Jillian Tamaki And Mariko Tamaki Talk ‘This One Summer’ [Interview]
We may still be in the thick of spring, but First Second is getting ready for the May 6 release of This One Summer by writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Jillian Tamaki, prolific Canadian cousins known for a variety of solo works on top of their 2008 collaboration, the graphic novel Skim.
Set in a quiet beach town, This One Summer shows readers the culmination of preteen Rose’s vacation, which deviates from its annual fun-in-the-sun standard and comes peppered with new parental problems, local teen drama and horror movie-watching. You can get some insight into how the Tamakis’ worked together to craft a coming-of-age story for 2014 in our full interview after the jump.
ComicsAlliance: Even though it’s fiction, This One Summer hits like an autobiographical or semi-autobiographical work, which seems like a testament to the experiences the two of you drew from to create it. What were your summers like as kids and into your teenage years?
Mariko Tamaki: For most of my childhood, August was “cottage” time. We had a cottage not unlike this one, by Penetanguishine, Ontario. When I was a kid it was a lot of playing in the sand and making up complex and dramatic story lines for imaginary characters. Many of which were equine. When I turned 14 it was suddenly all about boys. I remember spending an hour getting ready to go GOKARTING and trying to figure out with my friend what t-shirts showed off our bras the best.
Jillian Tamaki: I grew up on the Canadian prairies where we don’t have cottages. I spent my teenage summers riding horses and teaching summer camp. Yes, I was one of those horse people. I can admit that now.
CA: Along those lines, was there anything you had to dig into and research for the first time while working on This One Summer that wasn’t already a part of your experiences?
MT: Not especially. I spent a little time researching horror movies until I started having trouble sleeping. Then I stopped.
JT: Same. I hadn’t really watched a lot of those horror movies. Also, I had never been to Ontario cottage country, so we went on a fact-finding mission. I took a lot of photos.
CA: While This One Summer is essentially a black and white work with gray tones, the black lines are printed in a kind of dark navy on a slightly cream-colored paper. What made that the right stylistic choice for your story?
JT: I stole that from vintage manga. Rose, one of the kids, is a manga fan, but it’s not really that significant. Mostly, I just thought it would look cool and different.
CA: One thing I always try to do when I read an original graphic novel is look at the page count and appreciate how long it took to create from start to finish. At 360 pages, This One Summer was a big commitment on your parts. What was your timetable like for This One Summer and how did you manage the workload?
MT: As always, mine was incredibly light compared to Jillian’s.
JT: Mariko writes the story then I sketch it out then we tweak it together, quite a bit, then I take a year off to draw it. Well, not completely off. I still took a few freelance jobs, but it’s a drastically reduced workload.
CA: This One Summer and your last graphic novel Skim explore the relationship between girls who have some familial qualities to their friendships. Do you think being cousins helps you nail that aspect of characterization in your work at all?
MT: I don’t think so. We are familial in nature but I don’t think we work like family.
JT: Only that we share a similar sense of humour. Which I guess is pretty dry, like our dads’, who are brothers.
CA: Horror movies factor into how Rose and Windy experience their time together over the summer. What informed your choices for the story?
MT: I tried to think of what would be available in a dusty convenience store. And I tried to get a few of the classics in there. When I was a kid, being so close to the water, we were obsessed with Jaws. I remember being goaded into watching it as a kid and then it haunted my swimming days for YEARS.
JT: The classics are touchstones that every reader instantly understands, which is helpful. ’80s slasher flicks have their own aesthetic and tropes, which I could play with a bit.
CA: Jillian, your art is always evolving from project to project and you work in a variety of styles. How’d you land on the approach you took on This One Summer?
JT: Well, the style is informed by the time-constraints (has to be quick and easy and flexible) and appropriateness to the material. It’s a very realistic, naturalistic, specific setting and story.
CA: There’s a ton of subtle imagery in This One Summer that I only caught my second read through. Rose’s mother scolds her for a bad habit that she herself is shown to have much later in the book, for example. It’d almost be a blink-and-miss-it moment in film or TV, but in comics I was able to catch it and really appreciate that detail. How do the two of you work together to accomplish that extra depth in your comics work?
MT: Some of the things we talk through. Some things, like Alice’s tattoos, are from the complex brain of Jillian Tamaki.
JT: Comics allows you to do stuff like that. Hopefully it allows for multiple readings and a sense of depth. I try to be OK with some people not getting certain references or other things . . . it will feel more like a reward to the people that do. I like specificity and the discrepancy between words and actions.
CA: Do either of you have a scene, page, moment, etc. from the book that you’re especially proud of or that you feel like you really got perfect?
MT: I love the feminist show down between Rose and Windy. It makes me so happy that it exists.
JT: I liked that scene too!
CA: What’s next from each of you? Any future collaborations in the works?
MT: Working on a few different projects at the moment. Including final edits on my next YA book.
JT: I’m working on my second episode of Adventure Time, my webcomic, and a new not-yet-announced print comic.