Tana Ford’s Queer Heroine Returns for ‘Duck! Third Time Is The Charm’ [Back Pages]
The last few years have really nailed home how important it is to see representation in comics --- for readers to get the chance to see characters who represent them, or the heroes they spire to be. One of those comics is the Duck series by Tana Ford. A gay woman, the eponymous Duck is far from perfect; she faces problems, exhibits her own prejudice, and lives in a fully-realized, three-dimensional world where friends and society clash in ways that feel honest and realistic.
The series has been hugely acclaimed, with the first volume winning the PRISM Comics Queer Press Grant, and volume two nominated for a LAMBDA literary award. And the good news is that the third volume of the series, Duck! Third Time is the Charm, is now running on Kickstarter. ComicsAlliance spoke to Ford about the series, the character, and the overall importance of getting honest, interesting representation in comics.
ComicsAlliance: What’s the basic premise of Duck! Third Time is the Charm?
Tana Ford: Duck! Third Time is the Charm is the story of a group of lesbian friends who have a party weekend in Provincetown, Massachusetts over Memorial Day weekend. It's a little bit friendship, a little bit queer culture, a little bit high-drama, all set against the backdrop of one of our country's historically safe (and wonderfully gay!) spaces.
CA: This is the third book in the series --- what was the genesis of the project?
TF: “Duck!” was born from my desire to see more accurate reflections of a modern lesbian experience. The community that I know is a supportive and loving one but you don't see that reflected on TV. When I started making Duck, The L Word had just become a thing and that show was very problematic in the way that it depicted queer women. Most of the characters in that show are despicable.
With my background in art and writing I knew that I could at least contribute my story, add my voice to the shockingly limited number of stories that we have been presented with.
CA: How have you found your approach to these characters has changed over the last few volumes? Do you think that your understanding of them has progressed, moved in unexpected ways?
TF: It has. When I first began writing Duck, the impetus was to show a tight-knit group of friends that took care of one another. And that is still the heart of the series but, more and more I began seeing examples of biphobia, transphobia, and even internalized homophobia infiltrating my community, and I knew I wanted to address those things directly.
In order to do that I knew I would have to envelop these women in a safe space, a place where learning and an evolution of perspective could happen organically, which made Ptown the natural choice. My main character Duck, at the end of Duck! Second Chances, doesn’t see her own biphobia, and she will be forced to confront her own biases during this party weekend in unexpected ways.
CA: How important do you think it is that we have queer leading characters like Duck in comics now? What do you feel she represents, as her own person and also for readers?
TF: I think it’s incredibly important to have queer leading characters in comics, especially women who are woefully underrepresented both on the page and behind the scenes as creators. I hope that Duck will be seen as an authentic, earnest person struggling to balance her different wants and desires, who wants to be a good friend but can’t seem to stop making bad decisions. I hope she can be the type of protagonist that has the reader rooting for her despite her foibles.
I want Duck to be a positive reflection of a queer woman navigating her place in the world.
CA: The last few years have seen a lot of queer comics on Kickstarter in particular. Do you think this speaks to a growing audience demand for comics that represent them?
TF: I think that’s exactly right. There is this demand for queer content and authentic stories. Not for the sake of having diversity, but because the world is full of diversity and we want our comics to reflect that. I watched (in horror) as my friends consumed The L Word week after terrible week, hungry for any representation of us, no matter how skewed or problematic. It is past time that we offer stories that put a positive spin on the wonder that it is to be gay at this moment in history!
CA: What stage are you at with the project at this point? How much have you already completed?
TF: I’m in the art production stage. The novel is already written, it weighs in at about 100 pages and I’ve got pencils for the first 20 pages finished. Of those I’ve inked, lettered and fully colored four. When I can resume my regular schedule I’ll be averaging 22 finished pages a month. But for the moment, managing a Kickstarter has become a full-time second job! So much depends on letting people know that this project exists and that they can help bring it to life that that has really consumed my focus.
CA: What's your creative process like, as writer/artist? Where do you start on a comic? Are you a designer first, or do you plot out the whole story?
TF: I’m a very visual person and I tend to write entire scenes first. For instance, I know I want to show the delight that is Provincetown’s town beach, with lesbians parading around throwing footballs and SUPing, sharing beers and talking shit, so I begin there. I imagine the scene unfolding and as I’m sketching, I lay out the broad strokes of the conversation they will be having.
From that point I transfer my notes into an actual script, which I print out and reference while I’m drawing. The comics page itself is a fleshed out, cleaned up version of my original sketch, with the important moments: throwing a football, opening a beer, presented in the cleanest, clearest way possible.
One of my strengths when I’m writing for myself is the seamless transition I can achieve between what you are seeing and what you are reading. There is a real conversational tone to my Duck stories that I feel mirrors real life conversation. People interrupt one another, people get ignored. More than one person can be talking at the same time. You see this done in film all the time but to do it in comics can be really confusing and distracting if it’s not done well.
I’m aware that many of the people who are supporting my Kickstarter maybe aren’t familiar with my work so I have included a free download of my travelogue That Time I Turned 30 in Greece, which should give backers a real sense of my ability to handle slice-of-life comics. It’s available to all backers regardless their donation amount, so you should go check that out!
CA: Are you colouring the series yourself?
TF: I am! Color is the reason I am Kickstarting. There’s no way I would be able to afford to print a full-color 100 page graphic novel, ship it and get it on store shelves all on my own. So I have turned to the internets for help. I have to believe that there are enough people interested in listening to the voice of the voiceless, and empowering the marginalized that this book will become a reality. You guys can prove the truth of that! I need your help!
CA: Should you achieve your goal, what’s your estimated delivery on the final comic?
TF: Like any perfectly timed movie release, I hope to have Duck! Third Time is the Charm in backers' mailboxes by Memorial Day weekend, 2016.
There is no one more reliable or hardworking in my career than I am. And this project is my dream come true. I have completed and delivered four creator-owned comics, as well as done work for Marvel and Vertigo comics --- so I’m no stranger to working on a deadline. I’ve got five months of artwork to complete with 1/5th of that already underway. Allowing for delays in the production cycle, especially around the holidays, I will be wrapping the book by early-to-mid April.
As a precaution, I have listed June, 2016 as the delivery date just in case some cataclysm beyond my control delays things.
Also: Sean Murphy even did a pin-up of my lesbian entourage that will be included as a print once we get fully funded!
(SQUEALS WITH DELIGHT!)
Duck! Third Time's is the Charm will run on Kickstarter until Wednesday 14th October 2015, looking for a target of $15,000. You can find out more here!