Brenna Thummler: A Captivating New Voice in Comics
Updated: Jan 24, 2020
I picked up Brenna Thummler's new graphic novel "Sheets" on a recommendation from my local comic shop. I had no idea who she was, I just trusted the guys at my LCS. Once again their suggestion was a home run. This book was so different than what I normally would have picked up. Brenna crafted such a unique and beautiful book, that still resonates with me 3 weeks later. Creating an OGN by yourself is no easy task, and she did a phenomenal job with her first one. I can't wait to see what else she has up her sleeve in the future. I hope you guys all go pick this book up, you won't be disappointed.
1. First off I loved Sheets, it’s different than other books I usually get, but I’m so glad I picked it up. It being your first original graphic novel, how was your experience doing everything yourself?
Scary! But I’ll call it a rewarding test of strength. I can get intimidated by the smallest of decisions, and creating an original graphic novel is one major decision after another. You’re not just taking a character from point A to point B.
You’re creating an entire world of characters, shaping their stories and personalities, throwing obstacles at them and helping them achieve their goals. It’s so much work, and never enough time! But it’s also an incredible gift to have something that’s completely your own. The people of Finster Bay have become my friends, and I have learned so much from them. Creating Sheets challenged me as an artist, and I’m shocked by how much I’ve grown. It also challenged me as a person, though, and I feel fortunate to be in a business that forces me to constantly look deeper into myself.
2. It has a very personal feeling to it and all the characters "feel" real. Where did your inspiration come from?
I put a lot of myself into it. My laundry has never haunted me, nor has an insane man in a pastel suit tried to steal my house. But I began writing the story back in college when I was struggling with many of the same emotions as Marjorie. We have all felt lonely and pressured and sad, but there are times when it gets so overwhelming that your life feels out of control, and you often can’t explain the source of your problems (like a ghost that brings catastrophe, but you only notice when he’s a sheet). Some situations seem overly ridiculous and unfair (like the relentless harassment from Saubertuck). I wanted to balance these emotions with a whimsical story that encouraged hope and perseverance. In addition to this, there are more tangible pieces from my life, like the piano playing, the pumpkin farm, the names of businesses (most of which are named after friends and teachers), and other personal easter eggs. I love hiding these things in my work, because the small details are what make a story come to life.
3. The art was absolutely beautiful, the colors made every image pop off the page. Do you feel doing all the art (pencils and color) yourself helps you get exactly how you picture it in your head?
Absolutely! I start to envision the characters and setting and scenes from the very beginning. I don’t move on to the drawing stage until the story is fully written and edited, but the visuals still dance in my head as I’m developing the manuscript. There’s no question: I have to do all the art myself. Creating a graphic novel is such a personal experience—I put all of my heart into it. Even if another artist could do it ten times better (and I know many could!), it would no longer feel like my own.
4. What first drew you to the comic book industry?
In college, I was pretty adamant about never entering the comic book industry. I didn’t think it was something I’d be good at or enjoy, and I was blind to how diverse “comics” had become. Then in the summer of 2015, I stumbled into a thrift store, where out of hundreds of shelved books, the spine of This One Summer caught my eye. I pulled it down and was awestruck by the illustrations, took it home, and still stubbornly assumed I wouldn’t find it any more than “okay”. It is now, and will forever remain, my favorite graphic novel, and one of my favorite books overall. A couple months later, I was asked to illustrate the Anne of Green Gables adaptation. (Fate?) While the college Brenna screamed “Are you nuts? What’s wrong with you?”, I skipped into the belly of the beast and never looked back. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
5. Who are some of the people that have inspired you?
Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, obviously, for the graphic novel that changed everything. But also Raina Telgemeier for proving the place of females in comics, Vera Brosgol for her power of simple gesture and expression, Daniel Handler for his quirkiness and dark humor, Jodi Picoult for her stories that are “real” and full of human problems, and Wes Anderson because he dares to be different and man, he’s just so great.
6. Are you currently working on anything that you can talk about?
I am at the very beginning of a couple new projects, actually! I’m not sure how much I can disclose…but maybe readers shouldn’t say goodbye to Marjorie and Wendell, just yet. Graphic novels do take a very long time, however, so don’t hold your breath, readers! In the meantime, devour your way through the graphic novel section of your local bookstore.
7. What would be your dream project?
I think I already did it. Sheets was a dream come true, and I feel so unbelievably lucky! However, I just had the fortune
of traveling throughout Iceland, and my new dream is to write a story that takes place in the wilderness of that beautiful, extraordinary country (and hopefully spend a lot more time over there, you know, for research). I also wouldn’t say no to another adaptation of a classic, or even a contemporary story like Holes or A Series of Unfortunate Events. Also an adaptation of the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty—can I please do that?