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Iron Circus describes itself as strange and amazing. That’s also a perfect description for its spotlight panel at C2E2 ’19, featuring founder C. Spike Trotman, creators Kel McDonald, Blue Delliquanti, Emily Riesbeck, Lisa Naffziger and moderator and assistant editor, Andrea Purcell, who opens the discussion by asking each creator to talk about their upcoming projects.

McDonald’s anthology series Cautionary Tales and Fables takes fairy tales from underrepresented continents and turns them into YA graphic novels. Her most recent entry, titled Tamamo and the Fox Maiden and Other Asian Stories follows up her previous The Girl Who Married a Skull and Other African Stories and the Europe Edition.
However, McDonald wasn’t with Iron Circus from the onset of this series. She self-published the first two volumes of her series on Kickstarter, beginning back in 2012. It was only partway through the publishing of the Africa volume, when McDonald ran out of copies, that she pitched Cautionary Tales to Trotman, in hopes that Iron Circus could put the series back in print. McDonald is an Iron Circus vet at this point and the third volume, Tamamo and the Fox Maidenreleases next month.
Trotman adds in at this point that she couldn’t resist taking Cautionary Tales under the Iron Circus banner; YA comics and OGNs are contributing to the biggest boom in the industry. Plus, McDonald’s story was similar to Trotman’s own. When Iron Circus was in its infancy, about 10 years ago, there was a huge stigma to self-publishing anything. She recalls being told to grow up and take out a loan rather than ask fans to invest in a project. Those same people were furious when her first Kickstarter campaign nearly quadrupled its expected revenue.
She says she envies 22-year-olds in this day and age because of the resources they have available. If they want their comics to be out there, she says, they have everything they need.
Next, the panel moves to Delliquanti and their graphic novel, Meal. Delliquanti takes the opportunity to ask if anyone in the audience has ever eaten an insect; that cuisine, it turns out, is a major part of their book. The inspiration for Meal comes from a trip to Thailand, when Delliquanti first tried insects. She remembers going out to the rice fields in big groups with huge urns and ultraviolet lights: traps. The lights would attract bugs inside the urn, where a sticky substance would hold them for cooking to be fried on the spot with rice and vegetables. Since returning to the States, Delliquanti’s panelists attest, they have incessantly badgered their friends to try insects.
Delliquanti and co-creator/food writer, Soleil Ho, share a belief that insects are next line for a cuisine homogenization that we’ve seen happen to ramen, pho and now poke. This food gentrification is exactly what their book, Meal, centers itself around. This book wants to contextualize this particular bit of food culture with a multidimensional idea of where it comes from.
Emily Riesbeck’s comic, It’s Your Funeralis just as strange and amazing. Riesbeck is interested in the oddities of the mundane, bureaucracy and office life; all that meets in this graphic novel. Our protagonist, Marnie Winters, decides to take control of her drab life. She’s sick of feeling powerless in where her life is going, like so many of us. That’s when she dies. Her office chair explodes in a freak accident in which the pressurized gas was over compressed.
Riesbeck assures listeners this doesn’t actually happen – but you never know. Marie is flung, then, into an afterlife internship the trans-dimensional Department for Spectral Affairs, the bureaucratic purgatory designed to funnel lost souls into their designated resting places. Riesbeck is excited for the 2020 launch of this episodic comedy that they call a mash up of Dead Like Me and Parks and Rec. It’s Your Funeral is a story about getting better, realizing it’s okay to not be okay and other mishaps of daily life.
The panel then moves to Naffziger, who’s here to talk about premier graphic novel, Minus, which releases in JuneThe story begins with a young woman named Beck Beveroth on her way to college orientation with her dad. Beck is a sheltered, home-schooled student who relies on her parent like a safety blanket. She’s been accepted into an out-of-state school of her dreams, but she’s apprehensive about being so far from home. That’s why she’s traumatized when the two are separated during a gas station shooting.
Trotman and Naffziger describe Minus as a hardline YA comic that pushes the idea of what we think of as a young audience. Out this June, it’s a mature but important story for a time in readers’ lives when anxiety can be overwhelming.
Lastly, Trotman herself takes the floor as she discusses her miniseries, Delver, a comic she prefaces by saying that she will never shut up about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a game she’s spent hundreds of hours exploring. The concept for Delver first crossed her mind while playing one day. She was rolling out of dungeons, her pockets brimming with ancient artifacts ready to be sold to – a man who sells pigs? Trotman realizes the game is allowing her character to determine what’s valuable, dropping gold plated armor the farmer will never use and taking literally his last cent in return.
Inspired, she did some research and came across the story of a Mali king who decided to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. To prepare for the year-long journey, he brought thousands of pounds of gold and, of course, thousands of followers. As they travelled, this massive caravan would ride up to villages, drop bags of gold and take every crumb – even build mosques every Friday to keep up with Muslim practices. The king left economic disparity that lasted an entire generation.
These ideas meet to create the baseline of Delver. A typical village is totally disrupted when a mysterious living entity called dungeon appears beneath its foundations. It’s followed by merchants, adventurers, sellswords and the titular delvers: those who excavate the dungeon in hopes of recovering priceless artifacts. The story itself follows one villager and her family as they try to decide whether they should fall into the craze or fight back against it.
On a last note, assistant editor Purcell warns ‘do not drop acid and read Delver.’
After each creator plugs their current work, Purcell transitions into Iron Circus’ anthology series, the upcoming You Died, a death-positivity collection featuring a story from Raina Telgemeier as well as the publisher’s well-established sex-positivity collection, Smut Peddler.
You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife also boasts a cover from Nick Robles and will be available to ship on October 15. The latest volume of Smut Peddler, meanwhile, is titled Silver and will collect erotic comics starring silver foxes that may or may not be inspired by Jeff Goldblum. Smut Peddler: Silver Edition will be available in 2019.

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