Jesse Lonergan Discusses ALL STAR

All Star, a serialized version of the latest graphic novel from Jesse Lonergan makes its digital debut today, via Comixology.

Lonergan, who previously released Joe & Azat and Flower & Fade through NBM, previously released All Star as a series of mini-comics at conventions.  Those same eight chapters will be released through Comixology before the graphic novel edition is released on March 12, 2014.

All Star is set at the end of the school year in 1998.   A time when Mark McGwire is racing Sammy Sosa to break the home run record, Bill Clinton is being questioned about a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky, Semisonic’s Closing Time is on top of the charts, and Carl Carter is leading the Elizabeth Monarchs of rural Vermont to the state championship in his senior year. A full scholarship to the University of Maine is waiting for him, and everyone says he has a shot at the pros. He’s so good he can do whatever he wants.

Until he makes one very arrogant mistake.

Jesse took some time to discuss the book, its influences and its origins.

What was the genesis of All Star?

All Star is a book that’s been kicking around in my head for five or six years, and there are a lot of different inspirations for it. In my head, it was called The Country Book or The Vermont Book, and the town that I grew up in is a huge influence. All Star is fiction, but so much of it is drawn from the place I grew up in and the people I grew up with. That’s where the setting came from. The seed of the narrative is the concept of the high school superstar approaching the end of high school. For some people high school is the glory days, and it’s just so short a time, and the rest of life is so long.

Did you play baseball or any other sports in high school?  Was any of the story autobiographical?

Actually, I would have to say All Star is the least autobiographical of my books. I think people really want my comics to be autobiographical, but they aren’t. I think it gets confusing because they are so grounded in the real world. I played basketball in high school because I went to a school so small that basically anybody who wanted to could be on the team, and I’m kind of tall, so I didn’t really have much choice. There are some events that are based loosely on things that happened, but by the time the story was done, they had changed completely.

A serialized version of All Star is being released on Comixology before its print debut.  These 8 serialized chapters you originally sold at conventions as you worked on the book.  How much of the book was structured in advance or did the story evolve as you put the chapterbooks together?

It was pretty thoroughly planned out. My method for writing All Star was to just sit down with a sketchbook and draw a six panel grid on the page. Then I would just fill the grid with the comic, page after page. I didn’t worry about page layouts or anything like that. I ended up filling three sketchbooks with All Star (over 250 pages). I scanned all those pages and passed a pdf around to some people who I trust. They gave me some feedback, I added some things, removed some things, and then I sat down to draw the book. When I was drawing the finished pages I knew pretty clearly where I was going.

 What were your influences for the book?

Before I would draw a page I would sit and read a Will Eisner story and just look at how he sequenced panels. I’m not the biggest fan of his stories, but the storytelling is amazing. I can’t think of anyone else who I find more readable. Your eyes just flow so smoothly from panel to panel, and he does so much with so little. He’ll set the scene with just a window and a table, but that window and table will tell you all you need to know.

Narratively, I’m not sure that the influences are that direct. All Star is a book about a high school baseball superstar, so, of course, I’m aware of Dazed and Confused, Friday Night Lights, The Natural, and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. I also did a lot of reading about baseball. There’s a great book by Mike Lupica called Summer of ’98, which is a really intriguing book because it’s written before all the steroid scandals. It’s so loving and reverent towards Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds, and it expresses a sentiment that you just don’t hear anymore. It’s amazing how much has changed.

Your blog, Dancer a Day, truly showcases your talent capturing both subtle and extreme body language, which is on display on every page of All Star.  Can you discuss your interest in capturing both dynamic and intimate moments on the page?  Do you use models? 

I think my interest is pretty simple: I like movement. I like moving whether it’s dancing or playing sports. I like watching people move, and I like the way that movement expresses character. So much is said by the way a person carries themselves. On the baseball field and on the dance floor you get to have grand movement, and in quieter situations when it’s rather still, just the littlest movement can have the greatest importance.

I looked at photos of baseball players and I watched videos as well, so I guess there was some model work, but with a comic, I think you have to push motion a little bit further. I found I actually had to distort the body to really get it to move how I wanted and feel like an accurate representation.

Why should someone check out All Star?

Because it’s great! Tooting my own horn isn’t something I really like to do, but All Star far and away the best art I’ve ever done so far, and the story is definitely the richest and most complex. It’s the total package.

All Star Chapter One premieres today on Comixology for 99 cents, with Chapter 2 being released on 2/19, Chapters 3 & 4 on 2/26, Chapters 5 & 6 on 3/5 and Chapters 7 & 8 on 3/12 for $1.99.

The All Star graphic novel from NBM will be in comic shops on March 12th with a general trade release on April 1, 2014.


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