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QRD #67 - Comic Creator Interviews VII
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about this issue
Indie Comic Creator Interviews:
Jeff Guarino & Dean Westerfield
Luke Parker
Jack Gonzalez
Tom Arvis
Jared Catherine
Nic J Shaw
Andrew MacLean
Andrew Moran
Joe Simmons
Tony Sedani
Leigh Walls
Emily R Gillis
Scott Finch
Crystal M Rollins
Janusia Figuieredo
Michael Bracco
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Emily R. Gillis
Emily R. Gillis
Emily R. Gillis
Emily R. Gillis
Emily R. Gillis
Emily R. Gillis
Emily R. Gillis
Emily R. Gillis
Emily R. Gillis
Emily R. Gillis
Emily R. Gillis
Emily R. Gillis
Emily R. Gillis
Indie Comic Creator Interview with Emily R. Gillis
March 2014
Emily R. Gillis
Name: Emily R. Gillis
City: Baltimore, MD
Comics: Jikoshia, A Day In The Life Of My Cats, Cranky Cthulhu
Websites: www.waywardstudios.net, www.squarecitycomics.com

QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?

Emily – I’ve loved comics as long as I can remember, though I didn’t start taking them seriously until I was in college when I was around 18 & first read Will Eisner’s A Contract With God Trilogy.

QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?

Emily – I honestly can’t remember my first one, though I remember stealing my sister’s copies of Garfield books as a kid.

QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?

Emily – The first comic I remember making was in the 4th grade. I made a comic about my teacher called Super Arnold.  She defeated aliens by giving them math homework.  It was ribbon bound & everything!

QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?

Emily – While I have favorite books from all the way back to the 40s, I really love what people have been doing with comics more recently.  I’d say the current decade has the best stuff.

QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?

Emily – I’ve attempted novel writing, but it just doesn’t cut it for me.  I explain things better with pictures rather than words & I’ve always enjoyed drawing.

QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?

Emily – Both.  Yes, a number of artists & authors have gotten picked up by mainstream publishers because of their indie work, but I doubt that’s the reason they started putting their work out there in the first place.

QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?

Emily – On my main project, Jikoshia, I did a first run of 100 books.  On my mini-comics, I usually start with about 20 books.

QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?

Emily – It depends on the book.  I’m willing to pay $20-25 for a trade comic, but I don’t like to pay more than $5 for a mini or floppy unless they did something special with the printing (i.e. screen printed covers).  I can’t see myself spending more than $50 on a special edition of a book (which I have done).

QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?

Emily – I typically put out 1 mini a year & 2 chapters of my main project, releasing that in book format every 2 years.  Ideally, I’d like to put out 3-4 mini comics & a full trade a year.

QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?

Emily – Again, it really depends on the story.  Something particularly long should probably be serialized to make it affordable.  As a consumer though, I prefer completed books.  They look nicer on my shelf & are easier to browse through than floppies.  Plus cliffhangers drive me INSANE.

QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?

Emily – Strips are more often used for one-off gags with fewer, static panels, whereas a book usually has a longer plot-driven narrative.  Strips are easier to jump into & share with people, but more often I find book format to be a more rewarding read & a better fit for the kinds of stories I want to tell.

QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?

Emily – My first book was printed shortly after I finished the last pages.  My minis get printed whenever the nearest convention date approaches, so the wait time between book completion & printing varies.

QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?

Emily – Just about everything!  My anatomy is better.  My sense of composition is better.  My inking has improved.  I know I still have plenty I can improve upon, but I’ve come a long way as well.

QRD – Do you do thumbnails?

Emily – I do, though they’re usually unreadable to anyone but myself (unless I draw them too far in advance, then it’s anyone’s guess).

QRD – At what size do you draw?

Emily – 150% the actual print size which fits on 11x17 paper.

QRD – What kind of pens do you use?

Emily – I vary between a variety of Microns & a Pentel Pocket Brush, though I’ve been meaning to play with nibs & brushes.

QRD – What does your workstation look like?

Emily – A cluttered computer desk with 2 monitors (one scratched), a ceramic mug I got from Renn Faire full of pens & pencils, a large Intuos tablet at my feet, & a cat sleeping on whatever page I happen to be trying to work on.

QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?

Emily – Minor corrections, coloring, & lettering are all digital.

QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?

Emily – I LIVE webcomics.  There’s just such a huge variety of stories & styles to pick from now & it’s so easy for new creators to start creating!  The vast majority of what I read is on the web & my list is constantly growing.  In contrast, I’m not as big a fan of digital comics.  I don’t have a tablet or e-reader & can’t stand reading on my little smartphone’s screen.  I prefer reading my books in dead tree format.

QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?

Emily – Color, though my book’s coloring is done by my partner in comics, Crystal Rollins.

QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?

Emily – I don’t think there’s any minimum or maximum to how many people SHOULD work on a comic.  I think the fewer people, the more control the creators have over the story, but if you want to make a comic, but can’t draw & have a friend who draws, but can’t color, there’s no reason they shouldn’t go out & find someone else to color it & so on.

QRD – How do you find collaborators?

Emily – While I haven’t collaborated with anyone yet, if I did I would look to the comic group I helped to start.  If your area doesn’t have one, start one!

QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?

Emily – Since I typically work solo, my scripts end up being a vague description of the place & character actions & lines of dialogue unless I already have a clear image in my head.  If you’re working with someone though, I think the tighter the better.  While, as an artist, I appreciate being given free reign over things, I prefer to have a clear picture of what the author is going for.

QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?

Emily – I don’t think I could pick one.  Will Eisner, Becky Cloonan, & Kazu Kibuishi are probably at the top of my list of people I’d love to be compared to.

QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?

Emily – They love what I’m doing (or at least that’s what they tell me!).  My mom often plugs my work at her own workplace.

QRD – What do you think of superheroes?

Emily – Overdone, but still fun!

QRD – Marvel or DC?

Emily – DC

QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?

Emily – I don’t think I’d like writing characters I didn’t make.  I’m too much of a control freak.

QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?

Emily – If you had asked me this 10 years ago, I would have said no.  Now that I’ve done it, I enjoy the level of control I have over my work.  I might change my mind again if sales get out of hand.

QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?

Emily – I love comic & anime conventions. I try to go to as many as I can.  I go to support indie creators in artist alley.

QRD – How do you feel about doing work for anthologies?

Emily – As a creator, I think they’re great for getting your work out there & learning to work on deadlines.  As a consumer, I love getting to discover new talent &, if I don’t like one or two of the stories, I still have the rest of the submissions to make the purchase worth it.  I’m less likely to experience buyer’s remorse.

QRD – What do you do to promote your books?

Emily – I don’t do a lot of promotion.  I post updates to Tumblr & Facebook when I remember to, but it’s mostly just trying to maintain a regular update schedule for my webcomic & passing out postcards at conventions.

QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?

Emily – I think even if my books made it into comic shops, they would still sell better at conventions.  A shop isn’t necessarily going to do much in the way of promoting the book & directing new readers to it, whereas on the con floor I’m there connecting directly with potential readers & learning what it is they want to get out of the stories they read.

QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?

Emily – An animated series might be cool, but I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to questions like this.  I like my comics as comics & would prefer to keep them that way.  I would LOVE to have some action figures of my characters though!

QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?

Emily – Both.  (I pity the person who is a collector but not a reader!)

QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?

Emily – I imagine print won’t go away, but will become more of a collector’s niche than anything else.  Digital will likely have taken over the casual reader’s library.

QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?

Emily – I can’t think of anything specific I’d like to see happen.  I just want people to make MORE!

QRD – Anything else?

Emily – That thing I said about joining a comic group or starting one?  I was serious.  Creating comics can be a very lonely process, especially if you’re working solo.  Throw an ad up on Craigslist looking for other creators just to meet up with & talk shop.  I guarantee there are more people in your area looking to make comics than you thought & having those people around to give you feedback & new perspectives will do wonders for your work.   I’ve heard other creators say we are living in a comics renaissance & I couldn’t agree more.