Last year, we spoke to legendary creator Gene Ha about his experience working in comics. His latest series, Mae–now published by Lion Forge–is back today with the thrilling first issue of the second volume, and we’re back to tell you that if you’re not reading Mae, you really should be.
The story begins with the sudden reappearance of Mae’s sister, Abbie, who had gone missing seven years previously. Mae’s whole life has been spent in Indiana taking care of her father and the family business and generally trying to forget about her runaway sister. Mae just wants to live her own quiet, normal life.
However, as Mae comes to find out, it turns out that Abbie hadn’t run off to the big city as her family had always assumed, but instead has been in another world entirely where she’s been living the dream of anyone who has ever read the Chronicles of Narnia series; living a romantic life of magic and danger and adventure. But although Abbie thrives in this epic, steampunk world, eventually, events beyond her control force her back home.
Naturally, when Abbie comes stumbling back into her sister’s life, Mae is reluctant to believe Abbie’s stories. But when impossible dangers from Abbie’s new realm cross over to threaten everyone and everything Mae loves, she’s forced to confront the truth. Now, with her sister as her guide, Mae must leave the safety of home and learn to navigate a strange new world.
Gene Ha sat down with us again to answer a few more questions.
HI: How would you describe the difference between working with a writer and drawing someone else’s story, as opposed to drawing your own?
Gene Ha: When I’m drawing someone else’s script, I’m translating words into a picture story. When I write for myself, I plot it out as a picture story. The words only firm up afterward. I love both processes, but I really can’t write stories for myself as a script.
If I’m writing a script for someone else, it’s only words. I don’t want to impose my visuals on a different artist. Seeing what they come up with is a big part of the fun!
What makes Mae a story you wanted to tell?
One of my big inspirations was Kyle Baker’s Why I Hate Saturn, which I first read early in my career. It told the tale of two bickering sisters. I loved the story, and how even though they loved each other they couldn’t stop mocking each other. It’s some of the sharpest dialog I’ve ever read in a comic book.
Mae really started as a fan fiction of Baker’s book. I began twisting the setting and characters until it became something totally new. Like Kyle’s characters, one of them wore a space suit. A few years ago I drew Abbie in a colonial-era long coat over her space suit, and I realized the setting had changed too.
At the time, I was also disappointed with the lack of female heroes in comics. I wanted to make something different than the books I read.
Which sister would you say that you identify with more? Clever and reserved Mae or confident and passionate Abbie?
Definitely Mae. I’m very analytical. Also like her, I love my more spontaneous friends. But as authors always say, both of them are aspects of me.
There are parts of Mae and Abbie that aren’t me at all. It took a lot of candid listening to my female geek friends, young and old, to figure out how the sisters think. For instance, I’m not a video game player or deep into manga, but Mae’s a huge gamer and reads both popular and obscure Japanese comics. That’s because the young geek girls I know love these things.
If you’re going to write about a character who’s not like you, you owe it to the character to find people who are like them.
If you had the chance to step through a portal to another land, what type of world would you hope to find waiting on the other side?
There’s one aspect of Mae that’s pure wish fulfillment to me. My world of Cimrterén has very little racism or sexism. It’s a world at war, but it’s also a world where women like Abbie and Mae will be recognized if they do great things.
Other than that, I love exploring any foreign or alien land as long as I can get modern plumbing and regular meals!
Let me add swordswomen and swordsmen riding bizarre monsters. I’m an old-school Dungeons & Dragon grognard.
Who or what has been the biggest source of inspiration in your work?
Emotionally, it’s the readers. Meeting them gives me so much energy. Especially geeky kids, my great joy is hanging out with anyone who’s unabashed about the things they love.
As far as my craft goes, it’s constantly changing. Right now it’s Faith Erin Hicks’ The Nameless City, and John Allison’s Giant Days. There’s such a wealth of brilliant books out now, I wish I could freeze time and take a year off just to get through my To Read pile!
Don’t we all? Make sure to add Mae to the top of your To Read pile June 20th and check out Gene Ha’s other work on his website.