Thursday, November 16, 2023

Meet a Fledgling Cartoonist: A Chat with Maggie Shang

by Mike Rhode

I was recently introduced to Maggie Shang as a freelance illustrator who's pitching her first graphic novel "that’s based off my parents meeting in Beijing in 1989." You may run into her at local comics events like I have.  At the beginning of her career, she's agreed to answer our usual questions.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Honestly I feel like I'm still so new to comics that all I've really worked on is my first YA GN [graphic novel], which I just finished the pitch packet for, but would love to explore something that's more short form.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I find that being able to "ctrl Z" is worth the tired eyes that come with creating digitally; overall it feels like you just have more control over your creation. However, nothing really compares to the texture and feel of traditional media. I haven't created any projects traditionally in a very long time, but I have my sketchbook where I get to sketch and play.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in 97 in Spirit Lake, IA

Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

I actually live out in Gaithersburg, MD, but the reason I'm here is simply because my partner is from here. I met them when I was at Ringling College and once we graduated we knew we didn't want to live in Florida. I also grew up in Beijing, and most of my family still lives there, but I wanted to stay in America so I decided to move to his home state of Maryland. It's probably the most beautiful place I've lived.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I'm actually trained in illustration, and the only education I've had for cartooning was with Kid Comics Unite (KCU)'s intensive bootcamp GN course. Which 10/10 would recommend if you can do it.

Who are your influences?

For GN's Jen Wong is definitely a huge influence; her line work is done traditionally and is always so textured and fun. I also think she has a way of creating dynamic, engaging paneling. Although a massive inspiration, just in general, is Sara Kipin. She made me understand and fall in love with color, and it's now my favorite part of any piece.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I don't know if I've had enough of a career to have any do-overs, but I do want to try and put my work out there and maybe try and sell some of it. It's been a bit intimidating but something I very much want to try.

Why did you decide to move on from children's books?

I found children's books to be so restrictive from a creator's POV. I really struggled to keep my stories and ideas to 500 words or less and kept being told that I should expand on my plots and worlds, and asked if I'd ever tried GN's. After looking into it I fell in love [with the form]. There's so much more space to work, and draw and develop your characters and plot. I could maybe illustrate a picture book, but I only want to create GN's now.

What work are you best-known for?

I don't know if I have any work that's known at all... But I guess I'm best known for having a cozy, warm style.

What work are you most proud of?

I think the work I did for the pitch packet is probably some of the work I'm most proud of. It was an awkward transition to think in comics rather than illustrations, and seeing these finals vs my first crack at comics is like night and day.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

I really want to be a part of an anthology :D I also hope someone likes my YA GN enough to maybe publish it, but we'll see!

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I physically try to move around, whether that'd be exercise, dancing to music, pacing etc. In a way, it feels like I'm shaking up my creative juices.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

I think AI is changing everything and it's here to stay. So I can see someone creating an AI where artists feed their style into it, and then give it instructions instead of thumbnailing, line arting [i.e. drawing], coloring and finalizing. My wrist would be so grateful.

What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Awesome Con, or others? Any comments about attending them?

I've attended SPX twice now and it's been wonderful both times! Although I really want to try and go to Awesome Con and DC Zine Fest as well.

What comic books do you read regularly or recommend? Do you have a local store?

I just finished Roaming by the Tamaki duo, I thought it had a really quiet intense story telling style. It captured the emotions perfectly and the visuals are stunning and unique. Also really love Fantom Comics in DC.

What's your favorite thing about DC?

A tie between the diverse people and yummy food.

Least favorite?

The humidity.

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?

I always love the National Portrait Gallery.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

I really love A&J restaurant in Rockville, MD.

Do you have a website or blog?, and I'm @magshang on both Tiktok and Instagram.

How did the COVID-19 outbreak affected you, personally and professionally?

I graduated in 2019 and remember I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation. But I put together a game plan and was going to really try and start my career in 2020. Then lockdown happened and it felt like all the momentum I had just disappeared. I also just moved to Maryland so being in a completely new state, away from family and friends was a lot.

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