Thursday, September 29th, 2011 | 4 Comments

Pope Hats

Ethan Rilly returns to the story of Frances Scarland with the second installment of Pope Hats

When the first issue of Pope Hats made the rounds in 2008, in the form of a mini comic that Ethan Rilly self-published, it grabbed a lot of attention as a remarkable debut work, and was nominated for the Doug Wright award for Best Emerging Talent. Soon thereafter it found a wider audience when published by the awesome AdHouse Books. Great art, well crafted dialogue, and well developed characters left fans wanting more.

After three years, and several false starts, Ethan Rilly revisits the characters Frances and Vickie in a second issue of Pope Hats. The bulk of issue 2 focuses on Frances’ work life at high-pressure Bay Street law firm, as Vickie balances acting and her alcholic tendencies. Both the art and writing have grown in confidence and subtlety making Pope Hats 2 well worth the wait.

Q. There’s a noticeable evolution in the art and storytelling from Pope Hats #1 to issue #2. In both the drawing style, and in the narrative, there seems to be a deliberately greater attention to detail and realism. Can you tell us a bit about how you approached furthering the story and characters you’d set up in issue#1?

Ethan Rilly To be honest, the evolution is probably a result of some false starts prior to Pope Hats #2. I had failed at getting through a weird graphic novel about the main character Frances and her past. It just wasn’t gelling together like I wanted, so I abandoned it. 

I came full circle and got really excited about the idea of doing a comic book again. The format is just so snappy and appealing as a package. I love comic books. It’s funny how they can be both trivial and pretentious at the same time.

I decided to not worry about being faithful to the first issue and I approached the story with a clean slate, which made it really exciting to write. I really wanted to flesh out Frances’ external world.

Pope Hats by Ethan Rilly

Pope Hats page 4

Q. Your depiction of the frenzy of the main character Frances’ work life in a high pressure law firm seems so real. Was this inspired by your own work experiences?

Ethan Rilly I’ve never worked for a corporate law firm, but yeah, I probably draw from some of my own work experiences. I have worked with an assortment of government lawyers, though they tend to be super calm compared to lawyers in other arenas.

I think a lot of my stuff comes from the fact that many of my friends aren’t really artists or cartoonists and just have very normal and challenging office jobs. I understand what they go through. That world seems much more real to me than the “artist life” or whatever.

Pope Hats by Ethan Rilly

Panel from Pope Hats page 11

Q. A crowd favorite character from the first book, the ghost Sarsgaard, was absent from this story. Can you kill off a character that’s already dead?

Pope Hats by Ethan Rilly

Pope Hats page 2

Ethan Rilly Ha ha, good question. I’m not much of a crowd pleaser, apparently. Sarsgaard fell victim to the clean slate. I think I decided much earlier that a talking ghost character was too gimmicky and easy for my changing interests. I hope people don’t get too upset about it. 

I decided to not worry about being faithful to the first issue and I approached the story with a clean slate, which made it really exciting to write. I really wanted to flesh out Frances’ external world.

Pope Hats by Ethan Rilly

Pope Hats page 3

Q. Both your main characters are women, both with very divergent career paths. Do you find it challenging to write from a women’s perspective?

Ethan Rilly I haven’t given too much thought about what it means that these characters are women or how I should treat them. I guess I just think about them in terms of character. As a reference, I think about girls I’ve known pretty well over the years. 

Q. What does the title “Pope Hats” mean to you?

Ethan Rilly It’s just a punchy and meaningless title. I like that it has a tinge of irreverence. It creates a very silly image but quickly morphs into nothing at all. Does anyone literally think of a spy plane when they hear “U2″? I wanted something solid and simple that you could get behind, like “Love & Rockets”. Plus, how lame is it when a title is exactly the contents of the book? Very lame!

Pope Hats by Ethan Rilly

Pope Hats page 37

S&TM: We’d like to thank Ethan for taking the time to do this interview.

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