In case you were wondering, this is where it all starts. This is the moment you get a snapshot of the future, and a little bit of time to examine the photo negative. Who’s to know what these, the following comic creators, will produce one day? But I can tell you all about what they’ve done and are doing.
Would you take some time to learn about comics’ new blood with me? They don’t work for the big two, and theirs is the work you may find free of charge, or popular in smaller internet circles. These are the new writers and artists who live in the really real world, who said it like Oasis said, “I’ll start a revolution from my bed.”
If you do take the time, you might learn the reasons why people get into comics, how they get started, or why they create in the first place. For, there are real talents at all levels of comics publishing, and there is no medium quite like this one.
Sarah Joy Petrulis ( sarahpetrulis.com )
As a kid, Sarah thought she wanted to go into music or theater. Both creative paths, after all, but neither would be right for the skill set she would soon develop. Sarah gravitated toward comics once she started drawing in middle school, and from high school onward, there was no turning back.
She attended both the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, and the University of South Carolina (for Illustration and Painting, respectively). She is slated to graduate from the latter next year, and, drawing some inspiration from creators like Inoue Takehiko (Vagabond) and Ashley Wood (Metal Gear Solid), has been working on her own projects the whole way.
Hookyland, a graphic novel exploring Sarah’s interests in ghost stories and Japanese history, demands most of her creative attention right now. Apart from being an undeniably unique concept, the comic draws heavily upon the author’s experiences as a child and young adult. In Sarah’s own words, “For the three years since her high school graduation, Anika Truelove has been hanging around her dad’s house smoking pot and watching movies, hiding from the passage of time and the world at large. A trip to visit her mother’s grave in the eerie Louisiana town of Losbilusa leads to encounters with strange creatures and the dead.”
Aside from being a way to tell stories that challenge her artistically, Sarah’s also been able to use comics as a force for good. As shown by her experience, comics can do much more than entertain us.
As an illustrator, Sarah has been active on the issue of HIV/AIDS. Working with researchers Dr. Karen Gavigan and Dr. Kendra Albright, Sarah collaborated with students in the South Carolina Juvenile Justice system. Together, they produced an educational comic which got the attention of the national news media: Teens Create Graphic Novel About AIDS.
Sarah adds, “I have seen first hand how comics can scaffold literacy and an interest in the arts.” She believes Aids in the End Zone, a morality tale as much as it is a tool for AIDS awareness, should be important to all readers, across all demographics. She was especially eager to work on the project, as in her home state of South Carolina, and in many conservative regions, HIV/AIDS is not always discussed in the classroom. As Sarah discovered through her work on the comic, many do not understand the disease is still a serious issue the world over.
AIDS in the End Zone is due for publication next year, when it will become an official part of the high school curriculum, hopefully, spurring a statewide trend. There may be more activism-through-comics in Sarah’s future, as well. Working again with Doctors Gavigan and Albright at her university, Sarah looks forward to illustrating another educational comic still in the planning stages, this time tackling the issue of teen pregnancy.
Sarah Says: Comics are important to me for a number of reasons. I think they are an excellent tool for communication and learning because they’re so accessible. There’s just nothing better than curling up with a comic that you can really tell came from an artist’s blood and soul.
For an artist like me who aims to tell stories and share experiences it’s the perfect medium. On a more personal note, working on comics has always helped me push myself artistically and (I think) most importantly to gain insight. I approach creating characters from the perspective that they represent different pieces of the self as much as they do our interpretations of other people. When a person creates an idealized lover for their story, what they are doing is tapping into the part of their mind that knows exactly what their emotional needs are.
What She’s Reading: Vagabond, Takemitsu Zamurai, Cat Eyed Boy, Bleach, Sunny,
Run Lil’ Jared, Alpha Flag, Fail Friends, The Secret Lives of Flowers (adult content), Harbinger
Chelsea Crutchley ( chelseacrutchley.com )
Here’s a Comics For Heroes challenge for you, dear reader. Find us a better testimonial to comics than the brief time capsule of this artist: Chelsea goes from non-fan to reader, illustrator, then straight-up comic creator. How comics? Why comics? Well, it didn’t all happen overnight.
Her love of visual storytelling began in kidhood. She blames children’s book authors like Beatrix Potter, and illustrators Sylvie Monti, Chihiro Iwasaki, and Robin James for sparking her creative journey. Throw in a whole lot of Disney movies and Anime, and we have the ingredients for a surefire storyteller. But what sort would she be? Comics may have been the furthest thing from her mind: “The never-ending storylines did not appeal to me. Nor the crossovers and alternate universes and guys with superhuman powers. The other kids would be drawing Spawn and Wolverine and that didn’t interest me at all.”
She set her sights on being an animator, thinking she’d work for Disney one day, but during some early glimpses into the career, things changed. She says, “After a couple of animation camps as a teenager, I realized it wasn’t for me. It was too much repetition–24 drawings to cover one second of story? Are they serious? I knew the story could be moved forward faster frame by frame through a comic.”
At the Alberta College of Art and Design, Chelsea grew as a narrative artist, and gained more of an appreciation of art history. In particular, Hellenistic sculpture, Rococo, the Pre-Raphaelites and Art Nouveau spoke to her. She took home a Bachelor’s in Design in 2008, and in all the years since, has been devoting more time to her own work and collaborations. And now we’re talking comics.
Stray Sod is one such devotion, a modern fairy tale of a sort which takes place in green and mysterious Ireland, circa now. Chelsea’s blurb: “On a family vacation, Ina’s sister goes missing and the only clues to finding her come from an unnerving young man who believes in fairies.” Frankly, one wonders how the story would turn out as an animated film, or a prose serial, or anything but a comic. But she calls this comic her main creative commitment.
As further proof of how ‘dug in’ Chelsea is in the medium nowadays, she is one of the many artists who participate in NaNoMangO, ‘The art alternative to NanoWriMo.’ This national marathon is open to comic creators who want to push their drawing limits by producing one page per day, for the entire month of November. Sleep-depriving? Yes. Worth it? Also yes.
Chelsea still writes prose, and she still animates every once in a while. The Money Tree marked her first foray into the world of children’s books (as a professional, anyway). She contributed whimsical artwork to a script aimed at warning kids off the dangers of greed.
Comics, however, persist in being special to her. Seeing it as the perfect middle ground between prose and animation, she’s excited about the future: “Comics are constantly proving me wrong in my early perceptions of formulaic struggles of men in tights who seem to have no flaws or weaknesses. Independent comics are gaining strength, and variety continues to grow. More and more people are acknowledging that there are really no limits to what a comic can be and the kind of story it can tell.”
Chelsea Says: I was at a bookstore in Downtown Disney around 2007, which had the most impressive comics section I’d ever seen at the time, when I saw a volume of Kazu Kibuishi’s anthology Flight for the first time. I’d never encountered a collection of comics or parts of comics by different artists, and none of them fit the stereotypical comic look or content (at least in my mind). That one book showed me more about the potential in storytelling through comics than anything I’d seen or studied. It made me feel like I could be completely true to my own aesthetics and story tastes and have it read and enjoyed by others. That changed my view of comics in a really powerful way.
I can’t be asked about webcomics without mentioning The Dreamer by Lora Innes, which aside from being an addictive story that I wish had been around when I was younger, was my gateway into realizing webcomics really are a legitimate path for artists. For me it bridged the unspoken gap between ‘comics’ and ‘webcomics’. The Dreamer exists both as a free webcomic online and as physical graphic novels, and at first that blew my mind. It feels strange not to list it up above my other favorite comics for the mere reason that it was on the web first.
What She’s Reading: The Dreamer, Fables, Saga, Runaways, Castle Waiting, Plume, Toilet Genie, Amya, Hark! A Vagrant
Julie & Alan Curtis ( Lost in the Vale )
When you take the original characters and sequential art of Julie, and add the episodic writing of her husband, Alan, you’ve got a pair that compliments one another more than it clashes, and the raw materials needed for fine storytelling.
Meet the creative team behind the webcomic Lost in the Vale, the low fantasy action adventure story which is equal parts drama and comedy. As they describe, “The Outrunners are traveling peacekeepers tasked with assisting the citizens of the Vale. Their top priority: find the missing Prince of Andalusia. For Delica, it’s not just her mission – it’s her obsession. As she and her teammates travel the kingdom, they will discover more dangers (and mysteries) than they ever imagined.”
To hear them tell it, Lost in the Vale is a story that demanded to be written, forming in Julie’s fertile imagination since 2006.
Despite having a background in art, Julie admits to having doubts about ever getting her project off the ground. Call it a crisis of confidence. As the first comic she had ever worked on, Lost in the Vale presented a variety of new challenges, not the least of which being that she was virtually self-taught as a comic artist, and had set an ambitious goal.
It is easy to see why she turned to Alan for help with fleshing out the project. A freelance artist and designer himself, he is also the kind of writer who is not afraid to be in it for the long haul. Not only has he penned the scripts and the histories of the Vale, he has also contributed a prequel novel, and plans to write more books based on the comic. “Pretty much any creative thing we do is a collaboration,” he says.
The tandem, who hale from the South of the U.S., derives much inspiration from other comics and good television. For Alan, the shows range from Mystery Science Theater 3000 and DuckTales to Breaking Bad, and it helps the creative process for him to think of each chapter of a webcomic like an episode of TV. Julie points to comic artists like Adam Hughes (Catwoman), Kenneth Rocafort (Red Hood and the Outlaws) and Jo Chen (Runaways), and is not particularly worried about imitating, or ever becoming as famous as, her influences.
For Julie and Alan, comics are both fun and a learning experience. Their goal is a simple one, to tell a story they themselves would like to read. Lost in the Vale has been making that happen since early 2013.
Julie Says: I didn’t start seriously reading comics until high school. I read manga only until I started college; I met Alan and he started introducing me to American comics.
I kept telling myself that there was no way I could do a comic. There were way too many things I wasn’t good enough at. Finally, the drive to do it was too strong. I’m just relying on myself to learn as I go. I would encourage everyone to just go for it. You think you can’t do it; just do it. It might look ugly at first, and it may only be slightly less ugly at the end, but you did it. That’s how I feel about my own work. What I wanted to do was tell a story through my art and so I set a goal. I’ll chip away at it until that goal is achieved, even if it takes my whole life.
Alan Says: I got into art with the worst possible attitude, thinking I was going to be a ‘commercial artist’ (whatever that was) and nothing more. I had some amazing teachers, though, that showed me what a foolish kid I was, and that really helped me mature artistically. I used to be all about trying to create something totally unique, something that’s never been done before that would blow people’s minds. If I had an idea and it reminded me of something, I’d discard it. One day, I got the most profound fortune cookie I’ve ever read. It said, ‘trying to out-smart everyone is the greatest folly.’ I stared at that for a second in disbelief. But it really did make me re-evaluate how I look at things.
If you have something you want to say or something you’re passionate about doing, approach it like a child. The first comic book I ever actually bought (besides the ones they used to give out at Captain D’s and Shoney’s) was a Muppet Babies comic. My love of comics started there and, like my other childhood obsessions, never really went away.
What They’re Reading: Catwoman, Batman, Batman and Robin, Unlife, Dream*Scar, The Dreamer.
Activists, unlikely comic defenders, and brave fledglings. These are just some of the people you will find creating the comics of today, a new, genre-blending time where anything seems to go. We can read their profiles, and pursue the works that illuminated the world of comics for them, but what we really ought to do is stand back and let them tell their stories. And read them of course. For those will be the future.
Picture snapped; photo developing.
What do you see?