Thursday, 15 November 2007

An Interview with Meredith Gran of Octopus Pie

Meredith Gran is the Brooklyn-based comic artist and animator behind the webcomics “Skirting Danger” and her current comic “Octopus Pie”, launched in April 16 of this year.
“Octopus Pie” follows Eve and Hanna, 2 young women living in Brooklyn, New York.
When I asked Meredith to describe the comic in one sentence, she replied, “It's a Brooklyn drama about a girl's comedic life.”
She recently self-published a collection of the first four storylines of “Octopus Pie” and just began the sixth storyline of the comic.
I chatted with Meredith about her influences, elements of autobiography in her comics, and the similarities between telenovelas and webcomics.

AM: First off, how are you?
Meredith: Phew…Busier than ever. But good.
AM: Good to hear.
So I wanted to start off talking about your education a bit. I know you're a graduate of the School of Visual Arts [fine and graphic art school in New York City]. What other education have you had in terms of art, both post and pre-secondary?
Meredith: I received most of my animation training from SVA. I did start taking figure drawing classes in high school, and have been doing so outside of school ever since. The majority of my post-school education has come from firsthand job experience.
AM: You work as an animator for [Adult Swim show] Assy McGee now, right?
Meredith: Yeah. It's a ridiculous, low-budget show I can work on from home. Really an ideal job for me, at this point.
AM: I was just curious, what other jobs have you worked to support your cartooning?
Meredith: Last year I was at MTV, working on a show called Friday: The Animated Series. It was pretty fun, but didn't exactly make a splash on TV. It was my first full-time animation gig. Since then I've done a bit of supplemental freelance, in between the long-term stuff.
AM: When did you first consider cartooning specifically as a career, as opposed to art? You started writing Skirting Danger when you were about 16, if I remember correctly.
Meredith: Yeah, I was a teenager. At the time I didn't really see it as anything more than a hobby. I only began thinking about comics as a career in the past year or so, after working out of school for a bit. Seeing how other professional cartoonists operate.
AM: That's really interesting to hear, actually. Could you expand a bit on what it was like writing a reasonably popular and well-regarded webcomic at that age?
Meredith: At the time I was very excited to have that storytelling outlet. Looking back, I'm actually shocked at how well-received it was. At the time, I figured a handful of people, a lot of my friends, enjoyed it. People ask me about it all the time and it seems so long ago. It's very strange.
AM: Could you tell me a bit about your influences, both artistic and humorous?
Meredith: At the core I'm influenced by Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, all the classic animators of the Looney Tunes age. They were artists, comedians, and actors all rolled into one. I absorb most of my humor from observation; it's hard to pinpoint a source.
AM: I definitely see that golden age of animation as a big influence.
I was going to ask, on the topic of observation, how much of Octopus Pie is autobiographical? It's definitely very Brooklyn-centric and much of it, particularly the more serious storylines, feels authentic and lived-in.
Meredith: None of the stories are true, per-se, but a lot of the themes are taken directly from experience. Eve has definitely gone through a few of my internal struggles. In a recent storyline she's faced with the prospect of forging her identity out of a lucrative career - or lack thereof. In my post-college years, I've asked myself many of the same questions Eve has to work through.
AM: I think it comes through really well, too.
What would you say are the benefits of internet distribution as opposed to syndication?
Meredith: Well, first and foremost - and any online cartoonist will tell you this - you own everything. You're in control of your ideas. And there's no middleman between your work and the audience, so you can distribute the comic to them directly. Online cartoonists have the advantage of playing host to their own community -- they can interact directly with readers, get instant feedback, and sell merchandise they've printed themselves. Sure, it's a greater investment, but you don't need to share any of your earnings or intellectual properties. The choice is easy.
AM: Have you ever considering syndicating Octopus Pie? A few of your contemporaries, namely Diesel Sweeties and Dinosaur Comics have been syndicated in some smaller press papers.
Meredith: It hasn't crossed my mind. The comic isn't much of a daily strip; there's too much context to understand if you miss a day. If you can't press the "back" button with my stories, a lot of the effect is lost. Plus syndication just doesn't seem all that lucrative for a comic my size.
AM: I know what you mean. In a lot of ways, the form fits the content really well, at least in terms of having the entire storyline up to that point as accessible.
Meredith: Webcomics are kind of similar to telenovelas in that way.
AM: What are your favourite mediums to work in and why?
Meredith: I love to work digitally these days. Ever since I bought a Cintiq [tablet device for digital drawing], it's been my weapon of choice. I still enjoy thumbnailing comics with a sharpie in a sketchbook, though.
AM: When do you think you'll be able to live off your cartooning without having a job on the side? How are merchandise and book sales right now?
Meredith: For such a young comic, sales have been quite good. My timeframe has been mostly internal, but I estimate it'll take at least another year to see a livable wage from it.
AM: One last question to wrap things up: describe Octopus Pie in one sentence.
Meredith: Haha, this one is hard.
AM: Don't rush it. This is crucial.
Meredith: It's a Brooklyn drama about a girl's comedic life.
AM: Thanks so much, Meredith. It was a pleasure.
Meredith: Likewise. Thanks for the challenge!

Octopus Pie is published three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It can be read here.
Watch video of Meredith drawing the comic here.


  1. Metal Lungies just got better... ;-D


  2. Thanks Ivan! I appreciate that.
    I've been having a crappy day and this made me feel a bit better.

  3. Good Interview, animation is certainly making inroads in India too. Some of the institutes training students on animation are listed here Animation Courses in Hyderabad


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