We profiled Joamette Gil of P&M Press at the beginning of 2020 as part of our Vision 2020 series. At the time she was about to launch a Kickstarter for her press’ latest comic anthology, MAÑANA: Latinx Comics From The 25th Century. As 2022 starts, that journey is finally completed, Mañana is now out in digital format in both English and Spanish, with physical copies set to be available on Wednesday, January 12. The collection features 27 young adult stories by creators all across the United States and Latin America. The futures these artists imagine stretch from the depths of Earth’s oceans to distant stars. Some imagine radical utopias, others reckon with post-apocalypses, and some fall somewhere in-between.
It’s been almost two years since we last spoke, which feels like a lifetime ago, and you were just about to Kickstart Mañana. Did the pandemic change any of your plans for publishing?
It really does feel like a different era. The pandemic changed a lot of things, but it did not derail us, thankfully. It made everything we wanted to accomplish take much longer than it normally would, both because of supply chain back-ups and the added stress and life challenges everyone involved had to deal with on top of making comics. One good thing that came out of it, actually, was that it finally pushed us to partner with a wonderful indie fulfillment center, named White Squirrel, for all future campaigns and sales. I couldn’t exactly load thousands of books into my own apartment and live at the post office anymore in the middle of COVID lockdown!
Before Mañana, Power & Magic published fantasy such as your Queer Witch anthologies, what was it that made you decide to take on science fiction this time? Do you see parallels between these genres? Or do they allow for the exploration of different ideas?
I see a future for P&M Press where we take on all genres of fiction and non-fiction, with a steady focus on centering BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ people, and other marginalized communities and issues. Fantasy, sci-fi, and horror are where my personal interest is greatest, and it just felt like the right time to branch out beyond magic!
Since this would also be our first Latine-centered anthology, I didn’t want to come out of the gate with anything that focused on folklore or the past. As much as I love both of those topics, it can feel like educating the reader about our cultures, at times. Instead, I wanted Latine creators to look ahead and position ourselves within futures we have the power to shape for ourselves.
Fantasy and sci-fi are very much related as speculative genres. They both ask “what if the world were like this?” The difference is that sci-fi can narrow that focus down to what’s actually possible (or at least plausible). It brings to mind what’s going on in the present that could either lead to or prevent such realities.
Are you a fan of science fiction? What did you want Mañana to bring to the genre?
I am! My favorite book is Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, which was definitely “baby’s first warning” about the surveillance, privacy, and policing concerns of which we’re all now very aware. Dystopia is another genre I absolutely enjoy and wanted to keep out of Mañana. Many people smarter than me have already pointed out that warnings in the form of fiction most often cater to the fears and concerns of the privileged, whereas marginalized people are already perfectly aware of nightmare scenarios like food shortages, “alien” invasion, loss of freedom, destruction of their ecosystems, ad nauseam. The sci-fi in Mañana is most concerned with survival narratives: what new obstacles might we face, which old problems can we solve (or not) and how, and what will we learn about ourselves — as Latines and as human beings — along the way. Mañana brings Latine futurist thinking into sci-fi comics.
What was the process for finding the artists and what kind of work were you looking for?
As far as the story, I was looking for work that reflected (at minimum, the writers’) lived experience and personal heritage, and that told of a future for their people. That future didn’t have to be utopian per se, but it had to situate Latine people and cultures as persisting. For the visuals of the anthology, I was looking for youthful styles, for sure, as it is a YA title! I also tend to look for artists whose styles have a lot of personality, styles that you look at and say “ah, I know exactly who drew this.”
The selection process itself was our most rigorous to date. For past anthologies, we accepted applications from standalone creators and from creative teams that were formed prior to the application process. Quickly, I realized that wouldn’t work for Mañana. One of my goals was to assemble as diverse a group of creators as possible under the singular (and complex) label of “Latine.” We’re talking about a label that applies to people of every race, with heritage from any one of over 20 nations. My independent research into outstanding comics creators turned up a wealth of creators, but mainly from the same two places: Mexico and Puerto Rico. To make our application process more accessible to creative voices from as many countries as possible, we allowed writers to apply independently (without a teammate who could draw) for the first time. (Artists without a story in mind could now apply independently as well.) This way, I could evaluate writers’ ideas on their own merits, artists’ portfolios on their own merits, then pair the accepted applicants into writer/artist teams based on compatibility between story and visual style (and writer/artist preferences from among a sampling of the accepted applicants).
Voices with great things to say from their specific, regional perspectives, who could not draw or had never worked with an artist before, could now be heard in the medium of comics!
A nuts and bolts question: What do you see your role as, when working with artists, as an editor?
Good question! I’ll assume this means “what does editing artwork look like, as opposed to editing scripts for things like story structure, consistency, grammar, etc” because that’s something many editors who are new to editing comics and graphic novels are still sussing out.
In the traditional comics industry (think Marvel, DC, Fantagrphics, Image, etc), editors function both as a traditional literary editor and an art director. A good comics editor needs to understand visual storytelling techniques, semiotics, composition, anatomy, and color theory as well as (if not better) than they understand how punctuation works. They must also be familiar with the technical side of art reproduction (which colors print well, what is the difference between true black and rich black, etc).
Essentially, my role as an editor when working with the artist is the same as my role when working with the writer! I evaluate comics pages for visual structure and pacing, the impact of using certain compositions or symbolism, consistency, and any glaring issues that could distract from the reading experience or cause the final product to look subpar. A second set of eyes just makes even the most talented creator’s best work really sing!
You have a story in here as well, Miami Story, where humanity lives in an enormous tower that stretches from the ocean floor to space. Your protagonist makes their way down to the ocean for the first time. Was there a particular image or idea that inspired this story?
Haha, yes, unfortunately! Miami Story, written by me and drawn by Ashanti Fortson, is part of my grieving process for Miami’s inevitable disappearance beneath the waves. Scientists have concluded that Miami will become uninhabitable due to rising sea levels caused by climate change in less than a century, and that we’ve passed the point of reversibility.
The sci-fi part of the story is, of course, the megastructure rooted deep into the ocean floor and extending into our future in space. On an emotional level, the megastructure is also a liminal space between “the future” and our past on an inhabitable Miami (or an inhabitable Cuba). The protagonist doesn’t yearn for Miami or for Cuba, though, at least not directly. These are ancient, buried ruins she has no lived connection with, and the culture itself still exists all around her, as Cuban culture has and always will transcend place.
What she does yearn for is the ocean, the water that covers her entire world, although only certain classes can access it for work and leisure. To me, this is meant to represent the complicated relationship between Cubans and Miami (sometimes “refugees seeking political asylum and human rights,” and sometimes “foreign, white-adjacent conservatives settling/gentrifying a different nation this time”). The ocean destroyed the physical locations her people claimed, provided the resources and luxuries the luckiest survivors enjoy, and… the ocean is what carried so many Cubans to and away from “home.”
What’s next for Power & Magic? Do you have any personal projects coming up?
Most of 2022 will consist of prep work leading up to our next call for submissions, which will once again be very different from what and how we’ve done things in the past. On a less mysterious note, we will be focusing on getting Mañana and the rest of our library into as many new hands as possible this year, outside the US and Canada in particular.
As for personal projects, soon I’ll be able to announce other exciting works I’ve been editing outside of P&M Press titles! Folks can follow me on Twitter (@joamettegil) for more on that.
For folks who love Mañana do you have any recommendations of other Latinx science fiction works? (In any medium)
I actually don’t! What I do have is a reading list of Latine sci-fi works I want to check out myself, including Latinx Rising: An Anthology of Latinx Science Fiction and Fantasy (prose), Cybersix by Carlos Trillo and Carlos Meglia (comics and animated series), and Eternaut by Hectór Germán Oesterheld and Francisco Solano López (comics).
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