Grace Ellis' "Flung Out of Space" Centers Noir Crime Novelist as Unlikely Protagonist

Novelist Patricia Highsmith is the main character in writer Grace Ellis' first graphic novel for adults, "Flung Out of Space."

Joy Frank-Collins
Grace Ellis

Noir crime novelist Patricia Highsmith was a perfect (and challenging) subject for a graphic novel, says writer Grace Ellis. A comic book writer, like Ellis, Highsmith was also the author of the novel “The Price of Salt,” seen as the first published piece of lesbian fiction to have a happy ending. (The book is now commonly known as “Carol.”)

That kind of representation was unheard-of in 1952, and it paved the way for writers like Ellis, who often includes queer themes in her work. “I don’t think of myself as a lesbian writer,” she says. “I think of myself as someone who writes good books that have lesbians in them.”

But Highsmith, referred to in the promo copy for Ellis’ new book, “Flung Out of Space” as a “self-loathing lesbian,” was also known as racist, anti-Semitic and misogynistic. To write about her without making her so despicable that readers would lose interest or actively root against her success, Ellis says, “took a very delicate touch and a lot of conversations with people from a variety of communities.” 

Grace Ellis' new book, "Flung Out of Space"

The drawings in the book were created by Hannah Templer, using orange-and-gray spot colors inspired by a 1950s-era Brownie handbook Ellis found at Flower Child, an Italian Village vintage clothing and home goods store.

Ellis, 31, dropped out of Ohio State to write comics full time. She gained success at age 23 with “Lumberjanes,” a comic series about monsterfighting Girl Scouts that sold 1.5 million copies and garnered two Eisner awards and the GLAAD award for Outstanding Comic Book in 2016. Ellis is also the author of “Moonstruck,” a werewolf barista romance story. “Flung Out of Space” is her first graphic novel for adults.

Ellis will appear for an author talk and discussion at The Book Loft, 631 S. Third St., May 3 at 7 p.m. and at a June 22 screening of the 2015 film “Carol” at the Drexel Theatre.

This story is from the May 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.