Pantsuits And Old New York: An Interview With The Creators Of ‘G.I.L.T’
by Rachel Bellwoar
Everyone knows the scene in the opening credits to Sex and the City, where Carrie Bradshaw gets splashed by a bus. In writer, Alisa Kwitney, and artist, Mauricet‘s, new series, G.I.L.T., Hildy Winters gets splashed by a taxi. The difference is Hildy was dressed for her wedding day and, forty years later, she still isn’t over it. Can time travel help Hildy rewrite those past regrets? Kwitney and Mauricet aren’t giving anything away, but they did answer some of our question about the series over email.
Rachel Bellwoar: The name of the series is an acronym – Guild of Independent Lady Temporalists – but when said aloud it sounds like “guilt.” Was that intentional, and do you associate time travel with guilt?
Mauricet: Alisa came up [with] this clever title. If I remember well, I’m the one responsible for the ‘Independent’ word in it.
Alisa Kwitney: I had very traditional old country Jewish grandparents, so I associate everything with guilt. Hildy is very motivated by guilt, and also by regret, which usually sits next to guilt at all major family events. I also liked the dual meaning of something that looks like gold but is really just lightly covered in gold paint. The original Twilight Zone always seemed to have some middle-aged guy bemoaning the awful, complex, dehumanizing world of the present and yearning to return to some halcyon period forty years in the past, when he was a kid and candy only cost a penny. And now a lot of folks look at that late fifties/early sixties period as a golden time of simple, wholesome values. And the threat of nuclear war, of course, which is also back in fashion now.
RB: The very first panel of the first issue is a close-up of Hildy’s face with a cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth. This pose appears again and again throughout the issue, if under different circumstances. Why do you feel that close-up perfectly encapsulates who Hildy is?
M: When I lay out a page there are of course two things that I follow: basic storytelling rules and the script. But it usually comes to me quite instinctively. I guess it felt just right to draw close-ups of Hildy smoking. Ahah!
AK: I am such a fan of big faces. I grew up before streaming and video tape, watching movies from the ’40s and ’50s in movie theaters. They would have special Hitchcock or Howard Hawks festivals, and I would sit and just focus on these amazing, expressive, larger-than-life faces.
Mauricet, the artist, has done such an incredible job of capturing Hildy’s blend of glam bridal bravado and ironic detachment. He does with close ups what other artists would do with action shots—gives you thrills and chills.
RB: Issue one splits it time between the ’70s and 2013. Was there a time period you preferred writing or drawing for over the other?
M: The present is easier because, well, we live in it. The ‘70s I had to adapt and do a lot of research to make it feel real and not too cliché. Bell bottom pants were a pain in the butt to grasp. Now that I am halfway through drawing issue 4, I just love the ‘70s sequences. So funky and groovy!
AK: You have to ask? I loved writing 1974, for the fashion, the music, the grit and the massive cars. I also love the sense that back in the seventies, all those things were the home-grown efforts of enthusiastic amateurs armed only with an empty can of Maxwell house coffee, an illegal seed of an idea, and a dream.
RB: We also get to see what Hildy wore to her wedding. Did that go through a lot of iterations or did the design come easily?
M: Blame this one on my partner. She gave me real precise instructions as to what Hildy’s dress should look like.
I did quite some research on the bridemaids’ outfits though. The wedding scene taking place in late November, I was torn between light and fluffy textures and the fact that it’s supposed to be chilly at this time of the year and that they should be wearing something warm. This is one of those struggles that my brain makes me go through during the design process.
AK: I can’t speak for Mauricet, but basically, I said, “Look at the first I Dream of Jeannie wedding outfit” and he produced the perfect seventies bridal pantsuit.
RB: One thing I really appreciated about the first issue is that it wasn’t one-sided. Trista’s backstory is just as valued as Hildy’s, even though Hildy’s older. What can you tell us about their relationship going forward?
M: Alisa writes such real and interesting characters that it’s easy to give them life on paper and have them interact. Besides that, she knows quite well what my strengths and weaknesses as an artist are.
AK: Well, first of all, forward is backward, because both have unresolved issues from the same day in the past. I think this tale is a real two-hander, with dual protagonists who both have big character arcs. But I hope that the other characters have arcs as well. I’m a big fan of ensemble casts like Ted Lasso where everyone gets a big moment, and Mauricet is brilliant at never throwing anything away. He just drew a painting that will probably get mostly covered by word balloons, but it is so hilarious and perfect that I will do whatever I can to trim words so the art will show.
RB: As important as “when” is to a time travel story, “where” is important in G.I.L.T., as well. What made you want to make New York a major character in the series?
M: I was lucky I made a few trips to Manhattan. Being Belgian, it really helps visualizing the sequences and trying as much as I can to make the Upper West side look and feel true.
AK: I grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and so seventies New York is my hometown. Also, there are so many different New Yorks, not just from different eras but from different perspectives. The New York you see in old episodes of Kojak is not the same New York you see in old episodes of Rhoda. And I grew up watching all those New Yorks get filmed. I was actually out in Riverside Park the night they filmed that classic Warriors scene—“Warriors! Come out and play!” After that, I couldn’t go out at night with my friends anymore, because everyone decided to imitate art.
RB: G.I.L.T. is also chock full of pop culture references. Was there one you tried to work in but it didn’t fit?
M: As I said earlier, the tricky part is to make it feel real without becoming too cliché. Add to that the fact that it’s a dramedy and that it needs some exaggeration and caricature, again, without overdoing it… A challenge but so much fun!
AK: Nope. Mauricet reads the script, and then we discuss on a video call, and he groans and grabs his beard and turns himself inside out like Rumplestiltskin. A few days later, he sends me a page of exquisitely detailed art, which almost always includes some extra tidbit I did not ask for, but which makes the whole thing better.
RB: Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Alisa and Mauricet!
G.I.L.T. #1 goes on sale April 6th from AHOY Comics.