FEATURE: Comic Book Tattoo: Kelly Sue DeConnick

Part two in Globecat's Comic Book Tattoo feature is the lovely and talented Kelly Sue DeConnick!

Most well-known for co-authoring 30 Days of Night, DeConnick teamed up with artist/Image Comics art director Laurenn McCubbin (of Rent Girl fame) to tackle Tori's first big breakthrough single, "Silent All These Years," off of Little Earthquakes. As Rantz mentioned in part one, their approach is surprising, original, and nothing short of fantastic. We are honored to have gotten the chance to talk with such a true talent. Thanks, Kelly Sue!

>>>>How did you become a part of Comic Book Tattoo? Had you been a Tori Amos fan before the project started?

Oh my yes, I was a Tori fan before I was approached for the project. In fact -- and you’d have to check this with Rantz -- I believe that may have been a large part of why I was approached. Rantz and I knew each other from... gosh, I think it goes back to Warren Ellis’ old Delphi posting board? Somewhere around 2000, maybe? Anyway, it was definitely something we’d previously discussed.

>>>>What made you choose "Silent All These Years"? What is it about the song that made you pick that song over any other?

I didn’t labor over the decision, I knew what song I wanted to do. My biggest fear was that it would be taken before I could stake my claim.

I’m having difficulty addressing the “Why this song?” question without sounding cliche. “The song speaks to me.” “I feel like it was written just for me.” They’re frightful interview answers but there they are at the essence of the thing nonetheless. "Silent All These Years" is chock full of angry images, desperate and despairing tones, and yet that delicate tinkle of piano keys and the gut rush of “it’s been here,” sweep in and turn it into something triumphant, even celebratory. I love that. I can not hear this song as anything but a paean, a balm, a kiss on the forehead, a squeeze of the hand, an assurance that no matter how thunderous the shitstorm of my life is at the moment, as long as I can still find my way to that quiet place inside myself where I can hear my best self, my own voice, as long as I can do that, then I can identify the Next Right Thing. And if I can just do the Next Right Thing, I can usually find my way back to okay.

>>>>"Silent All These Years" may be Tori Amos's single most well-known song, having practically launched her career in the United States. How did that affect your approach to the story? Was there anything you knew you didn't (or did) want to do with it from the outset?

I absolutely could not think about the significance of the song or I’d never have been able to write a word. Hell, I couldn’t even let myself think about the possibility of Tori reading it. Eep.

I knew from the outset that I didn’t want to do anything about a break up and nothing too literal. That would have been heavy-handed and wouldn’t have served the song.

>>>>"Silent All These Years" makes all sorts of leaps lyrically and tonally, moving back and forth between the deeply personal, the darkly humorous, the surreal, the metaphoric, etc., and yet it all comes together into a very moving song. How hard was it to match the story and the artwork to the tone and mood of a song that varies as much as this one does?

It really wasn’t that difficult, honestly. It came to me whole cloth and changed very little in execution. The original idea was a teenaged girl sitting in class drawing on her jeans. She draws a bridge and we follow her into the drawing, off the bridge and under water where she becomes a mermaid, opens a clam shell and finds herself inside. Clamshell Girl whispers to Mermaid Girl, “Yes.” The only regret I really have about the piece is shying away from using “Yes.” I ought not to have changed that. Oofah. Oh, well. Bit late now.

>>>>Please talk a little bit about the collaborative process between yourself, Laurenn McCubbin, editor Rantz Hoseley, and Tori Amos on this project. How much (if any) influence did Rantz and Tori on the direction the story took? What was it like working with Laurenn on this?

Rantz was amazing -- he was both the most hands-on and hands-off editor with whom I’ve ever worked, though I realize that sounds impossible. He checked in with us at every step in the process, but did so without issuing orders. He made suggestions and asked questions, but acted as a doula and traffic manager more than critic. He also managed to make us feel like the only people in the book even though he was dealing with at least 49 other creators. Mind-boggling, truly.

Laurenn is a friend and we’d long wanted to work together, so it was dreamy. My favorite piece of hers is called HARVEST GYPSY. It ran on artbomb.net years ago. I knew I didn’t want her to work in panels after seeing that.

>>>>What was the hardest part of taking a song and making a comic book story out of it? Have you had any experience working with taking other forms of art and turing them into comics?

Mike Doughty told me he would go to the MOMA with his notebook and jot down a sentence inspired by each piece. I loved that as an exercise and, I don’t know, a shot of creative Red Bull. I’ve made a practice of it ever since and some of those sentences have gone on to be starting points for pieces completely unrelated to the artwork that inspired them. I think that’s probably as close as I’ve come to this process before now.

At the San Diego Comic Con, on the Comic Book Tattoo panel, Tori Amos mentioned that the comics inspired by her songs have, in turn, inspired new songs. That took my breath away.

>>>>Now that you've had this experience, are there any other songs (Tori's or otherwise) that you'd enjoy writing a comic book story about?

I now desperately want someone to do a Johnny Cash anthology. And I’m not going to tell you what song for fear that someone else will get to it first!