Hope Larson is delivering some of the most interesting work in comics today. Her two-volume Compass South and Knife’s Edge for First Second Books are fun all-ages pirate adventure, while her work on Batgirl for DC has been a total pleasure. I had the chance to interview her recently via email and enjoyed the opportunity.
Hope Larson: Thank you! I built the characters and got to know them over the course of writing the book and asking myself how each of them would react to he situations I’ve placed them in. The world they travel through is, of course, based on the actual world, so a lot of research went into writing it. I read a number of 1800s travelogues and journals, and a handful of books on the history of piracy, the Marshall Islands, etc.
CB: Why a pirate adventure?
Larson: I grew up loving adventure books, and I always wanted to write one, so I did.
CB: How closely did you work with Rebecca Mock in creating these characters and their world?
Larson: Typically, I write the script and develop the characters on my own, then Rebecca comes in with her own ideas, we discuss, and we meet somewhere in the middle. I write descriptions of characters and settings and provide whatever visual reference I feel is relevant, and she builds on top of those ideas and fleshes them out. It’s a back and forth process.
CB: Will we see these characters again?
Larson: I certainly hope so, but that ultimately depends on things like sales. Rebecca and I have lots of ideas for more adventures these characters would have! (Actually, Rebecca has way more ideas than I do, and I plan to steal from those.)
CB: How did you end up getting Batgirl for DC?
Larson: I get this question a lot, and I’m going to soapbox for a minute, because I think it’s condescending. I got Batgirl because I’ve been making comics, professionally, for over a decade. I have many books published as both a writer and a cartoonist. I have two Eisner awards and an Ignatz. My passion is writing comics and storytelling, and I’m constantly working to improve. I hit my deadlines, I know how to work with and artists, I’m professional, and I bring my A-game every time. When I was introduced to my editors at DC, they didn’t have to take a chance on me because I already had the goods. That’s how I got the job.
CB: What sorts of new directions will you take the character?
Larson: I’m excited for the next arc, which will dig back into Batgirl’s past and show us a new side of her, and her complicated relationship with Dick Grayson.
CB: What do you think your background in YA fiction brings to Batgirl and the characters in Compass South –and to your projects in general?
Larson: I know how to write stories that are accessible to younger readers, and sophisticated enough for older ones. I’m not a big fan of the all ages label, but I keep a wider audience in mind, especially when I’m writing Batgirl.
CB: You obviously love to create strong female characters. Do you think writers have an obligation to the next generation?
Larson: I love to write female protagonists, and I love to write characters who are complicated, human, assertive, flawed. I think often of Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time, who is such a striking character because she is a girl with a lot of anger, but also a lot of love for her family and friends. I’m not writing anything out of some sense of obligation, or for marketing purposes. This is just what I prefer to write. Even though I write mostly for kids, I’m not out to teach a moral lesson or present a guidebook for life. My primary goal as a writer is to create fun, entertaining books that present interesting ideas and themes, so kids can have a break from the stresses of their lives. I got a fan letter once from a girl who said one of my books made her feel good about herself, and if there’s anything I’m reaching for, it’s that.