Rob Vollmar is not just a former contributor to this site (and its progenitor, Comic Book Galaxy), he’s also been a great friend of mine for the past decade. But that’s not why I’m talking to him about his new project. I’m talking to him about Inanna’s Tears because he is the writer of Bluesman and The Castaways, two of the best graphic novels of the last 10 years. New work from Rob Vollmar is exciting news indeed, and I am in Rob’s debt for taking the time to talk to me about his new project with M.P. Mann, Inanna’s Tears.
Alan David Doane: Rob, correct me if I’m wrong, but Inanna’s Tears is your third full graphic novel to see print?
Rob Vollmar: That is correct. Castaways originally in 2002, Bluesman Complete in 2006 (i think) and now, Inanna’s Tears.
Inanna’s Tears is quite a departure, narrative-wise and visually, from the Depression-era concerns of Castaways and Bluesman. Tell me how the project came about, and what the story concerns?
I 'd say it was the intersection of several factors. For my first post-Bluesman project, I wanted to get away from the Great Depression as a setting.
The kernel of the project came from my interest in ancient history and was in line with my usual concerns about belief, faith, power and how they intersect in people’s lives. I did about three years of intensive research, even while we were still working on Bluesman, studying the rise of civilization and the tools that made it possible. I became fascinated by the particular seam of history that Inanna’s Tears represents and started looking for ways to inject it with a compelling narrative.
The story focuses on the transition of power from the matriarchal communist theocracy that forged the tools of civilization and the patriarchal militaristic autocracies that used those tools to create the idea of empire.
How did you go about humanizing such complex ideas?
Well, it wasn’t easy. Our data on how exactly this transition took place is incomplete at best and I had to compress what probably took several hundred years to complete down on to a fulcrum, if you will, of a particular moment in time.
Ultimately, successful fiction is about people and their relationships, so I did my best to personify the various interests into believable characters and then opened up the floor to see how they might interact with one another.
Tell me a little bit about your artistic collaborator, M.P. Mann and what he brought to the project.
Marvin has been working in the comics industry since the late 1980s. I believe he helped ink some of the latter issues of The Trouble with Girls at the end of the black and white boom. As I was fishing around for collaborators, I was already familiar with Marv’s work on Lone and Level Sands and found it to be in harmony with the kind of look I wanted for Inanna’s Tears. When I approached him about the project, I was more than pleasantly surprised at the kind of questions he was asking.
Questions about textiles, architecture. I could tell immediately that he had both the visual and intellectual chops to bring this remote period of history to life.
How smooth was the partnership once you got rolling?
Very smooth. Marvin has a gift for visual storytelling and blocking that you can’t embed into a script without becoming overbearing. He also works VERY fast and brought a certain energy to the creative process that was different than my experience with my earlier books. He knows how to suggest detail without laboring over it. That’s a valuable commodity to say the least.
Who do you think is the ideal reader for Inanna’s Tears?
I think it is a book that works on several levels. Folks with an interest in history, anthropology and language are going to feel like it was written for them.I think it also features a very accessible story within about people and how they love and how, on occasion, that love can destroy their ideals that most anyone could identify with.
I come from a liberal arts background and was using Greek theater as my model for Inanna’s Tears. It’s a conversation about universals set in a very specific moment in time.
It’s taken a while for the book to be collected in graphic novel form, but finally it will be available in February. Tell me about the road to publication.
Well, it was long and winding. But just as we were about to bring the GN to market, the economy fell apart with the difficulties that we have now in the Direct Market in tow. It went very quickly from a market very inviting to GNs to very hostile in a very short period of time.
To Archaia’s credit, they never said, “Sorry, fellas, but we just can’t do this anymore.” We all stayed in communication and, after a few hard fought battles to get the word out and get reflecting pre-order numbers, we’ve finally gotten to the place where print makes sense. Both Marvin and I are very grateful that we’ve had advocates for the book on the inside who care about creators and have worked hard to live up to their obligations, contractual and otherwise.
Tell me how readers can make sure they get their own copy of Inanna’s Tears.
As a former Direct Market retailer, my first piece of advice is always to try and support their locally owned and operated comics shop. Finding a responsive one can be a challenge depending on where one lives but it is worth the effort.
Barring that, the book is available for order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other reputable online retailers. I will also be partnering with Atomik Pop in Norman, Oklahoma to make signed copies available for purchase at regular price plus shipping for those who’d like that personal touch. We’ll be releasing details about that through our Facebook page, which we encourage people to join if they want to be kept in the loop on updates.
See the Flash trailer for Inanna’s Tears at Comics Worth Reading.