For Radical: My Year with a Socialist Senator (Top Shelf, June), Warren spent a year as an embedded cartoonist in the office of New York state senator Julia Salazar.
What inspired you to follow Salazar for her first year in office?
I was living in the district she was running in, and it was impossible to miss the campaign, because it was so visible—people in the parks and campaigning on the streets, canvassing, a lot of posters. Especially because Julia and I are the same age, it made me aware of how little I knew about state politics.
What surprised you about the challenges that Salazar’s office faced?
The biggest surprise for me was that, practically speaking, there was no office a lot of the time. When you’re a new legislator, there’s bureaucracy involved in getting an office. I didn’t expect practical issues like that, and they have a profound effect on day-to-day happenings.
There were other things that come with the territory of being a far-left progressive candidate. Julia and her office were aligned with activists outside the government, and to a certain degree there was an expectation within the government that she was speaking for these groups, or that these groups were speaking for her.
Do you consider yourself a comics journalist?
If this were a journalistic account, I’d feel the need to interview other sides and get more of a broad journalistic sweep. By treating it as a memoir, I was able to follow a human story and embed with one group. That doesn’t mean I didn’t do the legwork and research. But I wanted it to be a story that was personal and close.
Was it a challenge to make day-to-day politics visually engaging?
I hoped to keep conversations dynamic even when they’re taking place in a relatively quiet scene; for example, instead of drawing characters sitting down in a café, how about sometimes taking a walk around Bushwick, so there could be changing scenery? I liked getting into the bigger scene and capturing the environment of the district—the broken traffic cone on the sidewalk, the types of pedestrians walking in the background.
What was the most exciting political moment you witnessed?
The rent laws passing. I feel really lucky that this was the year I was following, because it was a powerful year for tenants’ rights, and to have been on the ground alongside the organizers and activists, and to have it actually happen in a way that was unprecedented in New York, felt pretty amazing.
What do you hope readers learn about the political world?
I hope it feels personal. I hope it feels like there’s a path, whether you’re someone who’s thinking of running for office or someone who cares about a particular issue, that there are ways forward for a citizen.