Setup Menus in Admin Panel

An Interview With Colleen Coover

The following interview with Colleen Coover happened sometime in the early months of 2002. It came about after OUT magazine ran a small article in its February issue. At the time this interview was conducted Coover was beginning to be recognized for her Small Favors comic which is being collected in an upcoming deluxe hardcover edition from Limerence Press, an imprint of Oni Press.

We’ve decided to share it again and hope you enjoy it!
Gay League: Colleen, people may not be familiar with your book, SMALL FAVORS, yet even though there is an article in OUT (Feb 2002 issue). What do you think is important for people know about you?

Colleen Coover: I’m just a regular bisexual gal, trying to make the world a better place by celebrating the fact that pretty girls are precious and wonderful.

And I’m a total comics geek.

GL: As a kid were you at all interested in comics or cartoons and TV shows like Super Friends and Wonder Woman?

Colleen: Oh, yeah. I made myself dizzy spinning around like Lynda Carter many times. The only problem with playing “Super Friends” on the playground in first grade is that only five or six kids can reasonably be Superman at one time.

GL: Did you find that comics were a method of exploring your sexual curiosity? Did Batgirl make you bisexual?

Colleen: Reading comics were never the sort of exploration that creating them has become, which I guess is only logical. An exception would be a lesbian-themed fairy tale by Trina Robins that was published way back in the early 80’s in Epic magazine. I think I was twelve, and that was probably the first lesbian love scene I had ever seen. It made a lasting impression on me, but I didn’t recognize my bisexuality until much later.

GL: What’s your artistic background?

Colleen: A lifetime of goofing around, interrupted briefly by an attempt to take college seriously. I got over that, and started seriously goofing around, instead. Basically I’m self-taught.

GL: Who are some of the artists that you look to for inspiration? What qualities in their styles do you find exciting?

Colleen: I couldn’t possibly compile a complete list of artists that influence or inspire me. I look to Milton Caniff for drama, Jack Kirby for power, Wally Wood for design, Jack Davis for fluidity of movement, Stan Sakai for cartooning skills, and on and on. The Hernandez’s are great storytellers and draftsmen, they understand the art of drawing comics in ways I don’t know if I ever will. I like the manga art of Rumiko Takahashi and Ryoichi Ikegami to name a couple, because of the elegance of their storytelling. Their stories have a clear premise, conflict, and resolution.

GL: How did your collaboration with Paul Tobin start?

Colleen: Paul is my “partner. He’s my boyfriend, but that sounds so temporary and junior high! He has been the writer of several indie comics over the last twelve or so years: Fringe, Attitude Lad, and some short pieces for anthologies. He’s very savvy about what makes a good comic, and he helped me conceive and structuralize the basic foundations for SMALL FAVORS. I’m more of a visual storyteller, so it’s sometimes difficult for me to set out to write a story with words without getting lost halfway to the end. He also gave me the practical advice needed to get SMALL FAVORS published. It simply would not have ever existed without his help.
GL: What are your reasons for doing, as you call it, “a girly porno comic book?”

Colleen: I like porn. Erotica, romance, spicy stories, I like them. And so do many, many other women. And my experience as a comics retailer has taught me that many women who would never think of looking at either a mainstream comic, or a piece of mainstream pornography, will absolutely devour comic book porn! But the reading choices for comic book porn are pretty small. I wanted to provide a sexual entertainment in comic book form that would be friendly, non-violent, romantic, apolitical, and fun…
GL: Did the ideas for the book and Annie and Nibbil come to you out of the blue or was it a drawn out process?

The concepts and characters of SMALL FAVORS grew slowly out of a series of short stories, anchored by the first “origin” story, where Annie and Nibbil meet. Before SMALL FAVORS went to publication, I wanted to have a good-sized body of work ready to publish, so I completed about 100 pages of art before submitting it to Eros. In the meantime, Annie and Nibbil grew as characters, and writing situations for them began to be a process of them guiding me, rather than the other way around. As a result, some of the earlier stories feature them doing small things that would be out of character for them as they exist in my head now, although I suppose that Paul and I are the only two people who would notice or be bothered by that. Some of those stories have remained unpublished because of those inconsistencies of character, and may only see print in collected volumes.

GL: Were you ever uncertain that you could find a publisher or that there would be an audience for your work?

Colleen: I was pretty confident that I had a saleable commodity. By tailoring Small Favors to women, I didn’t do anything to discourage male readers, and the fact that a woman creates it is an added attraction to many men. And I think the fact that my initial submission included 100 pages of print-ready material did a lot to convince Eros that I was going to have a regular schedule; that has to be attractive to a publisher.

GL: What percentage of men based on feedback do you think read SMALL FAVORS?

Colleen: About 85% of my fan mail comes from men, but many of them testify to their wives or girlfriends liking it. It’s for sale at a local feminist bookshop/sex shop where I live, and the sales there are largely to women. I can’t say how many of the sales at the shop where I work are to women, because I think my perceptions are skewed toward noticing when chicks pick it up.

GL: You defy conventions by working in a comic shop and making girly porn and maybe in a couple of other ways, too. How do you handle situations with people when they learn you work in a comic shop or draw porn?

Colleen: I’ve been reading comics since before I could read the words in them, so I have never understood the assumption that girls don’t read comics. The same is true for my liking of porn/erotica. I know women like erotica (just read the steamy bits of any best-selling romance novel!) and I know that women enjoy comics. Unfortunately in the United States, “comic book” is considered to be synonymous with “super-hero”. I like good super-hero comics as much as any fanboy, but I recognize that they are not to everyone’s taste. I see women reading and buying comics every day. Many are attracted to Japanese manga, some like the more arty stuff like GHOST WORLD or ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY; legions of them are rabid about JOHHNY THE HOMICIDAL MANIAC! And I would be willing to bet that a large number of those women would not consider themselves “comic book fans,” because they don’t read super-hero stuff!

Most of the people I meet who find out what I do for a living think it’s cool—”What a cool job!” When they find out about SMALL FAVORS, they think it’s really cool!

GL: Have you ever been criticized for creating porn?

Colleen: I think it gave my Mom a bit of trouble at first, but she’s over it.

GL: Are you having as much fun with SMALL FAVORS as it seems that Annie and Nibbil have together?

Colleen:If you mean do the stories turn me on, yeah! These are steamy scenes! But then my enjoyment becomes more professional, the joy of getting good work done, and of improving as an artist.

GL: Annie and Nibbil have a lot of sex which is a good thing—pretty girls having sex makes people happy. Will your emphasis always be on sex or at some point will you include more characterization to the stories?

Colleen: Yes, to both questions. The basic function of SMALL FAVORS is to be a sexual entertainment, but the characters of Annie and Nibbil and all their friends will continue to grow within that guideline.

GL: Won’t the Queen of Annie’s Conscience discover one day all the sex Annie and Nibbil have? What then? Will she send Janus who’s now not so inexperienced?

Colleen: I don’t know, yet. We haven’t seen the last of the Queen, though, you can be sure of that. Just don’t ask me when.

GL: Do you have any favorite stories so far? I like “Nibbil’s Exhibition” and “I Dream of Girls” the most. Will future stories have more of Sage, Janus or Yuriko, Annie’s neighbor? Maybe Janus sneaking off to Yuriko?

Colleen: My favorite story is almost always the one I’m working on at the moment. That’s awfully diplomatic of me, isn’t it? And hey, are you trying to get me to give away secrets?

GL: Your mission statement is issue one says that “[you] wanted a comic about girls who were in love and having sex and fun and were happy about it.” There’s no doubt that your characters have fun sex. That is, except for the Queen. While you’re working on a story do you identify with Annie or Nibbil? Or both?
Colleen: Usually I identify more with whichever of them is acting more like a big chicken. I’m really very shy.

GL: Any thoughts you’d like to share on what you think is lacking in comics to attract a greater percentage of women?

Colleen: The assumption up to now has been that what is needed to attract more female readership is to have more female creative talent. I think the industry needs to go further. All the female creators in the world won’t attract more women as readers if they aren’t good comics. So we don’t just need more women in the industry, we need better comics with more satisfying stories.

Also, there needs to be more of an investment in cuteness. This isn’t as flippant as it sounds; there is a huge market of girls and young women out there who are compelled to spend lots of money on anything cute. I am addicted to Hello Kitty, and the Powerpuff Girls rake in huge merchandizing dollars. I only wish that the Powerpuff Girls comic had a little more meat to it.

GL: On your [old] site you mentioned that you like to read old romance comics, the cheesier the better. And they have gotten to be very difficult to find. Do you think new cheesy romance comics could be successful at all?

Colleen: I think they already are, they just aren’t being published by the big American companies. The romance manga are enjoying a rapidly growing readership in the States, and new collections are coming out all the time. I love them.

GL: What have you learned about yourself personally and professionally since you began?

Colleen: I learned that it’s a lot easier to get stuff done if you don’t put off getting started.

GL: Are you happy and satisfied with your output so far?

Colleen: I’m happy with what I’ve done, but I’m not satisfied that it’s the best I can do. I keep trying to grow as an artist, and I hope that I will never get complacent or stale.

GL: Any teasers about future stories?

Colleen: You are trying to get me to give away secrets! You have to wait like everybody else! Like I know what’s going to happen next -— these girls have a life of their own!

GL: Any last words you’d like to share with the readers?

Colleen: Have fun and be happy!

December 29, 2016
© 2024 Gay League. Website design by Anton Kawasaki.