This June sees Hope Larson return to writing and drawing for herself, as she releases the graphic novel All Summer Long, the first of a planned series of coming-of-age stories at First Second. Larson has recently been working on a number of projects, including writing the current ongoing Batgirl series at DC and the hugely popular Goldie Vance over at BOOM! Studios, but this marks her return as cartoonist, telling the story herself.
All Summer Long is the story of Bina, a 13 year-old girl whose best friend, Austin, returns from sports camp acting… differently. Bina, who had explored her own interest in music during the summer holidays, has to try and understand her changing relationship with her best friend, as they both grow up — and perhaps apart.
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Set in Los Angeles, this is a story interested in exploring how people grow and change during their formative years — and with the comic out next week, CBR spoke to Larson about what interested her about telling this particular story, how the setting and characters play off one another, and her plans to develop the story into a series of graphic novels, as Bina grows older.
CBR: You’ve been separately writing or drawing projects across the last few years, but All Summer Long marks a return to both writing and drawing a story yourself. How was it, at first? Is it like riding a bike — or more like re-learning a piano?
Hope Larson: It’s more like riding a bike. You’re rusty at first, but you get back into the swing of things fairly quickly.
Do you think working on each side of the storytelling separately gave you chance to re-evaluate your approach to scripting and penciling, so when you came to then create this story yourself you came from a different place creatively than perhaps you have in the past?
Hm. I don’t think I did any re-evaluation on a macro level, but my stint on Batgirl has changed my storytelling a little bit. I’m working harder to keep my panel counts low, and to keep my words-per-balloon count down.
All Summer Long itself is, amongst many other things, about uncovering and discovering creative ability and trying to lean into it. What inspired you to make a comic about inspiration?
As a creative person, it’s something I think about and grapple with on a regular basis. I wanted to demystify the creative process for kids on the outside. Creativity is mostly about practice and exploration, not a mysterious bolt from the blue. Inspiration isn’t something you have or don’t have; it’s something you can seek out and create for yourself, if you want to.
The story is set in Los Angeles, which seems to have been as formative place for yourself as it promises to be for Bina. What is it that made Los Angeles the ideal setting for the story?
Well, I was living there at the time, and it’s an amazing city. I often wonder what it’s like to grow up in a place like that. I wanted to put some of the magical things I experienced and saw in LA into a book.
All Summer Long is planned to be the first of three books following Bina and Austin as they grow up, which means you’re going to be working on their story for a long time — what is it that most interests you about seeing these two characters grow up and into their passions as people?
People grow and change significantly when they’re young. They’re still finding themselves. That’s what I wanted to explore.
Your dialogue has always been incredibly naturalistic — from Batgirl to Goldie Vance. Is it fair to say that you find it most interesting to sit characters down and have them just talk to each other? How do you draft and refine conversations to give them that feeling of authenticity and honesty?
Thank you! My dialogue has gotten more stylized over time, actually, as I let go of the idea that dialogue on the printed page needs to work equally well when it’s spoken aloud. When I’m writing a conversation between several characters, I typically write out all the dialogue first, then break it down into panels and action beats afterward. That way, it’s easier to make sure all the things that need to be said in the scene are in place.
It’s a time in life when people see relationships change in unexpected ways. As well as her friendships, how will Bina’s relationship with her family develop across the pages? Is that an important part of your story as well?
Yes, Bina’s parents and older brothers are an important part of her life, and while they aren’t the primary focus of these books, we’ll definitely be seeing more of them.
Are you a musical person yourself? Did All Summer Long encourage you to pick up an instrument, if you don’t already?
I’m not really a musical person, but writing this book actually did motivate me to start learning guitar. That’s been a lot of fun!
All Summer Long will be released by First Second on May 2.