FCBD21 Interview: Graphix Creators Discuss Navigating Allergies and Doggos in Allergic
May 28, 2021
If there’s two things we can all agree on, it’s that allergies are the worst and puppies are the best! So, what’s a person to do when they desperately want a doggo, but their allergies interfere? Well, with some research and determination, it’s possible to find the perfect pet for your lifestyle!
In Allergic from Graphix, Maggie is the odd one out at home. Her parents are preoccupied with the new baby they're expecting, and her younger brothers are twins and always in their own world. Maggie thinks a new puppy is the answer, but when she goes to select one on her birthday, she breaks out in hives and rashes and finds out she's severely allergic to anything with fur! It’s up to Maggie to do her research and find a way to outsmart her allergies so she can have the perfect pet.
This delightful children’s tale is all about resiliency, navigating family relationships, and finding ways to be yourself! We talked with creators Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter learn more about what to expect in the pages of Allergic, what they hope readers take away from the story, their favorite thing about making comics, and more!
Check out the full interview below and be sure to head to your local comic shop on Saturday, August 14 to celebrate FCBD in all it’s glory! Plus, it’s our 20th anniversary, so there’s sure to be extra goodies!
Free Comic Book Day (FCBD): Set up your title for those that might be new to your comic book: What will new readers need to know before diving into your Free Comic Book Day issue? Who are the characters and what’s the storyline?
Megan Wagner Lloyd: Allergic is the story of Maggie, an animal-obsessed kid who’s about to get her very first puppy when she finds out she’s allergic to all animals with fur or feathers. But Maggie is determined to do whatever it takes to still find the perfect pet!
FCBD: What are some of the themes of your book and what do you hope readers get out of it?
Michelle Mee Nutter: The themes that I connected with were friendship, personal struggles and trying to find yourself. While of course allergies are the main struggle, Maggie’s life is so dynamic and vibrant. I hope readers walk away from Allergic knowing more about allergies but also seeing characters their age exploring conflict and persevering.
Lloyd: Allergic has themes of resiliency, navigating family relationships and friendships, and finding new ways to be yourself. I hope readers with allergies feel seen and readers without allergies feel a renewed sense of empathy. And that all readers will just really enjoy following along with Maggie on her journey.
FCBD: What did you enjoy most about writing/drawing this comic? Can you share some of the inspiration behind certain characters/settings/etc.?
Nutter: Drawing Allergic was the most challenging and rewarding project I’ve ever had. I enjoyed finding my process as a new comic artist and learning with each panel. While drawing, I got the chance to really explore characters and put on my actor hat for every scene. It was really fun! I was so inspired by the people around me and for a lot of the characters, I tried to embed subtle personality traits from my loved ones. I wanted Maggie and her world to feel as real as possible.
Lloyd: Allergic was my first graphic novel, so I really enjoyed learning the format. I had so much fun figuring out how to use the pacing of the panels and the page turns and all the details, like thinking up sound effects. It was also very cathartic to make a book inspired by something that has always been very annoying to me: my allergies! Just like Maggie, I’m allergic to all animals with fur or feathers. Maggie’s personality isn’t based on mine, but her animal allergy experiences are inspired by my experiences.
FCBD: What was one of the most surprising things you learned while working on this book?
Nutter: I learned a lot about allergies and the process of testing and treatments. But the most surprising thing was actually about my own drawing techniques. I was realizing I needed to draw very differently for a graphic novel, compared to picture books. There were a lot of simplifications that were made just to keep the momentum for that many pages.
Lloyd: That dogs and cats can be allergic to humans!
FCBD: What other comic books would you compare to this title? “If a comic reader likes _______ , they should pick up my title?”
Nutter: I’d say our book is for readers who loved Smile, Be Prepared, and This One Summer. All three of those books beautifully followed characters going through change and adapting to new challenges.
Lloyd: I think Smile and Guts by Raina Telgemeier, Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright, and El Deafo by Cece Bell would all be great picks, since they’re all about navigating interwoven personal, friendship, and family challenges.
FCBD: Looking to the future, is there anything you can tease about what's coming up for the title and its characters?
Lloyd: We’re both really excited to be working on another standalone project together with Graphix! Our new story has an entirely different set of characters and circumstances but is sure to appeal to kids who love Allergic.
FCBD: What got you into reading comics?
Nutter: When I was a kid, I loved reading Calvin and Hobbes. From there, I fell in love with Marvel, Manga and a bunch of graphic memoirs. The art always grabbed me instantly and the comic world is just getting better and better.
Lloyd: I also read a lot of Calvin and Hobbes growing up. And then as an adult, I fell more and more in love with kids’ graphic novels, beginning with books like Babymouse and Smile.
FCBD: Did you always want to work on comic books?
Nutter: I think so! Except when I was younger, I didn’t think I could actually do this for a living. I was a bit scared to admit it, but I always knew comics were a huge love and here we are!
Lloyd: For a long time, I didn’t know it was possible to be a comics writer. I thought I would have to be an artist as well. But as soon as I realized that I could write comics, I became increasingly obsessed with the idea.
FCBD: Many newcomers will pick up comics for the first time on FCBD—what was the first comic you remember reading?
Nutter: We had a big anthology of Calvin and Hobbes comics in our house. It was my brothers and I would always steal it. I remember sitting on the floor for hours, just looking at all the panels.
Lloyd: Same here—Calvin and Hobbes anthologies. And newspaper comic strips.
FCBD: What is your favorite part about working in the comics industry?
Nutter: Getting to meet other comic artists. It’s such a unique field and the artists working on comics know just how difficult it can be. Being able to talk to one another and share advice makes this community feel stronger.
Lloyd: It’s really fun to be making books that kids are incredibly excited to read (often over and over again!). I feel very lucky to be working in the comics industry, where I am constantly inspired by the creativity of comics creators.
FCBD: Tell us why everyone should read comic books!
Nutter: They’re so much fun! They’re such a labor of love and they can transport you to so many places. I can’t visualize things in my mind, so comics and animation were always really inspiring to me. They gave me a visual understanding that reading alone could never do.
Lloyd: Number one, because they’re so entertaining! And I think another great thing about comics is that they are a really fun way to dip into various genres that you might not normally read. A lot of kids are resistant to reading outside their favorite genre—but a comic can quickly change their mind and expose them to new types of stories.
FCBD: What is your favorite part about Free Comic Book Day?
Nutter: It’s a way to invite new fans and spark comic readers for life! Free Comic Book Day is one of my favorite days and there’s nothing better than meeting other comic fans.
Lloyd: Going with my family to pick out new free comics!
FCBD: Where do you plan on spending Free Comic book Day?
Nutter: Not sure my exact plans, but hoping to go to Jetpack Comics in New Hampshire. My friends and I went last year and it was a lot of fun. The town makes a whole day of it and there’s a lot of excitement. If I can’t make it up to NH, I’ll definitely stop into my local comic shop, Million Year Picnic in Cambridge, MA.
Lloyd: In 2019 I had a lot of fun going to Victory Comics in Falls Church, VA. I’m also excited to check out Fantom Comics in DC.
At home, Maggie is the odd one out. Her parents are preoccupied with the new baby they're expecting, and her younger brothers are twins and always in their own world. Maggie thinks a new puppy is the answer, but when she goes to select one on her birthday, she breaks out in hives and rashes. She's severely allergic to anything with fur!
Can Maggie outsmart her allergies and find the perfect pet? With illustrations by Michelle Mee Nutter, Megan Wagner Lloyd draws on her own experiences with allergies to tell a heartfelt story of family, friendship, and finding a place to belong.
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