Denver writer and Regis writing teacher R. Alan Brooks made a name for himself in the graphic novel game, first with his book The burning metronome, and again a few years ago with Garden of Anguish. Now he’s back to form, in partnership with a local artist Sarah Menzel Trapl, to tell a very human story of a very magical, albeit empty, shopping center. The product of this collaboration is the new graphic novel Mourning mall, debuts at Mutiny Information Cafe at 4 p.m. on Sunday September 19.
“Mutiny is a gathering place for fans of comics, art and independent creators,” says Trapl, “so it’s the perfect place for our launch party.
“Mutiny Information Cafe has been part of my writing career since its inception,” adds Brooks. “They were the first store to buy my book, the first to support my work, and it’s even where I’ve always done my podcast. Anytime I can do something with them it’s a pleasure.
For fans of Brooks and Trapl’s latest collaborative effort, Garden of Anguish, the pleasure will be mutual. Mourning mall had its origin in past partnerships, and based on the success of those previous art endeavors, Brooks reached out to Trapl to see if she wanted to start over.
“I suggested we do something together that would be ours,” says Brooks. “She gave me examples of the kinds of stories she likes, and I put together a pitch that incorporated those elements into what I like. We developed it from there.
“Alan really took the time and energy to accommodate my preferences while staying true to his own creative values,” says Trapl. “It was difficult to convey what the DNA of an appealing story is to me, but he did a magnificent job interpreting the plethora of ideas I pitched. I really like the magical realism and horror comics, in particular, and Mourning mall contains aspects of both genders, as well as elements of human conflict that are Alan’s specialty.
There is a lot of romance in the idea of a dead mall – so much so that the idea has been the subject of a long-standing website, not to mention a myriad of urban exploration YouTube videos. “Sarah and I were both interested in the imagery of abandoned malls and how they portray a sense of loss – be it a loss of purpose, of life, of memories, of hope. or whatever, ”explains Brooks. “Just these towering abandoned monuments – there’s something so compelling about them. We agreed it would be a visually interesting place to tell a story.
Another important aspect of the story is that the main character is a tall woman, and this fact has almost nothing to do with the story itself. It’s just. It could be argued that size issues are firmly on the agenda these days, with Lindy West and the Aidy Bryant series well-deserved notoriety. Acute based on West’s writing. But these projects are largely a matter of size and culture, while Mourning mall is not.
“I felt quite out of touch with my creativity at the start of this project,” says Trapl, “and part of undertaking it was to challenge myself to create something that I could be proud of. When I thought about the art I was creating and my own personal experience, there was a huge disconnect there. I always drew more industry standard bodies because I found them ambitious, but I think that limited range contributed to my own internalized phobia. After Alan wrote the screenplay, I asked him what he thought of the idea of making Lorraine full size. He was totally open to this idea.
“I loved it,” says Brooks. “It’s important for me not to write characters that are totally defined by the body they were born into, be it race, gender, height or whatever. While these things influence the way others treat us, they don’t entirely determine how we see ourselves. Determining how our main character sees himself was the start of his journey in this story. ”
“Throughout the design and drawing process,” says Trapl, “I thought about myself and how I would have liked to see this kind of character in the comics and television that I consumed growing up. Personally, I like shows like Acute who discuss fatphobic issues head-on – and that voice is certainly important – but that wasn’t the type of story we intended to create. Representation can take many forms.
What was also important to the project was that it was a pandemic project, envisioned and created during the global COVID-19 precautionary downtime. So the themes of mourning and loss – not to mention empty malls – are unusually specific to an era.
“There have been so many unexpected losses,” Trapl said. “I think this book will resonate with a lot of people. I lost my grandmother to COVID at the start of the pandemic, and working on this project has certainly helped me understand that a bit more. and consuming art has always been a self-healing process for me. It would be great if people have a similar experience reading Mourning mall. ”
Celebrate the launch of Mourning mall at 4 p.m. on Sunday September 19, at Mutiny Info Café, 2 South Broadway. For more information, see the Facebook event announcement.