Entries Tagged 'Comics' ↓
November 11th, 2010 — Comics, Interviews, Sex(uality)/Gender
Tab Kimpton writes Khaos Komix, a series of comic stories about queer kids. When I found Tab’s comics, I read the entire archive in two days. Tab was kind enough to answer my questions (I’m Dan Copulsky) in November 2010.
Where are you in school or work? Does making Khaos support you at all now? Is making comics potentially a career?
I work full time as a costume maker: you can see my work over at KhaosKostumes.com. I attend anime/sci-fi events in the UK and sell a lot of steampunk items as well as promoting my costumes. As Khaos Komix has recently been published I’m now selling that at events along with T-shirts and badges. I’m self-employed, so I pretty much do anything that will earn me money, so my stall is a mishmash of things.
Khaos Komix has earned me a fair amount of money, but I know I’ll never earn back the amount of hours I have put into it. I’m really just doing it because I need to tell these characters’ stories, I never even expected to get published. Also I’m far better at making costumes than I am at drawing, so comic writing was never really a career goal for me.
Since Khaos is so heavily about sexual orientation, gender identity, and relationships, is it appropriate to ask your orientation, identity, and relationship status, and how this has affected the work?
I personally identify as queer, but that’s because saying I’m a poly, pan, trans man with a male and female partner tends to be a bit of a mouthful.
My personal story has affected the work because in ways I’ve been each character. I’ve tried out most orientations in that quest to find myself, so I have a lot more understanding for each character’s viewpoint than the average person. It’s made the work better, and to be honest, if I wasn’t the way I am then I probably would have never written Khaos in the first place.
Each of your stories starts years back in the character’s childhood. Were childhood experience particularly important to your identity? Is there something else about childhood that makes it compelling to include in the stories?
For me much of the important stuff only hit in early teens, so no, I wouldn’t consider childhood to be that important. However Khaos is about everyone’s personal story, and I know if I were writing a biography I would start at the beginning.
How often do you work on Khaos? Do you try to keep any regular update schedule?
I try to update at least once a week, but with commission work this gets pretty hard. Writers block can also hit pretty hard sometimes, but I’m lucky as I have to write out pretty much all of the script in advance to avoid plot holes, so it isn’t as bad as it could be.
After Charlie and Jamie’s stories are finished, is that the end of Khaos Komix? What other comic projects are you working on or planning?
Yes, that’s the end. When writing Khaos I decided I wanted a solid ending instead of a pandering out that many webcomics do. I’d tried that format before in earlier versions of Khaos and it just led to plot holes and horrible retcon.
I have a comic sort of planned for after Khaos, but it would be slightly more mature so I’m worried I’d loose teen readers. Not that you can’t stop teens from reading porn on the internet, but that I’d feel bad for letting them read it.
What comics do you read?
I read a lot of webcomics, specifically queer ones if I can. Unfortunately there’s a bit of a lack of them, especially other trans comics. When it comes to print comics my favorite author is actually Jhonen Vasquez.
Khaos Komix – khaoskomix.com
Tab’s Costumes – khaoskostumes.com
August 19th, 2010 — Comics, Interviews, Sex(uality)/Gender
Erika Moen’s no longer publishing a weekly strip online, but there are years of her hilarious and moving comics available in her archive, and she’s working on new projects. Erika answered my questions (I’m Dan Copulsky) in August 2010, by email.
After six years creating a weekly strip, DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary, you stopped the project at the end of last year. What are you working on now?
I’m working with two different authors on two different graphic novels! One is a dick-and-fart-joke murder-mystery with my studiomate Jeff Parker and the other is a young adult fantasy story with Brendan Adkins. I’m hoping to start serializing one of them in the winter of this year, but I’m probably jinxing that by acknowledging it aloud.
How do you schedule your time and organize your projects? What determines what you work on and when you work on it?
Scheduling is something I struggle with very much. The level of importance and the immediacy of the due date is what determines when I work on something. I try to block out specific days and times when I’m working on a certain project, but that rarely goes according to plan because I’m also running my own business and when things come up (which they do every day) they need to be taken care of NOW. The one thing that has helped me schedule enormously was setting aside Fridays as my day to fulfill the orders that come in through my online shop, that frees up a LOT of time during the rest of the week for me.
In Drawn to You, you described creating comics as a way to process your life. Does changing the pace at which you create and share comics have an affect on how you understand the events that are happening to you?
No, it hasn’t really changed that. I feel like my process of perceiving and interpreting life is always evolving, so the stage in which I had to document my life into comics is something I’m ready to move on from for the moment. I will come back to it, as I still have some autobiographic stories I want to turn into books (my relationship with my family, the process Matthew and I went through for immigration, etc.), but for right now it’s not what I need in my life. I’m really enjoying just experiencing life without constantly picking it apart to turn it into a comic.
Drawn to You was created collaboratively with Lucy Knisely. Is collaboration something you’d want to do again? Is there anything you’d do differently if you did?
Oh yes, I looooove collaboration! The times when I’ve collaborated are when my art and storytelling have improved the most. When I’m working on my own projects, I’m doing what I’m already comfortable creating—but when I work with someone else suddenly I have to push myself to think outside my normal box and interpret somebody else’s work and make mine work with theirs. It’s challenging in a really great way and I ALWAYS come away from those projects a better comicker. There’s so many ways in which to collaborate, too, and I’m open to trying them all. Drawing and writing with a cartoonist who is drawing and writing simultaneously (Lucy Knisley), drawing from someone else’s script (Sara Ryan, Jeff Parker), coming up with a concept and working with a writer to create the script for it and then drwing it (Brendan Adkins), writing a script and then having someone else draw it for me (haven’t done that one yet)… so many options!
As a queer women who has settled down with a man, and written a lot about your life before and through doing so, do you feel like you still have things to write about being queer?
I think I still have a few more comics left in me about that subject, but overall I feel like I’ve presented the meat-and-potatoes of my personal experience. If I never had the opportunity to do another comic on that subject, I could die feeling happy with what I did share.
DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary – darcomic.com
Erika’s Livejournal – erikamoen.livejournal.com
Erika’s Twitter – twitter.com/erikamoen
July 28th, 2010 — Comics, Interviews
Dale O’Flaherty makes comics, and he’s a recent college graduate weighing the possibility of making that a living. He answered my questions (I’m Dan Copulsky) in June and July 2010.
You recently graduated from college. What are you doing now or planning for the future? Could you imagine trying to make a career out of comics, or do you think of creating them more as a hobby?
At the moment I’m unemployed. When I realized I would have all this free time on my hands at the start of the Summer I knew that I’d have an opportunity to try to get into comics. The problem I had before was that I was so busy with college I didn’t have time to produce comics and I would make one or two over the space of a week and then I wouldn’t put up anything new for a month or something. I’ve realized that I need to have a better internet presence if there’s to be any hope of me supporting myself through this. So at the moment the idea is to produce daily content (whether journal comics or doodles) and post thumbnails and panels from a longer work I’m currently roughing out and by the time the longer work is finished I should have enough journal comics to put out a couple of minis which will hopefully do well enough to pay for the print run of the longer one.
As far as making a career out of comics goes, I really like the idea of being self employed and doing something I love. The one problem is the comics scene in Ireland is very small from what I hear, but England isn’t that far I guess.
I also have some other non comics stuff on my radar planned like a camping trip and a lab position lined up that should keep me busy for a couple of weeks. And a lot of books to read. So many, oh my goodness.
Can you say anything about the longer comic project your working on?
Yeah, last summer I went to Electric Picnic (its a 3 day music festival in Ireland) and I got sick halfway through and had to go to the hospital with a case of appendicitis. When I was in the ambulance talking to my friend on the phone about how weird it was I knew I wanted to do a comic about it. Unfortunately my last year of college got in the way, but I still thought about it and and did bits and pieces on it here and there, but I realized that it would be silly to start it without doing a script and thumb-nailing it because it’s the longest thing I’ve tried doing. So I did out a rough list of plot points in chronological order recently to try to sort it out in my head and figure out where it was going and if there was any overarching theme or if it was just a bunch of stuff that happened. And I was worrying for a while that the comic wouldn’t work well as a whole. But funnily enough the one thing that ties it all together is that nothing turns out right. I make all these plans and everything just sort of goes wrong. I almost miss the train to Laois (I thought it was a bus and spent an hour outside waiting for a bus freaking out), I pitch my tent in the first camping ground I come to which quickly becomes packed, I miss a lot of bands, I forget sun cream, and when I do have to go to the hospital I spent two hours trying to call someone who is at the festival that can find my tent and pack up my stuff. It’s sort of funny how shitty my luck was that day, although pretty much everything did turn out okay in the end (although I had to leave my tent behind and I never got to see The Flaming Lips).
What kinds of comics (short, long, autobiographic, fictional, funny, serious) are you interested in making?
Right now I’m more interested in using journal comics to try to tell a longer story. There’s only so much you can do with short journal comics and I don’t think I’ve quite gotten the hang of those yet. The longest I’ve managed to do journal comics was for 30 days in June back in 2007. It was driving me mad at the end, it felt like an obligation instead of something I wanted to do. Although I think doing a short comic every day is a good exercise. I might try it again. I might do hourlies again sometime soon. Although I don’t know how John Campbell manages to do those for a whole month I’m sick of them by the end of the day! I have to draw really simply when I’m doing hourlies (kind of how John draws), otherwise I’m spending most of the hourlies sitting around drawing hourlies. I’m not sure how Lucy Knisley manages it. I haven’t thought of doing fictional comics yet. Maybe if I come up with a story that’s good enough. The comic I’m doing at the moment is a bit funny and a bit serious. Me and my friend are talking about where our lives are going at the moment but we’re also just drinking and goofing off so it’s a bit of both. I wouldn’t choose one over the other though, I like the story telling opportunities that both raise and each have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Though your artwork is beautiful, it seems like you’re still in some ways early in the process of learning your craft. What kind of support and advice have you received from readers and mentors?
Thank you! Yeah, I’ve always drawn since a very early age, but I’ve never had any formal art training (I think it shows as well). I started doing comics properly around June 2007 and posting them to Livejournal. Eventually I got linked by Ryan Pequin (which was a cool coincidence since his comics inspired me to start my own) and then I had all these artists I’ve loved tell me they liked my stuff, which was insanely flattering and a little bewildering. Yeah, I’ve been getting advice and constructive criticism on my stuff for a while now and its really helpful to have a community of artists and enthusiasts critique a drawing or let you know where you can buy good art material. As for specific advice, John Allison (this was on his blog I think) said to keep a proper sketchbook. I do most of my comics in my sketchbook but most of my drawings or quick doodles on printer paper. I need to get into the habit! Joseph Lambert is my sketchbook idol. His stuff is so good.
You mentioned trying to have more of an online presence. Aside from posting comics more regularly, are you thinking about anything like setting up your own website or creating something you could sell in an online store?
Yeah, I really need to get up off my butt and do comics more often! I find it hard to balance art stuff and life which is really weird considering I’m not working at the moment and have plenty of free time. I think I need to have structure, otherwise I end up pissing away whole days doing nothing in particular. I think a website would help me keep a proper updating schedule because there is an obligation for content otherwise people would quickly forget you and your website. I think I obsess too much about having nice art (I don’t think it shows), which means I have little art freak outs every now and then so I don’t post for ages, but I think I need to stick with it. I love looking at cartoonists’ old work where you can look back and see how they’ve progressed. I feel I’m at a very early stage, but I have an idea of where I need to go so hopefully in a couple years I can look at the stuff I’m doing now and not be too embarrassed! I’ve heard ComicPress is pretty hard to use so I might just start using Blogspot (and Tumblr) for the time being. Man, I’m pretty awful with computers. I’ll probably need help with a website sometime soon. Yeah, I keep getting bugged to start making stuff that people can buy which is as good sign as any I guess. Yeah, I think I’ll start putting out minis sometime very soon.
Other than Ryan Pequin and Joseph Lambert, what work (comics or otherwise) inspires and excites you the most?
Oh jeeze, I know I’m going to end up leaving some people out accidentally. Sorry in advance if I’ve left you out! Let’s see, MS Paint Adventures is probably my favorite comic at the moment. it’s pretty amazing watching the story (Homestuck) grow organically and seeing how Andrew can take something someone mentioned ages ago and make it this prominent story element. If you didn’t know, most of it is made up as he goes along—you’d think he was a story-wizard or something. Actually, he probably is. Order of Tales just finished up recently, that was amazing. I love Evan Dahm’s art work. Renee Engstrom (of Anders loves Maria) and her partner Rasmus Gran have started to do comics together, I like those. John Alison started a new comic after Scary go Round ended. It’s called Bad Machinery, it’s so good. Adam Cadwell does a comic called the Everyday (which is ending soon!). I really like the art work, it’s clean black and white artwork (although he has experimented with color) that is balanced well between realism and cartoony exaggeration. One of his friends in the strip is another great cartoonist, Marc Ellerby. Marc does Ellerbisms, which is this really funny autobio comic that can be really sad at times. Philipa Rice does this great comic called My Cardboard Life. I had the pleasure of looking at one of her strips in person, it’s really neat to see someone doing a collage comic. Joe Decie does great autobio stuff with an ink wash. He’s recently been experimenting with watercolors. I’ve learned so much stuff about journals from him. Shug Raine did this zine called Reet! which was awesome. He’s recently been working on completing his first long form work (Find Comet, Hit Comet, Watch Comet, Sleep), which I’m looking forward to seeing how he wraps up! There’s this guy on my Livejournal called dragoninstall who does this amazing bonkers comic called Shitcomic. None of it was plotted out in advance and none of it makes sense, but it is awesome! There’s another guy on my Livejournal called deathchalupa who does these amazing journals, he has such a distinctive style. I can’t wait to see more stuff from him. Both Liz Prince and Maris Wicks are awesome and have had a huge influence on my style. Penrod Pulaski is probably my favorite person doing journals at the moment, he’s so good! Even though he’s really technically accomplished he has this great sense of humor as well. I’ve only recently got into Dustin Harbin’s comics but his journals are amazing. I wish I was that good. Box Brown and Pranas T. Naujokaitis both do awesome comics. Hey Pais is a cat who does journal comics. Robin Le Blanc is a great photographer and writer (who sells prints here). Vicki Nerino and Britt Wilson (Uterus Parade Press) are the most awesome, gross, funny people doing comics at the moment (with the possible exception of Harvey James, who sort of transcends gross and funny). That’s really all there is to say on the matter!
Dale’s Livejournal – daleof.livejournal.com
June 24th, 2010 — Comics, Games, Interviews, Writing
Alana Joli Abbott is a writer and editor. Her work includes fiction, nonfiction, comics, role playing games, and contributions to shared worlds, among other things. She’ll say a bit more about all that. She answered my questions (I’m Dan Copulsky) in June 2010.
In terms of both profession and personal identity, what do you do?
How I self-identify is constantly changing, but mostly I think of myself as a writer and a mom. Professionally, I’m a freelance writer and editor who works a couple of days a week at the local library reference desk.
For your creative process, how does the writing fiction compare to writing nonfiction, or contributing to games or comics?
Each of those areas works differently, and even different styles of nonfiction require different types of thought! I work on a lot of reference series, writing short, concise articles that have to be synthesized from various other articles. The way I work on those is pretty straight forward: read the material, analyze the important parts, then put it back together in my own words.
Writing a history article is similar, but has a lot more fluidity, because the style isn’t as rigid. My article “Cruising the Thimble Islands” had a lot of the same analysis and synthesis, but I used a lot more of my own style, and invested myself more deeply in the research, doing interviews alongside reading books.
How does that compare to working on comics and games?
I write comics panel by panel. I took half of an online screenwriting class when one was offered through Barnes and Noble University, and even just the first few sessions helped me learn how to think about movement in writing. In prose, you write out what people are thinking and feeling—everything appears in your head and can be transferred directly to the reader. In screenwriting, according to what I learned, you can’t transmit any of the character’s thoughts; your audience sees everything through action. Comics are somewhere in between, since you reveal what’s going on with the characters through both short prose (if you reveal it at all) and images. Working with an artist also means, to me, leaving some gaps and details for my partner to fill in—describe too much and I’ve basically taken away all of the artist’s ability to move, but describe too little and we may end up creating different stories. So comics are a great balance in describing what I want a page to look like without taking control of the narrative.
Writing for games means leaving even more holes in the narrative, especially with adventure writing. The key there is to provide a framework inside of which the players and game master can tell the story and make it their own. Even writing about the world in descriptive text means leaving holes for the players to fill in—I try to hint at potential adventures or story ideas, but the settings only ever really come to life in the minds of the players, or in novels based in the same setting, which is what I’ve tried to do with my fiction writing set in shared worlds. (Both of my published novels, Into the Reach and Departure, are tie-ins to a game world.)
How do you approach writing fiction?
With my own fiction, I start without an outline, usually with just a scene or a feeling. I do research when I feel the story needs it, but it’s not the same kind of synthesis writing; instead, it’s taking the ideas presented in the research and running with them, working little details into the bigger story, and making sure that the details and the plot serve the characters. I’m very character driven as a writer, and I’m definitely a “pantser,” as they say in the blogosphere. I don’t like to work from an outline, because I feel like it spoils the surprise at where the story is going, and I have less motivation to write more of the story when I know how it all turns out.
You were a fan of Joss Whedon’s Firefly since you saw a preview trailer the winter before it came out. You then got a chance to contribute to the licensed role playing game based on the TV show, Serenity RPG. Is adding to a famous universe you’ve been a fan of as totally awesome as it sounds?
It was really incredible. Not only did I get to play in Joss’s ‘Verse, but I got to work with Margaret Weis as my editor for part of the project. (She’s just as amazing an editor as she is a writer.) Firefly really impacted the way I use language and the way I think about language, so having free reign to write in the linguistic style of the show was incredibly enjoyable. I’d do it again in a second if I had the opportunity.
How do you make the connections to work for different companies and on different projects? Is it something you have to consciously focus on it does it come naturally through doing the work you’re already doing?
Right now, I have enough clients to keep me busy, especially with my new “mom” role, so I’m not making a lot of effort to seek out new gigs. Much of my reference work comes through networking with people I used to work for, or who used to do work for me, when I was an in-house editor at Gale, now Gale Cengage, in the Detroit area. I did a lot of networking a few years running in the gaming industry by going to conventions and handing out my business card. The contacts I made there, and through ENWorld’s forums, made connections to other gigs, and I’ve been lucky to have my work show up in fiction anthologies and games based on hearing about opportunities from people I met. Most of that networking is still working for me, and more comes out of blogs I read and comment on. The self-perpetuating networking is nice, and as long as I’m busy, I don’t worry too much about stepping up and focusing more on that aspect.
How much do you think of projects as steps towards some greater success, and how much do you just relish the work you’re currently involved in?
As of now, I’ve stopped taking work that isn’t worth doing just for itself, whether that means for the payment at the end or for my own fulfillment. Earlier in my career, I did a lot of work for free, or for product credit, in order to establish myself. Volunteering like that is a great way to start making contacts and have writing samples to show around. These days, however, if it’s not work that I enjoy doing, it had either better pay very well or mean working with editors or project managers I really respect and enjoy working with. Of course, the best scenario would be doing work that I love for editors who are amazing and are paying me plenty of money! That’s a dream I’ve yet to realize.
Alana’s Website – virgilandbeatrice.com
Alana’s Livejournal – alanajoli.livejournal.com
June 10th, 2010 — Comics, Interviews
I set out to interview someone behind the scenes at The Center for Cartoon Studies, a graduate school for comic artists. Robyn Chapman, a comic artist and an educator at the school, was kind enough to help me out. She answered my questions (I’m Dan Copulsky) in June 2010, by email.
How did you get involved in the Center for Cartoon Studies and what do you do at the school?
I am CCS’s Program Coordinator, and a faculty member.
As the Program Coordinator, I do a lot of tasks, but primarily I work with the faculty, students and staff to keep our programming running smoothly.
I also co-teach contemporary comics history with Steve Bissette, and guest instruct on a variety of topics.
I first became acquainted with James Sturm at the Savannah College of Art and Design, when he was a teacher and I was a student. I considered him a mentor, because he was publishing his own comics and telling his own stories. That set him apart among the SCAD faculty at that time. Years later, when I heard he was starting a cartooning school, I knew I wanted to be involved. I offered to move to Vermont and work for CCS, and he and Michelle hired me.
What’s an average week for a student look like, as far as classes, lectures, guest speakers, assignments, and anything else going on?
It really depends on whether you are a first year student, or a second year student. The first year is a our “boot camp” year, it’s very intense with a lot of classes and a lot of course work. In the second year, the students work more independently.
I’ll describe the week in the life of a first-year student. Classes are held Monday through Thursday and include: Life Drawing, Publication Workshop, Drawing Workshop, Reading and Writing Workshop, Survey of the Drawn Story, Cartooning Studio, and Visiting Artist Seminar. In Visiting Artist Seminar, students attend a lecture by a professional cartoonist (guests have included Chris Ware, Alison Bechdel, Charles Burns, Lynda Barry, and many, many more).
Our students learn a lot, and draw a lot. They have 24-hour access to our production lab, so many work there late into the night. Some students get together for late-night movie marathons in our classroom, while inking their homework.
If they’re not swamped with homework, a student might enjoy “25 Cent Wing Night” or karaoke night at our local pub. Or they might enjoy board game night or the weekly poker games. If they’re a fan of film, they’ll be sure to attend Steve Bissette’s Film Club, which screens obscure and unusual films weekly. If they want to exercise, they can join our weekly soccer games or aerobic classes. And there are plenty of parties—some of them are your typical college parties, some more creative in nature (like a chili cook-off, or super hero costume party). This is all to say, there are a lot of student activities that happen each week.
How competitive is getting admitted to CCS? Do you think being a unique program brings more attention to the school, or could it mean people don’t even realize a school for making comics is something they could consider?
It’s a competitive application process, since we only accept 24 students each year. We carefully review each student, to make sure they are a good fit for CCS (and vice versa).
We are a highly specialized school, so we tend to attract only students who are strongly compelled to create comics. If you’re not willing to put comics at the center of your life for a year or two, then CCS is not the program for you.
What does college education offer a contemporary cartoonist? Is it about the art skills? The connections? Learning the business?
I’d say all of the above, though our focus is on comics as medium, rather than an industry. We give our students the support they need to make great stories. That’s the most important thing they will do here—they will make stories.
Having said that, we also teach the professional aspects of cartooning. We have a whole class dedicated to that topic, called Professional Practices. We also have professional cartoonists visit every week, who lecture on how they built careers in comics. We have an annual Industry Day, when we bring publishers and editors into the classroom. And yes, there are great opportunities to make connections. Connections are important, but the learning experience is more important.
How helpful is the credential?
You mean, how helpful is graduating from CCS with a MFA or certificate?
There are few careers that require an MFA in cartooning. For those who want to teach cartooning, especially in higher education, it’s pretty essential. And because today’s job market is so competitive, having a masters will give you a leg-up. But having an MFA in cartooning does not automatically open the door to a successful career.
CCS gains prestige every year. People who aware of comics as an artform in this country are usually aware of CCS. The quality of our program, our faculty, and the work our students produce is getting noticed. I think this is is a more valuable credential than the diploma our students get when they graduate.
Like a studio art program for visual artists or a creative writing program for writers, CCS is a school for comic artists. Like an art history programs for art scholars or an literature program for literary scholars, do you think there could ever be a school devoted to the study—but not the practice—of comics?
I could see departments devoted to comics scholarship popping up in larger universities—that may be happening as we speak. I’d be surprised if a whole school devoted to comics scholarship opened in the near future. But I’d like to be proven wrong.
What do you learn from teaching comics?
I primarily teach comics history and graphic novel study. To teach, I have to do a lot of research and a lot of reading. It’s a big, never-ending history lesson for me.
But, looking at the bigger picture—teaching has shown me how comics communicate to my students. I’m learning which comics really engage my student, light a fire in them. And I’m learning how those comics work.
Robyn’s Website – un-pop.com
The Center For Cartoon Studies – cartoonstudies.org