What got you interested in comics? Any cartoonists that you look up to?
Maria: I was always making up stories in my head as a kid, but I didn’t have any way to put them down on paper. I knew that drawing was an important part of that process for me, but I didn’t know how to integrate that into what I was doing. I played around with various sorts of picture books, and eventually settled on comics. It was the quickest and easiest way for me to create these stories when I was just working by myself. As time went by, I learned how to handle the medium better, and I ended up falling in love with it.
As far as cartoonists I look up to - there’s too many to name. Emily Carroll, Kate Beaton, and Michelle Czajkowski are all pretty close to the top of the list.
Can you tell us a little about your comic? How does it speak to the theme of the anthology (uncharted territory/unversed)?
Maria: Mellaby and the Infinite Black is about a kid who encounters death for the first time in their life, and the fantasy they create around that event to cope with it. Life, death, and mortality are such a huge ideas for a kid to explore for the first time, that it seemed like a perfect story to tackle for this anthology.
What was the inspiration behind your story?
Maria: A lot of this story is autobiographical, and based off of the death of my own grandmother when I was about eight years old. It was the first person I felt close to that I’d lost, and it opened me up to new ideas that took a long time to get comfortable with. I became convinced that nothing happened when you died - that it was just black, forever. I had so much anxiety around that idea that I was afraid to close my eyes, because it meant I’d see that black space. Hence, the title. In the comic, I attempt to capture the process of healing and acceptance that I went through, and how the last words my grandmother said to me would eventually put my fears to rest, years after she passed.
What challenges arose during the course of this project? Takeaways?
Maria: Most of the hard stuff was trying to remember what had happened, and what I was feeling during that time. Combing through fuzzy memories from over a decade ago was no easy task, and there were a few gaps that I needed to fill in before I started. So I spent a good amount of time talking to the other people in my family who were there, trying to get a better idea of what had happened, and what head space I seemed to be in.
Can we expect more comics beyond this project?
Maria: Oh my goodness, YES. Like 90% of my existence is comics right now, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.