A Chat with Hayley Spencer, Owner of Komix Comic Shop

You know what’s cool? Walking into a comic book shop and seeing a woman behind the counter and then finding out that she not only works in the shop, she also owns the whole darn thing! That’s what will happen when you step into Hayley Spencer’s comic book shop, Komix, located in Melksham, England. I had the pleasure of interviewing Hayley about her comic shop experiences.

If you’ve ever thought about starting your own comic shop, you especially should keep reading. Hayley started Komix simply because she loved comics (and wasn’t happy at her currently job), and the fact that she opened shop despite having little previous experience, is inspiring! Plus, like me, she was a late bloomer when it comes to comics (she really became interested when she was 22), so her story—and success—is an especially interesting one.

How did you become interested in comics?

I was actually a latecomer to the comic book world – well, the comics part anyway! I grew up with parents who are fans of sci-fi, so from a young age I was exposed to the likes of Star Wars, Star Trek, X-Files, Twilight Zone, and that’s just the TV shows! My favourite movie at the age of three was Back to the Future and my mum quite often found me reciting lines in my bedroom!

When I was twelve, I was watching an interview on breakfast television before school. It was an interview with a British actor, starring in an all-new teen sci-fi show that was debuting that evening. That show was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My life changed at 7pm that night. I was instantly hooked, and followed the show right to the very end, which took me from fighting my brother for the remote every Tuesday evening, to watching streaming episodes on my laptop in the college canteen between classes!

When the show ended and it was announced that the universe was to continue in comic book form, that was my entry point. I was 22 years old at this point. I frequently visited comic book stores in my area – my boyfriend at the time, as well as past boyfriends were heavily into comic books (I sure know how to pick ‘em!), and I have collected merchandise for many years so deciding to start collecting was never really a big deal for me. From there I started following a few other titles and it just snowballed from there!

Who shops at your store? How would you define your customers?

I have a really wide range of people that shop here! When starting up, I had to accept that my core demographic would be 15-49 males, but it was my intention right from the very start to make the store a place that will attract a large selection of the population, and possibly the type of people that have always been interested in getting into comics but the stereotypical image of a comic book store put them off!  I’ve been open nearly eight months now and the majority of my customers are men in their 20s and 30s, but I do get a lot of female friends, wives, girlfriends and sisters accompanying them, and they happily return when they realise that a woman owns and runs the store! I think it makes them feel more accepted into an industry that they figured wasn’t for them, and I always make a point of having a chat with them as well as the people that brought them in!

What was most challenging about opening a comic shop?

The most challenging part was getting people in town to realise that there is a need for a store like this in our town. During my setup, before I opened I did a lot of local networking through friends, and colleagues and the most common response I got when I told them what I was doing was “Really? I don’t think people are into that stuff around here, I didn’t think you were actually!” When people don’t have an outlet to provide them with what they’re passionate about, they tend to keep it quiet for fear of being judged for being interested in something that isn’t readily available to them.  My opening day proved to many people that this town not only needs a comic books store, but wants one too! The store was totally packed out, you could hardly move – I have about ten friends and family members helping me out just to keep everything in order and under control. We had British Marvel artist Andrew Wildman here for the opening and it went down a storm!

Did you have any relevant experience before opening your shop?

I had no experience of running my own business, but I did have experience in retail management, but it was old experience! I’d spent the last six years chained to a desk in a call centre, desperately wanting to be recognised for the work I was doing and work my way up the chain. It never happened, so I went back to my original dream – owning my own shop. I saw a gap in the market and I went for it. I studied business and journalism at college so searched my brain for any remaining knowledge, built a business plan, sought advice and here I am now!

What do you do to promote your shop?

I am constantly promoting my store in many different ways. I have a regular advert in the local newspaper, I also have a great working relationship with local journalists that work for papers and radio stations – usually because I went to school with them, and Facebook is great for reconnecting and calling in favours! The store has a Facebook page, a Twitter feed and its own website. We get plugging from other local website and organisations, and I involve myself in a number of community groups. I’m by no means a shy person, so I will happily chat to anyone about the store and the things I do in the town to get people to come and visit not just me, but all the other hardworking independent businesses we have here!

What is the UK comic scene like?

The UK comic scene exists that’s for sure! It’s a much bigger industry than people initially think, but it is also the friendliest, most supportive industry I’ve ever had the pleasure to be a part of. In the last year I have made many wonderful, inspirational and talented new people that without doing this I would never have met! In the UK there isn’t a comic book store in every town, you do usually have to travel quite a distance, depending on where you live, so by bringing the product to the people you’re onto a winner!

What do you hope for the future of Komix?

Our online store is launching within the next couple of months which I’m really excited about! The “big picture” dream is to expand into a larger store, be able to hire some staff and create new and fun jobs in the town, possibly get some office space to handle the online side of the business, maybe even open stores in other towns. But that’s a long way away, for now I‘m focusing on getting people to know I’m here and supporting what exists right now, because without the customer base building today, I can’t expand tomorrow!

What advice do you have for those aspiring to break into the comic industry (whether it’s working in a comic shop, becoming an editor, or creating comics)?

Get involved as soon as you can! Whatever it is you’re wanting to do, you need to start talking to people – get yourself known (without being stalkerish). If you want to work in a comic book store, you need to go and chat to your local store owner. They may not have vacancies right now, these are tough times after all, but independent store owners, when they do need staff, are likely to hire people they know and trust right from the very start, so make sure you support their store, shop there, tell your friends and so on. If they have events coming up, offer to help out for free, hand out flyers, anything! It’s all work experience too, even if you’re not being paid!

If you’re looking at getting into the industry as a writer, artist, editor, publisher, printer and so on, it’s best to talk to someone who is already doing that job, and get the information on what it’s really like, and how they got into it. Most of all, if you really want to do something, you’ll do it no matter how long it takes or how difficult it is. If you don’t try, then you don’t really want it. It’s as simple as that!

Visit Komix online at komixonline.com

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Interview with Comic Writer Jeremy Whitley

Yeah, I know, I interviewed a dude. But give this guy a chance! He’s got a lot of interesting things to say about women in comics. First of all, he writes the comic Princeless. The title is pretty self-explanatory, and, if you’re interested, you can read more about the comic in my recent review.

Convince us, in one sentence, that your comics are awesome.

 
It’s about a princess who saves herself, rides a dragon, and faces down terrifying monsters with nothing but a sword and her wits.

 

What is your favorite comic or graphic novel?

 
All time, Y: The Last May by Brian K Vaughn and Pia Guerra.  Currently…Batwoman.
 
 
Who is your least favorite author (of any medium and genre)?
 
Is is fair to take Stephenie Meyer?  Should she be off the table as too obvious?  Scott Lobdell goes here for comics, but I feel like that’s phoned in too.  He’s just too awful.
 
 
What is your dream job?
 
Professional writer.  Not of one thing in particular though.  I want to have my own creator owned stuff, but I’d really like to add something to that great superhero mythos as well.  I’d love Marvel to hire me to write a B level female superhero, one of the ones I feel just doesn’t get the stories she deserves.  Storm, Misty Knight, Dust or Ms Marvel.
 
 
What (or who) inspired you to begin creating comics?
 
I’ve always loved comics, but I had not read them in some time while I was actually studying to be a writer.  I stumbled on Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men while hunting down issue 1 of Buffy Season 8 and it reminded me why I loved comics.  From there, I put my head down and went for it.  So…while my dad got me into comics initially, I guess Joss Whedon inspired me to start writing them.  Never thought about it that way. 
 
 
What was the last book you read?
 
I honestly haven’t read many non-graphic books recently (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but the last thing I read was this great new all-ages comic called “The Intrepid Escape Goat” from 3rd World Studios.  It’s kind of an amazing book.
 
 
If your comics had a soundtrack, what songs/artists would it include?
 
“Sister Rosetta” by The Noisettes
“Feeling Good” by Nina Simone
“Creator” by Santi White
Definitely something by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Regina Spektor
 
 
No doubt your comic, Princeless, attempts to break down stereotypical portrayals of women in fairy tales (and comics). What inspired you to create Princeless? Were you ever concerned that writing a strong female lead might deter some readers?
 
I wanted to write this story because at the time I was considering the future and that my wife and I hoped to have a daughter.  I wanted to be able to share my love of comics with her and I wanted to write the sort of story that I would want her to be reading.  I’ve always been incredibly bothered by the princess culture that we push so many girls into. It’s okay for girls to like what they like, but if all they ever know is helplessness, rescue, and subjugation then what are they going to become?  I certainly want more than that for and from my daughter.
 
As for whether having a strong female protaganist would deter people from reading, the thought hadn’t really crossed my mind.  I guess I figure that if strong women bother them than they’re not my audience anyway.  Also, probably not people I want to get to know.
 
 
What advice would you give other aspiring comic artists and (particularly) writers in regards to getting their stuff published?
 
Think.  Work.  Create interesting characters.  Keep putting things out there.  Go to conventions even if you don’t have anything to sell.  Talk to the people who are doing what you want to do.  Make connections and make friends.  Keep going.  If you can’t find anyone to publish your stuff, publish it yourself.  When you have success, it’s going to feel like luck, but remember all the work you put into being lucky and don’t stop working.
 
 
What was most challenging about founding (and managing) Firetower Studios?
 
The most challenging thing about being an Indy comic creator is also the most challenging thing about being an indy comics publisher:  Keeping your head up.  It feels like no one is reading your comic.  To this day I’m certain I’ve spent more money on Firetower than I’ve made and that’s especially tough as a writer where you have less chance to do commission work at conventions and make your table money back.  In fact, I think SPX last year may be the first show where I actually made money…well, if you don’t count what I spent on the hotel and food.
 
 
How do you think the experience of comic creating and publishing differs for men and women (if it does at all)?
 
I’m obviously not an expert at being a woman in comics, but it seems to me that it’s way harder for women.  There’s a fair amount of misogyny in the industry and fanbase, but beyond that, there’s the question.  How will people receive your work once they know you’re female?  Will that effect whether or not they buy your work or hire you for a job.  Then there’ll always be those that insist that you only got the job because they needed a girl who blanks.  I’m very rarely asked what it’s like being a white man who writes comics, but no matter how good female creators are, that’s always going to be a question for them.
 
 
What is your next project?
 
Well, Princeless Book 2 should start making its way out a little later this year, but right now I have my fingers in a lot of other pies.  Firetowerstudios.com puts up new webcomics every weekday and we’ll have two (maybe three) new books coming out this summer.  All of them are written by me and all feature female leads.  That wasn’t a plan, it just happened that way.  “Illegal” which I’m doing with artist Charlie Harper is a book about being an undocumented immigrant in an increasingly monitored and socially stratified future.  It’s an action book, despite that description.  “Skip”, which I’m working on with artist Rich Lombardi, is a more traditional super hero comic, but it follows a superheroine who’s very new to the business and finds herself in the middle of a fight to the death between the forces of good and evil.  Finally, “The Last Fairy Tale” which I’m working on with artist Jason Strutz is a story about a future where magic has devastated the world and the few lone survivors live in magically protected communities.  One girl stumbles on one such community that suffering from a mysterious, but incredibly familiar curse.

Interview with Comic Artist & Writer Sarah Becan

In the cold, dark basement of an abandoned building, I first met Sarah Becan. Christmas lights occasionally pierced the darkness like little fairies. Various rugs of unusual origin lay scattered across the expansive concrete floor. Sarah smiled at me through the dim. She was lively and open and (happily for me) was willing to chat about her colorful creations spread across the table.  Was I dreaming? Well, no. I met Sarah Becan at Chicago’s Book Expo, where she had a table selling and promoting her comics and where I was attempting to convince visitors that postmodernism isn’t something to be afraid of (I was manning the &Now Books table, if you’re interested). Sarah and I were lucky (that’s sarcasm) enough to have been placed in the dark, cold basement of the second building hosting the Expo. And that is how I ran into Sarah in a fittingly dream-like way. Read her interview below to learn why dreams are so significant to Sara’s comics. You can buy her comics here, learn more about the creator here, and read some comics here.

Convince us, in one sentence, that your comics are awesome.

I’m not sure I can convince you, but I will say that although there is an absence of mathematical proof for it, my comics are indeed pretty awesome. You’ll just have to trust me on that.

What is your favorite comic or graphic novel?

Oh, there’s no way I’d ever be able to pick just one. I’ll give you a handful of graphic novels that have really moved or influenced me, though. Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. Cages, by Dave McKean. Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli. These are just a few of the ones that made me cry, or changed how I saw the world, the ones that are treasures on my shelves.

What (or who) inspired you to begin creating comics?

My grandfather had a great collection of Walt Kelly and Crockett Johnson comics, so I grew up with a strong affection for comics. I was always drawing them for school papers and things, but in college someone gave me a copy of Spiegelman’s Maus, and I knew I wanted comics to be my principle art and storytelling format.

How do you generate ideas for new comics?

When I was in high school I wrote a fan letter to Lynda Barry, and she sent me the sweetest handwritten postcard back. I had asked her if she had any advice for someone who wanted to make comics, and she said: “The best advice I can give you is to write and draw only about what you TRULY care about.” Most of my comics come from some level of autobiography, powerful experiences or emotions that I have that I really just want to share with people. Even the fictional comics are at their core, autobiographical in some way.

What is your creative process? Do you have any unique rituals you perform before writing? Do you have to write in a particular place with a particular atmosphere?

I really don’t have much of a ritual. Most of my ideas, connecting and brainstorming happen while I’m doing other things, so I always try to have pen and paper handy in case something hits. I write at home in front of the television, I write at work while waiting for large image files to save or render, I figure out plot points while I’m riding my bike. I’m a little more consistent when I’m drawing or inking – my favorite is to ink while watching lots and lots of Law & Order.

What sparked your inspiration for Shuteye?

Mostly, it was my own dreams. Of the six stories in Shuteye, three of them are based directly on dreams that I had, and one is based on a dream my brother had. They were really powerful dreams that stuck with me for days. I knew I wanted to do a series of short comics about dreams, and then I had the idea to make each story the dream of a character in the next story, and it just all kind of came together.

Could you share you experience starting Shortpants Press? What was most challenging about starting a small press?

I’m actually phasing out Shortpants Press, and I don’t plan to be operating as a small press in the future. The most challenging thing I found – and the reason why I’m stopping – was how incredibly hard it was to be a small press and ALSO making my own comics. To really do a good job of being a small press publisher, even for minicomics, it has to be a full time job, you really have to really devote yourself to it. It’s tough, it’s time-consuming, it can be pretty unrewarding, it’s a labor of love. I was never really a proper small press anyway – I just knew a lot of really talented artists who didn’t have the materials, equipment, or know-how to make their own minicomics, and I wanted to help them share their art with people. I work in graphic design, so I have lots of experience working with art programs, picking out paper stocks, working with different printing processes, talking to printers, things like that. I was really happy to be able to help people with that stuff, but the more I did that, the less time and energy I had to devote to my own comics, and I had to really think about what my priorities were going to be.

What advice would you give other aspiring comic artists and writers in regards to finding a publisher?

The best advice I can give anyone is: don’t wait to find a publisher. Make your comics now. Share them with people now. Put them on the internet, print them yourself and sell them to comics shops on consignment, and do conventions. The more comics you make, the better you will get at making them, and – more importantly – you will build an audience. Publishers will be a lot more interested in your work if you already have a built-in audience. But of course by that time, you might be used to making your own books, and in most cases, you’ll actually make a lot more money self-publishing than you ever will getting published.

How do you think the experience of comic creating and publishing differs for women (if it does at all)?

I’ve never had the experience of creating comics as a man, so I have nothing to compare it to. I can only speak to the experience of creating comics as a Sarah Becan.

What is your next project?

My next project is a story about my grandparents, who lived through a massive and deadly storm in Wichita Falls in the late 1970s. It was going to be a minicomic, but as I was writing and revising it, it kept getting longer and longer, so it’ll probably end up being a decent-sized graphic novel. The script is just about finished – once Shuteye is done I’ll be able to start thumbnailing it. And I’ll probably serialize it online before I collect it into a print edition.

Interview with Comic Artist Isabella Rotman

“Convince us, in one sentence, that your comics are awesome,” I asked Isabella Rotman, a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a self-published comic book artist. Her response, “I am told my line quality is ‘seductive.'” Well, I’m convinced. If you are, too, read on for an interview with Isabella, whose  beautiful (and somewhat provocative) work can be found here and here.

What is your favorite comic or graphic novel?

It’s a toss up between Black Hole, Habibi, and Big Questions.

Who is your least favorite author (of any medium and genre)?

Good Question. It would probably be that dude who wrote Boys Club. Seriously guys, it’s not that funny.

What is your dream job?

DREAM JOB? Oh god, which one. I would like to be a taxidermist for a major Natural History Museum. (I bet you didn’t see that one coming.) I would also like to build dioramas for said museum, and get paid to do scientific illustrations, maybe for the museum, maybe for field guides. I would like to be a published author of graphic novels, and perhaps be involved with my own publishing company for cartoonists. Who the hell knows, there are so many exciting options, and all of them very obscure and hard to arrive upon.

What (or who) inspired you to begin creating comics?

Black Hole by Charles Burns. I was always into drawing and I was always into writing, and I thought, ‘I should just combine these things and do comics’. So I bought a bunch of Spiderman and CatWoman(my childhood comic book crushes) but these were lacking severely in both the writing and art departments. It was something of a Peggy Lee ‘is this all there is?’ moment. So I gave up on the idea for a few years, until high school my boyfriend of the time discovered Black Hole, and showed it to me, and I thought ‘Sweet Jesus, this is what I want to do.’

What was the last book you read? 

The Instructions by Adam Levin. (So good.)

If your comics had a soundtrack, what songs/artists would it include?

That would differ from comic to comic. Animal Sex would naturally need to be accompanied by 70’s or 80’s theme porn music, Boom – Chica – wa – wa, or maybe Take a Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed. I always associated it with this line from The Joker by Steve Miller, “I really like your peaches wanna shake your tree,” but not all Steve Miller music, just that line.

For Eyes Shut, All the World is Green by Tom Waits. If you don’t know the song you should find it and listen to it right now.

How do you generate ideas for new comics?

Who knows? I don’t. Sometimes it’s a long labor intensive forced process and usually when it is like that it’s not that good. The best ones tend to just sort of come to you because that is what you need to be doing at the time, but sometimes nothing is coming to you and you just kind of need to synthesize something in your mind, and its hard. When it’s like that, its really hard.

What is your creative process? Is it self-taught or has your experience at SAIC proved to be applicable to comic creating?

My creative process is not really a set thing, and sometimes it works but most of the time it doesn’t, so I don’t really know how to talk about it. A lot of my teachers and mentors have helped me a lot. (Shout out to Christa Donner, Surabhi Ghosh, Peggy Macnamara, and Paul Brunsvold). I find it is best to be doing a lot of things at once, so that you are never too close or bogged down in any one idea, and to make time for things other than work. If you are just trying to force this one idea out of your head all the time, and not having any grand life experiences, then after a while you are just singing the blues about singing the blues.

Your animal sex comics are…well, I’ve never seen anything like them. Can you tell us more about your inspiration for drawing comics accompanied by sex facts about animals? 

Funny story! I was supposed to do a short ‘response comic’ for Jeremy Tinder’s Comics and Self Publishing class, and I had chosen to respond to ________ I Want You. So I’m thinking about this comic, and I decided to boil it down to its simplest parts, which turned out to be animals, sex, and humor. I’m thinking ‘okay, I’ll just do a short little fact thing about animal mating habits, because I know a disgusting amount of information about it and it will be silly and fun and good for a giggle.’ So Animal Sex was going to be this tiny assignment for class, but then a huge blizzard hit Chicago. You remember the one, February 2011. I was snowed into my basement apartment for about 3 days with only the Internet to entertain me, and the first issue of Animal Sex just sort of happened. Really, I had nothing else to do. And then it was something of a hit, so I made another, and now I’m going to make a third, and there you go. I guess you could say Animal Sex was something of a love child between the Internet and having too much time on my hands. 

Of your own comics, which one did you enjoy creating the most and why? 

Eyes Shut is my best comic and the comic that I am most proud of. That being said, making it wasn’t much fun at all, so I would need to go with either of the Animal Sex comics as far as enjoying the process.

How do you go about self-publishing your work?  How do you promote your own work?

Self-publishing is an incredibly annoying but satisfying process. Mostly what I do involves drawing everything, scanning the pages, doing a bunch of crap to them in Photoshop, and trying to arrange files to print them double-sided on school copiers. Then the copier unavoidably will run out of paper or ink or jam or simply stop working without telling me why. So I’ll go to a different school printer and try to print them there and it will be the night before the deadline and I will invariably end up having a breakdown next to probably the third printer I have attempted to print on and calling my Mom. Eventually everything gets printed and copied and folded and stapled and I will bring them to Quimby’s and Chicago Comics and sell them at Zinefest or places like Zinefest. Lately I have decided to need to put more effort into promoting my things, make bigger editions, send them to comic book stores outside of Chicago, ect. I have a tumblr and a website, and these are good as far as making announcements go, if anyone actually follows me. Sometimes I feel like I’m talking to empty cyber space.

It’s good to find other people who make comics that you admire, put on your big girls pants, and ask them to trade with you. Or just give them free comic books. I have met so many talented and amazing cartoonists at SAIC, I feel lucky to be in the same room with them.

What advice would you give other aspiring comic artists and writers in regards to self-publishing?

Buy an extended reach stapler. Print in black and white, it’s cheaper. Make sure your covers are super eye catching. Usually I either write SEX really big on the cover or draw some girl on girl action, which has been very successful for me so far, but you know, bright colors work too.

How do you think the experience of comic creating and publishing differs for women (if it does at all)?

I don’t think it does. Everyone is all like “The comics industry is dominated by men!” but maybe there just aren’t that many super genius female cartoonists. I don’t think anyone is trying to get in the way of female cartoonists, and if they are, I have yet to meet them. In fact, I find that some people seem even more receptive to my more blatantly sexual work because I am a girl, which is funny, and kinda strange, and maybe a little bit sexist.

What is your next project?

I’m actually taking a little time off from comics and from Chicago. I’m spending the second semester of my junior year of college doing a program called SEA semester. I’ll be spending a month and a half in Woods Hole MA taking classes in oceanography and mariners studies, and then getting on a sailboat in Key West and sailing around the Caribbean being part of the crew of the sailboat and doing my own scientific research project. So there won’t be much time for comics there, but I do plan on making a third Animal Sex comic, and binding all three of them together, along with other related material, and submitting the whole thing to the xeric grant this February. So let’s hope that works out!

How The Heck Do I Write a Graphic Novel?: An Interview with Project Revamp

Starting a graphic novel is starkly different from sitting down at your desk one day and deciding you’ll write that fantasy novel that you’ve been thinking about for a couple years. First of all, what does a comic book script even look like? Do I need an artist before I start writing? How do I even get this thing published once it’s finished? Having already experienced writing a traditional novel, and then making the switch to a graphic novel, I can attest to the slew of questions that pop up in the novice graphic novelists head. Luckily, Project Revamp at Revamp Studios is writing a graphic novel right along with you. Project Revamp post their scripts as they write them and share their experiences finding an artist and publisher. They graciously agreed to answer several questions:

 In one sentence, convince us to read your graphic novel.

A teen drama set in the post- zombie apocalypse, need we say more?

What prompted you to write a graphic novel?

We had spent a lot of time working on story ideas and a graphic novel seemed like the right outlet for us. We had worked on a few writing projects separately and decided to try a project together. A zombie drama following a group of teenagers was our first idea, and it eventually evolved into Aftermath.

Were you hesitant to post your script online? Has knowing people read your writing in-progress changed your writing?

   Putting our scripts online was actually a very exciting step for us. We had a lot of confidence in our story and we knew people were ready for a different perspective on a zombie drama. Our twitter followers have been a great support system and inspiration.

How did you find your artist? Was it a hard decision?

Believe it or not we found our illustrator on Craigslist. We interviewed a few artists but Brenton Barnes was the perfect fit. We learned very quickly that a familiarity and passion for comics was just as important as artistic talent. A lot of the artists we interviewed were only familiar with portraits or tattoo work; we needed someone who understood panel layouts and lettering. Brenton ended up being the total package, and we are really excited to show people the work he has done on Aftermath.

What are the difficulties of collaborative writing?

Honestly, zero. We have a very simple writing process. After we come up with the basic plot for an issue, we write two separate scripts and then edit them together. It sounds like that would be a mess, but the majority of the time the scripts come out very similar if not identical. We both share the same writing style, and because we know our characters so well the dialogue is easy to match up. It just works.

How did you decide on your particular script format?  

We write our scripts like a tv show or play. Our illustrator was a big help in the formatting, he let us know what he needed in each scene description to help him build each panel. With graphic novels and comics some writers like to describe each panel separately, we found it easier to describe the over all setting and give some specifics as to character direction. We had a lot of faith in our artist to fill in the rest.

Have any resources been particularly helpful for this endeavor?

Social media really is the best tool for anyone trying to break into this industry. Creating a twitter and a simple website is all you really need to let people see your work. As far as source material, anyone writing about zombies should be reading Walking Dead like the Bible. We also read Y: The Last Man, and DMZ to get a good reference for how people evolve during an apocalyptic scenario.

What playlist would accompany your graphic novel?  

  Explosions in the Sky. When writing about teenagers from Texas, Friday Night Lights and its soundtrack were a big influence. 

What’s your game-plan for finding a publisher?

We already have received interest from publishers who have heard of us through twitter. We plan on submitting the first 10 pages of artwork and scripts 1-3 in early December to major comic book companies. Expect to see new art and finalized scripts soon on our website, Revampstudios.com

 

Check out Project Revamp here!

Interview with Comic Artist Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz, dubbed by my Gmail account as Jenny DevilDoll, is one hot comic artist. Yes, that was a pun because, “Too Negative,” one of Jenny’s long-time works is a collection of comic strips and mini comics set in a halfway house in hell. She does a bunch of other stuff too (a renaissance woman, like a female comic artist version of Benjamin Franklin) like non-comic art, a graphic novel, and experimental noise collaboration. Read on for some words from Jenny.



Tell us a little about “Too Negative.”

“Too Negative” is about a group of indigent devils and other creatures who live Hell’s Halfway House. I don’t know if I could truly call it social satire, since it filters the world into this scenario I would like to see. “Hell” in the comic is a sort of urban but still very wild landscape. I was born in a neighborhood of NYC known as Hell’s Kitchen, maybe that’s why the idea of reexamining the concept of Hell appeals to me? You hear that Hell is a “bad place”, though no one’s been there, and I’ve heard that a number of neighborhoods I’ve lived in were “bad places”.

Where did you come up with such an unusual concept for a comic strip?

I began sketching a lot of the characters and initial strips in early 2001, I was also going through a slow mental breakdown at the time. I just sort of stuck all that together in a mini comic in January of 2002, despite the fact that a lot of it was more fragments of ideas than fully realized comic stories.

What is your favorite “Too Negative” strip?

That changes a lot, what I like about my work or think could be better. I’m happy with the wordless one, where Dahlia is in this desert and tears out and replaces her heart, and the hummingbird appears from the discarded black one. It was from this vision/hallucination I had one morning, just played in front of my eyes like a little movie.  http://www.toonegative.com/Desert01.htm

You recently started drawing “Living in La-La Land,” which is an auto-biographical strip about the everyday life of you and your husband. How is creating this strip different than “Too Negative?”

Well, it’s a little looser in the drawing style, yet more of a representational depiction of surroundings, the buildings of Brooklyn and such. I also tend to break away from the panel-to-panel comic narrative more because to me life isn’t always neat and linear–some days are just a jumbled impression of various things that happened or that I saw.

My mom, a lawyer, is planning to take her first creative writing class. After writing in a serious, straightforward lawyer tone for years, she’s worried about not being humorous enough. Much of your work has a biting, ironic humor. How did you develop the humor in your writing? Any advice for my mom (and others writers striving to be funny)?

I think in my case, it’s just my way of coping with my utter disbelief about what’s happening, whether it’s something the other person is doing, something I’m doing despite myself, coping with mental illness, which can be overwhelming sometimes, despite all the new talk of “dangerous gifts” and such — I’ve heard it said that humor has a meanness to it, but at its core it’s a bit defensive. Like in our primal tribal brain we’re going “If I laugh at the thing that’s threatening, it will be less powerful.” Hmmm, I’m not sure if that really explains to someone else how to be funny though.

You mentioned you’re starting the script for a graphic novel. That’s awesome! Is going from writing comic strips to a full out graphic novel daunting? Does your approach to your writing change when you work on a longer piece?

It seems more rife with possibilities. Instead of setup-punchline you can delve into stories and characters. At the same time there’s more of an onus to convince them this is worth their time–to publish, to sit and read. With strips it’s like, don’t like this joke? Here’s another one.

You’re not just a comic artist. You do work in art shows and perform with an experimental noise collaboration called Doll Hospital. Can you tell us a little more about these other forms of artistic expression?

I’ve started painting in the past few years, with both acrylic and watercolor. It’s weird how I started at first feeling that some things could be more compelling as standalone images than full comics, and would work better as paintings. And the things that could be done with paints, textures, brushmarks. I’ve been in some local art shows, most recently my work was in the Underground Howl Festival, which is an annual art event on the Lower East Side, named after Allen Ginsberg’s poem. Various galleries participate.

With Doll Hospital, Eric has been studying percussion since he was a kid, primarily jazz, rock and improvisation. We’ve both played in rock bands, but with this the focus is on sound creation and spoken word, free form, and vocal intonations. We’ve performed out a few times, both with other musicians and once just as vocal and percussion. Eric described experimental music to me once as “painting with sound” and it just clicked for me! We’re also part of a group (Urchestra) that performs Kurt Schwitter’s piece “Ursonate” with sound collaboration.
Do you ever notice any crossover between your comic art and the other art forms your create?

Yeah, I think there are themes and obsessions that recur in all of them.

Did you always know you’d like to draw comics, or was your journey to comics a winding one?

I always liked cartoons, I guess I wanted to have my own cartoon series, and drawing comics was a way to do that since I didn’t have the means to do animation at the time. I drew derogatory comics to amuse my friends in middle school about the imagined secret lives of the meaner teachers and principal.

Comment upon the current state of women in the comic book industry. Do you think your experience as a female comic artist differs from that of your male peers?

I think there’s still sexism in the comics industry and scene, sure, but then again there’s still sexism in society at large. I mean recently there’s been the controversy about Dan Didio’s remarks about hiring women at DC, or Scott Adams’ remarks likening women to children or regarding rape, or the whole blowback after Gabby Schulz did that comic about sexism on the internet, resulting in a bunch of online commenters pretty much proving the point of the strip. I know Anne Elizabeth Moore has begun a column over at truthout.org examining discrepancies in the comics industry. Personally I’ve found that a lot of individual comic creators have been very cool. I’ve also encountered some of these types of guys in the indy scene–not the bulk of them, but they are there — who exhibit a lot of hostility towards women but deny that THEY personally are sexist because they personally don’t read books where the women have huge breasts and skimpy outfits, therefore they feel their behavior gets a pass.

If you could recommend one comic book, what would it be?

There’s so many! But recently Feminist Press put out a short graphic novel on Ana Mendieta (another artist who was Cuban, confrontational, and feminist in her work) called “Who Is Ana Mendieta?” It deals with her work and how it (and that of other woman conceptual artists) was received by the art world at the time, and a bit about her early life and “mysterious”(maybe murder?) death. It’s written by Christine Redfern and illustrated by Caro Caron. http://www.feministpress.org/books/christine-redfern/who-ana-mendieta