Amy Reeder ANSWERS 15 QUESTIONS WITH JULINDA MORROW
Amy Reeder is a welcome addition to the community of comic book creators. She has worked on Madame Xanadu and left her influential mark on Batwoman.
Now, thanks to a very successful Kickstarter campaign, Amy is embarking on an exciting new journey by releasing her creator-owned comic Halloween Eve through Image Comics in October.
A gallery of Amy’s arresting art follows this interview.
Julinda Morrow: What path led you to comics and sequential art?
Amy Reeder: Actually, I was going to be a social studies teacher but I’d graduated and couldn’t – for the life of me – find a teaching job. In my boredom I started getting into Manga, and that’s when I found this book where American artists competed and the top ten were published. It was weird, but my life totally changed…I thought about nothing but improving at art and making it into one of these books. And a few months later, I made it in! Then Tokyopop (who ran the contest) handed me a three-volume GN deal. Pretty crazy stuff! Work has been nonstop ever since, knock on wood.
JM: What schooling or training did you receive?
AR: Just my own, pretty much. I’d never planned on being an artist until it just…happened, in adulthood. But I’m good at teaching, and it makes me good at learning, too. Not that it’s easy…it’s more that improvement is an obsession. I work very hard. People judge by the way my work looks that I’m fast and that things come easily to me. And I want it to look that way so it’s easy to read, but the truth is, drawing is a battle for me and can be very overwhelming. I am usually proud of the outcome, but I do a lot of metaphorical hair pulling to get there […]
JM: Who, in your opinion, are the pioneers of sequential art?
AR: I am basically the wrong person to answer this question. I am going to embarrass myself, because I just wasn’t exposed to comics until I was knee deep in them. But I will say that I really love Windsor McKay.
JM: How do you define sequential art?
AR: Er, comics…I leave others to define things. Back when I was working for Tokyopop, there was a lot of argument over what constitutes Manga, and what’s comics. It’s an important conversation but all it does is trigger me into thinking I should be busy drawing comics and stop talking.
JM: Do you find that sequential art provides you with near-limitless possibilities for storytelling or do you experience it as constraining?
AR: I work well in the happy medium between limits and the limitless, and I think comics lies somewhere in there. So for me, it is extremely enabling. The “rules” give me a framework to start from, and they give me something to break, too.
JM: What qualities or resources do you believe are most important for a sequential storyteller to have?
AR: They need to understand how other people’s minds work, to the point that they know how to move an audience of varied minds from point A to point B. It’s a talent that is the key to being good at many things in life.
JM: How do you approach your work process?
AR: I draw detailed thumbnails that I later enlarge and lightbox, for pencils/inks. Working small and detailed means I can see the big picture better, and if it looks good small and scribbly, I can rest assured the finished product will turn out great. I ink with [Sakura] Micron because I am both untrained and a perfectionist. I usually color in Photoshop but sometimes I use Copics. If I letter I draw the balloons digitally, but freehand…because they mesh with the art better that way.
JM: How many hours a day do you work? Are you uniformly productive on any given day or more productive on some days than others?
AR: It’s sort of random, and I don’t normally count my hours. I just work all day, from morning to night, and take breaks to shower or eat or rest or pay someone a visit. I rarely take days off unless my hand hurts, and those aren’t fun days off. By the way, I would love for none of this to be true. I hope one day I can figure out how to be a functional freelancer.
JM: Was it a struggle, at the start of your career, to find work and make ends meet?
AR: No…I was lucky because I lived with my parents during my Tokyopop days, and didn’t move out until I started on Madame Xanadu with Vertigo. I have been very lucky, all around.
JM: What has been your most valuable professional experience?
AR: Definitely my work on Madame Xanadu. It was a big jump from Tokyopop to Vertigo, my editor was Bob Schreck, my assistant editor was Brandon Montclare with whom I’m now working on our upcoming creator-owned book Halloween Eve, my writer was Matt Wagner, my inker was Richard Friend, and my colorist was Guy Major. Sorry to namedrop, but seriously, how lucky was I? Especially when you consider how little I had to my name.
Not that it was easy. It was unbelievably stressful, and the deadline pressure was tough on me. But it taught me a lot about being a professional, and I had great examples to look up to – and it earned me three Eisner nominations, which meant a lot of job security after that.
JM: What inspires or informs you creatively?
AR: I guess it’s my obsession with people and my desire to understand them and make connections with them. I am specifically obsessed with faces and expressions…and when I draw, I’m just trying to get people to feel what I’m feeling. Comics, to me, seem like the ultimate form of communication.
JM: What is your position on digital comics? Are they a good thing or a bad thing?
AR: They’re good but I am not on the forefront of the movement, so it feels daunting to me. It’s tough to decide which shape they should take…because they should take a different shape, and I worry that we will be slow to adjust, always having the bias of print weighing us down. But I feel like I can’t do anything about it because I’m already so bad at time management.
JM: If you were to make any changes to the industry or the market what changes would you make?
AR: Bring in more female readers. It’s always my biggest goal. I don’t plan on alienating male readers at all. But it should make sense for women to read comics.
JM: If you could apprentice under any artist at any time in history and anywhere in the world who would it be?
AR: I guess…Moebius… I’m not sure. He’d be a good one because he seemed so free with format and purpose and style. I feel so restrained with how I approach comics that it’d be nice to be around someone who’s both experimental and incredibly inspiring.
JM: What, in the future, would you like to accomplish creatively?
AR: I want to be doing it all one day: writing, drawing, inking, coloring, lettering. I feel like it’s the whole point of comics – like, novels are by one person but to me that’s not a full experience, and movies are a full experience but you can’t do it without compromising your vision a little. With comics, you can create a full experience, all from one brain. I can picture a story, slap it on a page, give it to you, and put it in your head. That is so cool! I also tend to think my potential is higher, going solo. Maybe this is my naïveté and vanity speaking. I guess time will tell!