From Shadows to Light: Interview with T. Perran Mitchell
If graphic novels are something that you geek out about, then this interview with graphic artist and letterer T. Perran Mitchell is one that you will want to read! He is the creative mind behind “Shadow of a Gun”, a compelling and powerful narrative that takes the reader on an emotional and evocative journey, based on his own experience of being mugged at gunpoint. He’s penned and lettered many comics over the years and shows no signs of stopping! He has faced and overcome obstacles like PTSD, Dyslexia, ADHD. All of these leading him to where he is today. Pull up a chair and get ready to meet T. Perran Mitchell.
GeekPost: Let’s talk about your graphic novel, Shadow of a Gun. Could you share a bit about the story and what readers can expect from it? What motivated you to write about being mugged at gunpoint?
T. Perran Mitchell: Shadow of a Gun recounts the experience my roommates and I had being mugged at gunpoint. We take the reader from the mugging through to testifying in court. A lot of the focus is on my struggle to overcome the PTSD I suffered from the mugging. While this is a heavy topic, I tried to sprinkle some humor in what I hope is a compelling narrative.
For the past 20 years I’ve been trying to do something with this story. I finally had enough distance from the event to emotionally handle telling it in this much detail. I also think I’ve honed my craft enough to do the story justice. Finally, I knew had to write it now before my memories fades any more than they already have.
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GeekPost: How did you approach portraying mental health issues in Shadow of a Gun? What message do you hope readers will gain from it?
T. Perran Mitchell: I tried to come from a personal and honest place about my own mental health. I’ve been in therapy on and off for most of my life, so I’ve thought and discussed mental health a lot. I wanted to lean into how to use the medium of comics to express the emotions and experience of PTSD. And I wanted to show what short-term counseling really looks like.
I hope the reader will think about their own mental health and if it’s time to get a little extra help. For people who have been through something similar, I hope they feel less alone. That they feel their own experience is not odd or strange because I went through it too.
The more we talk about these struggles the less we feel alone. Not too long ago I posted online that I get what I call the “Afternoon Sads.” Basically, I get depressed most days for a few hours around 1 or 2 pm. A number of people reached out saying that they thought they were the only ones who this happened to.
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GeekPost: Can you tell us about your collaboration with artist Monica Gallagher on Shadow of a Gun? How did you work together to bring the story to life visually?
T. Perran Mitchell: I’m incredibly lucky to work with someone as talented as Monica. We first met at the Small Press Expo (SPX) back in 2004 or 2005 and over the years became friends. She is my favorite person in comics and the first person to really make me feel like a colleague. After I had written the script and edited it a few times, I reached out to Monica to help me tell this story. Being that it’s so personal I needed someone who I trusted and felt comfortable with to handle the art. Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to be able to get Monica for this project. I assumed she’d be far too busy with other jobs. When she said she was available and interested I was over the moon.
We had a few video chats about the story and the script. Monica brought in a ton of great ideas that I incorporated into the script. The way I write comics is in full script form with how many panels I think will be on a page, the dialog and what’s happening. I focus a lot on what is happening in the characters’ head and the emotion of each scene. I view the script as a road map and jumping off point. The artist has full carte blanche to combine panels, add panels and do whatever they think best serves the story.
The way this project is working is that Monica sends me a rough layout of each page. I’ll give my feedback (usually it’s just that things look fantastic). Then she’ll send me the finished colored page. From there I start in on lettering.
GeekPost: What drew you to the medium of comic books as a form of storytelling? How do you believe it enhances your ability to convey certain narratives?
Perran Mitchell: Comic books are my first love. Some of my earliest memories are of reading comics and becoming completely enthralled. When I started to want to tell my own stories, the comic medium is the first thing that came to mind. As I matured as a writer, I became more and more interested in exploring the things that you can only do in comics.
The magic of comics is an amazing marriage of words and images. It’s a medium of endless possibility. You can play with time, pacing and perspective like no other medium. Plus, there is so much of the story that lies in the space between panels and in the reader’s head.
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GeekPost: Can you discuss your comic book series, The Chronicle of the Tal Nor?
T. Perran Mitchell: The Chronicle of the Tal Nor is a fantasy action/adventure series about the Tal Nor: a sort of marshal service in a sword and sorcery world. It’s my take on police procedurals with elements of westerns and murder mystery stories mixed in. It focuses on a group of friends and colleagues trying to make their world a little better place.
GeekPost: What was it like growing up and learning to navigate the complications that ADHD and Dyslexia can bring?
T. Perran Mitchell: It was really hard. I was diagnosed back in the early 80’s, it was a time when most people hadn’t even heard about ADHD or Dyslexia. There weren’t the same resources in schools that we have now. I was mocked by teachers and pulled from regular classes in first grade and put in a class for students with problems. Their problems ranged from learning disability to emotional issues to behavioral. It was not a good situation to say the least. For someone with learning disabilities and anxiety issues, it was probably the worst place I could have been put. The teacher used to send me out of the classroom because I was the “good one” and so I could get work done.
Luckily, I have very supportive parents who found a private school that specialized in just learning disabilities. I know they sacrificed a lot in order to afford the school. It was there I learned a lot of strategies for working around my ADHD and Dyslexia. Some of which I still use to this day. Really, what I learned was how to find new ways of doing things that work for me. With ADHD, systems tend to fall apart or stop working and we have to find the thing that will work now.
GeekPost: Is it true that comics played a part in your learning to read? What was the name of the very first comic book that you read?
T. Perran Mitchell: It is. With my learning disabilities, I struggled with reading a bit. I had yet to really learn how to use the context clues in the text to compensate. With comics, the context clues are in every panel. This is especially true for the older marvel stuff. My Dad would buy comics for me from the newsstand on his way home from work. At first my parents would read them with me. but as I learned, I’d start reading on my own. The first comic I remember reading myself was Uncanny X-men 211. It had a great illustration of Wolverine on the cover, half his mask torn off. It was one of the Marvel 25th anniversary issues where the board was littered with different characters.
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GeekPost: Do you consider yourself a geek? What does that mean to you?
T. Perran Mitchell: I do, I think we’re all geeky about something. I grew up in a time when the word was still a bit pejorative. Now, it just means that you’re passionate about a particular thing; or in my case’ things. I’m a comics geek, D&D geek, Warhammer painting geek, Philadelphia Phillies geek and on and on and on. I think of my ADHD as that I’m interested in and want to know about everything.
GeekPost: Do you have any advice for people that have an interest in graphic art and lettering?
T. Perran Mitchell: Read everything you can. There are so many great books about making comics and lettering. I’m mostly self-taught when it comes to lettering and I was able to learn the skill because there is so much out there. Also do close reading of comics. Study the comics you read. Look at how the lettering guides you from panel to panel. Really analyze why the letterer made the choice they did.
Oh, and read Scott McCloud’s books on comics, they’re a masterclass on comics.
GeekPost: Looking ahead, do you have any other projects or ideas in mind for future comic book works? Are there any specific themes or genres you are eager to explore
T. Perran Mitchell: Too many ideas. The hard part is picking which one to do next. The top contenders are issue three of Tal Nor, a massive Sci-Fi epic loosely based on some of Shakespeare’s work or another short comic collection.
The Geek Post would like to thank T. Perran Mitchell for gracing us with his answers and insights into his work, and the passion that he puts into it. Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.