McNeil, Carla Speed
McNeil, Carla Speed
PERSONAL: Born in LA. Education: Louisiana State University, B.F.A.
ADDRESSES: Office—Lightspeed Press, P.O. Box 448, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701.
CAREER: Cartoonist and artist. Founder of Lightspeed Press, Annapolis Junction, MD.
AWARDS, HONORS: Seven Eisner nominations.
"FINDER" SERIES COMIC-BOOK COLLECTIONS
Sin Eater: Part I, Lightspeed Press (Annapolis Junction, MD), c. 2000.
Sin Eater: Part II (includes issues eight through thirteen), Lightspeed Press (Annapolis Junction, MD), 2000.
King of the Cats (includes issues fifteen through eighteen), Lightspeed Press (Annapolis Junction, MD), 2001.
Talisman (includes issues nineteen through twenty-one), Lightspeed Press (Annapolis Junction, MD), 2002.
Dream Sequence, Lightspeed Press (Annapolis Junction, MD), 2003.
(With others) Elfquest Reader's Collection: Worldpool, Warp Graphics (Poughkeepsie, NY), 2000.
(Illustrator) Greg Rucka, Queen and Country: Operation Stormfront, Oni Press (Portland, OR), 2004.
Creator of series, including "Mythography," "Finder," and "Mystery Date" series; contributor to anthologies.
SIDELIGHTS: Carla Speed McNeil is the creator of the Finder science-fiction comic-book series, which she writes, draws, and publishes through her own publishing company, Lightspeed Press. Finders are legendary hunters and trackers who can choose to be seen or not be seen by the inhabitants of the modern world. The series, which takes place in the future on a planet that is not identified, has spawned several different, but interconnected threads, and the main character is Jaeger Ayers.
The first two volumes of collected issues, titled Sin Eater, parts one and two, explore Jaeger's relationship with his former drill sergeant and mentor Brigham Grosvenor, Grosvenor's wife, Emma, and their children. Jaeger is a sin eater, the only job available among the Ascians, his mother's nomadic people. Sin eaters purify the dying and the newly dead so that they can go on to the next life unencumbered. Finder society is made up of many clans, the members of which marry internally in order that all the people look alike. Brigham and Emma ignored the fact that they were from very different clans, he from a clan of doctors and fighters, and she from a clan of actors and artists. They have three children, two girls and a middle son, but since the male members of Emma's clan resemble females, she raises her son as a girl, and this becomes one of the conflicts in their marriage.
Anna Jellinek and Jennifer M. Contino of Sequential Tart interviewed McNeil, asking her to describe Finder. McNeil said, "What I wanted when I got started was a world big enough for me to tell any kind of story I wanted…. Things that are kinda starting to take shape are gender confusion … cultural clash, that is to say, when people are willing to fight over what's proper even though they have no idea why it's proper. Two men say they're Jesus; [at least] one of them must be wrong. Survivalism, that's a big part of Jaeger." McNeil continued, "The relationship between fantasy and reality, how hard it is to make that convincing. How every person is a little world all to themselves. And a lot of other vague stuff like that. The concept of the title 'Finder,' is open enough to describe any protagonist." For Jaeger it means his place as a scout and runner in his medicine society. "But in a larger sense," said McNeil, "'Finder' means a certain approach to life, the way we all try to find or make patterns out of perhaps random events, make stories out of them, how we live by them. Whew, that's lofty. It's a detective/anthropologist mindset."
In Sequential Tart, Katherine Keller wrote that the series is "sad, messy, tangled, and funny as real life. McNeil writes and draws … with a candor, power, and vision that any thinking person cannot deny…. She is one of the few artists who uses the comic medium to its fullest potential. The words and the art must be read with equal attention." Jellinek called McNeil's artwork "vibrant, and the characterizations are compelling."
Sequential Tart writer Lee Atchison cited "an interesting parallel between Carla Speed McNeil's work and the classics of science fiction," deeming McNeil's work "anthropological fiction; instead of aliens and machinery, it has a variety of cultures and spirituality. And Finder acts as the looking glass for us and the world we live in. It presents the issues we must struggle with—domestic violence, fear, anger, and helplessness—but does not do so in any way that makes us take offense at its presumptuousness. If she's not careful, a reader could come away with a lesson learned."
Talisman collects three issues in the Finder comic-book series that feature Marcie, a girl who loses her storybook, and when she fails to find it, takes consolation in writing. Marcie's world is very advanced: one where reading has been replaced by absorbing text through jacks plugged into the head and people can view films with mood tracks that intensify their experience. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called McNeil's black-and-white art for the work "impressively facile, lovely and evocative, capturing the way people's bodies change over time and segueing smoothly through Marcie's fantasies of writing and return to reality."
McNeil typically sells her books directly through mail order and at comics conventions. She has also increased circulation through word-of-mouth, particularly with Talisman, which has seen good sales to libraries. She has received letters from librarians who have told her that the story of the little girl's love of a book has reduced them to tears. Publishers Weekly contributor Douglas Wolk called McNeil "one of the biggest success stories in small-press comics."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Publishers Weekly, August 26, 2002, review of Talisman, p. 45; October 20, 2003, Douglas Wolk, "Finding Carla Speed McNeil," p. 20.
Carla Speed McNeil Home Page, http://www.lightspeedpress.com/ (January 7, 2004).
Ninth Art, http://www.ninthart.com/ (April 8, 2002), Stuart Nathan, "Finder Keeper" (interview with McNeil).
Podium Web site, http://members.aol.com/podium1/ (January 7, 2004), interview with McNeil.
Sequential Tart, http://www.sequentialtart.com/ (January 7, 2004), Anna Jellinek and Jennifer M. Contino, "One Fine Finder!" (interview with McNeil), Lisa Jonte, "Find the Light!" (interview with McNeil); Karon Flage, Jennifer M. Contino, Katherine Keller, Andrea Burgess, Anna Jellinek, and Lee Atchison, "Read This or Die."