Today sees the long awaited release of one of our most anticipated of comic books – “Henchgirl.” The writer and artist, Kristen Gudsnuk, is someone we’ve known for a while and long supported. We saw her at New York Comic Con earlier this month and with the release of “Henchgirl” at local comic shops today (10/28/15) we thought now would be the perfect time to talk with the young, up and coming talent. Always generous with her time, Gudsnuk spoke with us over the weekend and here is our conversation with one of the brightest and friendliest of people in the business!
What’cha Reading: Hi Kristen. It’s Steven from What’cha Reading. I’d like to thank you again for taking some time to speak with us. It’s great seeing you and your work constantly grow and it’s interesting that every time we meet/speak, there’s something more to be said of it. “Henchgirl” releases in comic shops today, October 28th and for those that aren’t familiar with this title, could you speak of the premise and of how you created these characters and universe?
Kristen Gudsnuk: Hi Steven! “Henchgirl” is the story of, well, a henchgirl. Mary Posa is a well-meaning underachiever who can’t seem to find any other job than working with a crew of criminals called the Butterfly Gang. I created the characters after watching a ton of Batman: The Animated Series; I found myself wondering about those background cronies who get punched out and forgotten, what their stories are. The rest of the world just happened organically; living in New York City, which can be kind of gross and annoying sometimes, provided enough fodder for Crepe City. Although Crepe City is definitely a more twisted, worse version of NYC.
What’cha Reading: “Watching a ton of Batman: The Animated Series.” Wasn’t that such a great show? I love the work of Bruce Timm. He’s one of my favorites. It’s interesting hearing that Batman Animated was what inspired certain concepts of “Henchgirl.” Now have you had an interest in writing and art before this? I’m aware of your time with Penguin publishing. That seems like an extraordinary opportunity, along with great experience. Have you felt your time there has helped you in your current endeavors?
Kristen Gudsnuk: Of course! I’ve been writing stories and drawing since I can remember. I’ve made comics (not fit for print, though– they were very doodly) since I was nine. I mainly made them to entertain my friends when I was younger. When I was in college I did a lot of prose writing, too– short stories, mainly, but I even wrote a novella at one point. One of my old comics (The Optimist; not sure how I feel about its quality in retrospect, but I’ll probably be saying that about “Henchgirl” in five years, haha) was actually based on a short story I wrote for a creative writing class. I used to paint a lot, too. I’ve tried to streamline my interests so I can focus on my life goals, so painting has kind of fallen by the wayside, but it was a big part of my life for a while. And I was actually working at the Random House side. I was there when we merged with Penguin, though! It wasn’t really related at all to comics– I was mainly doing production work on Spanish books.
What’cha Reading: It’s always very interesting to hear about how long someone has been involved with writing and/or drawing. We’ve never spoken of “The Optimist” and the title alone sounds very intriguing. Would you be able to tell us a little about that? And have you been saving your work so in five years when “The Collected Work of Kristen Gudsnuk” releases, your early writings and drawings could be included? And do you favor writing or drawing more? About the same?
Kristen Gudsnuk: “The Optimist” is about this little religious kid who starves himself to have spiritual visions, living in Lithuania toward the end of its occupation by Russia. It’s a little dark, and very earnest. It’s all in watercolor (with some weird claymation-inspired stuff, too). It’s online at http://www.theduckwebcomics.com/The_Optimist/ if you want to check it out. I’m not very precious with my own work; I don’t really keep track of my old stuff (and am not really prolific enough, either!) -Ed. Note: What’cha Reading disagrees!-, hahaha. By which I mean I constantly lose my old artwork. Sorry, future historians! I like writing and art in different ways. Ultimately I think writing is more emotionally satisfying, but art in its own way (especially comics) has a bit of writing’s spirit involved, in that you will draw things you don’t want to state explicitly, like a certain emotion or visual motif or atmosphere. And the “acting” in writing dialogue is just as important as the “acting” in drawing. But writing is a lot harder to evaluate critically than art (at least in comics) so art can be a bit of a relief. You can tell what you did wrong and right a lot easier, so it’s easier to improve. Writing is more subjective. There’s some plot twist in issue 6 (I don’t know if I should spoil it) that I still wonder if it was a terrible idea or not. I can’t tell if I hobbled my comic or improved it or maintained its previous quality. Versus I can just look and see if I’m happy with a particular page’s art.
What’cha Reading: I’m really excited that you mentioned “The Optimist.” That’s definitely something that I’ll have to check out. That’s a very smart way of looking at writing and art, especially in terms of “acting.” I’ve always felt there has to be an emotional connection to what you’re working on in hopes of eliciting an emotional response. Since creating, writing, and drawing “Henchgirl”, we’ve seen outlets like A.V. Club and Bleeding Cool that have taken notice of your work. How does that feel to see your work get noticed like that?
Kristen Gudsnuk: It always is awesome to have your work validated by others!! My ego certainly loves it and it’s nice to get press because it leads new fans to the comic!
What’cha Reading: I’d like to conclude by asking the following, “Henchgirl” arrives in local comic shops this Wednesday (10/28/2015). What has the process been in achieving this amazing accomplishment? And in one word, how would you describe “Henchgirl” and what is the best way for fans to keep up to date on your projects, upcoming shows, and the like?
Kristen Gudsnuk: It’s been a very long journey, since I started what feels like ages ago. But luckily, making comics is probably the most fun thing in the world so I can’t complain at all! And honestly I wouldn’t have gotten this far in the comic if it weren’t for my online supporters (I absolutely love reading people’s comments; they point out such interesting things I didn’t think of, which helps me enhance my writing! And it’s just nice knowing people care!).
One word? “Comic”. Hahaha. I’ve never been good at describing it. My twitter (@henchgirl_comic) and the blog part of henchgirlcomic.com are usually where I post any news!! Thanks, man!
What’cha Reading would like to thank Kristen Gudsnuk for speaking with us. We’d also like to express our gratitude for her using our pull quote on the back of issue 1. “Henchgirl” is out now and could be picked up at your local comic shop. To find one closest to you, please click on this link here. Royal Collectibles in Queens, NY has them in stock so if you’re in New York, check out the comic shop located right in Peter Parker’s hometown of Forest Hills.
Kristen Gudsnuk is currently working on VIP: I’m With the Band.
The hardcover, written by Jen Calonita, will release December 1, 2015. You could pre-order that on Amazon here