Every now and then, someone debuted in such a way as to appear fully-formed from the start. Not a wrong line, not a wrong mark, not a wrong turn. Justine Shaw is one of those people. Like all such debuts, they're slightly misleading - Justine had messed around with online comics a little - but in Justine's case, only slightly. The first chapter of her graphic novel NOWHERE GIRL was an absolute explosion, and very few people had any warning of it. It takes a worn theme, of a girl outsider finding her place in the world, and makes it new again through its devoted passion and unusual skill.
And it's only available on the web. A serialised online graphic novel, each massive new chapter published as soon as she finishes it. You need to know about Justine:
What makes you make comics? Why work in this medium, rather than prose or another visual narrative art?
I've loved comics since I was little -- I've always been very visual. That also partially explains why I haven't written prose for years: I think with comics, using pictures as well as words, you can do things you can't do as well in books or maybe even films, you can get out ideas that are "between the lines", that is, you never state something out loud, but give the reader a sense of that thing, let them make their own thing out of it. I really do comics because I am a fanatical anal-retentive control freak, and a comic allows me to do literally all aspects of the production work without having to depend on someone else for any of it.
Publishing on the web only, do you get a lot of interaction with your audience? What kind of people are reading your stuff?
I do get a lot of emails from people, suggestions and comments, compliments, questions, etc. That's the limit of it though, I've no desire to start a forum or an email group or what-have-you, that's not my thing.
As for who is reading my stuff, all I really have to go by is who emails me, and they're a wide variety. Going by those emails, part 1 was read mostly (though not exclusively) by shy-ish smart young male people who were put upon in school and came into their own in their 20s or 30s. Part 2 seems to have been read by more female people, at least more are emailing me about it. What strikes me is how people are from Italy, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Ukraine, France, Nepal... according to my older weblogs someone in Pakistan read it. It's amazing to think of how diverse that group I just mentioned must be. Coooool.
What led you to publish directly on to the web, rather than, say, submitting to graphic novel publishers or going the minicomics route?
As I say above, I'm a complete control freak. Also, I tried working freelance for a few years, and it was a largely negative experience. I just plain don't enjoy hustling myself around to people trying to get work. I'd rather actually be doing the work itself.
The web gave me near-complete control, only having to rely on hosting facilities. I'll be the first to admit I have trouble trusting people, so just putting it online and skipping the "middle-man" was very appealing to me. And, though I didn't think about this at the time it's very clear to me now: if I'd published NG in print, I'd be out several thousand US$, and no one would have read it. Online, people from all over the planet have seen it.
What graphic novels do you keep that you never want to lose?
V For Vendetta. Potential. My collection of "Dykes to Watch Out For." The Death of Speedy ...all the comics magazines I would cry if I were to lose... that would be pages and pages...
What're you listening to these days, particularly while you're working?
I've been listening to some old Sid Vicious songs while writing a lot of Nowhere Girl 3. Also Apoptygma Berzerk, 4 Strings, Aimee Mann's "Lost in Space", Bronski Beat, the Eels, and Patsy Cline.
Justine Shaw "grew up" in the suburban wastes of southern California in the U.S. She currently lives in Berkeley, California. Nowhere Girl is her first serialized work. Her addictions include sushi, energy drinks, M&Ms, and kitties. She does not actually eat the kitties.