Lawrence Lindell is an Oakland-based cartoonist, zinester, musician, and educator. Part autobio, poetry, and advocacy, Lindell’s comics touch on issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, and mental health in a thoughtful, concise, and deceivingly simple manner. In recent years, through his copious output, tabling, and public speaking, Lindell has made a name for himself with his self-published comics, including From Black Boy With Love (2017), Both (2018), and Couldn’t Afford Therapy So I Made This (2018). He recently self-published his first graphic novel, From Truth With Truth. I spoke with Lindell briefly about the creation of this book, his creative process, and what is most valuable to him as a creator.
WT: What inspired you to make From Truth With Truth?
LL: My life, I guess. I have been making autobio comics for a long time, but they are usually broken into sections of my life. From Truth With Truth puts all the pieces together. So if anyone has read any of my comics before this one, it gives a broader look at my life and answers some questions folx might have.
WT: How did the experience of making a graphic novel differ from that of making zines and minicomics?
LL: With zines I work with a very loose and free structure. Things don’t have to be in chronological order or “make sense”, but with the memoir I followed the standard way of structuring a book. Chapters, continued narrative, etc. I followed it very loosely though. Then that became too restricting so I reverted back to how I make my zines.
Whit Taylor: Tell me a little bit about your writing, drawing, and editing process. Did you seek out any advice or support while working on this book?
Lawrence Lindell: Originally I pitched this book to a publisher, but I ended up not going that route. My editor would have been Steenz! Maybe we will get to do something together in the near future. When Steenz was gonna be my editor, I outlined the whole book first, so she could see what I had in mind. I then took that outline and based the book off that. I ended up cutting out almost 50 percent of that outline, though. After the outline, I drew and wrote as I went along. Page by page, no thumbnails for this book, except for like three pages. After I draw and write, I ink the page traditionally, scan, then flat it in photoshop. While doing that, I’m also drawing the page numbers and writing the intro, definitions, thank you notes, etc. Then once all that is done, I start laying the book out. How I want the pages to turn, where everything goes, etc.
My fiancée is usually there and I’m showing them page by page and asking how they feel when they are reading it. Most of the support I sought out while making the book was to talk out how I was feeling about self-publishing versus working with a publisher. When I told my support system I wasn’t going to go with the publisher and I was gonna do it how I always do it (DIY), they confirmed that that was a great idea.
WT: Mental health education and awareness are a significant component of your work. How do you plan to use this book to talk about mental health and in particular, bipolar disorder?
LL: By talking about my specific experiences. I don’t just use definitions, I use definitions that specifically apply to me and my lived experience. I think with this book, though, I just want folx to experience and use what they can from it. Or just experience it. I’m always talking about mental health, so I think this book just gets added to my regular spill. Lol.
WT: What has the reception to the book been like so far?
LL: It’s been really good! The community has shown up in full force. Even though I cancelled the Kickstarter, the support from that alone was enough to let me know I’m on the right path. I am so grateful to have blurbs from Gabby Rivera and Maia Kobabe for the book. The pages and promo stuff I post online have gotten great reception, and I recently debuted the book at BCAF in San Francisco. The reaction was great! A lot of folx that I let read the advance copy reached out to me and said the same things. It involved crying and appreciation for how I handled the presentation of trauma and healing.
WT: Tell me about your Kickstarter experience. I know that you eventually decided to cancel your campaign and print/distribute the book through your site. What did you learn from the experience?
LL: I learned that sometimes I should go with my gut and first instinct. I learned that I still need to work on trusting myself. I learned that when your community supports you, they support you.
WT: How do you get your work out to your intended audiences? What are strategies that you have found work for you? Any avenues for marketing, education, and promotion that you haven’t explored that you’re potentially interested in?
LL: Social media! Instagram is great for me. I tour year round as well, so I table and attend a lot of zine fest and indie comic fest. I also do a lot of zine and comic readings. I go to community events. I think it’s less about marketing for me and more about building community. Because I show up (actively participate in the community in my own ways), the community shows up for me.
WT: On your Instagram, you often post drawings from art therapy. What role does art therapy play for you? What value do you see in it?
LL: All the work I do is art therapy. I still don’t have great health insurance, so therapy through a provider or institution is not really accessible. My art is my therapy. I have therapists who use my work for their clients. I ain’t never been to therapy, but I know I’m doing something right when that happens. My mind is always going, so I have to have multiple outlets to let it out. Art in all its forms allows me to do this.
WT: You are vocal about the necessity of rest as a creator. Why do you feel like this is a message that needs to be amplified, especially in comics?
LL: It’s just not optional. If you don’t rest, your body will make you rest. Either temporarily or permanently. I think a lot of comic creators and creators in general think If they rest they are slacking off, or being lazy. Not me though, I’m like bruh, I’m tired. Imma go to sleep. But, I don’t work with too many outside folx, so I make my own deadlines. Also, my mania tends to lend itself to me being highly prolific. I’m not interested in burning out to stay “relevant” or prove to people that I’m working on stuff. You need rest, especially if your brain works differently and or you have mental health issues. Any company or institution that teaches and praises people to overwork themselves or that deadlines outweigh their health should be destroyed.
WT: Tell me a little bit about your Black History Month comics on Instagram.
LL: I’m tired of certain Black experiences being left out of the story. I’m very involved in keeping up with Black folx from all walks of life doing what they do. I want all our voices to be amplified. I’m Black. I’m Queer. I have mental health issues. I grew up in the punk and hardcore scene. I know so many folx and they are a part of our history as Black people.
I hated Black history month in school. Always the same regurgitated stuff: MLK, Civil Rights, Rosa Parks, Harlem Renaissance, Slavery. We are more than those stories. Those stories should be highlighted as well as what happened from then to now. Especially what’s happening right now. And it always came from a teacher who wasn’t Black and clearly didn’t understand how nuanced each Black experience is.
I have a responsibility to share information with my people. And I won’t wait for people to get their dues and acknowledgment. You Black, you a part of Black History.
WT: What is your 2020 looking like comics-wise? Will you continue your zine tour this year?
LL: I’m planning my book tour. I will be hitting up some local book and comic shops in The Bay. For the local shows I will be doing readings with Breena Nuñez, Trinidad Escobar, and Tanna Tucker. I will also be hitting a few shops in LA. For those shows the line up is Me, Breena, Dustin Garcia, Pepper Rivera, Miranda Tacchia, and Eunsoo Jeong. I have a solo art exhibition at Strut in San Francisco this February, which I’m super pumped for because I will get to show art from the memoir, but I also get to showcase my comics, zines, and work from the past 10 years. I have a secret thing happening in February as well, but I’m not allowed to say yet. I also have a secret thing that hasn’t been announced yet happening in April, but I’m not allowed to say yet. Lol. I also have a secret thing happening in November! Lol, this is a big year for me. I also have my 2nd Daily Shouts New Yorker comic coming out this February too. I’m gonna be touring this book for the whole year, but I’ve already started on my follow up graphic novel to From Truth With Truth! It picks up where the book ends. I’m excited for that. I also have a short comics series I’m doing this year called Wonderful Weirdos. It’s a slice of life comic about Black kids with magical powers.
WT: What comics are you reading right now that excite you?
From Truth With Truth(lol, I have no shame!)
Everything my partner Breena Nuñez is making.
Trinidad Escobar and her son have a new collaboration mini comic called The Man!
This Goth Bitch No. 7 by MV Garcia
Diva World 2 by Carmen Johns
Koreangry by Eunsoo Jeong
One Punch Man
B.b. Free by Gabby Rivera and Royal Dunlap
Madame Satã by Eloisa Aquino
The Haunt of Fear No. 1
Weird Science No. 3
After Laughter by Jonathan Djob Nkondo
WT: And lastly, any advice for new and aspiring comics creators?
Learn the difference between new and unknown. Learn the difference between aspiring and unknown. Some of y’all have been making comics your whole ass life, you’re not new nor aspiring, folx just have not had the chance to experience your comics. If you are new, learn your process. Technical skill does not equal “good” comics. EXPERIMENT, please! Print your own mini comics if you can. Study everything. Even stuff you don’t like, then figure out why you don’t like it. Beautiful drawings don’t equal “good” comics. There is no right way to make comics. Do it how you see fit. But, first you have to learn YOUR process.