Interview with Colleen Coover comic book artist and illustrator
Rasmussen : Good day, please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us abit about yourself.
Colleen Coover : Hi, I’m a full-time comic book artist and illustrator living in Portland, Oregon.
Rasmussen : Tell us, if possible, the secret origin of Colleen Coover prior to Small Favors. How did
you get into comics, any works you did prior to Small Favors, etc.
Colleen Coover : I’ve been a comic book reader since before I can remember, so I’ve always had
them as a big part of my life. I fooled around with the idea of doing comics when I was young, but I
never took it seriously as a possible career choice until I met my boyfriend Paul Tobin. Paul had
been writing independent comics for a few years and my first comics work were some short pieces
for his anthology Attitude Lad, published by Slave Labor Press.
Rasmussen : Take us back to the end of the 20th Century, and the birth of Small Favors. How did
that come about, and when did you first know that the title was going to become a cult classic?
Colleen Coover : After doing some short pieces, I was feeling ready to start working on something
in a longer format. I was looking at some adult comics one day and saw something or other that
dissatisfied me, and I thought, “I could do this.” I especially wanted to do an adult comic that would
appeal to women in general and lesbians in particular, because it was clear that most lesbian-
themed erotica was geared for male readers. I knew it was going to do well when I started to get fan
mail from readers thanking me for creating fun, happy, sexy comics.
Rasmussen : The “evolution” of the characters of Annie and Nibbil, from the one page “extras”
included in Small Favors Volume 1 to the end of Volume 2. How much did the characters change
(and evolve) from the beginning right up to the “end” of the series?
Colleen Coover : Physically, their appearance changed with the growth of my drawing ability. I was
still pretty rough around the edges when I began work on Small Favors, and as I progressed, Annie
and Nibbil’s looks became more polished and consistent. And as their stories progressed, their
personalities gelled in my mind. I got to “know” them, the way you get to know people you meet at
your work, or you get know someone you’re dating.
Rasmussen : Sage’s arrival in the second half of the series, how was her character created, and
what significance did she play in the series once she “arrived” (Issue #5)?
Colleen Coover : Sage came about after I happened to see a really cute girl working out at my
gym, so I drew a new character who looked like that girl. It was time for Annie and Nibbil to meet a
new girl and bring some fresh blood to their story. Sage is a less sexually forward character, and
she provided the other characters with someone to mentor.
Rasmussen :Here’s a silly question. Don’t mind it too much please. The small matter of the hookup
between Janus and Annie’s neighbor Yuriko. We only see it happen in Issue #3, and then we hear
nothing about it until near the end of the series, so how exactly was it Annie (who usually made it a
point to watch Yuriko to the point of stalking her) never noticed Janus was there (since it seems to
me she probably moved in post the end of Issue #3) until the events of the costume party from Issue
Colleen Coover : Ha ha! I don’t know, maybe they were just to busy to notice! But of course the
real answer is I just never thought of it. (By the way, I don’t think that Janus is co-habitating with
Yuriko, though I think we can safely say that they are going steady.)
Rasmussen : According to Small Favors Volume 1 there was (or is) supposed to be a Small Favors
#8... Yet for the life of me I’ve never seen it on sale. Why? And how much farther past the
mentioned Issue #8 does the series go before it finally comes to a conclusion?
Colleen Coover : There is indeed an issue #8, it came out in February 2005, I think. It’s a color
special, fully painted, really pretty. I don’t know why you can’t find it! I don’t think Small Favors will
ever really conclude. I’ll do an occasional special issue here and there when my schedule permits.
Rasmussen : For those of us who missed Issue #8 of Small Favors can you tell us a little about it,
and if anything (like new character appearances or any character development) happened in the
issue that seems to be abit hard to come by?
Colleen Coover : There were a couple of new characters brought into the circle of Annie and
Nibbil’s friends. I don’t want to reveal too much, but they all have sex.
Rasmussen : When it comes to reader response to Small Favors what themes came up the most
as why readers took a liking to the series? What was it about Small Favors that really connected to
Colleen Coover : They reacted strongly to the fact that Annie and Nibbil have real affection for
each other, and that the sex they enjoy together comes out of love and joy rather than out of
Rasmussen : So you’re going to really continue the series from time to time instead of letting it
come to an end, right? Have fans ever tried to persuade you to do it more often… at least Christian
Gossett “The Red Star” often at his longest interval between issues (about once every 9 months)?
Colleen Coover : Like I said before, I will occasionally do an issue if Small Favors whenever I get a
chance to. I love the characters too much to let them just go away. I know the fans would prefer to
see it more often, but I really need to do more with my art than only the one story.
Rasmussen : If Small Favors is going to continue as you said (which is a nice thing) can you give
us any hints as to when (in the most general of senses) we might see the next Small Favors Special
come out? You mentioned this year your going to possibly work on a #9 Special, does this mean by
2008 at the latest we might see a new special available for purchase? And are you still publishing
with Eros Comix or will you eventually find a different “suitor” for the title one of these days?
Colleen Coover : I couldn’t say for sure when a new issue might come out because there’s always
the possibility that something might come up unexpectedly, but it’ll definitely be with Eros. Eros and
its parent company Fantagraphics have been very supportive of Small Favors, keeping it in
regularly in print and promoting it in their catalogs, so there would be no reason to go elsewhere.
They’ve helped to make sure that there are always new people discovering Small Favors for the first
Rasmussen : Has taking on the prospect of the occasional Small Favors Special in a staggered
schedule given you any problems with your fans of the series as of late? If so how do you answer
fan barrages of requests for a new Small Favors Special?
Colleen Coover : I know people would like to see more Small Favors, but I’ve heard from a lot of
people who also enjoy Banana Sunday. And it’s nice to have some new young fans!
Rasmussen : You mentioned in your G Wie Gorrilla’s Thomas Nickel interview that Small Favors
was influenced by certain erotica titles, can you tell us which and why these particular titles played a
role in influecing your creation of Small Favors?
Colleen Coover : I liked the manga Bondage Fairies a lot, though it would occasionally take a
violent turn that I didn’t enjoy. I particularly liked the love relationship between the two main
characters in that title.
Rasmussen : Every year I run a series of Awards called The Best Of awards. This year over at
Bare Back Mag we’re running The Best Hentai of 2006 Awards. Small Favors is up an award, and
you’re up for our first Lifetime Achievement Award. If you could speak to the voters, what would you
say to encourage them to vote for Small Favors (and yourself) in both categories?
Colleen Coover : I hope that if they’ve read Small Favors and enjoyed it, they’ll consider that a lot
of heart and passion for the comics craft went into its making. As for the lifetime achievement award,
I’m terribly honored! But I’ll tell you, I feel like I have a good deal more yet to achieve, so keep an
Rasmussen : If you were to give advice on the way a lesbian/yuri erotica should be done what
advice would you give? What is the difference between a title that is well made and crap that
nobody should be reading?
Colleen Coover : It’s important to respect your own work. I feel that a lot of creators of erotic
comics think if they’re doing erotica, they can let their craft slide and worry more about making dirty
stories than making good comics. They wind up reading like they were made by and for horny
teenagers rather than adults.
Rasmussen : If you were to give a list of your favorite titles in the lesbian erotica genre, what would
you choose? Also what general erotica titles would you recommend to people just getting into it and
looking for recommendations for their starting collections?
Colleen Coover : I liked Bondage Fairies and The Adventures of a Lesbian College Schoolgirl, but
unless something has come out in the last few years that I haven’t seen yet, there’s not much else
out there that I can endorse. Too often the genre is designed to appeal strictly to male readers.
That’s one of the reasons I did Small Favors; to fill a gap for other women, including bi women like
myself and women who identify as lesbians.
Rasmussen : In a recent interview you did with G Wie Gorrilla’s Thomas Nickel you mentioned
enjoying the works of Corey Barba, Gilbert Hernandez’s hard core works as well as his work on the
cult classic Love & Rockets, as well as the works of Guido Crepax. Could you emphasis abit, and
give us some specific titles you recommend from these creators (and why you recommend these
particular titles if possible)?
Colleen Coover : I’ve only seen a couple of Corey’s short pieces in anthologies from Eros Comix,
they kind of remind me of a much lighter version of Robert Crumb’s Fritz The Cat. They’re very cute
and lively with a lot of heart. Gilbert’s Birdland is weird and dreamlike and has absolutely no
inhibitions. It’s got completely over-the-top erotic content, but it’s also a marvelous piece of comics
art. Guido Crepax’s work is entirely adult, his art was sometimes not pretty, but it always dripped with
sensuality. His sophistication and style was a little off-putting, but it grows on you with time. His
adaptations of erotic classics like Justine and Story of O are brilliantly executed.
Rasmussen : Tell us abit about your personal style of doing comics, and how it reflects with the
work you do with partner Paul? Also how does your style differ from the light side of work like Small
Favors and Banana Sunday to your more somber/darker works like The Bogeyman?
Colleen Coover : My style is kind of cartoony, some people have called it a retro-fifties style, that’s
informed by American comics as well as manga. My drawing style doesn’t change much from story
to story, but when I do darker pieces I tend to use more heavy black space to invoke the mood.
Rasmussen : Speaking of which, can you tell us more about these works that our readers may not
be familiar with? First tell us abit about The Bogeyman, then about your latest project Freckled
Face, Bony Knees, and Other Things Known About Annah)?
Colleen Coover : The Bogeyman was written and drawn especially for Diana Schutz’s Sexy Chix
anthology, and I took the opportunity to do the saddest story I could think of. It’s a short piece about
a young woman wrestling with bereavement and depression. Freckled Face is Paul’s and my first
full-length graphic novel; it’s a character study of the central character Annah from the point of view
of those around her.
Rasmussen : Tell us abit about a typical day of work for you and Paul Tobin, as a team how do you
two work together (and does any problems arise from working as a team as opposed to working as
Colleen Coover : Since we are a couple, we work very closely together on all our projects. When I
am doing solo work, I come to him for advice and ideas. When he writes scripts for me, he’s able to
be very specific directions because he knows that I’ll be able to come to him if I have any questions.
Rasmussen : Is it harder to write happy bright emotion driven works (like Small Favors or Banana
Sunday) or sad moody driven works (like The Bogeyman)? Why (is one harder or easier than the
Colleen Coover : I don’t think it’s easier or more difficult to write either, but it’s nice to change the
mood up every once in a while. Otherwise you can get bored of painting the same emotional colors
all the time.
Rasmussen : Banana Sunday. How did that come about? Also can you tell us abit about the series
(for those of us who are not familiar with the title), and who is presently publishing the series?
Colleen Coover : Banana Sunday is a high-school comedy about a girl named Kirby and her three
talking monkeys. It’s all about making friends in a new school and dealing with the added difficulty
having a closely guarded secret; in Kirby’s case, the true origins of her monkeys. It recently made
the American Library Association’s 2007 list of Great Graphic Novels For Teens, which is a very big
Paul and I first came up with the idea for the story years go. This was at about the same time as I
started working on Small Favors, so we set the Banana Sunday comics aside while I focused on
that, but Paul continued to think about it and work on a series of novels about the same characters.
Rasmussen : The true origins of Kirby’s monkeys. You say it’s a secret that Kirby has to struggle to
keep in the title, but for those of us who have yet to read the title how bad is this secret that she has
to be so secretive about it? What is the true origins of Kirby’s three monkeys (if you can tell us)?
Colleen Coover : I don’t want to give it away, but it’s not like they’re secretly evil or anything. They’
re good monkeys!
Rasmussen : The American Library Association’s 2007 list of Great Graphic Novels For Teens.
How did you and Paul find out you were on the list? Also you said that this distinction was a very big
deal, can you expand on that a little for readers who might not understand the importance of this list
and being on it?
Colleen Coover : It was announced just the other day on the ALA website. Libraries order a large
percentage of comics sold, and getting on this list helps to ensure that more librarians will order
copies of Banana Sunday for their collections.
Rasmueen : That means eventually even the library in my own hometown will get this title. That’s
good to know if I ever need to review it and I can’t get ahold of it any other way. Ok, you mentioned
in your G Wie Gorrilla interview that Paul worked under the pen name “Root Nibot“, why? And is
there any particular significance to the choice of the name “Root Nibot“?
Colleen Coover : “Nibot” is Tobin spelled backward, and he just liked the sound of “Root“. Paul
has written several novels and is the process of finding an agent to sell them for him, but while most
of his books are contemporary fiction with a dark edge, the Banana Sunday books are for young
people. He wants to publish the Banana Sunday series of novels under the name Root Nibot and his
other books as Paul Tobin, kind of the same way Lemony Snicket publishes his adult books under
his real name. So when the comis went to be published, he wanted to be credited as Root Nibot to
Rasmussen : Presently Banana Sunday is in hiatus, with no new works planned, but do you see
that as always being the case? Do you see any possibilities of the title reviving?
Colleen Coover : The comic story is self-contained and we don’t have any current plans for a
sequel in comics. The novels feature many of the same characters as the comics in a different
situation, and we hope it’ll be fun for the fans of the comic to see them in a new scenario.
Rasmussen : What is the basic differences in the stories between the comic version and novel
versions of Banana Sunday?
Colleen Coover : While the comic story was fairly short ”fewer than 100 pages”and dealt mostly
with Kirby’s relationships at school, the novella are more of a fantasy adventure, and will take place
over a series of volumes. We’re hoping to find a publisher for the novels in the near future, and we
hope the ALA list will help with that as well.
Rasmussen : You mentioned once you like RPGs. Which RPGs do you like the best right now, and
which game systems do you like to play your RPGs on? Also what’s your present thoughts on
MMORPGs (and are you presently playing any)?
Colleen Coover : I don’t have a favorite console, but I like most of the Final Fantasy games,
though I haven’t played XI or XII. Lately I’ve been playing the two Baten Kaitos games for the
GameCube, and they’re both really good. I’m afraid I don’t know what a MMORPG is! Sounds like
something I could end up spending a lot of time at when I should be working!
Rasmussen : Of the three present Next Gen Consoles and it’s present library of games (XBox360,
the Wii and the Playstation 3) which do you feel is presently on the top of it’s game (and why is it
superior to the other two next gen consoles out now)?
Colleen Coover : Ha ha! If someone would like to send me some of those game consoles for free, I’
d be happy to give you a review of any or each of them!
Rasmussen : I see we both have that problem with next gen gaming… in that we need one to game
on. (For the record I’m throwing my hat in with the Wii because for $250 you can’t beat an affordably
priced Next Gen with such innovative controls as the Wii, and I‘m hot on games like Zelda : TP, the
new cooking sim, Wii Sports, Trauma Center and the hopefully soon to be launched Animal
Crossing 2 for starters).
Uh… sorry… my mind wandered. Anyway since we won’t be working together on video game
reviews anytime soon recently you joined Mercury Studios, can you tell us how that came to be and
what you are presently working on with them?
Colleen Coover : Mercury Studio is a collective of individual comics artists; we all do our own
things in an office space we share rent on. I joined after I became friendly with Steve Lieber, Jeff
Parker, David Hahn, Ron Randall, and some of the others there. I haven’t yet done any comics work
with the other artists in the studio, but we all enjoy each other’s company and feed off of each other’
Rasmussen : 2007. What are your plans for this year and what can we look forward to seeing from
you in this new year creativity wise?
Colleen Coover : I’m going to finish up the art for Freckled Face, Bony Knees, and Other Things
Known About Annah in the next few weeks, at which point Paul and I will have to think about who we’
d like to publish it. I’m thinking of doing an issue of Small Favors after that, and then Paul has a new
project percolating for me to do after that. Otherwise, I’ll keep busy doing illustrations and
commercial art and, if I can find the time, maybe some paintings, too.
Thanks for participating in this interview once again, Colleen!
Interviewed by David Rasmussen
© February 2007
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