INTERVIEW: Future Shock with Tillie Walden

The award-winning graphic novelist talks about her work and her Future Shock for the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special...

7 months ago

Just as having Dredd in everything 2000 AD related is a must, there's always space to find a Future Shock as well - and the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special is most definitely no exception.

It’s also a great chance to get fabulous new talent into the pages of 2000 AD. And there’s no more phenomenal talent than Tillie Walden.

Since her debut graphic novel, The End Of Summer (2015), she’s had four more graphic novels published: I Love This Part (2015), A City Inside (2016) and the coming-of-age memoir, Spinning, in 2017.

Richard Bruton caught up with the talented young artist as she was waiting for a flight out from Bogota Book Festival. Very tired, she still found the time to chat about the future, about shocks, and about working at 2000 AD for the first time...

Tillie, for those who don't already know your incredible body of work, can you give us an introduction to who you are and what you do?

Tillie Walden: Sure! My name is Tillie Walden, I’m a cartoonist from Austin, TX and I currently live in Los Angeles. I’m a graduate of the Center for Cartoon Studies, and I’ve published four graphic novels as well as a webcomic. My fifth book comes out this fall.

Your first graphic novel, The End Of Summer, was published right here in the UK first by Avery Hill Publishing in 2015. How did that come about?

TW: It was! I had to go to England to get my start. Ricky Miller, who is half of Avery Hill Publishing, found my work on Twitter. We’ve traced it back to thinking that it was Mike Medaglia, possibly, who retweeted one of my tweets, and that’s how Ricky saw my work. He sent me an email after looking at my website, and the rest is history.

To be "discovered" so young, still in High School, could have been a stumbling block for many. Now, at the wise old age of 21, how do you think you handled the accolades at such a young age?

TW: I don’t how I handle it, really. I try to be as grateful as possible while also keeping a lot of boundaries around myself to keep myself sane. I suppose if I had thought of the accolades as some sort of pressure it might have made me stumble more, but I never felt like that way, thankfully. It’s funny to think of how I felt about all this just a few years ago, at 19. I remember feeling so confused about it all. The attention made me want to curl up and hide.

Your four graphic novels span genres so effortlessly. From the high fantasy of The End Of Summer, through the often claustraphobic tale of two young girls in I Love This Part, to the exploration of aging in A City Inside, and finally the highly personal memoir of your years skating in Spinning, you seem perfectly at home in so many genres. Do you have a particular favourite style, genre, or is it simply however the latest idea takes hold?

TW: It’s really about the latest idea. Or about how I’m feeling/what’s going on in my life in that moment. My genre choices are always a reflection of that moment in time. I do particularly enjoy doing things not based in reality, I love an excuse to just make shit up. I think it also helps that I’ve never worried much about the genre jumping. I just tell myself that no matter what kind of story I’m telling, it’s still a story by me. So it will naturally find a way to fit with my other work. It’s all from my heart, so even if the setting is wildly different, I think the stories will always connect with one another.

Your latest project, On A Sunbeam, debuted as a webcomic, and will be adapted into a graphic novel for later release. Why the decision at this stage to release it online initially?

TW: I’m impatient. I wanted to make On a Sunbeam and have it immediately out in the world, and webcomics are very immediate. Also, they’re free. I loved that I could finally offer something to all my followers without asking for their money. It felt very liberating. Webcomics have an accessibility that breaks down a lot of barriers, and can reach a lot more people. People who can’t find their way into the traditional publishing space have this option where no one can turn them down, it’s wonderful.

Going back to Spinning, what made you switch from the ice to the comic page?

TW: Haha, because comics are fun and ice skating SUCKS. Just kidding. But not really. I’ve always liked intense things, doing things that demand a lot from me. And I got that in skating, but ultimately that world really wasn’t for me. And comics were perfect for me because they are ridiculously demanding but I can do it without being cold or having to wear makeup and be judged.

Onto this latest UK work, can you give us a quick idea what the Future Shock in the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special is about?

TW: Hmm, it’s about a postal worker. And possibly a monster. That’s all I will say.

As an American, how aware of 2000 AD were you growing up? Did you know anything of the ideas behind Future Shocks before getting this latest gig?

TW: I had never heard of it! But I also didn’t know what Batman was for a long time either, so I was very cut off from comics in general. I knew about it from Ricky Miller, of Avery Hill Publishing. He has schooled me on all the cool UK comics and culture and he was who I first heard about it from.

What research/reading did you do for your Future Shock before setting about writing and drawing it? Did you spend time going back over the classics, or did you just dive into it?

TW: I just dove right in. Logistically, I had no time to do anything but that. I was working on this comic while I was in the middle of moving to Los Angeles, and starting a new graphic novel, so I just had to jump in and pray for the best.

I can't imagine shifting gears to write the Future Shock was necessarily a problem for you, as your work includes many shorter tales as well as your graphic novel length works, but were there any unique challenges in writing your Future Shock?

TW: I had to sort of remind myself how to do a short comic, since I’ve been so engrossed in long form for a while. But it wasn’t too hard, it’s just a different kind of focus.

After this first appearance in 2000 AD, would you possibly think of creating something new for 2000 AD in the future?

TW: If I’m being honest, I can’t imagine any more drawing than what I’m already handling right now. I’m working on two graphic novels simultaneously and I’ll think about cool characters some other day. I’m lame, I know. But in the future, sure!

You might have seen some of the reactions (good and bad) online to the idea of an all-female Sci-Fi Special...

TW: Lol, people are very stupid. Oh no, the ladies are making comics together! Their periods are going to sync up! Haha, ok, but in all seriousness. I think it’s great, and it’s about time, for a leading sci-fi comic like 2000 AD to bring in more female creatives. I get a little sick of the labels, being in the all womens issue, being on the all womens comic panel, etc. It’s as if we can’t be taken completely seriously without some sort of ‘special lady’ label attached to it. But, it’s a good opportunity, and I’m happy to be a part of it.

The 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special is out in the UK on 20 June and out in North America in July. Pre-order a copy now from the 2000 AD webshop...