Interview: Molly Crabapple - Illustrator Extraordinaire - Talks PUPPET MAKERS


Molly Crabapple is an amazing talent. Known for her sexy Victorian influenced illustrations, her artwork has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Marvel Comics. She is an award-winning artist, author and the founder of Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School, a world-wide movement of alternative drawing salons in over 100 cities. Puppet Makers is Crabapple's latest work with John Leavitt, a delightful sendup of noble society in the time of Louis XIV. In this steampunk version, there are robots to do all the heavy lifting of the endless meeting and greeting. With Puppet Makers launching this week as a webcomic at Zuda Comics, GeekWeek got a chance to check in on the lovely Ms. Crabapple. 

GeekWeek: Molly, you have dazzled many with your quirky and sexy Victorian art as well as your sketching workshops. Then, last year, you teamed up with John Leavitt for your first graphic novel, Scarlett Takes Manhattan. What might you tell us about how it all began for you as an artist and what's helped you to persevere? I'm sure it's been quite a journey.

Molly Crabapple: I've been drawing since I was 4 years old. My mother is an illustrator, so I never had the idea that so many people do, that art isn't something you can make a living with. Me and Leavitt have been tight collaborators since college, where we even did an anti-FIT student newspaper. We dropped out on the same day. Persevering has been easy for me because there was never another option besides being an artist. It was this or dying in the gutter. I'm basically unemployable, and it's very lucky that I can draw.

GW: Talk to us about how you got involved with Zuda.

MC: When Zuda was first launching, about three years ago, they got in touch with me to do a comic. While we didn't end up working together, I didn't want to discard the characters me and Leavitt had first pitched them. Over the next few years, we did a webcomic on Act-i-vate and created Scarlett Takes Manhattan. Then, during Comic-Con '09, Kwanza asked us to be involved in Zuda again. Since we always have several varieties of insanity brewing, we leapt at the chance.


GW: Puppet Makers begins in 1678, in Versailles, the court of Louis XIV. Tell us about the "Sun King," the decadence of the time and your steampunk take on it.

MC: One of my pet peeves about steampunk, as a genre, is it largely doesn't acknowledge the fucked up things technology can do to a society. I like pretty cogs as much as the next girl, but with Puppet Makers, me and John were more interested in exploring the horrifying things machines could do to a country that's not ready for them.

When Louis XIV became boy-king of France, he inherited a deeply fractious society. Nobles would hole up on their fortified chateaus, with their armies of peasants, ready to topple any king who displeased them. Louis wanted to unite the nobility under his banner, but he knew he couldn't just take them out directly. Instead he created Versailles. Suddenly, it became de rigour to ditch your ancestral home and squander your money on whist and parties, all while desperately jockeying for status. Louis XIV's Versailles did tame the nobility, but it ultimately created the isolation that led to the French revolution.

GW: Will we see a Puppet Makers graphic novel in the future?

MC: I hope so. Pester DC Comics--it's up to them.

GW: Any other thoughts? Any other plans ahead?

MC: Me and John are pretty much borg-brain joined as collaborators, so you'll definitely be seeing more work from us in the future. As for myself, in June, I'm launching a new line of fancy-schmancy t-shirts I designed for Dirtee Hollywood at Atrium. I'm especially excited because I get to take over their windows. I'll be in Amsterdam in late June for the Urban Arts Fair, and probably in Sao Paulo in August. And me and long-time collaborator, Kim Boekbinder, are doing an animated music video for her song, The Organ Donor's March. So busy. Always so busy.

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