Megan Rose Gedris (handle: Rosalarian) has been doing this comics thing for a long time—her first webcomic, YU+ME: dream, debuted in 2004, and she’s been creating ever since then, with the sadly now offline pulp comic I Was Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space, erotic tales like Darlin’ It’s Betta Down Where It’s Wetta on Filthy Figments, and a webcomic about being trapped in a small town, Meaty Yogurt. Along with all that, she’s also an accomplished burlesque performer!
Gedris is now embarking on a new project with Oni Press, Spectacle, a webcomic about a pragmatic engineer, Anna, who works as a psychic in a traveling circus, and what happens when she discovers that the supernatural is real. I was able to interview her about this new YA project, which is slated to be released as a three-volume series while also being published online.
As someone who’s been a reader since before YU+ME: dream was finished, your art has gone through a lot of evolution and experimental stages. Spectacle is a great combination of your loose-limbed figure work and bold inks. How did you develop your style for Spectacle, and how did you decide how you’d implement it? Do you think there will be any experiments in style as the book progresses?
In recent years, I’ve been working on a lot of short stories rather than big long series. Short stories are great for me because they’re a chance to experiment without commitment. If I end up hating the art, at least I only hate 12 pages instead of hundreds. So after all these experiments, I found the things I most enjoyed were chunky, organic lines, watercolor textures, and simple shapes for characters. I still love drawing more realistic, detailed people, which I’m doing for the covers, but for the internal art, I love how cartoon-y it is. It makes the characters more flamboyant and dynamic, which is great for such over the top characters.
Do you see a continuity between your different projects, from your earlier work to your erotica to now? Or is each project an exploration of different themes?
The themes that are always present are concepts like chosen family, women as important, and adventures that reveal layers in the worlds I build. I love world-building and figuring out the mechanics of those worlds and letting the characters play around in there. The degree of how detailed I get with that depends on the length of the story rather than its content. Most of my erotica doesn’t get that deep, because most of it is short, but longer ones like Eat Me have tons of behind-the-scenes inner workings. I also really love exploring relationships that aren’t romantic. I think platonic love and self-love and familial love are all just as important as romantic and sexual love. Drawing erotica for so long has been a lot of focus on sex and romance. In Spectacle, Anna, being asexual and aromantic, means the story focuses on some other types of relationships, especially with her sister. I’m really enjoying writing these interactions and showing their equal importance to romance.
I know that you’re quite an accomplished burlesque performer, and I was wondering if your performing background is what drew you to the circus as a setting—or was it something else?
I came up with the idea for Spectacle about a month before I started performing. In retrospect, it feels meant to be. I had a lot of plans for the story that changed as I performed more and learned what it’s like to actually be in a traveling show. And granted, my experience living on an old-school bus traveling around in the 2010s doing burlesque is different from circus performers traveling by train in the 1800s, but it’s more about the little things that give you perspective. When will my next shower be? If we don’t sell enough tickets, how will we eat? This person in the show is driving me crazy and I can’t get away from them. The audience loved this act in Texas, so why do they hate it in Arizona? So many little conflicts I never would’ve known about if I hadn’t gone on the road.
What drew you to partnering with a publisher for this book, and what especially drew you to Oni?
Sometimes it’s just so hard doing everything myself. After years of self-publishing webcomics, which means not only writing and drawing but marketing, maintaining a website, selling merch, printing books, storing books, distributing books, answering emails, and the hundreds of other behind-the-scenes duties, I was ready to have some help. I put a pitch together so I could shop it around, and somehow Ari Yarwood read my mind and emailed me out of the blue a couple days after I finished it, saying she liked my work and if I ever had any ideas I wanted to pitch that I could send them her way. I looked at my bookshelf, noticed how many Oni titles I had on it, and decided it was a good fit. It’s been so nice to have an editor going over my work. It makes things better. A good editor doesn’t say, “I don’t like this, change it.” She challenges me to make things clearer, tighter, better. The story is stronger after having another set of eyes on it before it goes in front of an audience. I love it.
Why did you think the floppy/single issue format was the right one for this book? How does that mesh with running it as a webcomic?
When I was working on YU+ME, the chapters in the first part were arbitrary lengths ranging from 13 pages to over 100, because I figured webcomics meant no rules and no rules meant better. Then I started work on the ill-fated Lesbian Pirates From Outer Space, which was going to be printed as single issues, and I found that the boundaries of fitting a story into 22-page increments helped with the pacing a lot. Things got less rambly, and I learned to prioritize and highlight the important parts of my story. Every series has a beginning, middle, and end. With single issues, every 22-page issue has a beginning, middle, and end. Then we have webcomics, which are a one page at a time deal, so every page has a beginning, middle, and end. You have to write a script differently depending on if it’s an OGN, serialized by issues, or a webcomic. I’m excited to be Oni’s experiment with webcomics. I love making webcomics, and now I get to do that with a team to help me. I actually have a bit of a social life now that I’m not doing 100% of it on my own. It’s great.
You can read Spectacle online now.