All posts by Ben Sears

Twelve Percent Dread: Interview with writer and artist Emily McGovern

I recently spoke with Emily McGovern, the writer and artist of Bloodlust and Bonnets, whose newest graphic novel Twelve Percent Dread is available now. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Ben Sears: Your new book is very different in subject matter from Bloodlust and Bonnets in the way that it’s less silly and fantastical. Do you prefer to write siller, more fantastical stories or did you enjoy writing this more grounded story?

Emily McGovern: I’m lucky to be in the position of just writing whatever I want. Whatever ideas I have, I just turn into comics and people either buy into it or they don’t. For Bloodlust and Bonnets, it had followed on from a short comic I had made and when I was approached about doing a full-length graphic novel, I just thought there was more mileage in it. It was originally a four-page comic that I had written for a competition and I just felt like I had more to do with that kind of situation and those characters. I felt like I had more story to tell and I found those characters fun and the real high-octane silly, absurd stuff, I was really enjoying. Towards the end of that book, I started thinking about the next one. Not in any kind of deliberate way but ideas were coming to me that were more based in reality and something that was closer to my own life. And jokes and situations and characters were coming to me, and the Twelve Percent Dread story developed from that. So it wasn’t a deliberate shift, it was more to do with what ideas are coming to my head at any given moment and I had some things to say that were closer to my own reality, set in a recognizable modern world.

BS: The Katie character is loosely based on yourself, at least in the nannying storyline. Did you find it difficult to write a fictionalized version of yourself?

EM: Well, it’s not really a fictionalized version of myself, unless you think all the characters are fictionalized versions of myself because they’re all saying things that I’ve thought or made up. I think it’s more accurate to say that every character in Twelve Percent Dread says something I don’t necessarily believe, but something that has come into my head. Including characters like Jeremy or Michelle. I don’t think I’m like them but the jokes and stuff that I’ve put in their mouths are thoughts that have come into my head. I think you’re always sort of writing based on what you’re thinking since you can only know what’s going on in your own mind. 

In terms of Katie’s situation, I was never in the position of having to share a room in London, though I had some friends that had to do so in Dublin and elsewhere. But after graduating, I did have trouble finding a “graduate job”, so I was nannying for a while; it was under the banner of tutoring, but it was effectively just homework enforcing.

BS: In that respect, in turning part of your life’s story into Katie’s, did you find it easier or more difficult to make jokes about that, or making Katie feel like a more fully-formed character?

EM: I do ultimately think of Katie as separate from me; the situation was inspired by my time as a nanny, and I found myself in funny situations. Just thinking about the interesting dynamic that happens when you’re in charge of a very small person that just happens to be a millionaire. The hierarchy of power is quite interesting, you’re sort of in this service role but a high-level service role. So I took those sorts of dynamics, as opposed to feeling like I was exposing myself, no more than in my previous book which was about psychic eagles and that sort of thing.

BS: For the record, I’d love a separate comic that’s just about the talking eagle from Bloodlust and Bonnets.

EM: [laughs] Yes, I do love it, but there’s a certain quality to a character that appears once every four episodes or so in a sitcom and says something hilarious and leaves again. You don’t want to over-do it.

BS: Twelve Percent Dread is also different from Bloodlust and Bonnets from a visual standpoint. You don’t use any color, and the structure of each page is so unique. Can you tell me a little about the decisions to structure it in the way you did?

EM: I think it’s all quite organic. I did spend a lot of time thinking about some visual aspects of the book. When it comes out, American readers will get a section at the end that shows how different it looked right at the start, where it had the big, four or six panels on each page. I think it was a combination of the way the horizontal panels reflect the text bubbles that we get on our phones, and the kind of 2010s aesthetics with the beveled edges of the panels. I wanted it to reflect that decade; I was writing this during the pandemic, and realized it was going to be a cut-off point between before and after, and this is very much a story from before. And also because that reflects the period of my life when I was in my twenties and living in London myself.

It’s also because my writing is made up of a lot of small moments. I think in a lot of traditional comics, they’re made with six panels or so per page and it’s a collaborative effort with many people, and you can’t just say to a colorist ‘oh, there’s going to be 20 panels on this page.’ It’s got to be a bit more standardized. But my comics tend to be made up of a lot of smaller moments of hesitation, and the rhythm of it has to be very important, so when someone is hesitating over a sentence, it’s very important to me that there be a separate panel while they stumble their way through a sentence, for instance. It kind of diverts from that, or watching a character process something in smaller moments. Some cartoonists really take that to a bigger extreme, where they’ll have a whole page of someone just having a thought, or having twenty or thirty panels of someone moving across a room.

BS: Those in-between moments really help to draw out the humor in a lot of situations.

EM: Yea, I have a friend who says that about my work. A lot of the humor comes from those pauses between things. You have to draw the pause, so it takes up space on the page. Visually, there’s a lot of other stuff that I tried to weave in. I was really focused on zeroes; there’s a lot of O’s and hoops and loops and things like that. There’s things that you don’t want to be too descriptive, but there’s some repetitive imagery that I tried to put in there, so it’ll be interesting to see if people are able to spot that.

BS: Do you read very many comics?

EM: I do. I was never really much of a “U.S.” comics person when I was growing up. I grew up in Belgium, so I would read a lot of Tintin and Asterix. They were my big ones, and I would be more familiar with that sort of Franco-Belgian style. I don’t really know much manga, but when I was in London, this very sweet young lady helped me buy my first manga comic. I do want to start reading more manga.

BS: Do you find that the comics that you read influence your writing style or your sense of humor?

EM: There were some books which had a huge influence on me, when I was a teenager, like the Sandman comics, especially the ones that were more artistically focused. So I really studied those, even before I was a comics artist, but I was really intrigued by the elasticity of the form. During lockdown I probably read Watchmen probably two or three times because there’s so much in there story-wise, and with the recurring imagery. Otherwise, I follow a lot of web comic artists on Instagram and Twitter. I try to follow as many as I can, and I really enjoy seeing someone who’s got a distinctive style. It inspires me when I see someone doing something really weird and different because it reminds you of how boundless the medium is.

BS: You can go into any comics shop and look at a lot of superhero-based comics and – while there are many that look great – they tend to look very similar. So when a comic like yours looks distinctive and unique, I’m already interested, regardless of the subject matter.

EM: Yea, obviously comic books and graphic novels are unlike textbooks, in that you can just pick it up and flip through it and get an idea of whether you’re interested or not. The mainstream comic that I really love in recent years is Saga. The artwork in that is just stunning and it pulls you in. It just has this vibrant quality which is so inviting. When I worked on Bloodlust and Bonnets, I worked with this colorist named Rebekah Rarely, and everybody tells me how great the color is in Bloodlust and Bonnets, and it’s because she did it. And whenever we had a doubt or a question, we would look at Saga, and look at how Fiona Staples did it. And I still do that sometimes if I have to color a comic, I’ll just look at what Fiona did.

BS: It feels like there’s so many comics and graphic novels that are being adapted into movies and TV shows and different properties today. Would you ever want to see your comics get adapted into a movie or TV show?

EM: For sure. I think I’ve said a few times that Twelve Percent Dread is my sort of sitcom. I’m a huge fan of sitcoms, and always have been. My style of writing is very much like that; it’s very joke-based and fast-paced, and I think this book would lend itself quite well to being a TV sitcom or something.

BS: The subject matter is definitely ripe for parody.

EM: My writing is very character-based, and that’s the heart of the sitcom, just characters bouncing off of each other.

BS: Do you think you’ll ever return to these characters? It feels like a collection of characters that could easily become a series.

EM: To be honest, it was really exhausting to make. It took about two years of constant work, and there are advantages to it, but when you work completely on your own it can be a little overwhelming. Obviously it’s nice because you have complete control, but I probably won’t in the immediate future. I have to take some time out, and I’m really enjoying just making shorter-form comics now, which is how I started out. It’s nice to just have a thought, write it down, and have it out within a week or so, and have people see it right after you come up with the idea, as opposed to spending months and months and thinking about it.

Twelve Percent Dread is available wherever books and comics are sold. Emily’s shop and Patreon can be found at www.EmilyMcGovern.com

Luck – Movie Review

Luck

  • Director: Peggy Holmes
  • Writer: Kiel Murray
  • Starring: Eva Noblezada, Simon Pegg, Whoopi Goldberg, Jane Fonda, Flula Borg

Grade: D+

The animation world has long been searching for someone to challenge Disney and Pixar – and, to a lesser extent, Dreamworks – as the de facto animation studio that kids and adults rely on. Sony Animation has been successful occasionally with Into the Spider-Verse and Mitchells vs. the Machines, and Netflix has been known to put together some interesting titles like I Lost My Body and The Sea Beast. Now entering the ring with its first animated feature film is Skydance, a subsidiary of the studio that co-produced mostly action films like World War Z, The Tomorrow War, and Top Gun: Maverick. Skydance’s animation division had already gotten off to a rocky start thanks to its hiring of John Lasseter as Head of Animation after his forced exit from Pixar, and Luck, which lists Lasseter as a producer, won’t do the studio many favors.

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Twelve Percent Dread – Comics Review

Twelve Percent Dread

  • Writer: Emily McGovern
  • Illustrator: Emily McGovern

Grade: A-

Do you often experience feelings of anxiety or depression? Do you worry about the future? Do you feel like you’re not doing enough on a day-to-day basis? Does it feel like your life isn’t heading in the right direction? Do you spend too much time staring at a screen? Emily McGovern is acutely aware throughout Twelve Percent Dread that we’re asked some version of these questions in our social media feeds, podcast ads, TV and radio commercials, billboards, and everywhere in-between throughout our daily lives, and it forms the backbone of her new graphic novel.

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Radiant Red Vol. 1 – Comics Review

Radiant Red Vol. 1 (#1-5)

  • Writer: Cherish Chen
  • Illustrator: Miguel Muerto, David Lafuente

Grade: A-

Super villain origin stories are nothing new in popular culture, especially in the 21st century. Radiant Red had been set up early in Radiant Black’s run as the hero’s main antagonist, but Radiant Black #6 showed there was more behind the mask. Series writer Cherish Chen introduced Red’s backstory in #6 and was given the green light to expand the character for an initial 5 issue run, and the result is another solid entry in what has quickly become one of my personal favorite new superhero stories. 

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Nope – Movie Review

Nope

  • Director: Jordan Peele
  • Writers: Jordan Peele
  • Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, Michael Wilcott, Keith David

Grade: B+

In just three feature films as a director, Jordan Peele has enjoyed a noticeable upgrade in virtually every aspect of his production scale. His reputation as an exciting auteur of genre filmmaking has similarly skyrocketed. Get Out was a left-field cultural smash that garnered critical and popular attention and won Peele an Oscar for its screenplay. 2019’s Us received similar praise but steered more sharply into its horror trappings while still making a unique statement on class. Now comes Nope, a sci-fi/horror blend that manages to have a lot on its mind but never manages to bring it all together cohesively.

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The Gray Man – Movie Review

The Gray Man

  • Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo
  • Writers: Joe Russo, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
  • Starring: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, Julia Butters, Alfre Woodard

Grade: C

You know your movie is in trouble when the behind-the-scenes happenings are more intriguing than what’s put forth on the screen. Such is the case with Joe and Anthony Russo’s newest action blockbuster The Gray Man. The film represents Netflix’s biggest production ever, a $200 million franchise starter that’s based on Mark Greaney’s book of the same name. And with A-list stars like Ryan Gosling (making his first on-screen appearance since 2018), Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas on board, the streamer is hoping for a big return on its investment.

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2022 Emmy Predictions

The 74th Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented on September 12, 2022. Here are our ranked predictions for the actors and shows most likely to win. Check back in, as the list will be updated often.

Best Drama SeriesBest Comedy Series
1. Succession
2. Squid Game
3. Stranger Things
4. Better Call Saul
5. Ozark
6. Euphoria
7. Severance
8. Yellowjackets
1. Hacks
2. Barry
3. Only Murders in the Building
4. Ted Lasso
5. Abbott Elementary
6. What We Do in the Shadows
7. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
8. Curb Your Enthusiasm
Best Actress – DramaBest Supporting Actress – Drama
1. Zendaya, “Euphoria”
2. Melanie Lynskey, “Yellowjackets”
3. Laura Linney, “Ozark”
4. Reese Witherspoon, “The Morning Show”
5. Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve”
6. Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”
1. Sarah Snook, “Succession”
2. Julia Garner, “Ozark”
3. Sydney Sweeney, “Euphoria”
4. Rhea Seehorn, “Better Call Saul”
5. Jung Ho-yeon, “Squid Game”
6. J. Smith-Cameron, “Succession”
7. Patricia Arquette, “Severance”
8. Christina Ricci, “Yellowjackets”
Best Actor – DramaBest Supporting Actor – Drama
1. Brian Cox, “Succession”
2. Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
3. Jeremy Strong, “Succession”
4. Jason Bateman, “Ozark”
5. Lee Jun-jae, “Squid Game”
6. Adam Scott, “Severance”
1. Matthew Macfayden, “Succession”
2. Kieran Culkin, “Succession”
3. Park Hae-soo, “Squid Game”
4. John Turturro, “Severance”
5. Oh Yeong-su, “Squid Game”
6. Billy Crudup, “The Morning Show”
7. Nicholas Braun, “Succession”
8. Christopher Walken, “Severance”
Best Actress – ComedyBest Supporting Actress – Comedy
1. Jean Smart, “Hacks”
2. Quinta Brunson, “Abbott Elementary”
3. Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
4. Issa Rae, “Insecure”
5. Elle Fanning, “The Great”
6. Kaley Cuoco, “The Flight Attendant”
1. Hannah Waddingham, “Ted Lasso”
2. Hannah Einbinder, “Hacks”
3. Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”
4. Juno Temple, “Ted Lasso”
5. Janelle James, “Abbott Elementary”
6. Alex Borstein, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
7. Sheryl Lee Ralph, “Abbott Elementary”
8. Sarah Niles, “Ted Lasso”
Best Actor – ComedyBest Supporting Actor – Comedy
1. Bill Hader, “Barry”
2. Steve Martin, “Only Murders in the Building”
3. Jason Sudeikis, “Ted Lasso”
4. Donald Glover, “Atlanta”
5. Martin Short, “Only Murders in the Building”
6. Nicholas Hoult, “The Great”
1. Brett Goldstein, “Ted Lasso”
2. Henry Winkler, “Barry”
3. Bowen Yang, “Saturday Night Live”
4. Nick Mohammed, “Ted Lasso”
5. Toheeb Jimoh, “Ted Lasso”
6. Anthony Carrigan, “Barry”
7. Tyler James Williams, “Abbott Elementary”
8. Tony Shaloub, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Best Limited SeriesBest TV Movie
1. The Dropout
2. Dopesick
3. The White Lotus
4. Pam and Tommy
5. Inventing Anna
1. The Survivor
2. Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers
3. Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas
4. Reno 911!: The Hunt for QAnon
5. Ray Donovan: The Movie
Best Actress – Limited SeriesBest Supporting Actress – Limited Series
1. Amanda Seyfried, “The Dropout”
2. Lily James, “Pam and Tommy”
3. Toni Collette, “The Staircase”
4. Sarah Paulson, “Impeachment: American Crime Story”
5. Margaret Qualley, “Maid
6. Julia Garner, “Inventing Anna”
1. Jennifer Coolidge, “The White Lotus”
2. Kaitlyn Dever, “Dopesick”
3. Mare Winningham, “Dopesick”
4. Alexandra Daddario, “The White Lotus”
5. Connie Britton, “The White Lotus”
6. Natasha Rothwell, “The White Lotus”
7. Sydney Sweeney, “The White Lotus”
Best Actor – Limited SeriesBest Supporting Actor – Limited Series
1. Michael Keaton, “Dopesick”
2. Colin Firth, “The Staircase”
3. Andrew Garfield, “Under the Banner of Heaven”
4. Sebastian Stan, “Pam and Tommy”
5. Oscar Isaac, “Scenes From a Marriage”
6. Himesh Patel, “Station Eleven”
1. Michael Stuhlbarg, “Dopesick”
2. Seth Rogen, “Pam and Tommy”
3. Will Poulter, “Dopesick”
4. Jake Lacy, “The White Lotus”
5. Peter Sarsgaard, “Dopesick”
6. Murray Bartlett, “The White Lotus”
7. Steve Zahn, “The White Lotus”

Saga: Chapters 58-60 – Comics Review

Saga: Chapters 58-60

  • Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
  • Illustrator: Fiona Staples

Grade: B

It’s hard not to say that, as a whole, Saga Volume 10 was a bit of a let down. I recognize that six chapters amongst a planned 108-chapter story is but a drop in the bucket, but, on the whole, I’m struggling to come up with any major plot or character developments that unfolded by the end of the last page. It’s refreshing to see that Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples have kept up the series’ consistency after such a long hiatus, continuing to expand on the seemingly endless number of worlds and characters at play.

Continue reading Saga: Chapters 58-60 – Comics Review

The Sea Beast – Movie Review

The Sea Beast

  • Director: Chris Williams
  • Writers: Chris Williams, Nell Benjamin
  • Starring: Karl Urban, Zaris-Angel Hator, Jared Harris, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Dan Stevens, Kathy Burke

Grade: B+

Netflix’s quest to win the Academy Award for Best Picture has been a well-documented pursuit in recent years. With The Sea Beast, they perhaps have their best chance at winning the Best Animated Feature. The streamer’s newest animated film arrives on Friday and, while it’s likely to be swallowed up by their bigger, more palatable films, it deserves a spot at the table as one of the best animated films of the year.

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Marcel the Shell With Shoes On – Movie Review

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

  • Director: Dean Fleischer-Camp
  • Writers: Dean Fleischer-Camp, Jenny Slate, Nick Paley
  • Starring: Jenny Slate, Isabella Rossellini, Dean Fleischer-Camp

Grade: A-

More often than not, I’m alone when I go to the theater. Sometimes I even have the theater to myself, which is what I secretly hope for whenever the lights go down and nobody else has entered. There’s a sense of freedom that comes with the sensation; freedom to laugh loudly at all the stupid jokes, freedom to squirm at an uncomfortable development, or freedom to simply stretch myself out. But at my screening of Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, there wasn’t an empty seat to be found, and somehow the experience made the film all the more potent. Because when you’re watching a film that’s all about finding friendship amongst the vast loneliness of the world, being surrounded by a room full of strangers (and right next to my wide-eyed 7-year old) is oddly cathartic.

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