Interview with Anthony Coulter, Illustrator of Spencer Quinn’s My Mirror Tells a StoryAnthony Coulter
Greg Johnson: Anthony, tell us about your contribution to this project. How did you and Spencer collaborate?
Anthony Coulter: Spencer came to me with a basic script and I sketched out the characters and scenes that I thought would pair well with the book’s concept. We had a decent amount of back and forth on the general page layouts, but once everyone was happy with the outline it was entirely up to me to bring the book to life with colorful illustrations.
GJ: How did you decide on the general style and look of the characters?
AC: Stylistically my goal was something of a hybrid between cartoonism and realism. Cartoons are extremely fun for children and they often convey ideas better than realism, however today so many cartoons are fantastical representations that distort reality to the detriment of children’s minds. Given the serious message of the book I wanted to make the illustrations believable and relatable to kids reading it.
GJ: Were you influenced by any particular illustrators?
AC: Although the style is my own, a part of my research included finding other children’s books that captured the same feeling as My Mirror Tells A Story in an engaging, memorable way. One that sticks out for me is called You Are Special, Little One by Nancy Tafuri, which portrays multiple families of wildlife — foxes, penguins, and lions — all in their natural habitat, answering their young’s simple question: “Why am I special?” The book ends with a picturesque scene of a European family having a picnic and answering the same question asked of their little boy. The author’s style isn’t ostentatious; rather she presents what is and lets the beauty of her art speak for itself.
GJ: Did the illustration phase lead to any changes in the story?
AC: None that I recall, however, I originally presented a slightly different order for some illustrations in the middle section of the book. I’ll allow the reader to imagine for himself which scenes might have been swapped during the design process.
GJ: Do you think race-conscious comics and graphic novels are a promising genre to develop?
AC: Yes and no. It’s important to remember that most children (and most adults) aren’t going to seek out a book because it’s race-conscious. Ultimately, the quality of the writing and illustration is much more important than a clear pro-white message. And in some cases, I think a more subtle message about race is going to be more effective because it won’t take away from the story itself.
Having said that, a book like My Mirror Tells A Story does acclimate people to our ideas, even those who consider themselves to be “anti-racist.” That’s simply the effect that quality, emotive art has on all of us. I’m no more immune to it than you or the gal down the road. Powerful propaganda in the form of graphic novels, films, and music is how the other side has cemented their hold over culture for so long, and so reversing that without art of our own is, I believe, a futile endeavor.
GJ: What effect do you hope this book has?
AC: My hope is for this book to be something of a cult favorite that has a lot of “staying power” and actually becomes more popular the longer as time goes by. I hope parents who buy it hold onto it for many years, every so often telling a friend about it, and maybe passing it on to their grandchildren. I hope that people of all races who have imbibed the omnipresent hatred towards European-descended peoples will stumble upon it and soften their attitude about us. Lastly, I hope this book helps everyday people see that whites having children isn’t evil, but rather normal, healthy and good.
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