Liz Prince and Amanda Kirk Craft an All-Ages Comic About Death, Sisterhood and Punk in Coady and the Creepies

Comics Features Coady and the Creepies
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Liz Prince and Amanda Kirk Craft an All-Ages Comic About Death, Sisterhood and Punk in <i>Coady and the Creepies</i>

Fictional girl bands have recently enjoyed a resurgence, as the popularity of Jem and the Holograms, The Misfits and Josie and the Pussycats has cast a long shadow on both the page and screen. With a new miniseries from BOOM!, Tomboy’s Liz Prince and Amanda Kirk introduce another entry to the bill: Coady and the Creepies. The book follows three sisters recovering from a car accident and competing with other pop-punk groups in a country-wide quest to play the most venues. In both tone and style, Coady and the Creepies is a cousin to other delightful, colorful teen romps like Jonesy, a sibling BOOM! title that also focuses on a young woman navigating change the best she can.

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The titular Coady, who plays drums, is the only sister who seemingly walked away from the car crash unscathed, and this first issue explores the secret that she’s kept from her siblings. Her tale is sharp, funny and smart, rife with Prince’s good-natured humor and unwillingness to shy away from tough subjects. Artist Amanda Kirk’s cartoony, adorable style and Hannah Fisher’s colors make the book pop in all the right ways. The team even worked with Danny Bailey of Jabber to record the song The Creepies sing in the first issue. Paste chatted with Prince and Kirk to get the liner notes on this fun, spooky new project and the chords they plan to hit throughout.

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Paste: Many comics feature allegories for families, people who have chosen to be together, but Coady and the Creepies focuses on three sisters in a band together, a family both logical and biological. Why did you choose sisters?

Amanda Kirk: Coady and the Creepies deals with familial tension as well as friendship. Obviously, Liz wrote it, and not me, but I have two siblings close to me in age, and growing up you deal with how you fit into your family group and why your siblings may have an easier time or harder time than you, feeling protective of one another while simultaneously wanting to throttle another. Making them sisters really cements their bond, and why Coady’s secret is such a huge deal.

Liz Prince: Amanda really summed it up pretty well. I have three siblings, and there has always been this push and pull between feeling really proud of them, and being really annoyed by them at the same time. They’re sisters because I wanted to specifically talk about punk’s problem with inclusion, and because I find women just far more engaging than men as far as characters go. And I have lots of experience being a woman who participates in the punk scene, so my eyes are really keen on those details.

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Coady and the Creepies #1 Interior Art by Amanda Kirk & Hannah Fisher

Paste: Liz, you previously mentioned Josie and the Pussycats in relation to Coady and the Creepies, and readers may also see elements of Jem and the Holograms. What do you think it is about an all-female band that works so well in comics?

Kirk: I think readers like stories that are exciting, and being in a band sounds really cool and glamorous, but our comics have more to do with the bands that are borrowing someone’s crummy van and building a tour by networking, and selling merch to buy dinner. The “girl band” as a trope is often used to make a palatable product for kids, and especially young girls, which in theory is great because who doesn’t want to see fiction with girls doing something cool? Coady and the Creepies embraces that sliver, but we are leaving out a lot of the superficial hang-ups that those predecessors lean on fairly heavily. Girls in bands (and girls in general) in real life are often faced with a scene that deems them a novelty, and our comic is addressing those issues.

Prince: I’m actually not all that familiar with either Josie and the Pussycats or Jem and the Holograms, so I can’t really speak to what kinds of elements those have in common with Coady and the Creepies, other than the fact that they are comic franchises that deal with bands made up of women. But I definitely wanted to highlight the parts of touring that, quite frankly, can really start to suck after the first few days: sleeping on the floor at a stranger’s house, eating really bad fast food because you don’t have the time or the money for anything else, having to interact with new people in a local scene that may never have heard of you, or may not be entirely welcoming. When Devin Danger says that the premise of his tour is that he’s living life on the road like a real touring punk band, but in actually has a giant fancy tour bus, I was trying to showcase the difference between the touring life that most of my friends engage in, and the idealized tour life that you see when a band actually gets famous.

Paste: Unlike both Josie and Jem, Coady and the Creepies are a punk band, with a very different aesthetic and style. Did you chose punk specifically for these characters, or did it have more to do with your personal musical preferences?

Kirk: Liz and I have both been in the DIY punk scene since we were teenagers, so I think it’s really just keeping true to what we know and love. Also, it’s not a genre that is very mainstream, so exposing it to a new audience is something that is appealing. Even “punk” as it’s been portrayed in a lot of comics and movies is still stuck in how things looked and were in the ‘70s and ‘80s. There isn’t a lot that shows what it’s like going to a show now.

Prince: Yeah, I just love punk, pop punk specifically, and part of what we’re trying to do with this series is introduce younger readers to some of the bands that we like. Most of the shirts and stickers that you see in the comic are actual bands people should check out. Punk is great because, at least in my experience, there isn’t a barrier between fan and band: at a DIY venue there usually isn’t even a stage for a band to play on, so you get to just occupy the same space as the people who are creating the music. It’s very different from a “concert,” where a band stays backstage until they play and you’ll never really get to talk to them or give them a high five.

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Coady and the Creepies #1 Interior Art by Amanda Kirk & Hannah Fisher

Paste: One of the really remarkable things about this first issue is how quickly it establishes the individual characters’ personalities and voices. With such a large cast, how do you make a good first impression with readers?

Kirk: I think readers want to see themselves in the characters they read about. Liz has made them all so funny, and flawed and different. Too often fiction can make characters in large casts very one-dimensional, but as I was reading the scripts, I really enjoyed getting to see all the banter and personalities in these characters as the story progresses.

Prince: A friend read the first issue the other day and remarked that it was “exposition-heavy,” but that it really worked that way, and I guess it made me a little self-conscious. I think that a big part of the challenge for me, in writing this as a four-issue miniseries, is that I have a lot of things that I want to say with these characters, but not a lot of space to do so, so the issues end up being pretty dense (sorry Amanda!). That being said, I don’t know if we’re making a good impression, but I hope that we are! The characters are really fun, and the art is really fun, and I hope that’s what readers initially latch onto.

Paste: For how big the cast is so far, they’re all very diverse in appearance, personality, preferences and behavior. Do you work together to plan out individual characters before starting the comic, or did it come naturally as the story progressed?

Kirk: I didn’t have a hand in writing the characters, but we did go back and forth with how the characters should look and dress. Their look plays into their personalities and tastes. Liz and l talked about who the characters were and I just drew them as they were in my head.

Prince: Getting to have Amanda be the artist for this book was really a dream team-up for me. She exists in the same subsection of punk as I do, so she automatically gets that when I say “punk,” I’m not talking about a dude with a studded leather jacket and a green mohawk. I’ve always cringed at how popular culture portrays punk. Even a show like Freaks and Geeks, which I think of as one of the best views into the life of an American high-schooler, got pretty cheesy when they had their punk episode and everyone had giant spiky hair and was giving each other homemade piercings with a safety pin. As someone who usually writes and draws their own stories, it’s been really interesting to see the characters that I create come out of Amanda’s pen: sometimes they look nothing at all like how I imagined them in my head, but they’re still so spot on!

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Coady and the Creepies #1 Interior Art by Amanda Kirk & Hannah Fisher

Paste: The aesthetic for the book is really unique, blending comedy and mystery and pretty serious topics with a colorful and cartoony art style. How did you work together to establish just how the book was going to look to the readers?

Kirk: I have long said that I am incapable of drawing anything in a style that isn’t cute. I would do commission work for bands and they’d ask for logos with gore or dead cats and I would draw them and it would be the most adorable gore you have ever seen. When Liz brought me into this project, she already knew my style and I assume wanted me for that reason? Hannah Fisher does the colors in the series and personally I think she knocked it out of the park. It overall has the feel of a cartoon show where things get creepy, but you are calmed by how vibrant everything is.

Prince: Honestly, I want to live in the world of this comic. I love how everything is drawn, and yeah, Hannah killed it on the colors. When I saw the first few pages with color and I think my jaw actually dropped: it’s not something I ever would have imagined, but it works so, so well with Amanda’s art. It was all just happenstance really: I chose Amanda because I knew her aesthetic, and I haven’t seen her draw a comic series like this before, but I wanted to see what that would be, and the editors at BOOM! wrangled Hannah in. Luckily all the separate parts just coalesced really well.

Paste: There’s a couple of really great pop culture references tucked into the issue, as with a lot of comics. Do you worry about these references not being evergreen? How do you chose what to include?

Kirk: I’ve always loved it when you’re watching or reading something and you “get” the reference. It’s like being welcomed into the cool kids club. Like all those years of watching TV and movies have paid off! I think as long as the jokes are still funny and the story is good, not getting every reference isn’t super important…but it does add a little extra when you do.

Prince: I’m not someone who gets super excited about all the new superhero movies that are coming out, but I do think they’re fun, and I usually end up going to see them in the theater. Afterwards, my friends are always giddy with all the stuff that was added in the background for fans to pick up: “Did you see that Wasp Woman was in the background of the party scene?” “I loved that you got to see the alternate costume for the Hungarian Hunter in his closet.” I’m always left out of that because I obviously just proved that I don’t know any real superheroes, but I like when I see a movie or a TV show that makes references that I can latch onto (there are so many ALL stickers on the lockers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and probably no one else cares but me), so I was very conscious of creating those kinds of moments in this book.

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Coady and the Creepies #1 Interior Art by Amanda Kirk & Hannah Fisher

Paste: It can be a real challenge to create an all-ages comic that’s full of compelling stories and complete, complicated characters, and Coady and the Creepies definitely does that. To you, what defines a great all-ages comic? What elements are absolutely necessary? Do you have examples of great all-ages books you love?

Kirk: A great all-ages comic is a comic that grows with you. You can like it from the first time you read it, maybe for the plot, or the characters, but when you’re older and reread it you enjoy something new. It needs to be ageless. I feel that way about Bone by Jeff Smith. It feels new anytime I read it.

Prince: A great all-ages comic has to be something that kids will like, and feel a connection with, but that adults will also enjoy. That’s where the all ages thing really comes from, which I think is misused sometimes when talking about comics that are really just specifically for a young audience. Basically, to achieve that enjoyment across the board, you have to work pretty hard not to be pedantic or condescending.

Paste: Coady and the Creepies definitely doesn’t condescend to the readers, and introduces a couple of nuanced topics some people might consider too “adult” for an all-ages book. How do you integrate things like feminism and death into a book like this without limiting your audience?

Kirk: I think you just have to tackle those topics by putting yourself as much in the reader’s shoes as possible. Adults often don’t realize how smart and capable their kids are. If it is an issue that they are dealing with on a smaller level in their day-to-day now, there is no reason it shouldn’t be discussed in terms they can understand now, rather than waiting for them to deal with it in a grander sense later. I have a daughter, and I get wanting to shield kids from heavy conversations, but they are conversations they will eventually have with you or without you. I want there to be books, and comics that tell stories about people she can identify with doing positive things and talking about stuff that is hard. I really need there to be characters tackling real problems head on, and not just a bunch of princesses waiting for princes to marry them.

Prince: I’m pretty notorious for sneaking heavy issues into stories for a YA audience. I wrote a graphic memoir called Tomboy, that gets a lot of praise for very frankly and honestly discussing issues of gender and sexually that children and teens face, while also getting flack for my use of cursing and drug references. But for me the voice of the story is the most important tool for presenting your ideas to your readers, and a genuine voice is what makes those ideas palatable. I certainly hope that folks can read my work and even if they don’t agree with my viewpoint, they can still find it informative. I have a “papa don’t preach” rule when it comes to including things like feminism into my work, because I know that feminism doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone who calls themselves a feminist, so I want to be inclusive of other peoples’ entry points to these issues. Just like punk doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone who enjoys the music.

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