GVN Talking Comics Interview: Cartoonist Sage Coffey For Iron Circus Comics ‘Wine Ghost Goes to Hell’

Wine Ghost

Living with anxiety is something creators understand all too well. Working from project to project with the threat of rejection lurking at the turn of a page. However, when it comes to talented cartoonist Sage Coffey, they have been using their work to explore anxiety and mental health. Creating characters that are both relatable and accessible to their readers.

One of those characters is the vibrant and sassy embodiment of dealing with relationships named Wine Ghost. When it comes to Wine Ghost, relationships weren’t always easy when she was alive. But now, in the afterlife, she just gets longer to figure them out. With all the style, spiciness and wine she can drink.

Starting May 1st

Coming May 1st to BackerKit, Sage and Iron Circus Comics brings Wine Ghost to their first graphic novel in Wine Ghost Goes to Hell. An irreverent and supernatural look at troubled relationships and how to cope with them. While trying to maintain some control and friendships along the way.

Let’s Meet Sage Coffey

Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Sage to learn a bit about their beginnings, their work to this point and bringing Wine Ghost to Iron Circus Comics and a Graphic Novel near you. So, let’s welcome Sage Coffey to GVN’s Talking Comics.

GVN: Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your time, Sage. As per my usual, since this is the first time, I have had the pleasure of talking to you, let’s start with a bit of your artistic background. When did you first take an interest in art and whose work at that time inspired you to pursue it?

SC: Happy to be here! It feels cliché to say “I’ve always drawn” but truly, I started drawing as a kid and never stopped! When I first considered art as a career, in high school or so, Rumiko Takahashi (InuYasha, Ranma ½) and Jhonen Vasquez (JTHM, Squee) were my main inspirations. Though, I never really thought about their commercial successes as a goal. It felt like they were making the work they wanted to make and ultimately, I wanted that same kind of freedom!

Attending SCAD

GVN: I see you studied art at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Did you have a specific goal in mind career wise when you started and what would you say you learned that has benefited you the most during your time there? Was it the education you received or the connections and relationships with other likeminded students and artists?

SC: A lesson I carried with me post-SCAD was “You have to learn all the rules in order to break them.” It was a way to encourage students to pay attention to fundamental lessons of storytelling but also motivated us to challenge what we’d learned when making our own stuff! Wine Ghost is really the combination of the knowledge I took with me from SCAD and what I chose to leave behind. It’s definitely not a school I’d recommend for everyone but between the pals I made and the kind professors who really cared about us students, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t grateful for having gone.

Mainstream VS. Self-Publishing

GVN: During your career, you have done work for The New Yorker, The Nib, and The Washington Post while also self-published your own projects. As you look back to this point, what gives you the most satisfaction? Producing art for established publishers or creating your own work whose limits are just your talents and imagination? Perhaps it’s a little bit of both?

SC: Absolutely a bit of both! Especially since the bulk of the work I’ve done for those larger outlets are autobiographical it feels really cathartic having them released into the world. Kind of like how you feel better after you throw up, haha. Only difference is that my personal work puke is filled with pearls and spiderwebs. That is to say, both have a similar satisfaction once the project is finished but my personal work has a little something extra since the limitation of strict autobiography is lifted.

The Introduction of Wine Ghost

GVN: Starting in May, you are bringing your charming and quirky character of Wine Ghost into your first graphic novel with Wine Ghost goes to Hell. Please tell our readers a bit about the character and how you came up with her?

SC: Challenger’s Comics in Chicago has this month-long event celebrating Women and Non-binary creators in March where they invite artists to table at the shop. On my day, it was clear no one would be coming in because of the bad weather. So, I doodled in my sketchbook until eventually Wine Ghost came out. I started drawing her with big fancy hats and spa day attire, eating the cucumber slices meant for her eyes. Her goofiness immediately shone through this fabulous facade I was drawing and thus Wine Ghost’s character was born! You can actually see one of the first Wine Ghost drawings on Challenger’s wall near the entrance.

GVN: Hopefully I’m not giving too much away when I say that the conflicts between Wine Ghost and Seb in Wine Ghost Goes to Hell hit close to home as a father of two daughters. Was this relationship an important part of the story from the outset or did it develop as you fleshed out the narrative?

SC: Seb and Wine Ghost’s relationship was the foundation of the story from the get-go! I think the main challenge for me was developing the rest of the narrative so that what happens between them isn’t immediately apparent to the reader until later in the book. Seb’s character is a combination of observed behaviors and situations both myself and my friends had lived through. With that kind of emotional realism, I think it was important to offset the book with that special brand of Wine Ghost weirdness in the first half of the graphic novel.

Working with Iron Circus Comics

GVN: You are working with the talented Spike Trotman and Iron Circus Comics for the crowd funding of this project. What was it about Spike and Iron Circus that made you feel this was the right avenue for your book? (Judging by the great success that Spike and Iron Circus has had, it is).

SC: I remember talking to her at CALA (Comic Arts LA) in 2018 and she said, “If I were to have a cut out of any character, it’d be Wine Ghost!” and that kinda thing means something, ya’know? Spike saw Wine Ghost’s potential just from the mini-comics and really took a chance on me. Looking at Iron Circus’s larger roster too, they have a good blend of “humor, horror and sexy” that I felt really jived with Wine Ghost Goes to Hell as a project! It just made sense!

Future Projects and Following Sage

GVN: Thank you again for your kind sharing of your thoughts. Before I let you go, I want to give you an opportunity to share any other projects you have and where fans can follow you on social media or the web?

SC: Currently I’m working on an unannounced comic with a fantastic indie publisher, finishing my piece for the Artists for Planned Parenthood series and continuing to help organize Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE). You can find my stuff on Instagram @sagemcoffey, twitter @sagecoffey and you can read most of my comics for free on my website sagecoffey.com. Thank you so much for having me! Truly, it was a joy!

The Iron Circus Comics BackerKit Campaign for Wine Ghost Goes to Hell starts May 1st. You can check it out here.

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