Lucy Knisley came to the league’s attention with a comic she posted about WCR on her website, Stop Paying Attention. We were so flattered, we thought we’d find out more about this talented artist.
How did you find out about roller derby in general, and WCR specifically?
I grew up in New York, and when I was about 17 I went to Coney Island and saw some of the Gotham Girls doing a skating demo on the boardwalk. I was just there to ride the Cyclone and eat a hot dog, but I was totally amazed and swept up in how fast those girls could skate and how perfectly they rocked that boardwalk. Coney Island is this great crazy relic, where things like freak shows and carnival hawkers remain and are revitalized as these wonderful things that had, elsewhere, been on the brink of extinction. The derby girls were representing this sport that I'd thought was, like Coney Island, extinct except in this liminal space! I was totally hooked from the start, and kept up with the local New York teams until I went to art school here in Chicago. But I didn't know my way around the city, and didn't make it out of a few miles radius from the Art Institute for a while. So it wasn't until I'd been here a few years that I caught on to the WCR and got all swept up in how wonderful it is. I realized that my high-school aged passion for derby as a sort of idealized esthetic had transformed into an actual understanding of the sport and passion for the skill and talent of the players. I think it's pretty easy to get that way about the WCRs.
What made you want to dedicate a comic to WCR?
Actually, I touch on my derby love in earlier comics. One in particular, in a comics endurance exercise known as an hourly comic (where two panels are drawn each hour of the day), I depicted myself wearing my Manic Attackers T-shirt throughout the day. I was completely bowled over and starstruck when a few of the players commented on the comic and encouraged me to say hi to them after the next bout. I'd always been too shy to do so, but with their kind invitation I felt like I had to muster the gumption, and thus my comic about meeting Ruth Enasia, and how cool that was for me. It also came at a time during my convention season, when I travel around selling my work at comic arts festivals, and meeting my readers. I'm always so flattered and surprised when people are excited and flustered meeting me, so I wanted to do a comic about that feeling, and how I completely relate – how anyone can relate to that giddy feeling of being a fan.
Your comic was such a great summing up of what it’s like to be a fan of anything. What’s it like when people come up to you with the same tongue-tied enthusiasm as when you approached Ruth Enasia?
I'm really touched when readers get all tongue-tied and goofy when they meet me, because I know how that feels! I think it's wonderful when that kind of connection of awe and inspiration can form between strangers – so much great positive energy for people you don't even know in person. I've had experiences where people were so nervous to meet me, having such a strong connection to my life as I depict it in my comics, that they have a lot of trouble overcoming their shyness. I wanted to make my derby-meeting comic to make sure that people are reminded that everyone is a nerdy fangirl or fanboy about something/someone or another!
What do you think is the best way to convert non-derby fans to fans?
Ha, ha, I wish I knew! I'm terrible at doing this. I think because when I bring uninitiated friends to bouts, I'm either paying too much attention to the rink, or lecturing them on the rules and how the game is played, or slobbering over how great certain players are. I think it's overwhelming for them. I think everyone has to come to it on their own, without being dragged or coerced.
Your site says you’re working on a second graphic novel. What’s the subject matter and do you have a publishing date yet?
It's a full-color book about food, and growing up under the wing of my mother, who is a professional chef. It's sort of a girl-power, mom-daughter collection of stories about the connection between memory and food, and a few of my favorite things I've learned from my mom about cooking and eating. It'll come out under First Second Publishing, probably sometime in 2012. I'd love to do a long derby comic someday, but I've gotta finish this book first!