“In my twenties, I had a lot of existential angst about who I was and who I wanted other people to see me as,” says the writer of one of the coolest new independent comic-books out there. “That conflict externalized in another character that eventually evolved to be Paradox Girl…”
Having recently been given the chance to preview the fresh and infectious Paradox Girl #1, published by Hana Comics, PG’s super-talented writer and conceiver, Cayti Elle Bourquin, has also been awesome enough to talk to me about Paradox Girl, independent comic-books, major influences, and more besides.
If you haven’t read Paradox Girl, you should consider going and getting a copy from the official site. And if you’re a fan or supporter of fun, witty and original independent comics, you should consider being a backer and helping fund the continuation of the series via Kickstarter (if the comic itself isn’t incentive enough, seriously, some of the reward options for PG backers are properly awesome).
You can read my review of Paradox Girl #1 here.
Below, meantime, is my conversation with PG’s wonderful writer and creator Cayti Bourquin, who talks to us about mind-bending paradoxes, comic-book satire, Ally McBeal and more…
Cayti, thanks very much for taking time to talk. Where did your ideas for ‘Paradox Girl’ originally come from…?
Cayti: ‘My Brain! So, in my twenties, I had a lot of existential angst about who I was and who I wanted other people to see me as. That conflict externalized in another character that eventually evolved to be Paradox Girl. The central premise was a woman who was in literal conflict with herself and a constant contradiction. PG is that, but ditzy and funny instead of pretentious and gothy’.
What are your major influences as a writer, and has anything in particular influenced Paradox Girl…?
Cayti: ‘I wouldn’t say there’s anything I’d read that directly inspired Paradox Girl, but I can relate a few of the writers who’ve been enormously influential on the way I see stories and how I write. The first is the late Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue, Millenium Actress, Paranoia Agent). His ability to merge metaphor with the literal events of the plot still is unlike anything else I’ve seen to this day. He was a true artist and I wish more people knew of his greatness’.
‘A close second is Mark Z. Danielewski. His book, House of Leaves introduced me to the concept of using the medium as something more than just the paper on which the story is recorded. He uses the medium to be a part of the story in multiple ways and I think that definitely inspired me to really look at the mediums I tell stories in and use them to do more than put words on a page. In Paradox Girl you can see his influence by the way she travels from future to the past by leaping to the previous page, playing on the medium’s expectation that each panel follows the previous one chronologically’.
How much of a struggle has it been to get from concept to finished product…?
Cayti: ‘Originally the first issue, ‘A Day in the Life of a Paradox’, was just a vanity thing. Something I wrote in the middle of the night cause I’d envisioned these funny bits and they fell together so well that I just had to write it down to get it out of my head. I showed it to friends and family to share that feeling and left it alone for quite a while’.
‘A year or so later enough people had responded positively to it that I thought about commissioning an artist to draw it. Eventually Peter at Hanako Games (who’d grown up with comics and loved the idea) wanted to try to get it done, so spent some time looking for the right artist. There were several prospects, but Yishan Li ended up being the perfect fit’.
‘When I saw the finished version of the cover for issue 1, I was so excited that I posted it to Imgur and it flew to the front page. We got lots of enthusiasm that we were totally unprepared for (we didn’t even have a finished product ready to print!) Once the issue was done and printed, we had trouble finding a way to reach our prospective audience and fans. It took the next year to figure out how to do that – and it’s something we’re still figuring out. Without a major label behind us, it’s not clear how to get attention to let people know about it’.
I loved the name ‘Paradox Girl’ right away – but then ‘Axiom Man’ made me smile even more. To what extent would you regard PG as satire, slightly poking fun at comic-book tropes…?
Cayti: ‘To the extent of ‘Yes totally! Thank you!’ The initial inspiration for Paradox Girl is an internal one, but a great deal of PG is now satire. She’s in some ways a commentary about the state of mainstream comics and a direct parody of the constant need to reboot, rewrite and ret-con characters. In future issues (fingers crossed), I’d love to do more of that. Comics are capable of incredible amazing stories. I think at some point we have to let those stories end’.
Is there going to be more of a backstory/origin or are you committed to not doing that…?
Cayti: ‘In relation to the previous point, Paradox Girl can’t have a specific past. Part of her ‘origin’ story is the paradox that she doesn’t have one. It’s fundamental to the character to break cause and effect. I think we’ll tease at some possibilities, but nothing can really be canon. Even as we do future issues, they’ll contradict existing ones and not always be clear where they fit in the ‘timeline’. There’s a lot of hidden threads between issues, but each issue itself is a standalone story that holds up on its own. We’re hoping people who really get into the series will see the ways everything fits together in another mind-bending paradox’.
How far back do your ideas for Paradox Girl go…? Was it something you came up with fairly quickly or over a long period of time…?
Cayti: ‘So, as mentioned, Paradox Girl is based on a character I’d had before called Lily. Who, ugh it pains me to think back about how awful my writing was then, but was a demon who’d reformed and become Catholic. So she was in this constant state of hating herself and going through Catholic guilt while trying to fight her nature. That was like a dozen years ago at least. She’s been with me for a long time’.
‘Another theme that manifests itself in the current incarnation of Paradox Girl is this idea of being a product of our pasts. Regret is a thing I’m sure we all have to deal with. For Paradox Girl, she can go change everything she regrets, which always leads to a new regret (the path less traveled and all that). Without the past that you’ve had, the ups and downs, the good and bad, you wouldn’t be who you are now. Maybe you don’t like the you that exists right now, but maybe some other ‘you’ would feel the same’.
‘There can’t ever be any certainty that the path untraveled would lead to a better ‘us’. That’s perhaps a bit deep for a silly comic about a time traveling woman, but it’s something I think about a lot’.
Yishan Li’s art in PG #1 is terrific. To what extent did you as the writer dictate or direct the visual feel of the book…?
Cayti: ‘Isn’t it amazing?! Yishan is so incredibly talented, I feel so lucky that we caught her on the way up. So my script is pretty explicit in ‘camera’ placement and panel layout, somewhat because of the nature of the jokes and the ways that PG has to teleport around the page. That said, Yishan has a much better eye for what works and what doesn’t and made changes as she felt necessary when she made with the magic. In a few places we went back and forth about how to best sell a joke or frame the page’.
‘There’s very little dialog in PG, but there’s lots of writing that goes into every page to make the story work. Pacing is pretty complicated when it comes to the number of pages you have to show your story in. I guess it’s complicated way of answering, ‘I knew what I wanted to show, and Yishan knew how to make that work”.’
Was Paradox Girl’s look Yishan Li’s idea or was it the image you’ve had in your mind all along…?
Cayti: ‘Paradox Girl (even in her earlier incarnations) been dressed in that silly pinstripe suit dress with her piles of blonde hair up in chopsticks. I think visually I was inspired by Nell from Ally McBeal. Yishan gave us a few great concept sketches based on my descriptions and really nailed what we needed to see in PG. Her style totally breathes life into PG and makes her leap off the page’.
Have you always had a fondness for time-travel…?
Cayti: ‘Back to the Future is my jam! Yes, I’ve always loved time travel stories, especially in games. Chrono Trigger is one of the greatest games ever made. Lots of time-travel fiction avoids the implications of paradoxes, but always give you fuel for thinking about them. I recently watched Continuum and it is totes on my recommended list for anyone who’s interested in a really well done time-travel story. Also Timelapse. Brilliant writing for both of them’.
Thanks to Cayti Bourquin for being such a first-class interviewee; and for bringing such a fresh, endearing comic to the table.
Visit the site here to buy a copy or to sign up for updates. And you can support the Kickstarter campaign here (still a few days left) to ensure future issues can be made and Paradox Girl’s story can continue.
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