One of the great strengths of comic books and graphic novels is to share powerful stories about relationships with all types of audiences. In the case of Painted by Kev Sherry, Helen Mullane and Katia Vecchio, it explores the relationships of young women from their early lives in school and how events effected each one. Throughout the narrative, it examines bullying, courage, physical maturation, and the difficulties that a lack of proper adult guidance can cause. Painted is powerfully told in word and visuals by this talented team. With their book dropping from Humanoids on October 12th, it seemed like a good time to talk to them. So let’s welcome Kev Sherry, Helen Mullane and Katia Vecchio to GVN’s Talking Comics Interview, starting with Kev Sherry.

Talking to Kev Sherry

GVN: Thanks for sharing a moment of your time, Kev. So, what was the inspiration for Painted and how did the collaboration with Helen Mullane come about?

KS: I’ve always been interested in how power plays out across society, and specifically with regards to the misuse of power in oppressing people, especially in regards to gender. I still routinely discover ways in which I have been blind to these many oppressions. “Painted” was an attempt to explore some of the layers of patriarchal taboos and oppressions that women and men find themselves at the mercy of.  As someone who still feels like an eternal teenager, those years when we enter adulthood felt like the most obvious place to start. When we took the book to Humanoids, Katia and I soon realized we needed the input of an experienced comics writer to tidy things up, bring another feminist perspective, and strengthen some of the core ideas. Helen was the natural fit, having written her own highly regarded works and (crucially for me) produced a documentary about my favourite comic, 2000AD.

Mixing Music and Comics

GVN: I don’t blame you a bit. I am a big fan of Helen’s writing. When you are not creating comics, you are first and foremost a musician. I had read that your solo album Foxy Orthodoxy was written in the shared universe with Painted. Did the music come before the comic and how did they intertwine?

KS: It all sort of happened at the same time so I can’t really remember what single moment started it. What I did discover was that as soon as I opened the floodgates to comics and music together, the ideas just wouldn’t stop. (I wish I’d known this years ago… it would have dealt with some nasty cases of writer’s block back in the day). And the barrage of ideas in my brain shows no signs of stopping. With the excitement of “Painted” about to be published in the USA and UK, the songs are flowing and on Oct 6th with my new musical side-project, Disco Mary, I’m releasing a song called ‘Kids Games’ that is directly inspired by the characters in Painted. Which is pretty good timing, what with the book coming out the following week. I hope people get to experience both works together as reading “Painted” while listening to the songs will kind of give you a glimpse into my own brain and also hopefully create a deeper emotional connection with the graphic novel.

GVN: Thanks, Kev. We’ll be sure to check it all out.

Revisiting Helen Mullane

GVN: Pleasure to talk to you again, Helen. (We talked about Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen and Mushing previously). So tell us about Painted and your work with Kev Sherry. It is a powerful look at friendship, bullying, courage and the importance of parental and adult support.

HM: You too! “Painted” tells its story from the point of view of an adult woman confronting the mistakes and traumas but also joy and growth of her girlhood. The story explores the power and limitations of teenage friendship and ideas of guilt and shame, especially for young girls in a really interesting way. I love how confronting it is, using one of the true taboos of young teen society, periods, to drive a relatable and exciting story.

Kev is such a fun writer to work with. He is so open and he really thinks deeply about what he writes. Over the course of the project we had some fascinating discussions about all the issues brought up in the book, and the intricacies of all these friendships and the tendrils of cause and effect that buffet our young people protagonists.

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Working with Katia

GVN: You explored those inner connections and the emotional turmoil they can cause quite wonderfully. On this project, you and Kev have partnered with talented artist Katia Vecchio. How did this talented artist come aboard?

HM: Kev can speak better than me on how we were lucky enough to land Katia. I can only say how much I appreciate her work on this book! Katia did the inks, colours and letters on this book so it really does hinge massively on her skillful, emotive storytelling and bold, clear style.

GVN: Her talent really shines through on Painted. Thanks again Helen for speaking to us again. And speaking of Katia, lets talk a moment with artist Katia Vecchio.

Introducing Katia Vecchio

GVN: Thanks for spending some time with us Katia. When did you take an interest in art and comic art specifically and who were your artist inspirations that motivated you to pursue it?

KV: Ever since I was a child I loved drawing, scribbling and playing with colours. I used to divide the sheets of paper into four parts to draw a mini comic story without balloons, because I narrated out loud what the characters said to each other. I loved watching anime and cartoons not only for the story itself but above all because I liked looking at the art. My older sister was the one who brought me closer to comics, first to manga and then to American and European comics. I thought that one day I wanted to draw comics too, so I joined the comics school in Rome. I have several artists who inspired me. One of them is Naoki Urasawa, not only for his incredible storytelling, but also for his beautiful art style.

Taking on ‘Painted’

GVN: You have partnered with Helen Mullane and Kev Sherry on Painted. What was it about this project or story that got you on board for the book?

KV: I’ve always loved comics that talk about teenage stories and which touch on significant and modern topics. Painted has all these characteristics and gives strong messages to the reader that go straight to your heart. Feminism, bullying and problems in parental relationships are topics that are dear to my heart. This was enough to get involved 100% in the story. Kev had a brilliant idea with Painted and Helen has been a perfect wingman. I’ll never stop saying that.

GVN: The results of your all your work was outstanding. Thanks to all of you for your time. We will be following Humanoids Painted with interest as it releases on October 12th.

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