales influence your fashion style or outlook on your own self?

Definitely! I've always thought that you could tell a lot about a person based on which fairy tale they love best. I used to take care of a little girl who had a lot of conflict with her mother, and her favourite thing to do was enact the story of Cinderella over and over again. Fairy Tales are great ways of examining difficult things inside of yourself without having to take them head-on… It also explain the plethora of rose-themed items in my house. My upcoming wedding has a woodsy fairy tale theme to it.

Fashionwise, I like earth tones, greens and browns and creams. I favour little dresses, slip-on shoes and big sweaters… I guess I lean towards the Mori Girl look. My favourite thing right now is a beautiful brass and resin rose necklace I got from a local designer, Curious Oddities. I was thinking they would make great prizes if I run a contest with the comic!

What would you like the readers of the web comic to know?

I'm going to do everything I can to do this story justice!  It would mean the world to me if you read along and weigh in on what you think.

So what do you think? Sound interested in checking out Megan's work? I am brimming with excitement over the release of the first issue on September 1st! If wanna check out the series, click here for its official website (along with some neat merchandise!) and if you are on tumblr, check out Megan's own page on the site here, that features tons of Beauty and the Beast related goodies and more rare glimpses into her work for the series.

I can't thank you enough Megan for this interview! I am truly excited to read this series and give me my first real taste of a web comic obsession. And trust me, I all ready am I bit obsessed! 




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