Interview with Barb Lien-Cooper • Comic Artist, Creator of “Gun Street Girl”

SM: When was the last time you went to a party that you thought about for days

BLC: I love parties, but only certain kinds. I love the type of party where you encounter someone and you get into a great, deep, lengthy conversation with him or her. But, that sort of party is very rare, sadly. Many parties are a bunch of people unable to do much but look bored.

The best party my husband and I attended in recent memory was a gathering at the Hyatt bar at the San Diego Comic Book Convention a few years back. We got into this revelatory conversation with the writer Grant Morrison. He’s a very intelligent and compassionate man, into all sorts of philosophical things, as well as pop culture and magic. When he seriously talks to you, you listen. We talked for hours. And when we stopped talking at the bar, we had a great confab with these really smart guys who have a comic-book-related radio show. It was really a life, the universe, and everything sort of conversation. The three best parts of the evening (for me, at least) were when Grant actually liked a comic book story I’d created (I told him about it; he didn’t read it) and laughed at how outrageous it was. And, THEN, he told a comic book publisher that writers like me were the wave of the future. And THEN, if that wasn’t enough, he told me it was my DUTY to the medium I love so much to get published, because he thought I had talent! That’s like God talking to Moses on the mountain or something! I still think of that party and am so grateful that I was there. A kind of after-story that still makes my heart swell with pride: On his website, Grant Morrison actually wrote about that encounter and called me “faster than light’s sister”! Wow.
There are two writers in comics that have always had my deepest respect. One is Grant Morrison. The other is Mark Millar, who is also a very intelligent and compassionate person (at least he’s been to me!). Grant is a friendly acquaintance of mine and Mark is an old buddy of mine. I’m incredibly grateful that that two men I so admire have been so kind to me and so supportive of my comic book writing!

SM: How different would relationships be without a phone and bed to have them in?

BLC: Well, I wouldn’t have a husband if not for the phone. We sort of had a very long-distance relationship, at first, so the phone was our life line.
We sort of fell in love over the phone, even before we saw each other. So, thank you Alexander Graham Bell for inventing the phone or else I’d be alone!
If we didn’t have beds, we’d have relations on futons. I like futons, but there’s nothing like snuggling in a four-poster bed like the old one my husband and I now have. It’s like something out of a Hammer Horror film, the type of thing that nubile young ladies lay on, awaiting Dracula’s love bites. Sadly, it also has a tendency to break. We’ve had to re-build it at least once. It’s a little anxiety provoking to do anything too exciting in that bed, therefore. Hmmn, maybe futons aren’t as bad for relationships as I initially thought…

SM: What is the closest thing to dreaming awake that you know of?

BLC: When I write or am deep in thought or really into a movie or when I’m listening to music. Anything that totally gets me involved with it is like a waking dream.

SM: Do you have an arch-nemesis?

BLC: Honestly, I can’t think of any. I am, however, a superhero, in a way.
Mark Millar, when he was writing Ultimate X-Men, told me that he sort of gave Jean Grey my short hair and glasses, as well as my fashion sense, and a little of my personality. It always makes me smile when I see Jean in the Ultimate X-Men book because it’s a bit like looking in a mirror. Mark’s just the nicest guy, as well as a creator I respect, so it’s a very sweet complement to me — and I don’t think I’ve ever thanked him for it. So, thanks, Mark!

SM: Please indulge us with an anecdote.

BLC: People think I’m very a very serious person, but I also have a fun side. My husband and I live in an apartment where we’re practically the only white folks there, which is great, as I love diversity. There are a ton of kids here, most of whom don’t speak English. But, I like kids, so I’m always smiling at them and waving at them, as my Spanish is very rusty. They light up when any attention is paid to them, as that’s the way kids are. These are really clever, genuine little people, and they just knock me out when I encounter them. However, one day, I went too far. My husband and I were walking back and forth to the laundry room, to do several loads of laundry.
A couple of neighborhood girls started running and giggling when they saw me, looking back and sort of motioning to me as if to say, “Chase us!” So, I did. They were delighted! Every time Park and I would bring more laundry or would check on how it was washing or drying, the kids wanted to play “chase me”. So, I did! I ended up exhausted. That whole afternoon, I was a little afraid to leave the house, as I knew the girls were out there, almost stalking me, waiting for more chase games. Actually, I spent a lot of the afternoon playing games with them, just because they were having so much fun. I think the neighborhood kids now think I’m just some older kid or something, as they now just want me to pay attention to them. They’ll talk to me about their toys and their Yu-Gi-Oh cards and what not, and I only understand a little of what I’m being told, but that’s okay because kindness is a universal language thing (sorry that sounds so trite, but it’s true).

SM: If you had to square off against the devil in a competition based on some area of the creative arts (i.e. a fiddle contest), what would it be?

BLC: Writing. But, as movies have shown us, there’s nothing more boring than watching people write. So, it would probably be the world’s most boring contest to watch.

SM: What made you laugh the hardest in the last three days?

BLC: Honestly, a Kids Next Door cartoon I saw. Usually, I’m more into anime than American cartoons, but for a kids’ show, Kids Next Door, at its best, is excellent entertainment. I also like Kim Possible, as it’s very clever. I don’t go crazy for kids’ cartoons, ‘coz I’m an adult, but I appreciate good storytelling, whether it’s for adults or for kids. I mean, the best book I encountered lately was Danny, Champion of the World, a kid’s book by Roald Dahl. Good writing doesn’t just have to be for adults.

SM: If, for every minute you spent in the ocean, you forgot an hour of your life, how hard would you try to get back to shore if you fell off a boat?

BLC: I love the ocean and I love swimming, but I’m not good at it (although I’m getting better). So, I wouldn’t be thinking, “Oh, I’m losing my memories”, I’d be thinking, “Damn! I’m drowning!!!” So, I’d hope that the boat’s close to shore and that Jaws isn’t in the water…

SM: If you were to pack everything up and leave, where would you likely be headed?

BLC: England. I’ve only been there once and I’d like to see it again. But, not in winter! I went there in winter and practically froze my butt off. So, I’d like to see England in summer. I’d like to see all the haunted inns, because I’m reading a book on the subject. My comic, Gun Street Girl, is all about the supernatural in Britain, so I have to do a lot of research into ghosts, as well as British culture. Fortunately, these are areas that I like learning about anyway.

SM: Please describe an impressionable moment from adolescence.

BLC: I was one of those spooky girls that didn’t have any friends because she was just so weird. I spent my whole adolescence listening to music, watching movies, and reading, as opposed to actually going out and doing stuff. So, any impressionable moments I remember really concern art forms I liked. Music gave me those really life changing moments, mostly. I can still remember the thrill of hearing the first Velvet Underground album or Elvis Costello’s My Aim is True or The Kinks’ single Waterloo Sunset or Big Star’s Sister Lovers — “the songs that saved your life,” to quote The Smiths. I don’t think I would have survived my teenage years without music that really spoke to me as an individual. That’s why I hate oldies stations that say “music to get through the work day with”. These old songs MEANT something once. They were never meant to be overplayed product to dope workers into submission. And they certainly weren’t designed to sell products. Hearing the Buzzcocks or the Kinks or Nick Drake or the Ramones or in a commercial seems against the spirit of why the songs were written in the first place.
I don’t know what teenagers have to save THEIR lives nowadays. Maybe video games or rap or manga/anime. But, even the alternative music lately, in a way, seems a bit soulless. Maybe if I were a teen now, I’d listen to rap. At least it’s about artists communicating to their audience what they really feel deep down. To me, good popular art, whether it’s comics or music or movies, has to be about communicating one’s true self with the audience. It has to be from the heart and the best you can do, as there are a lot of people out there who rightly take pop art forms very seriously because the works mean so much to them. Because comics mean a lot to me — and to the readers — I do my damnedest to tell good stories. They deserve the best I can do…because I know that pop art forms MATTER.