Let’s talk about sex baby… in comics form! Comic Book Yeti contributor Luke W. Henderson conducted an interview with comics power couple Pat Shand & Amy Shand, writers of such books as Prison Witch and Clonsters, to talk about their approach to comics and their current Kickstarter: an erotic collection of short comics titled Cheeky. The book is a sequel to their first erotic work, Thirsty, and runs until July 29, 2022!
COMIC BOOK YETI: Your work features a lot of female-bodied protagonists and Thirsty and Cheeky are no exception. What draws you to center female-bodied characters in your stories?
PAT SHAND: I don’t think of it that way. I have stories from many perspectives and I find all of the characters I write important to me for different reasons. I pick all aspects of the characters I build based on the theme of the story or even how I’m personally feeling when I’m writing it. They all mean something deeper to me. Logan McBride from Destiny, NY is very much like me with her fears and hopes and dreams, but then so is Anthony from that series and Benny from Thirsty, who is a guy.
AMY SHAND: It’s important to me to highlight the strengths and powers even of female characters in a way that is specific to female energy. And I am a woman.
CBY: Erotic fiction can sometimes feel like a sex scene with a story inserted around it, but the writing in Thirsty made sex feel like a natural story beat. What kinds of things do you two look for when crafting a spicy story?
PS: What you said above is close to our pitch for Thirsty and now Cheeky. The topic is sex, but the fact about some erotica is that it treats sex as the goal of the story. All narrative aspects exist just to achieve this goal. That, to me, that is a story in service of a sex scene, where we wanted to tell stories about people and how sex and their sexual desires or problems or fantasies, how these comment on who they are. We wanted stories about characters who people would care about the same way they’d do in a story without sex.
AS: We try to create genuine, palpable connections between characters that begin with witty dialogue and intimate, non-sexual moments. These moments, just as in real life, are often the spiciest beginnings of the most exciting relationships.
CBY: Both books are anthology-style and feature multiple artists. What do you look for when selecting collaborators for these books? Do you prefer someone who has experience in erotic art, or someone new?
PS: The writer/artist collaboration is about communicating, especially when the topic of the story could be personal or sensitive. For adult comics, it helps to have someone experienced in this style of art. We never want someone to take a gig unprepared and then wind up uncomfortable once they start drawing. In the situation of artists who haven’t done erotica before, we or our editor Shannon Lee talks to them extensively so they get the vibe of what we’re doing. A lot of the times, we’ll have a list of gigs that we will approach artists with before we even broach a topic like Thirsty. I will say, though, the Thirsty and Cheeky line thus far is what we get most of our submissions for, so once people saw what we were doing, it got a lot easier.
CBY: The art features a realistic variety of body types. Is that something that you make clear in the scripting or even before you bring an artist on board that you want your characters to look like people and not action-hero body types?
AS: Yes, we both are very keen on a natural look. And naturally, every type of body is beautiful. So, we do try to make sure that the art looks realistic and also has variety.
PS: We’d suggest body types sometimes, yeah. Amy and I spoke about that while figuring out the stories, brief conversations about how characters look, what their key physical traits are so we can give an artist a starting point. Something we also think is important though is letting the artists do their thing because part of the reason we pick them is their depiction of characters already. Jenn St-Onge especially, who did stories in both Thirsty and Cheeky, there are elements including body types and even the entire vibe of the feature story in Cheeky that came about from her ideas while she was drawing. While we have our ideas of the characters, we keep it looser in the script than, say, our series Prison Witch or Destiny, NY where we are building an ongoing ensemble. Overall, we want our comics to feel more real and the characters to seem like people you could know.
CBY: In comics, there is a lot of reductive discourse about cheesecake material and adult content. In general, do you think it’s an issue worthy of discussion? Do you feel your work offers a counterpoint, or another way into appreciating adult-themed content?
PS: Reductive discourse, yeah. I’ve felt it my entire career. At Zenescope, I was writing horror and fantasy stories with often zero elements of sex. “Cheesecake” covers appear on those comics to tap into the collectors market, and even though the company also has mainstream-style covers for every issue, some industry people would assume that what I was writing for them was porn. I’ve felt for a long time like I’ve been suited with this thing I wasn’t even doing by small-minded people. So I can’t lie, Thirsty was in part me going, “Oh, I write porn? Okay, now I will, and I bet if you read it, it’ll make you tear up.” I’ve always thought that the way to push through criticism of you or your work, especially when it’s untrue or given by people who don’t read your work, is to simply become undeniable. I thought about that when we were writing Thirsty and Cheeky.
AS: We don’t necessarily offer a counterpoint or like an argument of this is better, we just also like ass. And whoever says they don’t is lying.
CBY: Pat and Amy, thank you so much for joining me and good luck with the final day of the campaign!