Branching out from her indie stuff, Tamaki has recently been working on books such as Tomb Raider for Dark Horse, the new relaunch of She-Hulk for Marvel, and she’s working with Boom! Studios on Adventure Time, specifically Adventure Time Comics #8, which is out today (Feb 15).
I had the opportunity to ask Ms. Tamaki a few questions and she kindly took the time to answer them for us here. Take a look at what she had to say about her work and more! And check out a preview of the comic at the bottom of the page.
Rogues Portal: Most people are most familiar with your indie works such as This One Summer. What has the experience been like for you working on creator owned projects vs. licensed characters like Tomb Raider and Adventure Time?
Mariko Tamaki: It feels odd to say this, because it’s all comics, but they’re very different kinds of writing. I mean, with graphic novels it’s whatever you want and it’s—for the writer at least, and the way I collaborate—kind of limitless in terms of space. Working on licensed characters you’re really writing into something that already exists, and part of the job, I think, is connecting with that larger story, figuring out that story from previous work. Then when you write, you’re working within a page limit (either 20 or 22 pages, sometimes 48), so you really have to think about how you’re going to tell the story within that space. (I use A LOT of Post-it Notes and grid drawings.) For me, with licensed works, it’s all about the page and SPACE and timing and pacing. It’s definitely something I’ve had to figure over the last few years, how to write what I like to write and tell a story within existing parameters. I’m very lucky I have great editors and illustrators who’ve helped me with this process.
RP: Do you feel any pressure when writing characters that already have a following?
MT: Yes, yes I do. I mean, with licensed characters there’s an audience already there, there’s a room full of people who love this character who are waiting to see what you’ll do. The main thing, though is that I want to tell a good story. And I want it to all make sense. And be good. Both.
RP: Both Tomb Raider and Adventure Time are great franchises with amazing female characters and a lot of diversity. Was that important to you when deciding whether or not to work on these books?
MT: I’ve had the opportunity to write some great female characters. In terms of choosing a project, I have to feel like there’s something I can bring to it. And I have to be able to picture a story, and pitch a story that works for the publisher. It’s kind of like dating. You say, “Hey, I want to go mini golfing, how does that sound to you?” Maybe the publisher says, “No mini golf, EVER, what is wrong with you?!” and it’s a bad fit, or they LOVE mini golf, and who doesn’t love mini golf, and you’re a go. For Tomb Raider, it was also just such a great challenge, it was a big project and I wanted to see if I could do it. I definitely learned a lot writing that series and working with Phillip Sevy. Let’s give Sevy a hand for his infinite patience with me.
RP: What do you think Lara Croft would do on a fun afternoon when she’s taking time away from raiding all those tombs?
MT: I think Lara Croft spends her fun afternoons training for her more challenging afternoons.
RP: All of your works take on a little bit more of a series tone and focus on raising awareness of mental illness, sexual identity and more. Is helping to open a dialogue something that you want to do in whatever way you can, no matter the property?
MT: I’m all about raising awareness, and talking about, stuff like mental illness, gender, power, intersectionality, the whole thing. That stuff makes for interesting dialogues, I think. Also, it’s part of every story, whether or not it’s explicit. If you’re reading a story about a creature or a person who has a gender, gender is part of that story, as is sexual identity and so on. If there’s something I’ve put into a story that ends up raising that subject for a reader, I’m good with that. I think that’s awesome. I would love it if all comics panels had a, “Let’s talk about performance and identity” segment. I’m not going to push for it to happen and I’m not saying it HAS to happen, but it would be cool.
RP: For those who aren’t writers, how do we help champion the causes that you so passionately put forward in your works?
MT: You look around you. You see who is working in your community to make the community better. You work with those people.
RP: Which character in Adventure Time is your favourite to enjoy as a fan and which character is your favourite to write?
MT: My answer to both questions is Lumpy Space Princess/Lumpy Space Prince.
RP: Who are a few creators that you think people should be looking out for in 2017?
MT: Jillian Tamaki has a new book, Boundless, coming out which is going to be amazing. Also, there’s Vanessa Davis’ Spaniel Rage, and Eleanor Davis is publishing a book with Koyama Press called You & A Bike & A Road, both which I am super excited to read.
RP: What else can we look forward to from you in the coming months?
MT: I have a few series I’m working on at the moment. There’s Hulk: Deconstructed, Marvel, with Nico Leon, and Supergirl: Being Super, DC Comics, with Joëlle Jones. Plus, Adventure Time, obvs, with Audrey Mok and Meg Omac. I’m writing a Middle Grade series based on the Lumberjanes (BOOM! Studios) series for ABRAMS Children’s Books, which will have illustrations by Brooke Allen (!!!!). And I have a new graphic novel coming out in 2018, with the fabulous Rosemary Valero O’Connell called Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, from First Second.