Alice and Meg Hunt Talk Comics, Collaboration, and More

Alice Hunt's Goodbye Chains, Meg Hunt's Alice in Wonderland
Images respectively (c) Alice Hunt and (c) Meg Hunt, republished with permission

A curious thing happened when I was reading ‘Popgun Vol. 4,’ in anticipation of a review assignment for Under the Radar magazine. One of the many stories in this huge (~500 page) anthology from Image Comics stood out for me from the rest. The story, ‘Hate League,’ written by Alice Hunt and drawn by Meg Hunt, was notable for its sense of whimsy and clear storytelling, with a nice punchy payoff despite the short length.

That’s not so curious, as both are talented creators with plenty of comics and non-comics works under their belts. The curious part is I couldn’t shake the feeling I’d seen one of the characters before. And then it hit me.

A few years ago, one of the greatest sites for fans of comic art was Sam Hiti’s Fist-a-Cuffs, “Where drawings are voted to the death and the streets run black with ink.” Basically, creators draw then enter characters in an NCAA-style bracket, and the audience would vote on who would win each match-up. The character in question, a library-themed warrior called Dewey Decimator, placed rather well. The artist, of course, was Meg Hunt.

(My wife is a librarian, so I was particularly tickled by this character back on the site and pleasantly surprised by the actual comic book debut).

In any case, the Hunt sisters were very generous in taking some time to answer a few questions for Osmosis Online about their works, comics and otherwise, collaborating with a sibling, and what sort of household results in two such talented creative types.

Osmosis Online: Without tumbling wholly into a “nature vs. nurture” debate, was there something in your household growing up that resulted in both of you guys becoming “creative types”? Any idea why your respective disciplines (illustration, writing) won out over something else?

Alice Hunt: We had the usual Play-Doh and Crayola and that sort of thing, and for a couple of years we had summer art lessons, but we were never really being groomed to do anything in particular; it was basically just our parents giving us something to do. I did read a lot as a kid, but again, it’s not like there’s a lot for a kid to do in Darkest Suburban Connecticut–I wasn’t trying to learn how to write or anything like that.

Meg Hunt: Our parents weren’t really creative types (beyond casual photography when they were younger), but they did definitely give us things that helped us grow that interest I suppose. I was bookish and socially awkward as a kid, but I loved reading and animation and comic strips as a kid so I think my mind just gravitated to making pictures. I was smart enough, but art class was my favorite, so I figured I’d stick with the thing I can communicate best with–visuals. I couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather do for the rest of my life (except a short lived interest in paleontology after watching Jurassic Park– who wouldn’t want to get dirty digging up dinosaur bones?), so I just stuck with it.

Alice Hunt: As for why I write instead of draw, I used to be able to draw, but gave it up in high school because I didn’t like the idea of someone telling me what to draw. (An object lesson in why 14-year-olds shouldn’t be allowed to make their own decisions.) I took up writing in college–somehow, it was like a switch got thrown in my head, and that was what I was going to do.

Osmosis Online: Hate League, in ‘Popgun 4’, was my first mainstream exposure to your work. Was that your first collaboration? How was it working together on a project?

Meg: We’ve collaborated on a few projects before (although Popgun is one of the first ones that has been completed/published). I like working with Alice because she’s wickedly funny and always comes up with something I wouldn’t expect. Her writing is just so good that I don’t even have to worry, I know it’s going to be awesome. (People, take note.) I just wish I could find more time to work on our projects–it’s tough juggling personal projects and freelance work. We have a good rapport though, and I’m always looking forward to the times I get to collaborate.

Alice: Actually, we had a story together in ’24seven volume 2′ about robotic dogs playing poker, and Meg and I have been collaborating on a kids’ comic/picture book together for a while now, though that hasn’t yet found a home yet.

Working together is sort of fun, really; I threaten her, she ignores me, and the thing gets made somehow. On the Popgun piece, a lot of it was just an excuse to give her cool shit to draw (and many of the panels were of the form “Draw whatever you want”), so I did very little of the heavy lifting. Being a comic writer is great that way.

Osmosis Online: Alice, I know you have at least two web comics (‘Goodbye Chains’ (w/art by Tracy Williams) and ‘Venus in Points’, with the pointy dogs). Are comics your preferred medium?

Alice: Comics aren’t really my preferred medium, just the medium I’ve been working in lately. I’d like to get a novel done, but I like being able to control the reader’s flow of time very precisely, and graphic novels are much better for that than almost any other art form.

Osmosis Online: How did those projects come about? Anything else ongoing besides those?

Alice: Goodbye Chains was a way to salvage an old story of mine that wasn’t going anywhere; somehow, adding cowboys made it better. (The pointy equivalent was a way to keep people interested when the regular comic was on hiatus. I’d done a couple of diary comics in that style and found that putting sunglasses on a little cartoon doggie made them funnier to me, so I decided to go with it.) Goodbye Chains got a lot bigger than it ever should have, but I like working on it, especially since I’ve learned cool stuff about the 19th century they never bother mentioning in school. I still don’t consider myself a history buff, but I like it quite a bit better now. As far as other projects, I have a few other comics I’m working on (including another collaboration with my partner on GC, Tracy Williams), although nothing’s ready for public consumption yet. I doubt I’ll do another Web comic after GC is done, though.

Osmosis Online: How do you enjoy illustrating?

Alice: Illustrating isn’t too bad (although it’s overly generous of you to call that comic “illustrating”), but it’s very time consuming, especially since my drawings have to be very precise to look “right”. The problem with such simplistic figures is that they have basically no tolerances built into them; if a line is out of place, the whole character is ruined. It takes much longer than you might expect to dash off a comic like that. Plus, I don’t really have a proper place to draw them, so I usually end up on the floor to ink, which delights my dog but makes my life quite difficult.

Osmosis Online: Meg, am I right that comics aren’t your main focus? Are you a comics fan? Any future such projects in the works?

Meg: I like comics, but I don’t have enough knowledge of them anymore. While I’ve collaborated on comics with Alice, they’re by no means my strong suit and I find them very hard and frustrating sometimes. (Partially due to my lack of practice, admittedly) We are working on a single-panel format graphic novel, which one day I will find time to finish! I have an idea for a graphic novel of my own but doubt I’ll ever be satisfied enough in my skills to produce it, so I’m sticking with illustration predominantly.

Osmosis Online: What was the impetus behind Picture Book Report–and how’s it going?

Meg: Picture Book Report was born out of a recent urge to stretch my limits and ‘prototype’ things so I can show potential clients/publishers that my work can be adapted for a variety of uses, from narrative work to product design and etc. So I decided I’d take on illustrating ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ this year, and then thought it would be rather neat if I could cajole other creative friends to challenge themselves too. So far we’ve gotten a good reception and I’m really proud of the quality of work my contributors are doing–we’re going to start sharing it with publishers soon and gauge their response. My hope is that we all get hired to produce more beautiful work, because the quality’s certainly not lacking…

Osmosis Online: Who are your respective inspirations and/or influences?

Meg: I definitely have been inspired by a lot of mid-century illustration, like Mary Blair and Charley Harper; children’s book illustrators like Maurice Sendak, Marc Boutavant, Richard Scarry, and Margaret Bloy Graham; my creative friends, world culture and patterns, comedy, the world. I’m a sponge–if I’ve seen it and it resonated with me, generally it’s influenced me somehow.

Alice: I’m really terrible at this sort of question–I have no sort of self-awareness when it comes to this. I was definitely influenced by the first several seasons of the Simpsons, like most people our age (I would imagine), not just because of how tightly it’s structured and written, but also because of the care with which it was animated. When they were really on, it was amazing how sharp they were.

Beyond that, I can’t really say–I’ve certainly been impressed by stuff like ‘Home Movies,’ ‘Arrested Development,’ and ‘The Office’ (the UK version), though I don’t know that they influence me very much. I don’t want to replicate what other people have done, since they’ve already done it better than I ever could; I want to do the thing that only I can do, and to do it better than anyone thought I could.

Thank you, Alice and Meg Hunt for your time and insights! We very much encourage readers to check out Goodbye Chains, and Picture Book Report, as well as Popgun 4, available now at your local comics or graphic novel retailer (or possibly your local library, if this guy has anything to say about it).


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