I can’t imagine a more pressure filled project than being told you will be drawing Prince. But that is what artist Meredith Laxton signed up for on Humanoids homage to the great performer in MPLS Sound. This graphic novel tells the story about the fictional band StarChild. MPLS Sound centers around lead character Theresa Booker’s passion to forge her own path and sound. Thus taking a page from her inspiration, Prince. It is a wonderful insight into what it takes to make a career. And more importantly, how it sometimes requires the strength to say no, even to your hero. So let’s talk to talented artist who accepted that challenge. Let’s welcome Artist Meredith Laxton to GVN’s Talking Comics. Thank you for giving us some of your time Meredith. I read through MPLS Sound and your work there is so impressive. But let’s back up the bus to the beginning.
GVN: When did you an interest in art and perhaps comic art? Did you have anyone whose work inspired you to pursue your artistic career?
ML: I’ve wanted to pursue digital art since as early as middle school and it’s something that has stuck with me throughout my education. Originally, I was very inspired by the storytelling element of video games. Eventually, I found myself doing concept art for indie game developers. I love working on games but it occurred to me that I wasn’t really making the kind of art or telling the kind of stories that I wanted. Most of my exposure to comics has been through graphic novels and graphic memoirs and I would say that some books that really inspired me to take up comics have been Persepolis, Skim, Sandcastle, and Locke and Key.
GVN: Those are some good books. I’m especially a fan of Locke and Key. It is a daunting task to take on any project where the subject of Prince is involved. Who pitched this project to you and what were your initial concerns if any? Did you at any time believe you might be in over your head? (You weren’t).
ML: I met Fabrice Sapolsky, who was the originator of the idea for MPLS Sound, and he told me he was looking for an artist to draw a book. However, he could not disclose which musical artist it would feature. Only after signing an NDA did he tell me the book would be about Prince and I had a very exuberant “I knew it!” moment over the phone. The biggest hurdle I was presented with was being sure to capture the likenesses of all of the celebrity cameos in the book. I struggled a bit with that in the initial art test but I managed to pull it off well enough to be invited onto the project team.
Working with Joe and Hannibal
GVN: So what was the collaboration between yourself and writers Joseph Illidge and Hannibal Tabu like? Did they give you a full script or just an outline to go by?
ML: The most back and forth I had was when I was designing the characters for the first draft of the script. I really enjoyed working from Hannibal and Joseph’s character descriptions. They were super diligent about sending me reference imagery that captured each character’s vibe. Once I got the full script, I just put my nose to the grindstone and started cranking out pages as efficiently as possible. Occasionally I’d get some check-ins from the writers to let me know they were excited about the work I was submitting, which was really motivating on days where I was dragging my feet. Drawing a graphic novel is hard work.
Colorist Tan Shu
GVN: You worked with colorist Tan Shu. I am always interested in the dynamic of artist and colorist. Do you communicate often as to color palette for your drawings or do you leave that to your colorist and the editor to make those calls?
ML: I love Tan! Tan is a really good friend of mine so I was ecstatic when I found out she was going to color the book. At the beginning, I sent her some color samples of the characters I had done as well as some mood boards. I also included some movie recommendations that I felt could give her some inspiration for color palettes. She worked directly with Fabrice for the most part but reached out to me a few times when she didn’t quite understand his feedback or wanted my perspective on something. Overall, I was so delighted to see how much life she added to the pages whenever I saw her work.
What Fan’s Might Learn
GVN: MPLS Sound is an impressive book and a great look at the music scene during Prince’s career and the influence he had on the music and the people making it. I asked this question of Joseph and Hannibal so I will ask you as well. What do would you hope fans of Prince might learn from this book that perhaps they didn’t know? Whether it be about him or the music world in general at that impressionable time.
ML: There was a lot about Prince that even I didn’t know before going into this book. I still consider Prince one of my idols but I would suggest fans of Prince to recognize areas where he was a little problematic as a person. No one is perfect and I think it’s important to remember that even great artists can have a dark side.
GVN: Thank you so much Meredith. Before I let you go, do you have anything else coming up that you would want our readers to know about?
ML: I can’t disclose any titles right now but I am currently working on a graphic novel adaptation of a YA horror/thriller that I am very excited about. I am also preparing some of my own projects to be announced in the future as well.
GVN: Well that just means we will be keeping an eye out for when your next projects are announced. That’s what we do.🖖🏻 Thanks again, Meredith. We do appreciate it and we will be following MPLS Sound with great interest. I expect great things from it.
Humanoids MPLS Sound is available March 13th where great comics and graphic novels are sold. Be sure to check out our interviews with MPLS Sound writers Joseph Illidge and Hannibal Tabu coming soon to Geek Vibes Nation.
Senior Writer at GeekVibesNation – I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 17 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.