GB Tran made some major waves with his 2010 debut, Vietnamerica. A master of framing, Tran creates a visual voice that’s both instantly recognizable and filled with meaning. He makes his long-awaited return to comics with “The Believer,” in which he reevaluates what it means to be an artist post-fatherhood. 

—Kristen Radtke

THE BELIEVER: How did this comic start?

GB TRAN: LOL: extreme navel gazing.

BLVR: What’s your process like?

GT: My stories always start in my sketchbook. That first spark of an idea and—more importantly—many iterations of that idea scribbled out. Carving with chicken scratches and half-thoughts to determine whether it’s something really worth making into a comic. Making comics is all uphill. If I think there’s a meaningful ending, satisfying middle, and interesting beginning then I’ll start paper thumbnails, bouncing between pictures and words. After that, if I’m even more excited and challenged by it then when I had that initial spark, it’s early mornings and late nights hunched over my Cintiq bringing it to life.

BLVR: Was any aspect of making this work particularly challenging? 

GT: Every part: deciding on the visual style, trying to write compelling dialogue, wrangling the emotions of doing a story that announces a major shift in my life’s current direction, etc. But that’s how I know the process is working—the more difficult it gets, the more vital it is to complete. And the most challenging aspect was the same as for all my stories: keeping my second-guessing to a minimum and having faith that the finished work would emotionally resonate with a reader.

BLVR: What drives you to create new work?

GT: If I didn’t, my wife and kids would find life with me miserable.

BLVR: Without naming any comics artists, what influences you most?

GT: Cartoonists whose stories explore a range of emotions in visually unexpected yet harmonious ways: laughter, tears, and everything in between. It’s the stories of totally foreign experiences that are still relatable that linger in my head the longest.

BLVR: Which comic should we drop everything and read right now? 

GT: Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. I revisit it every time I start a new project.

BLVR: What are you working on next?

GT: Without any spoilers, my “Believer” comic reveals where my work-focus is currently. Additionally there’s my ongoing webcomic, and I’m spearheading a comic anthology that explores immigration. It’ll hopefully, in a unique way, help elevate the anthology format to something greater than the sum of its parts. Also, I’m working on two children’s read-to-me book ideas because I’m a parent and inevitably that’s what parents who write and draw try to do.

More Reads

The Process of Making Comics with Anders Nilsen

Kristen Radtke

The Process of Making Comics with Grant Snider

Kristen Radtke

The Process of Making Comics with Andrea Tsurumi

Kristen Radtke