I hope everyone is having a great holiday season so far! In America, food is always a big part of holiday traditions. The ritual of consuming food is especially prominent in Thanksgiving traditions.
Our culture and views surrounding food is constantly evolving. We are always discovering new information. Society’s opinions on what we can eat are always shifting. There are an endless amount of philosophies relating to diet, nutrition, and overall health.
This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Matthew Loisel of the comic book ‘Murder’. The plot of this book revolves around factory farming and treatment of animals. I thought this was an excellent comic and I am lucky to have had the opportunity to speak with one of the creators.
An Interview With Matthew Loisel
Aaron Iara: It is great to get a chance to chat with you. Tell the readers about who you are and your role in making Murder?
AI: Nice to meet you! Please give the readers the quick synopsis of the comic.
ML: Murder takes place in a world just like our own where farm animals, one species at a time, are mysteriously linking telepathically. Curiously only one human can hear their thoughts and “speak” with them: our hero, Marcus. Using the moniker The Butcher’s Butcher to hide his identity, him and his team are racing against the clock save both man and animal-kind.
AI: I really like the psychological/psychic take on the story. How did you come up with this idea?
ML: It’s hard to say the exact conversation that planted the seed for Murder but it definitely developed in several “what if…?” conversations Brittany and I had at various beer gardens we frequented in the Summer of ’17. Beer should probably be listed as the third co-creator of this series!
Brittany and I are a huge fans of the writer Yuval Noah Harari and he talks a lot about what distinguishes humans from other animals in his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. I’m fascinated with the idea that many animals have primitive forms of language, ours is just open-ended language.
Monkeys in India will warn their fellow forest dwellers of predators, using different noises for different predators. Prairie dogs notify each other of the species and, in the case of humans, gender and color of clothing worn by anyone approaching their colony. But what humans were eventually able to do is say “there is a tiger around the corner by the river.”
This influenced how we wanted the animals in Murder to begin communicating. Mentally and psychologically, they are still chickens and cows and cats and dogs, but they are able to articulate to each other through open-ended communication. But we still wanted to show the work from their perspective, using human-like language. We also wanted to show that, short of using language to organize, there is so much we can relate to animals. We already share the most basic parts of our brains with mammals.So feels of sadness, pain, love, happiness, pleasure, all of these feel the same to us as them.
AI: Have you always been an advocate for the humane treatment of animals? How did you get to the point where you wanted to make art about this issue?
ML: No, most certainly not. Brittany and I grew up meat-eaters because we come from meat-eating families. But we have been enjoying a plant-based diet for three years (no eggs, milk, cheese, or meat) and I was vegetarian two years before that. Like I mentioned, it was with the help of our friend’s pilsner, IPA and lager over the Summer of ’17 that we developed the idea for Murder.
AI: There is nothing wrong with a little liquid encouragement! What made you decide on comic books as your preferred medium? How long have you been drawing and writing?
ML: Sequential art as a medium is my absolute favorite form of entertainment. I have felt emotions reading comics that I have never felt watching a movie, reading a book or listening to music. Scott McCloud talks about the concept of “closure” in his book Understanding Comics and how when you read comics you are a participant rather than a passive observer. I believe comics are utterly unique in that the reader is constantly connecting each panel to the next, filling in what happens in the gutters in our minds.
ML: I have a long list of writers who I absolutely worship. Alan Moore would have to be my absolute favorite writer but I also try to borrow from more contemporary writers like Mark Millar, Tom King, Brian K.Vaughn, Kelly Sue Deconnick, and Jonathan Hickman, to name a few.Other writers who I think are incredibly talented are Geoff Johns, Ronald Wimberly, and Jason Aaron.
AI: That is quite the list! Those are a lot of my favorite authors as well. Alan Moore helped expand my view of comics as a teenager. Most of my childhood was spent reading Archies and X-Men.
There are a lot of moving parts to making comics. How do you and your team work together to meet deadlines and work efficiently?
ML: First off, because no publishers were interested in putting out Murder deadlines aren’t really an issue. However, you are correct to say there are a lot of moving parts to making comics. We start out with a script, in the case of Murder written by me, which I send to our artist Emiliano Correa.
Emiliano lives in Corrientes, Argentina, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology we are able to communicate easily through What’sApp and email. He takes my script and thumbnails I’ve sketched up and sends me back thumbnails of his own. After whatever tweaks and changes I send back he’ll move on to the pencils, then (after further review by me) moves onto the inks and, finally, colors.
From there we send the final art to Micah Myers, our letterer. Micah is amazing at what he does and turns Emiliano’s incredible art into a real story. I don’t know anything but working in the age of the internet, but I couldn’t imagine how complicated this process would be working with different artists from all over the world.
AI: It sounds like you have a great system in place. Having an efficient routine/structure can make a world of difference. However, it can be hard to muster up the energy to make art on a consistent basis. How do you stay motivated with your creative endeavors?
ML: I don’t know if there is any trick or “hack,” so to speak. Part of my motivation is the satisfaction I get from creating something special, like I believe we did with issue one. There is also the pleasure one feels from creating a world all their own. Until I started writing comics I never felt such untethered creative freedom. If I were to write a screenplay, there is the limitation of special effects, equipment,budget all kinds of considerations like that.
With comics, you are limited by the medium (not every story will necessarily make a good comic) and your artists abilities. Once we found Emiliano it was apparent I can write whatever I want. That feeling, that I can let go of my inhibitions and shoot for something really heavy, really powerful, really expansive, is incredible. I’m totally addicted at this point.
AI: Do you have any strategies or routines that help you balance regular life with making comics?
ML: I have a full time job which obviously gets in the way with writing all the time, but I do my best to write everyday on my lunch break. I also carry around a small notepad wherever I go to jot down dialog or concepts that pop into my head if I’m at the grocery store or post office or wherever. But I also try not to constantly be writing when I’m home and be present for Brittany. I think I have a personality type where I could get lost in writing and loose sight of relationships and responsibilities, so I try to be ever vigilant not to become some kind of workaholic.
AI: I do the same thing. I recently bought a Wacom Slate to help me keep digital notes while still using pen and paper. I think it is very important to get your ideas down. Even if you don’t use them you are still keeping the creative juices flowing.
Who are some of your favorite current indie creators?
ML: Quite a few of the creators I mentioned before are indie creators (if you define “indie” as not DC or Marvel). Some titles that Mark Millar have written for Image are in my opinion some of the best uses of the comic medium ever achieved. Jupiter’s Legacy has some of the most incredible actions scenes in any comic. I love Jonathan Hickman’s East of West and Manhattan Projects. But probably my favorite indie comic series of all time has to be Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga.So sad they’re taking such a long break after such an insane turn of events!
AI: Saga is one of my favorites as well. That comic has a magical way of flawlessly spanning the entire emotional spectrum.
What advice can you give to people who want to start making their own comics?
ML: I’d just say “just go for it.” Writing comics has been so incredibly rewarding, I’m absolutely in love with the process of creating something from nothing. It’s not unlike magic. Where once there was nothing you can create real, powerful emotions in other people. Just keep reading comics, read the comics you love, and learn everything you can to become a better creator.
Right now I’m reading a book by Gloria Kempton called Dialogue: Techniques and exercises for crafting effective dialogue. I do everything I canto perfect my craft. I really believe I can always do better and I already feel that issue #2 of Murder is going to be a better comic than issue#1 was. To name a few of the comic book-specific books I’ve read, I’ve read both of Scott McClouds books on comic books, The Art of Comic Book Writing by Mark Kneece, and Alan Moore’s Writing For Comics.
Also, and it is a rather unsexy topic, but make contracts with your artists. It’ll protect you and your content, and it will help them feel confident they’re going to get paid. And freaking pay them on time. If I had a dime for every time I’ve seen a post on social media about artists not getting paid on time I wouldn’t have to crowd fund Murder! Emiliano and Micah are not concerned about getting paid by me. They get 50% upon starting the project and they get their 50% upon completion on the day I get the final product. They work too hard to have to wait for payment. Treat your artists right and they’ll treat you even better.
AI: Thank you for the insight! “Just go for it” as been a common theme with the creators I have talked to. Getting started and putting yourself out there can be one of the most difficult steps.
What is in the future for you and your team? I know you are working on issue two of Murder. Are there any other projects or events on the horizon that would like to discuss?
Yeah! Brittany is currently writing issue #1 of her first series, Karma. Karma follows a young heroine Leela and her doggy companion Kai as she fights to defend women from sexual harassment in Los Angeles. Using a network on the Dark Web to report abusers she sets out to make the world a little less safe for predators. Karma will feature the same artistic team as Murder so it’s sure to be exciting, engaging and absolutely beautiful.
I’m hopping back and forth from writing issue #2 of Murder to work with a local artist, Demi Seva’aetasi. We met Demi through the Monterey Youth Arts Center and are currently working on a series called Tweens. Tweens follows Ana-Sophia and Mateo, two tweens trying to navigate the foster care system in the mid-90s after being removed from the care of their parents. After running away from their foster home they discover a device that sends them to The ‘Tween, a dimension that blurs the lines of reality. It will be a coming of age story where we will watch these kids grow up and try to decipher what is reality and what their purpose is in The ‘Tween, as well as in this world.
AI: Keep me posted on the releases of the other projects! Let the readers know where they can find you and your work.
ML: Issue #1 of Murder is available for purchase on our website. You can also read it digitally at Comix Central. Readers can get updates on the release of issue #2 of Murder on our Facebook and Instagram pages.
Keep An Eye on Matt Loisel!
Thank you to Matthew Loisel for taking the time to speak with me this week! I love the work they are doing and can’t wait to see more of this project.
You should also check out my review of Murder #1.