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BCP Interview with Denise Mina

Lisbeth Salander as depicted in the Vertigo graphic novel.

Lisbeth Salander as depicted in the Vertigo graphic novel.

Recently we contacted Denise Mina to see if she would be up for doing a small interview. Now you will know Denise as firstly the Glasgwegian author of crime fiction most notably for her novel The Field of Blood. Then she was given the task of writing Hellblazer for twelve issues writing issue 216 through to 228. Then last year Vertigo released book 1 of it’s graphic novel adaptation of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which Denise wrote, You can catch book 2 when it is released May 7th. Here is what she had to say.

Being an acclaimed author how did you get into comic writing as well, Did you pursue DC or did they pursue you?

They approached me. I suspect they had misheard something about Scottish crime writers being popular.My pal set up a web site for me and the next day they asked if I’d write for Hellblazer, which I read, so I thought it was a wind up.

How receptive have you found comic fans?

That’s quite a hard thing to quantify because it depends who spoke to you. It’s a bit random. I wrote it, it came out a year later, two years later people started saying they liked it. Now people who have plainly not read it ask me about it and say they loved the high art/ low art football story.
The reviews were good but that’s not comic fans, really.

Book 2 of Girl with a Dragon Tattoo book 2 is out in May, any hints for whats in store?

Well, you probably know the story but, visually, I was trying to represent the intrusive thought patterns of a rape victim with pop ups and make Salander a consistent character. She’s not always consistent in the books, I think. Sometimes she’s anorexic, sometimes autistic, sometimes gay, then bi, then basically a man. So I had to make sense of her sleeping with Blomqvist.
The book for me is largely about the clash between gothic Sweden and modern Sweden. There’s also a discussion about corporations as psychopaths.

What in particular about the Millennium books spoke to you?

The politics, actually. Larsson was a political journalist who wrote a crime novel to try and bring his ideas to a populist audience. I tried to do the same thing with feminist theory. I think he’d be horrified at the title ‘the girl with the dragon tattoo’. His family have all fallen out over the money, he died before they even came out, the sexual assaults in the film mirror porn films in terms of their visual language. I just felt that he was a brilliant story teller and deserved better.

What’s actually involved in converting a popular novel into a comic from a writers perspective?

You have to read the book over and over, make notes of all the plot points and then forget it. You’re not re writing the novel but making a different thing, in a different form.
Then you have to break it into arcs: 140 pages over all, 70 pages, 35 pages.
Then you start writing and hope for the best.

You spent some time writing Hellblazer, How different was it approaching John Constantine than one of your own characters?

An adaptation is always a different thing. It’s harder because you can’t just make things up. Looking over it I think there’s a lot more of me in it than I’d hoped.

Recently there has been quite the shakeup at Vertigo with Hellblazer being cancelled and moved over to a mainstream DC title, Do you think this is the right approach to take with the character?

Well, something needs to happen because it’s gone on too long. Things get tired. I really like Constantine and I read Hellblazer sometimes and he feels a lot like a man out of time now.

So far your comic titles have been strictly Vertigo titles would you ever write elsewhere such as mainstream DC titles?

I’d consider anything. As someone who came to comics late, this odd affiliation with one corporation rather than another, or one brand but not another, seems like a lot of cock to me. They’re all bastard corporations and they mostly own each other, don’t they?

Gail Simone has been very outspoken on the role of women in comics, as a writer do you also feel that your gender is often marginalized?

Ask a guy about his gender. Go on. Ask a guy what t feels like to be a man and write scary books. How do his children feel? How does he manage it all? Does he worry about getting older? Would he consider surgery?
I’m an old eighties feminist. We hate everyone but we’re so fucking bored of this we’re hiding it. It’s not just random bitterness: As a woman artist I know that what ever I do will be done by a guy in eight or ten years time and he’ll be declared a genius. It was ever thus and I’m tired of bring it up and discussing it because it doesn’t change it. There are good things about it. Not many men get the chance to write comics, plays, make documentaries andwrite novels. It’s one of the benefits of being a bit invisible. But we get paid less, are written out of history and have to talk about our ovaries all the time.

Any work in the pipeline you would like to talk about?

I made a weird film on an iPhone of my old aunties and uncles talking about growing up in a tiny council house together ( there were 13 of them) and then showed it to them in the GFT and filmed them watching themselves. I made it with my cousins and we’re editing it now. It’s called Multum in Parvo. Also I’ve got a novel out this summer about a series of murders that happened on the night Diana died, so everyone knows where they were.

Interview by Gary Kane

For more information on what Denise is upto visit: denisemina.co.uk

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