Spotlight on Girl On Film by Cecil Castellucci – A Review and Interview

Cecil Castellucci is an incredible artist in the true sense of the word. She began her quest to share art with the world by spending her life studying to be a filmmaker. Ultimately, she has thrived and shared stories with the world through many mediums. She has written Young Adult novels, and graphic novels. She has written for DC Comics and is the current writer on Batgirl. She has fronted a couple of punk rock bands, and also written hockey-based operas, to name a few media.

Most recently, she has written a graphic memoir called Girl on Film that is published by Boom! Studios. We acquired an advanced copy of the book that comes out in comic shops on November 12, 2019 and everywhere else the following week. Let me tell you, it is wonderful, and there is a more detailed review below.

We also reached out to Ms. Castellucci, and she graciously agreed to answer a few questions for us. You can find our interview below the book review. It was a great experience from us and we hope you enjoy it too.

Girl On Film
Boom! Studios / Archia
Written by  Cecil Castellucci
Art by Vicky Leta, Melissa Duffy, V. Gagnon & Jon Berg
Colors by Kieran Quigley & Joana Lafuente
Letters by Mike Fiorentino
Cover Art by Caz Westover

Original Solicitation

One thing young Cecil was sure of from the minute she saw Star Wars was that she was going to be some kind of artiste. Probably a filmmaker. Possibly Steven Spielberg. Then, in 1980, the movie Fame came out. Cecil wasn’t allowed to see that movie. It was rated R, and she was ten. But she did watch the television show and would pretend with her friends that she was going to that school. Of course they were playing. She was not. She was destined to be an art school kid.

Chronicling the life of award-winning young adult novelist and Eisner-nominated comics scribe Cecil Castellucci, with art by some of the most original illustrators in comics, Vicky Leta, Jon Berg, V. Gagnon, and Melissa Duffy taking on different era of her life, Girl On Film follows a passionate aspiring artist from a young age through adulthood to deeply examine the arduous pursuit of storytelling, while exploring the act of memory and how it recalls and reshapes what we think we truly know about ourselves.

PCS Review:

We were blown away by this book. It is truly an all-ages presentation of very interesting life. Castellucci candidly opens up about the successes and failures of her journey through life. It is an extremely engaging read. Despite being 160 pages, it flows incredibly well. There are some terrific repeating interlude devices that she uses and they are marvelous. Overall the content of the story and the construction of its delivery is fantastic.

The art and lettering in this book are beautiful. As you can see in the interview below, conscious decisions were made for the style choices for different sections of the story, and it is easy to say that those choices were inspired. Each of the artists captured the exact temperment of the characters in the pages that they worked on. The colors were also a key factor in telling the story by subtly guiding the reader to the mood of the scene.

We highly recommend this book. It is an inspiring tale of perseverance told in a wonderfully welcoming manner.

Interview with the writer:

Pop Culture Squad: In the book, there is a point where you recognize that you have felt the “call” of comics. How long was it from then until you acknowledged and answered the call?

Cecil Castellucci: It’s funny.  I think that going to those Bande dessinees en direct in Montreal and witnessing the birth of Drawn and Quarterly definitely pulled at me.  When I was in my band Nerdy Girl, I did do a mini comic insert for a music video that I didn’t have the money to make.  But I think the real moment where the comics call snapped into focus for me was when I was living in Austin, Texas with a boyfriend, and I went to the comic book store and picked up Deadenders by Ed Brubraker and Warren Please.

I had been working on writing a YA novel and trying to get published, and when I read that book, I thought, “This is a YA comic book.  I want to do that.  I can do that.”  So, I actually started Alta Vista-ing how to submit a comic to Vertigo, but I couldn’t really figure it out. You know, how to break into comics.  So, I just kind of had this secret wish to write comics and more specifically, Vertigo comics that I was carrying around.

Eventually, like six years later, Shelly Bond was doing her Minx Line for girls, and she had read my first novel, BOY PROOF, which was about, amongst other things, a girl who liked comics.  When she reached out to me and said she was from Vertigo, I was like, “I loved Deadenders.  It’s YA!”  And she was like “I edited Deadenders.”  And, thus, finally my searching to try to get to do comics wish had been heard.

PCS: What was the best experience that you had in writing this memoir of your life?

CC: I think, over all, it’s the peace that I’ve made with the journey of becoming an artist.  And the peace I’ve made with all the things that really upset or wounded me in the past.  I was talking the other night with a friend about being kicked out of my first band Bite, and I got all misty-eyed.  But, you know, I’m friends with all of those ladies now.   Two of them are some of my closest friends. I think it’s so wonderful that I could write those scenes in the book and still feel all the hurt and love and joy from that experience, and then, be so many years down the line and be like, “Right on! Life!”  It’s nice to be able to see how you survived what you thought was the end of the world.  And at the time, that certainly felt like the end of my world.

PCS: You have lived an eventful life. Did you take time in writing this to just look back and go, “Wow!’?

CC: Ha ha.  All my life, when I tell stories, people are always like “Wait, what?” And they laugh or are gobsmacked when there is some crazy celebrity cameo.  But I don’t know any differently!  As I’m now older, I do think, “Oh good, I really have always been going for it and trying to feast on experience and life.”  Probably that has to do with the fact that I always thought that, as an artist, you had to constantly be nourishing your soul and filling your creative bank.  I will say, I feel extremely lucky at all the stuff that I’ve done and got to do and experience.  And I can’t wait to have a lot more fun and experience in the next fifty years.

PCS: Your relationship with your parents plays a big role in the book, and you continue to share some of your interactions with them through your social media presence. How has their support in your life journey shaped who you are?

CC: Oh man.  My parents are the best.  Really, truly, the best.  They have always been supportive of me.  I think the one thing that I really understood when I was young was that it was very lucky that they really believed in me. So, it was my job to make sure that support wasn’t misplaced.  It really motivated me to make sure that I got things done, and really tried, and that I did things.  They are emotionally supportive, but they’ve also helped me on occasion when I was starting out with grocery money, a little rent help, and emergency stuff to the best of their ability.

I think that when I published my first novel, I was so happy that I’d done it and that I had made their long bet on me a good bet.  They continue to be my biggest fans.  They read all my books, see my operas, listen to me spin out my story ideas.  I just love them so much and am glad that they are my parents, but also really glad that they are my friends!  I want to give a shout out to my brother Laurent, too.  He is the person that I bounce ideas off of all the time, and that has been essential to my journey as well.

PCS: The interludes with you and your Dad are one of my favorite things. Did you talk with him about that before, or as you were writing the book?

CC: It was as I was writing the book!  We had a couple of Skype interviews that I recorded, and I asked him all these questions.  I think it was fun for him to tell me all about his work.  When I was growing up and my parents talked science at dinner, I was always like ARGH!  But I went through some troubles like ten years ago, and I was staying with my parents while I was getting better. One day, I went along with my Dad to see him give his lecture at the University of Montreal, and I was blown away by the lecture and the research he did. I always knew that he was cool, and smart, and all that, and I had a vague idea about the actual work, but that day it was like I forged a new relationship with my dad.  Which is always nice.

PCS: Did you have specific visual feel that you were looking for in Girl on Film, and if so, how did you go about getting that realized?

CC: I think the one thing that Sierra Hahn, the editor, and I talked about was that we wanted to have it grouped in different sections so that it would sort of show growth and change.  For me, I wrote the book in genre sections.  Approaching each “story” as a different genre.  War, Romance, Indie, Horror, Documentary, etc.  I wasn’t sure how many artists we would get, like maybe one for each genre, or something.  But Sierra had the great idea to make it three different ages and the memory stuff, and to find artists that suited each of those parts of my life: childhood, teenager, college age, and memory.

I think we were so lucky with the amazing art of Melissa Duffy, V Gagnon, Jon Berg and Vicky Leta.  They really were so wonderful in the way that they took such care with my life.  I gave them a lot of reference and tried to find stuff for them when they needed it.  But what I loved about what they did was that they really got the spirit of how I moved through the world.  Amazing.

PCS: Though you have changed vessels throughout the journey, your trip on the river of art has brought you to where you are today. Are you happy with where you are?

CC: I realize that the journey the whole time was telling stories.  And that’s what I do so, Yeah! I am happy with where I am today.  The odds are that one day I will be at a film premiere, and who knows, maybe I’ll even write one one day!  But yeah, I think what I didn’t realize when I was young was that what I really was wishing out into the world was stories.  I just thought that meant film because that was my entry point to falling in love with stories.  I guess, like I say in the book, I’m exactly where I wanted to be.  And I’ve got a million more stories, and ways of telling stories, that I’m going to do.

PCS: If we could change topics, what do you find most rewarding about the work that you have done in comics?

CC: For me, writing comics is like being in a band.  You are in this wonderful collaboration with a group of people who care just as much as you do about how to tell the story.  It’s an extraordinary medium.  I am so happy that I get to do comics. 

PCS: Can we take a moment to acknowledge the amazing art partners that you have had in your comics work? I mean from Marley Zarcone, to Adriana Melo, to Carmine Di Giandomenico. Wow!

CC: I know. I pinch myself all the time. I mean really. I love every artist I’ve worked with and would work with all of them again in a heartbeat. Every project has been wildly different and amazingly rewarding.

PCS: Do you find that your fans cross between genres and mediums?

CC: I don’t know! I think people like the stories that they like, and if they like a story you told, they might try another that looks to be their flavor.  But not everyone is Ooh Twee! Punk rock music, and contemporary Young Adult novel goodness, and weird madness arty comic, and superhero/princess Leia, and contemporary opera about hockey.  The good news is that I have a story for everyone, and I’m very glad when they love something. My hope is that, every once in a while, people try another story.

PCS: Do you have a favorite character that you treasure above all others? It can be from any media?

CC: Too hard a question! I will say here are a few that popped into my mind today.  Anne Elliot from Persuasion.  Princess Leia from Star Wars. Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road.  Anne from Anne of Green Gables.

PCS: Thank you so much for doing this!!

CC: Thank you, and I’m so happy that you loved the book.

You can find Cecil Castellucci on Twitter and Instagram.

I also recommend checking out her website, which has access to teaching guides for some of her novels.

You can pre-order or purchase Girl on Film on Amazon right now.


Coming Up:

In January, the third volume of her graphic novel series The P.L.A.I.N. Janes with Jim Rugg comes out. We hope to be bringing you coverage of that book as it gets closer.