SDCC Interview: Rick Geary on “Blanche” and Dark Horse Comics Collection
Among the many projects on Dark Horse Comics’ long list of San Diego Comic-Con announcements this year is an upcoming collection of the well-received Blanche stories created by well-known Gumby and Classics Illustrated artist Rick Geary.
Originally published in 1992 by Dark Horse, Geary’s Blanche Goes to New York first introduced readers to Blanche Womack, the character whose adventures would pair Geary’s already highly regarded and artistic talents with original stories of his own plotting. Only three Blanche stories saw print in the decade that followed, with the last — Blanche Goes to Paris — released in 2001 by Headless Shakespeare Press.
The hardcover collection of Blanche stories published by Dark Horse will feature an all-new introductory comic by Geary, as well as the previously published trio of Blanche Goes to New York, Blanche Goes to Hollywood and Blanche Goes to Paris. The project is currently scheduled for an early-2009 release.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Geary about Blanche, the series’ place in his greater body of work and what’s next for his favorite heroine.
COMICMIX: For readers who might not be familiar with Blanche, can you provide a little background on the character and her adventures?
RICK GEARY: Blanche is a young woman from a small town in Kansas who tours the world as a concert pianist during the early decades of the 20th century.
In the first story she goes to New York (in 1907, as a piano student in Greenwich Village), in the second to Hollywood (in 1915, as the musical director for a film studio) and the third to Paris (in 1921, as the director of an avant garde musical production).
In the stories, she deals with various intrigues and challenges, some of a supernatural origin, and interacts with historical figures like D.W. Griffith, Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway. The character of Blanche is based ever so loosely on my grandmother, who taught piano in her small Kansas town and, as a young woman, studied in New York. From these facts I let my imagination fabricate her outlandish adventures.
CMIX: What’s been keeping Blanche off the shelves this last decade or so?
RG: I’ve always been ready to do more Blanche stories, but other projects have intervened over the years. Also no publisher has been willing to take her on as a continuing series, as I would have wished. The first two comics were put out by Dark Horse in 1992 and 1993, and the third in 2001 by a small Seattle company called Headless Shakespeare Press.
CMIX: What can you tell me about the new introductory story you’re writing for the collection?
RG: The three-page "Introduction" I’ve done for the collection isn’t really a Blanche story, but a sort of fictionalized reminiscence of the summers I spent as a teenager in my grandmother’s little town. It relates how, upon her death, I inherited boxes of documents and memorabilia from her attic and later came across the packets of letters in which she related her exploits.
CMIX: Much of your comics works has involved interpreting already existing works and characters, but the Blanche stories are entirely of your own design — and far more personal. So where does Blanche fit in your overall body of work?
RG: I feel that the work I did on Classics Illustrated in the early ’90s gave me the discipline to attempt a fictional narrative of my own devising. I had always been somewhat suspicious of the devices and contrivances of conventional comic storytelling, and in my nonfiction graphic novels I try to experiment with different and unusual ways of presenting historical material. Blanche is my only project thus far in which I tell tales of action and adventure, using more or less traditional techniques. This makes her occupy a unique corner of my career.
CMIX: How did the idea for this collection come about?
RG: Actually, the idea for the collection came from Diana Schutz at Dark Horse, to whom I’m eternally grateful. She brought it up one day out of the blue.
CMIX: Now that she’s been to New York, Hollywood and Paris, where else would you like to see Blanche visit?
RG: I have a fourth story, Blanche Goes to San Francisco, scripted out, in which she meets Dashiell Hammett and Harry Houdini, and I’m planning another one called Blanche’s Murder Mystery, which takes place in Kansas during the Great Depression.
CMIX: What prompted the decision to use letters written by Blanche to provide the narrative for her stories?
RG: In my writing (and reading), point-of-view has always been a very important consideration. I usually prefer a first-person narrative, and the format of letters written home to her parents seemed just right for maintaining the purity of Blanche’s particular outlook.
The hardcover collection of Blanche stories published by Dark Horse Comics will be available in early-2009.