Out of Style: 5 Quick Questions with ShortBox's Zainab Akhtar!
Get an early glimpse at one of the loveliest comic releases of the year!
ShortBox is one of the best independent publishers in comics. Run by Eisner-nominated publisher Zainab Akhtar, the small press imprint has published some of the most eclectic and wonderful books of the last decade. The success of Akhtar's groundbreaking online comics festival ShortBox Comics Fair has brought their incredible work to a wider audience of sequential storytelling lovers. In this newsletter I was lucky enough to get to ask Zainab a few questions about ShortBox's newest release Out of Style, an absolutely stunning art book by Devi Putri Megwati AKA Winchester Meg.
'Out of Style' follows 3 young Muslim women: Mila, Yul, and Hana, giving us glimpses into their lives as they go to school, work, spend time with family and friends, shop, and more! As well as being a showcase for Meg's gorgeous art, 'Out of Style' is also an unfettered celebration of young Muslim women simply being themselves -goofy, passionate, sporty, anxious, lazy, stylish (the list goes on) - beyond the boundaries of othering perceptions. With over 100 pages of illustrations and 40 pages of comics, this really is an unmissable affirming debut from a rising superstar artist.
The Out of Style crowdfunder is live now and you still have a week to support it! So read our super fun and breezy Q&A and then head over to grab a copy!
Devi Putri Megwati's style is so delightful and unique. When and how did you first come across their work?
I first came across Meg's work on social media, and I remember being so excited by it because it combined that ligne claire style I grew up on (with Tintin and other Franco-Belgian comics) with a manga sensibility that's brimming with fun and joy. It's that thrill of discovery when you come across a new artist and their work is already so complete. That, coupled with the fact that somebody this talented was a Muslim artist dedicated to drawing Muslim, hijabi girls and women was impressive to me- it's not exactly where the money is...!
When it comes to curating the titles that ShortBox releases, what are you looking for?
I always find this type of question tricky because it's difficult to articulate the concept of taste or having an eye- it's a bit 'I know what I like...!' Foremostly, I need to see something in it: it needs to speak to me. I can't fake enthusiasm about something I'm not interested in, but being enthusiastic about something you do believe in can translate to others.
Thematically, I'm always drawn to the human condition and figuring out the mysteries of what it means to be alive... which is luckily a broad scope! That can be something small: a person in their room with a problem to somebody in space trying to survive. My favourite comics range from Richard Thompson's Cul de Sac to Kentaro Muira's Berserk; my range is broad but also specific in terms of quality.
What's the one thing you're most excited about when it comes to publishing Out of Style?
Honestly, I'm just excited for people to see it and see the extent of Meg's abilities; to have it in their hands and dive into all the amazing illustrations and comics gathered in this collection.
How does the Kickstarter model help you put out books like Out of Style?
Simply put, we wouldn't be able to make these books without crowdfunding. When we were publishing shorter comics via our box model, anything we made would go straight into funding the next box/batch of titles. All our longer-length comics and artbooks have been funded via Kickstarter. ShortBox doesn't receive any grants, funding or investment, so this really is the only way for us to make these books.
What would you suggest as the perfect while-reading snack for when readers get their hands on Out of Style?
I'm waist-deep into my mango summer, so I have to say mangoes, even though that would be very impractical! But delicious... Maybe a good samosa. I'm a savoury person - and that'd still leave a hand open to turn the pages!
You can support the Out of Style crowdfunding campaign here!