J T Marana and Fanny Bystedt – the hippest cats in space

After a short break, Geek Chocolate’s series of interviews with the creators behind the Glasgow League of Writers and DC Thompson re-imagining of classic comic characters resumes. This week we go all groovy with the return of our four iconic heroines, Helana, Hercula, Fauna and Electra, the Supercats, as featured in Issue 13 of Comic Review. Gordon Robertson, director of the 9th Art Award spoke to writer J T Marana and artist Fanny Bystedt to find out more about the revival of this classic series which crossed the often hard delineation between action comics for boys and more conventional comics for girls.

GR – Introduce yourselves.

JTM – Hello, I’m J T Mirana. I’m a writer living in Glasgow and looking to make a living from my scribbles.

FB – Hello, I’m Fanny, a freelance Swedish illustrator and comics artist! I’ve studied two years at the comic art school in Malmö, Sweden. I am also a board member of Serieframjandet, the Swedish Comics Association. We work with tons of exciting projects such as festivals and exhibitions, to promote comics as art in Sweden. Also I am the project coordinator for the Comic’s stage at the Gothenburg Bookfair, which is a big event. I’m also a full-time student, so I keep myself busy.

GR – What made you choose the Supercats as your characters?

JTM – When using dormant DC Thomson characters in a writing exercise was suggested, I had to do a bit of research since many of them were from before my comics reading time. The moment I spotted their pictures online, though, I knew the Supercats were for me.

I just felt like I knew these characters and wanted to tell their stories. It was like a compulsion. When the writing exercise turned into a live project that had D C Thomson’s backing, that was a real bonus.

FB – Mirana contacted me through an online indie comics webpage, and I took on the challenge. He has been very demanding!

GR – Tell us about the Supercats.

JTM – The Supercats are Helen, Fauna, Electra, and Hercula, four young women working for the Sol Patrol Group in the 23rd Century. Helen is a genius pilot, Fauna is a shape-shifter, Electra has lightning powers and Hercula is the Mighty Martian with the Strength of a Thousand Men!

Despite all these gifts and their knack of getting into and out of adventures, they’re actually the junior Cat team of the SPG. Maybe one day they’ll work their way up to being Ultracats, but for now they wear the red of the low ranks. But they’re luckier than those Star Trek guys.

GR – What changes did you feel you had to make to the characters for a modern audience and why?

JTM – I didn’t really feel I had to change the characters so much as expand upon them, to give them lives and personalities. In the original strips they were very sketchily drawn as people and the events of one adventure never seemed to impact on them in any way as real people. I wanted to change that, make them deeper and give them histories and motivations that I can explore during the many, many years I’ll be writing the strip.

FB – First of all, I made them more appealing to a young, female audience, referencing the comics I enjoyed reading growing up. Making them less stiff, and more diverse in their looks. Mirana had a good feel for the characters personalities and together we created a newer look for them.

GR – Were there any specific comics influences you brought to your reboot of the characters?

JTM – I don’t think I consciously had anything in mind while I was writing the strip in terms of influences. I just let the characters tell the story.

FB – I am inspired by all kinds of comics; American, Japanese and European. I try to bring in a little bit of everything and create my own style. It’s been a big compromise, a discussion, as Mirana had a very clear concept and image in mind, although I did not completely agree with all of them, we ended up with a concept we both were comfortable with, and, to say the least, proud of.

GR – What other projects are you working on?

JTM – Most of my time right now is taken up with my own project, British Power: 1957. It’s a six part series about British superheroes in the late fifties. Imagine the Fantastic Four, but British and written by John le Carré and in the style of Modesty Blaise and you’ll have some idea what I’m aiming for.

Right now I’m looking for a new artist because the first had to drop out for health reasons. I’m also submitting shorts to various publishers to try getting my name out there, and I have an absolutely knockout script for a Baron Mordo mini-series sitting in a drawer at home if anyone from Marvel happens to be reading this…

I’ve also written a piece called Geoffrey, with art by Jed Raven, about a war veteran in a nursing home.

FB – Currently I’m working on a few personal projects. A few months ago I was published in Sweden, a short-story crime novel called Ordningen upprätthålls alltid, or Order Is Always Maintained. Poor English translation there, but what can you do?. It has been very well received. Back in 2011 I was published in Accent UK’s 2ombies anthology, so be sure to check that out!

GR – Can we expect to see more of the Supercats soon?

JTM – I hope so, I really do. If readers enjoyed episode one of Revenge of the Rockers, there are three more episodes to go and as I said earlier there is a lot I’d like to do with the characters, more stories to tell. I suppose it depends on reader response.

If readers enjoy seeing the Supercats, I hope they make their feelings known to the right people, because I know I want to see more of them. And there are a lot of questions posed in this first story that I’d like to answer for readers
, given the chance. Did Herzog really see a Yugg once? Did the Yugg see him? And what exactly is a Yugg anyway?

FB – I hope so. If we get a positive response and you all out there want to see more, we’ll be motivated to keep going. So send us some love!

JTM – Thank you, Geek Chocolate!

Follow the link for Fanny’s homepage with more of her art

All Supercats artwork © 2014 D C Thomson

All Geoffrey artwork © 2014 J T Mirana and Jed Raven





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