Jewish Comics logo illustrated by Michael Netzer, copyright 2009

Jewish Comics Search Engine

Goodreads bookshelf montage

Google Search Window

Friday, January 14, 2011

Interviews with Barry Deutsch

Mazal tov to Barry Deutsch, author of the graphic novel Hereville : How Mirka Got Her Sword, which recently was named the winner of the Sydney Taylor Award of the Association of Jewish Libraries (Older Readers category).

Even before winning the award, Barry had been an in-demand interview subject. The Jewish Comics blogmaster (Steven M. Bergson) was fortunate to be able to score a brief interview with Mr. Deutsch, in which he asked him obscure questions which most other interviewers have avoided (or never thought to ask).

Below my interview, I've collected the hyperlinks to Barry's previous 11 textual interviews and a hyperlink to an audio interview, embedded 2 audio interviews and embedded a video interview.

Although I haven't met Mr. Deutsch in person yet, I'm planning to see him at the annual Toronto Comic Arts Festival in May. I will soon be posting a message about that Festival and the other Jewish-y guests who are scheduled to attend.

Jewish Comics interview with Barry Deutsch

SMB: The setting for the book is the eponymous Hereville, which we are told is how the goyim refer to "Aherville". Except that "aher" (or "acher") is Hebrew for "other". A more proper translation would have been "Otherville". Was the title of the webcomic / graphic novel / setting originally intended to be "Otherville", which would have made it sound like a city of Outsiders? How did you come up with Hereville / Aherville as the twin place names of the story?

BD: Actually, that the town is named "Aherville" is no longer mentioned in the book! That was in the self-published version, but Abrams requested that I just call it "Hereville" in the new version.

To answer your question, "Aher" is Yiddish for "Here." As I imagine it, "Aherville" was just dry humor from when they incorporated as a township; they had to put something on the form, so they named the town "Here." But that would have sounded weird, so they put down "Aherville".

SMB: You managed to tell a complete 144-page story about a fictional community of Hasidic Jews without ever mentioning or making reference to Israel - not the historic land nor the modern state nor even the Biblical setting that forms the basis of Judaism's holy books. Will Israel play any part in future Hereville books or are the Herevillites so isolated that they never talk about it? I ask this partly because it is difficult to, for example, present such holiday celebrations as Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah or Passover without at least some mention of ancient Israel.

BD: I'm sure the topic of Israel does come up in Hereville -- in regular conversation, and also in holiday celebrations, as you say. But I don't know if it'll come up in any future Hereville books. I'm not opposed to it coming up, but I also don't have any particular plans. At this point, the only holiday I feel certain I'll be including in a Hereville book (other than Shabbos, of course) is Purim.

SMB: Thus far, the only Jews we've encountered in Hereville have been Hasidic Jews like Mirka and her family. Do other Jewish groups exist in the world of Hereville? Will the reader be made aware of other denominations (e.g. Conservative or Reform) or are they considered totally irrelevant in Mirka's community?

BD: All sorts of Jews exist in the world of Hereville, but they don't live in the town, and they are pretty irrelevant to Mirka's community. But there are non-Hasidic Jews who visit town every now and then. For instance, Rochel, Mirka's stepsister, has a father who comes by a couple of times a year, and he's Jewish but not Hasidic.

I'm not sure what the reader will be made aware of, though. Sometimes things fit into stories, and sometimes they don't, and usually I won't know which is which until the story is actually written.

SMB: Will other faiths (i.e. non-Jewish) be represented in Hereville?

BD: Not in the town itself.

SMB: Do you have an idea of what was the highest number of Girlamatic subscribers to Hereville when it was a fee-based webcomic? I think this question will be of interest to those trying to figure out if webcomics can make money independent of getting picked up by a publisher.

BD: I have no clue! But I don't think Hereville ever did much business for Girlamatic, largely because I didn't manage a steady update schedule.

But regarding if webcomics can make money, that's a settled question. They absolutely can. Look at Girl Genius, Octopus Pie, Achewood, Cat and Girl, XKCD, Dresden Codak -- there are definitely folks who are earning a full living from their webcomics.

It's true that only a small minority of webcomic creators earn a living from their webcomics -- but that's the same as any artistic field.

SMB: In the first Hereville book, the readers are given a taste of how beautiful Jewish liturgy can be. Will we see Mirka's reaction to the more controversial sorts of liturgy (e.g. the blessing "who has not made me a woman")?

BD: Maybe someday, but I'm not planning to do that anywhere in the next couple of Hereville books. I think that even when Mirka deals with the more controversial aspects of her culture, it's going to be more focused on social norms than on liturgy. It wouldn't be like Mirka to get that angry at something the men say; she's driven by more active forms of injustice.

SMB: You've alluded to Mirka becoming a young adult in one of the final books. Have you decided if the YA Mirka will stay in Hereville or go out into the larger, more unfamiliar world?

BD: Mirka will definitely leave Hereville as a young adult, at least for a while, and go to a big city, most likely Portland or Seattle. From a storytelling point of view, how could I resist doing that at least once?

SMB: You keep making reference in various interviews to the 100 limited edition shorter self-published Hereville books which you were selling at conventions. Have you sold out of them completely? If not, how many copies are available for sale and how may your fans purchase these collectibles?

BD: There were many more than 100 printed; 100 was the first printing, but there were multiple printings. I have about 20 copies left, I think, but I'm afraid they're not for sale -- I promised Abrams that I'd stop selling the self-published Hereville once the new Hereville was in print.

Other Barry Deutsch Interviews
(Oct. 2010)
(Oct. 7, 2010)
(Oct. 21, 2010)
(Oct. 26, 2010)
(Nov. 1, 2010)
(Nov. 2, 2010)
(Dec. 1, 2010)
(Dec. 16, 2010)
(Jan. 2, 2011)
(Jan. 11, 2011)
(Jan. 14, 2011)
(Dec. 9, 2010)

(The Barry Deutsch segment begins 42 minutes after the start)
(Dec. 22, 2010)

(Jan. 10, 2011)

(Mar. 31, 2009)

No comments: