Lani the Leopard
n t e r v i e w
is completing a spectacular new graphic novel about
a 12 year old girl who suddenly finds out she can turn into a leopard. Following is an excerpt from a recent
as-it-happened interview between Geof and Zachary, a 12 year old
skateboarding whiz who likes comics.
What made you want to do a kids’
I happened to be drawing the portrait of
a jungle king and his princess one afternoon. Must be about three or four
years ago, now. Suddenly I began to wonder what these two people would
have been like as kids. How did they get to the jungle? Were they born
there or did they end up there by accident?
So it’s actually the story of Lani
and a prince?
Sort of! But I thought, what if the 'prince'
was already there — in the jungle, I mean. And what if the princess
ended up there by accident?
By ‘there’ you mean the jungle?
In this case, an island — roughly
located near the Tahiti zone. But this island is almost impossible to
How does Lani get there, then?
Lani's parents, Jane and Craig Larkspaw, are archeology
professors who get a year off — a sabbatical — to do research. So they are told that they
should visit this island.
How do they know about the island?
A very few, very greedy people know the place
parents don’t know it, but they are being set up. The few who have ever
gone there ended up dying because of the grave dangers around and on the
island. But one or two professors have managed to make it there and back. One of them found the fragment
of a scroll hinting at the existence of an immortality elixir. But only
Lani’s parents are smart enough to find the missing pieces, put
them together and decode the hieroglyphics.
So they get there safely — with Lani?
Lani, her parents and her nasty sister Kallah
actually make it on to the island, which you can only get to by boat
because of weird atmospheric interference.
How does Lani figure out she has the
power to turn into a leopard?
You’ll have to read the book
[chuckles]. All I can tell you is, things go from bad to worse —
especially when Lani comes face to face with Vaspira, a totally evil
When does the book come out?
I’ve now [as of mid-July] reached page
110 of 140 pages in rough layouts.
In my case, these are rapidly-sketched,
penciled figures with blocked-out background, which give me a pretty good
idea of perspective and storytelling rhythm in advance. I had originally scoped out a 128 page
book, but there’s so much action, so many twists. And I wanted to give each character to have
enough space, no rushing over anything.
I guess you'll have
to turn those rough layouts into finished pages?
Yes. I now have 43 actual finished pages [see
line up of panels taken from these pages on right]. It is a rather painstaking process, especially as I have to proceed
in tandem with the demands of everyday life.
When are we going to see the third
installment of Lincoln-16? It’s been, like, nearly eight years since the
Unlike Lincoln-16, which was originally
conceived as a bi-monthly comic book, the entire Lani story will be
available as a single book. Which means it will be available in
regular bookstores as well as comic shops and of course, directly over the
How can you do so many different
The old creative impetus, I guess. An idea
grabs me, I become very curious and, I guess, just have to see where it
will all lead. Even though I'm the captain of the ship, I really don't
know how a story will really turn out until I've written and drawn the
whole thing from start to finish.
I know what’ll happen. They’ll
all come out around the same time and then everyone will say, “How
does the guy do all these different things at the same time?”
[laughs] Maybe! At this point, I don’t
know whether I have the heart to mention that there are two other graphic
novels floating around in my head.
Oh yes... One is a faerie fantasy about a runaway wood nymph named
Glydia and a troll named Krugall who is so hideous he can’t even stand to
look at his own reflection.
So the troll is after
You got it. Krugall is so obsessed with
Glydia, he's constantly following her. But he's afraid to death of what
would happen if she ever had a real look at his face. So he winds up becoming her
unseen protector, even saving her life. A sort of
Beauty and the Beast situation.
Does Krugall get the nymph?
You’ll have to wait till the book
Yeaasahhhhhhh, forever. What’s your other idea?
It’s a ‘day in the life’ story
about this guy called Krudge who lives a down and out lifestyle but has
unusual abilities. Like the ability to challenge an Olympic weightlifting
contender, even though he lives on a diet of cigarettes, coffee, donuts and burgers.
There are plenty of comic moments because of this guy’s ‘who
cares what everyone else thinks?’ attitude.
Is this Krudge based on anybody from
In a way. He’s more an amalgam of
Montreal characters who drift in and out of the downtown area. Not including The Great Antonio, a super strongman
with a heart of gold who used to haul buses.
That guy deserves a book all his own.
Hi! I’m Lani Larkspaw. I’ve been trapped here
on this island for weeks. One day when I
came back for supper my mom, my Dad and
my sister, Kallah all . . . just disappeared.
This is Ini, my best pal and the only one who
didn’t disappear. He’s so super smart, he can
almost talk. He even knows how to cook.
Ever tried banana-mango soup?
Sure, this place is so cool, you have to see it to believe it. There’s lots to eat and I get to hang out in this super cabin someone built on top of a monster sea cliff.
I miss everyone, especially my Dad. Why can’t
everything just go back to the way it was before?
I used to get so mad at Mom always pestering me. “Lani,
did you finish your chores yet?” Weird, how I’d give
anything to hear that now.
I guess I also miss my older sister. Even
is a total creep.
always pulling rotten pranks on me and
calls me ‘geek-brain’ because everyone
I’m smarter than she is.
One morning, Ini and I are out looking for my family and fresh mangoes for lunch when all of a sudden we come face to face with...a leopard! But he doesn't even try to attack us, just keeps staring, almost like he's trying to figure us out.
Life around here is getting scarier and weirder. . .
Freaky storms and underground caves, boiling lava
pits, a hurricane whirlpool and scary ancient
cat-humans keep poppping up.
Will I ever find my parents? What is the leopard’s secret?
Is Kallah mixed up in all of this somehow?
What will I find in those underground caves?
Hold on to your whiskers!
I ever about to find out...