Grace Ellis brings the past to life in ‘Flung Out of Space’


About five years ago, Columbus comic book writer Grace Ellis attended a Broadway production of Paula Vogel’s play, “Indecent,” which focuses in part on a historic theatrical controversy.

In the days and weeks that followed, Ellis considered the possibility of adapting the play for a comic book, eventually abandoning the idea after correctly assuming that the story derived much of its strength from the way which she explored the history of theater from the real scene.

“And so, I started wondering if there was some kind of comic book equivalent to that,” Ellis said in a mid-April interview. “The history of comics is such a mystery, because it was such an inexpensive art form. … But I kind of remembered that Patricia Highsmith could have done something in comics, and more I was diving into it, the clearer it became that it was a hidden story on purpose. [the form] so much so that she literally burned her comics and all evidence that she ever worked on them. It’s very dramatic, I know, which is great for a character.

Highsmith, best known as the author of psychological thrillers such as The Talented Mr. Ripleytakes center stage in Ellis’ latest comic, Thrown Out of Space: Inspired by the Indecent Adventures of Patricia Highsmith (Surely), made in collaboration with Baltimore artist Hannah Templer and out today (Tuesday, April 19). Over the course of the book, Ellis presents a condensed and slightly fictionalized narrative highlighting some of the lesser-known aspects of Highsmith’s story, including his work in the comic world, a brief relationship with Stan Lee, and his struggles. endless to live as a queer woman in 1950s America.

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In developing the book, Ellis began by telling the story of Highsmith to everyone who listened – Lyft drivers, hairdressers and friends, willing or not – gradually developing a rhythm and rhythm, as well as an understanding of the characters and peaks. emotional to which listeners were usually drawn.

After completing an initial draft script shaped by these narratives, Ellis connected with Templer, the artist behind the “Cosmoknights” webcomic. The two quickly established a natural bond, which they accentuated by creating Spotify playlists for each other, the idea being a shared soundtrack could help the two exist in a headspace. similar while they were working on the project, with Ellis’ musical contribution drawing heavily on songs from the 1950s, including specific tracks cited in Highsmith’s biographies.

“Honestly, the closer you work with an artist, the better the book, in my experience,” said Ellis, who received his introduction to Highsmith through his novel. The price of salt (later reposted as Carol). “We were talking through individual panels, looking at the important stuff, and then how far [Highsmith] look in a panel, which is so granular but hugely profitable.

Although the two worked closely on the project for months, Ellis and Templer never met in person due to the ongoing pandemic, which has also pulled the book down in more subtle ways, such as the locking-induced comfort that both display throughout immobility. .

“It’s a script that’s not afraid to have quiet moments,” said Ellis, who shared some of the tricks comic book writers can use to control the reader’s pace. “If you want a ‘good page turner’ in quotes, ask a question at the bottom of the last panel before you turn the page, even if it’s as simple as, ‘Who said that?’ …It’s something small to keep him moving, in a way. And when you don’t, there is also a certain effect, and it will slow down [the reader] drop a little. »

Inside pages of "Thrown Out of Space: Inspired by the Indecent Adventures of Patricia Highsmith," by Grace Ellis and Hannah Templer

Ellis’ research for Thrown out of space consisted of reading several biographies on Highsmith, as well as Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, a book in which the late author claims to educate readers in the craft. “But it was really about his own neuroticism,” Ellis said with a laugh. “And I loved that. I found it to be really instructive.

The image of Highsmith that emerged was not always pretty, however, with these various texts drawing attention to a number of the author’s personal flaws, including his relentless feminization and his comfort with verbalizing racism. , misogyny and anti-Semitism – traits that Ellis refused to shy away from in an effort to give readers a fuller portrait.

“Honestly, it was pretty devastating to learn, and the more you learn, the more devastating it gets,” Ellis said. “But you can’t change the past, and she’s no longer alive, so all you have to do is address all of her biases head-on and make sure they’re part of the reader’s understanding of who she was, because it’s the truth. … But it’s an important story. So, I decided to tell the story and not be super nice to her about it. Plus, the fact that it’s a tape comic book and that she hates comic books is a nice little nose edit on its own I think.

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