Rick Geary Interview (DEC 2008)

 height=In his career in comics, Rick Geary has worked for National Lampoon, drawn Mask children's books for Dark Horse, created the popular Treasury of Victorian Murder books at NBM, and much more. Now, Dark Horse is collecting the stories featuring his creation, Blanche Womack, in The Adventures of Blanche. Westfield's Roger Ash recently had the opportunity to ask Geary about this collection.

Westfield: For those who are unfamiliar with the Blanche stories, what can you tell us about them?

Rick Geary: Blanche is a young woman from the Midwest who tours the world as a concert pianist during the early years of the 20th century. Along the way, she confronts mysteries, skirts danger, and meets many notable historical figures. The character is based ever-so-loosely on my grandmother, who studied piano in New York at the turn of the century and later taught music in her tiny Kansas town.

Westfield: What are some of Blanche's adventures in this collection?

 height=Geary: The collection consists of the three stories that have been published previously as individual comics. In the first, she travels to New York to study piano under a famous instructor and finds a strange religious cult under the streets of the city. In the second, she finds work at a film studio in the early days of Hollywood. And in the last she finds herself stranded in Paris and is recruited to prepare a musical stage production with Picasso and Eric Satie.

Westfield: You tell the stories as illustrated letters that Blanche writes to her parents. How did you come up with that storytelling device?

Geary: Point -of-view is very important to me in both reading and writing stories, and I always prefer first-person narratives. I'm not sure why this is - probably because it limits and paces the output of plot information, much as in real life. In my non-fiction graphic novels about classic murder cases, I adopt a more omniscient point-of-view, as dictated by the subject matter. The Blanche stories, however, demand a more personal approach, and the letters - a time-honored fictional device - seemed perfect for this.

Westfield: These stories take place in very specific times and places with Blanche often encountering real people from history. How much research do you do for these tales?

 height=Geary: I've always been a history lover, and I rely for these stories upon my general knowledge of the cultural history of the early 20th century. I haven't done any specific or detailed research, such as finding what exact dates DW Griffith filmed Intolerance, for instance, or where Picasso had a studio in Paris. Blanche's adventures are fictional, after all, and I keep the history somewhat loose and fanciful.

Westfield: There is a new story in the collection. What can you tell us about it?

Geary: The new material in this collection isn't strictly a Blanche story but a 3-page personal reminiscence about my visits, as a kid, to my grandmother's small town in Kansas. This introduction mixes fact and fiction to tell of how I came across the letters that form the narrative of the three stories.

Westfield: Looking at the Blanche stories and your Treasury Of Victorian Murder books, you obviously enjoy stories with a historical setting. Why is that?

 height=Geary: To treat a subject with any amount of humor or irony, I believe, requires some distance and detachment, and nothing is better for this than a story from history. Besides, it's fun to draw the costumes, furniture, buildings, carriages, etc.

Westfield: Are there any other projects that you're working on that you'd like to mention?

Geary: I'm currently at work on the next two volumes in my Treasury of 20th Century Murder series. First to be published will be a account of the still-unsolved 1922 murder of the Hollywood director William Desmond Taylor. Next will be the saga of the Axe-Man of New Orleans, who dispatched several people in 1918-1919. In addition, I have two new Blanche stories plotted out: Blanche Goes to San Francisco in which she shares adventures with Dashiell Hammett and Harry Houdini, and Blanche's Murder Case, set in Kansas during the Great Depression.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Geary: Nothing really, except to say how grateful I am to Diana Schutz at Dark Horse, whose idea it was to publish a Blanche collection and who expertly shepherded the project to fruition.

To link to this interview, use this link (right click and copy)