Natalie Nourigant is one of those artists I've made a point to keep an eye out for ever since reading her book Between Gears, which collected her daily autobio strip about her last year in college. Despite not really being an Auto-bio guy I really dug the whole thing, not only because it showed how she improved as an artist over the years but it also eventually revealed a pretty interesting narrative arc over the course of the book which is sort of rare for a lot of daily auto-bio strips. I was luckily able to talk about all of that with her at this years SPX, which was her first time attending, and we also dug into her hometown of Portland, some of her various freelance work and her upcoming graphic novel with Jamie S Rich. Spandexless: So like a lot of people I think I first became familiar with your work with the Between Gears from Image so I want to know, from your point of view, how the reaction was?
Natalie Nourigat: I think it's been really good for a first book, a lot of people have taken the time to email me personally and tell me what they thought of it and I really liked that. I haven’t seen sales figures or anything so I don’t know how it's done and I wouldn’t know how it compared if I did but on a personal level its been very good.
S: Something that really interested me about that book, and I guess I should just admit this at the top, is that I’m not the biggest autobio/journal comics guy but while reading Between Gears a really interesting narrative arc appeared which you don’t see that often with most daily auto bio strips so I was wondering if that was intentional or something that just happened to fall into place?
NN: You're talking about the job search?
S: Yeah, around the halfway mark I think.
NN: Well, when I was deciding on whether or not to do this project I was thinking about how it would look as a whole and whether or not it would be fun to read. I thought that any time in my life was going to have these natural plot arcs my last year before I entered the adult real world was probably it. Because I did have to decide what my job was going to be and wrap up school and everything and that in of itself was a nice natural framework so I hoped something interesting would come out of it, but I really didn’t know when I started.
S: I want to talk a little bit about Portland, and as cliché as it might be at this point for a lot of people on the outside looking in, Portland seems like a fantasyland of comics.
NN: I think a lot of people watch Portlandia -
S: I’ve heard of that show, but to be honest I’ve never seen it.
NN: Its really funny but at first, and I was born in Portland, I was raised in Portland, but when I saw that show for the first time I was offended. I was mad. [laughs] But the more that I watched it the more I’m like “Yeah, we’re pretty crazy, whatever”. In terms of comics it is absolutely as big a comics town as people make it out to be. It’s a low cost of living art friendly community, three big publishers, lots of great comic shops, and a couple of good conventions so it’s a perfect mix for cartoonists and a really fun place to live if you are one.
S: It just seems like any time I read an interview with any notable comics person it always comes to that they live in Portland and my reaction is “Really? Another one? Alright.” Its pretty odd but at the same time fascinating the amount of talent living within one cities borders.
S: So recently you’ve been taking some various freelance work recently, I think the last thing I saw with your name on it was part of the “My Boyfriend is a Monster” from Graphic Universe series so I was wondering if you could talk about that a little bit.
NN: Yeah sure, that job made it possible for me to make the jump into full time cartooning so it was a great job for me and Graphic Universe was great to work with. Both the editors that I worked with are actually webcomic artists so that was really wonderful. They understood how a schedule should work for an artist and all of the process stuff so I didn’t have to walk anybody through it so overall it was just a really good experience. I think the book came out earlier this month, September 15th I think?
S: I think your right, I remember seeing some promotional material and while looking it over I said “Oh hey, Natalie Nourigat drew that. I wish I had money to buy that…and I was a teenage girl so I could read this.” [laughs] That might have been a bit mean, but it is a young adult series so -
NN: That is the intended audience I think, nothing mean about that.
S: I think the last thing I read from the Graphic Universe imprint was that adaptation of The Girl who Owned a City -
NN: Ooh, with Joelle Jones!
S: That’s the main reason I read it. I think when I reviewed it I went on a weird tangent on why Ayn Rands philosophy doesn’t work but at the last minute I reeled it in to say “but Joelle Jones' art is really cool”.
NN: [laughs] You know what I just moved houses this summer and I am now living with Joelle Jones -
NN: Yeah! And I’m such a Joelle Jones fangirl it's like I, oh gosh , I just get to nerd out everyday, it's really fun.
S: [laughs] Oh man that’s great, so do you have any upcoming work that you would like to talk about? I think I read somewhere, and please correct me if I’m wrong, you're doing a book with Jamie S. Rich?
NN: Right, that would be the next one I’m working on.
S: Can you talk about that at all? Or is still, you know…
NN: I’ve been told there will be a big announcement from Oni Press at New York Comic Con and after that point I’ll be able to say more. For now though, it’s a futuristic romance and it was extremely fun to work on. I think fans of Jamie Rich will have a lot of fun, the dialogue and a lot of the fun sassiness between characters that they’re used to but it is a pretty different story for him and it was really fun for me to work with him. He allowed me to collaborate with him and he’s a friend so its been a really fun project and I think that comes through.
S: You said this is a sort of futuristic thing; so as an artist from a design stand point did you need to learn to do anything new?
NN: Oh yeah, I am horrible at machines and anything that’s made up of straight lines. I like organic stuff, I like people, I like animals and I had to design futuristic cars and futuristic buildings so it was a challenge for sure.
S: That sort of leads me to my next question because you’re a younger cartoonist, you’ve really only been around for a few years now, so I was wondering about what your current career goals are in terms of working in different formats and challenges you want to face? Would you ever want to work on a more traditional mini series, or maybe an ongoing series in the future or are you comfortable in the graphic novel format right now?
NN: I’m interested in trying things outside of graphic novels too, although I love that. I would like to improve my writing and create some of my own comics for publishers, I’d like to do some self published things once in awhile, I’d like to work on mini-series and popular characters, I’ve been storyboarding freelance in addition to comics and that’s been very fun. It's still so early I’m not going to try and pigeon hole myself really because I’m interested in trying everything at this point.
S: Going back to your freelance stuff you occasionally do movie review strips, as far as I know it's only you and Faith Erin Hicks that do that sort of thing, so I was wondering what the process to creating one of those was like? You did a big one about Miyazaki movies right?
NN: Yeah, that was for a Portland paper so I had to do one-panel reviews of the various Miyazaki movies, which was really challenging because I could write essays on each and every one of them. The movie review comics have been really fun because that’s much more accessible than my work is normally, like anyone who has seen that movie can probably read the comic and get it and enjoy it. Its really fun to, uh I don’t know, everybody wants to say what their opinion is about a movie and write a blog post about it and I can put that into a comic that’s a bit more easy to share and more fun to read.
S: I really wish I could do that, I just got done writing a three thousand word essay on the “Speed Racer” movie -
NN: Oh bless you.
S: Oh thanks, I guess somebody has to do it but I wish a lot that I could simplify it and make what I put down more accessible.
NN: Oh no, I make comics because I can't write and I envy people who can put their feelings into words like that.
S: To be fair, I think Between Gears is very well written. So take that as you will I guess, and I guess all that’s left is to end on the question of what is one thing you saw at SPX this year that made you excited for comics?
NN: Oh let me think about that for a minute so I can make it a good one….
S: This is your first SPX, right?
NN: Yeah! So all of it is new to me, let's see…I’m always excited to see families coming to shows. I’m excited to see parents getting their kids into comics and who understand comics well enough to know enough that there are appropriate titles for all ages but I think as a fan I’m just really excited to meet a couple of people I look up to. I got prints from Scott C. and Callie C. and I went over to Topatoco and kind of nerded out. I don’t know, when there’s an artist that I like that’s doing very well that's encouraging to me, it's like, comics are going to be okay.
*Header image taken from the bio page of her website because Beth didn't get a photo of her at the show :(