Showing posts with label webcomics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label webcomics. Show all posts

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Deandra "Nika" Tan (updated)

from her Instagram feed
by Mike Rhode

Deandra "Nika" Tan's work is being exhibited in Arlington's Aurora Hills Library for two months, ending next week. Her artist's statement for the small exhibit reads:

Deandra "Nika" Tan is a Virginia-based writer and artist who primarily leverages the medium of comics to tell her stories. Her visual art style combines elements of Japanese manga and vintage art illustrations, which she then further adapts to fit the tone of whatever project she's working on. Initial concept work is done traditionally with a pen and paper, whereupon the comic is drafted and completed on a tablet computer. Recurring themes in her stories explore the tensions between romantic and familial relationships and the desire for societal recognition.

I stopped in to see the exhibit, and upon seeing that she was doing minicomics, I reached out with our usual questions.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I primarily do long-form digital comics. My stories range from slice-of-life to sci-fi/fantasy to mystery and suspense. Right now, I’m engaged with digital publisher Tapas Media to produce “Signals,” a crime comic with a telepathic detective as the heroine, for their mobile app. The eventual goal with most of my stories is to get them into print, however.

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

All computer! I have a Wacom tablet computer that I bring with me wherever I go. Sometimes traditional pen and ink are good for combating writer’s block, or sketching out thumbnails for an upcoming chapter, but it’s all finished digitally.

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

I was born in New York City in the early 1990s. I spent most of my life in the city, moving down to the Washington area only in 2016 when my partner relocated for work.

What neighborhood or area do you live in?

I lived in Arlington for 3 years and just recently moved to Vienna. Still got a whole bunch of boxes left to unpack!

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

This is a tough one, haha. I’ve taken art classes all my life in school, but they don’t really prepare you for the specific skills that comics require. Studying film in college helped me a lot with the conventions of setting up scenes. Pacing and frame layouts are something that I’m still actively working on.

How did you get your work exhibited in Arlington's Aurora Hills library?

So the Aurora Hills Library was just a few blocks from my first apartment in the Washington DC area. I actually volunteered there for three years, helping them pull books off shelves for circulation. One of the librarians who worked there, Tom, asked me recently if I’d be interested in exhibiting any of my work, and I said yes! It’s really cool bringing that full circle and being able to share my art in a space that I’m familiar with. The final exhibition date is March 28th (next week!). After that, there will be a second run in the Columbia Pike branch from the beginning of June until the end of June.

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

I’ve got a couple ideas for graphic novels I’d like to pitch at some point, but I think in the immediate future, once my current project is complete, I’d like to work on a variety of short stories. I feel like I’m still in the middle of developing my style and voice as a creator, and short stories are a great low-commitment way of doing that. I’ve participated in a few anthologies (1001 Knights, Gothic Tales of Haunted Love, Pros and (Comic) Cons), and I’m toying with the idea of organizing my short stories in a similar thematic way. Or maybe I’ll just indulge whatever inspiration strikes. Who knows!

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

So I’m fortunate in a sense that I’ve never dealt with writer’s block while in the middle of a webcomic. I just don’t have the luxury. I did, however, have a terrible time committing to a storyline for “Signals” ahead of its launch. Every time I came up with an outline, either a new idea would strike, or something would fall out of place. I found myself in a position where I was just reorganizing the story into different iterations for the sake of it. Finally, I just gave Tapas Media a date to start publication to light a fire under my tail. If not for that, “Signals” would probably still be in development hell.

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

I think it’s very positive! More and more people are discovering independent and creator-owned comics, and I feel that recognition of their literary value is growing in schools and libraries. That said, the comics community can still be quite insulated from the mainstream. We haven’t yet gotten to the point where picking up a bestselling comic is as common as reading a bestselling book or going to watch a blockbuster in theaters.

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

I regularly go to SPX since a lot of my comic friends use that as an excuse to get together and hang out, even if we’re not planning to sell anything. I’ve also gone to Awesome Con and Otakon, but strictly for business. I’d love to attend one year just for fun and actually attend some events. When you’re there as an artist to sell, you pretty much never leave your table except to eat.

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

Actually, rather than go to any one monument or museum, I just like to walk around the Mall. Nighttime is a great time to go; it’s less crowded, and they do a killer job with the lights. Then afterward maybe grab some unusual ice cream flavors at Pitango Gelato.

Do you have a website or blog?

Yep! You can check out my work at

I forgot to ask - why the penname "Nika"?

I first started publishing the webcomic that would become "Love Debut!" without any clear idea of what I was doing or how long I'd keep it up. At the time, many other creators publishing manga-inspired webcomics had Japanese-derived pseudonyms, so I just went along with that and adapted the name "Nika" from an character I had come up with as a kid. Later, when I returned to comics after graduating college, it made sense to use the name to keep my comics and my "professional" life separate. I might consider retiring it once "Signals" is complete, but hard to say. At this point, the name feels pretty comfortable and familiar.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

March 9: Deandra Tan: Comics talk at Arlington's Aurora Hills Library

Deandra Tan: Comics

On exhibit at the Aurora Hills Branch Library, February 6 - March 31.
cover art from graphic novel
Artist Statement:
Deandra "Nika" Tan is a Virginia-based writer and artist who primarily leverages the medium of comics to tell her stories. Her visual art style combines elements of Japanese manga and vintage art illustrations, which she then further adapts to fit the tone of whatever project she's working on. Initial concept work is done traditionally with a pen and paper, whereupon the comic is drafted and completed on a tablet computer. Recurring themes in her stories explore the tensions between romantic and familial relationships and the desire for societal recognition.

Artist Reception: Deandra Tan

Please join us at the Aurora Hills Branch Library for a reception honoring local artist Deandra Tan.
Meet the artist and view an exhibition of her artwork in the Aurora Hills lobby.
Saturday, March 9, 2019
1:00pm - 2:00pm
Aurora Hills Branch Library
Artist Talk
Aurora Hills

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Jamie Noguchi and Super Art Fight profiled by The Post Magazine

The Art Gladiators

Who needs comic books? Meet the gonzo performers of Super Art Fight, who draw characters and creatures as they battle each other in a live competition.
Story by Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson
November 26, 2018

Jamie's webcomic Yellow Peril is at and it's great fun. I look forward to buying the compilation every year at SPX because I'm old school and like my comics on paper. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Steve Conley on his Middle Age Kickstarter campaign

by Mike Rhode

Former NoVA resident Steve Conley is still in our hearts (and our pocketbooks) so we reached out to hear a bit more about his newest Kickstarter campaign to fund a hardcover collection of his The Middle Age webcomic.

What's The Middle Age?

The Middle Age is a fantasy, humor webcomic about a middle-aged knight stuck with a cursed, sarcastic sword and on a quest to rescue his love from dragons. The story launched in 2016 and has been lucky enough to receive ‘Best Webcomic’ nominations in both the San Diego Comic-Con International’s Eisner Awards and the Baltimore Comic-Con’s Ringo Awards.

Is the story open-ended, or do you have a limit planned for it?

It’s a novel-length story building toward a specific ending but there is has plenty of room to continue afterward. As of now, we’re currently four chapters in to a roughly twelve-chapter story.

You've done previous Kickstarters, including one for your green space monkey character Bloop - do they get less stressful? Have they all been successful?

Each one has been equally stressful and even though I’ve learned a lot from every campaign, every project has been different enough to create all new stresses. That said, the response to all three Kickstarter projects has been very kind and we’ve managed to reach each goal within 48 hours.

Is Bloop coming back? How about Astounding Space Thrills?

I would love to continue working on those but between The Middle Age and freelance work, I just don’t have the time. I’m hoping that as my Patreon support continues to grow, I’ll be able to afford more time to work on more stories.

Speaking of that, how is Patreon working for you?

I have to say it’s been wonderful.The sixty supporters I have on Patreon really help keep me going. The amount of money raised helps pay a few bills and the emotional support is tremendous. We’re now just 40 supporters shy of doubling the amount of The Middle Age comics I can produce each month. And I believe that having two episodes per week will do wonders for readership and help us just keep building momentum. Slow and steady!

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Kickstarter for The Middle Age Webcomic

Steve Conley Kickstarts The Middle Age Volume One
Selected as a "Project We Love" by Kickstarter

Cartoonist Steve Conley has launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce a full-color, hardcover collection of his Eisner- and Ringo-nominated webcomic graphic novel The Middle Age.

The Middle Age follows the adventures of Sir Quimp of Grawlix. Quimp is an older knight who is stuck with a sarcastic, cursed sword, and is on an against-all-odds quest to rescue his love from dragons. Our hero, is "aided" in his mission by the cursed, talking sword Maledicta, the intoxicated wizard Melvwyn the Magnificent, two baby dragons Jarn and Nittles; and Waddlebottom, the Lord of All Ducks. So, it's a love story. And a buddy comedy. And a magic duck epic adventure!

The Middle Age launched in 2016 and has been fortunate enough to receive 'Best Webcomic' nominations in both the San Diego Comic-Con International's Eisner Awards and the Baltimore Comic-Con's Ringo Awards! 

This Kickstarter is to create a large (7.5x9.25 inches), full-color, hardcover collection of the first three chapters of the story.

Kind words for The Middle Age:

"Beautifully drawn and hilarious." ~ Tom Racine, Tall Tale Radio

 "…the strip is superb, combining clear, charming cartooning and funny writing with lovingly rendered details and excellent lettering in a way that I haven't seen since Walt Kelly's 'Pogo.'… I love it dearly." ~ Todd Klein

 "I love The Middle Age. Genuinely funny, and wonderfully illustrated.'s all super smart and fun." - Joshua Dysart 
"...this is a fun comic." ~ Fleen

This Kickstarter campaign will run until Wednesday, August 29 at 8pm EDT.




Thursday, June 21, 2018

Paul Merklein's 'exit interview'

by Mike Rhode

Paul Merklein wrote in to say that the cartooning course he's been teaching for Arlington County needs a new teacher because he's leaving the area for Wisconsin. I last interviewed Paul in 2015 - (where the images seem to have broken - sorry!). With three cartoonists departing the area  in a month (Jason Axtell is also moving for family reasons, and Vanessa Bettancourt also did so recently), I suggested we do an 'exit interview' with Paul to ask about his plans for the future.

MR: Why are you moving?

PM: My family and I moved to Silver Spring in 2009, and we're moving back to Wisconsin for a variety of reasons that involve being closer to our family there.

MR: Are you continuing the Dabney and Dad strip after you move? Is Facebook still your distribution method for it?

PM: I consider Facebook to be the most effective platform to deliver your cartoons to your audience.  Newspapers and magazines are going the way of the dodo, and books might be right behind them.  That said, my first "Dabney and Dad" book should be published before the end of the year.  You can see my cartoons at

MR: For the past few years, you taught cartooning in Arlington? What did that entail?

PM: I was hired to do two things I love to do - draw cartoons, and talk about cartooning.  My students were teens and tweens - some just beginners, and some who were already skilled.  I enjoyed the conversations and questions.  Many of the students have never read a newspaper, and only know cartoons from book collections.  "Calvin and Hobbes" is still incredibly popular.

MR: Is there anything in particular you'll miss about DC?

PM: I love the people in DC, our neighborhood in Silver Spring, crab shacks on the eastern shore, and more places than I can count.  We already miss Obama in the White House.

MR: What's your favorite cartoon-related memory or event or place?

PM: I met a lot of famous cartoonists at Comic Cons - Stan Lee, Jeff Smith (Bone), Mike Mignola (Hellboy), Frank Cho, Jules Feiffer, and Liza Donnelly and Sam Gross from The New Yorker.  I also met cartoon editors like Amy Lago, and Bob Mankoff and Emma Allen at The New Yorker.  They all said they liked my cartoons and wanted to see more.

I still enjoy writing and drawing cartoons, and I believe the digital world is an ideal place for them.  People's attention spans keep getting shorter, and cartoons are a perfect way to tell a very short story.

Monday, September 18, 2017

An SPX interview with TJ Kirsch

by Mike Rhode

T.J. Kirsch was tabling at SPX for his new book,  Pride Of The Decent Man, which is getting some very nice reviews. I had actually made an appointment to interview French NBM cartoonist Anais Depommier  (which will appear later this week after I transcribe it), but Mr. Kirsch kindly agreed to do an interview by mail.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I'm a writer and illustrator of comics, webcomics, and graphic novels - or any combination of those three. I've illustrated comics for Oni Press, Archie, Image, NBM and others.

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

For all of my recent books I've drawn and colored digitally using a Wacom tablet.

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

I was born in 1981 in Albany, NY.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I completed a year of art school at Savannah College Of Art And Design, and then finished my training at The Kubert School, graduating in 2005. 

Who are your influences?

My big ones are Dan Clowes, Chester Brown, and Gilbert Hernandez.

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

I wish I would've had more confidence to start writing my own projects earlier. But along the way I've worked with many very talented writers and learned so much from each of them.

What work are you best-known for?

I co-created and illustrated a webcomic-turned-graphic novel called She Died In Terrebonne, written by Kevin Church. It's been highly acclaimed by critics and often cited as one of the best Noir comics ever published.

What work are you most proud of?

The comics I'm most proud of are all the minicomics that were eventually collected in Teej Comix, and the new book, Pride Of The Decent Man. I made them all in a similar process, using loose outlines and giving myself some room to change things on the page as I went along. Some things work better as comics if you stay flexible with the final product rather than sticking with a set script.

How did your new book end up with NBM?

Terry Nantier, the founder and publisher of NBM Graphic Novels, saw something he liked in my initial proposal submission, and made me an offer quite early in the process. I thought it was a good fit for their catalog, and seeing it finished and in book form, I feel that even more. There's a sensibility to all their books of trying to elevate the art form of comics, while also bringing in a general crossover audience. I like graphic novels I can hand to any random book or art lover on the street, and have them get something out of it - and maybe seek out other comics after that. I think many of the NBM graphic novels have that quality.

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

I'd like to do more original graphic novels as well as shorter comics. Right now I'm in the very early stages of a nonfiction graphic novel project.

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

As an artist, my recent solution to getting out of a rut is to redraw very old work of mine. It's great for self confidence, in that you see your improvement since the earlier version of the piece. 

As far as writer's block - I haven't been in this situation much yet, having worked with writers more than not - but I try to take breaks and let ideas come to me when I'm relaxed and daydreaming.

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

Hopefully it will be more innovative comics being made, and respect for the work by the general public, but who knows? 

How was your SPX experience?

SPX was great, as always. It's a very inspiring atmosphere. I've been coming since 2008 and it's been my favorite show ever since - no contest. I've met several of my cartooning heroes, and made some great friends I see every time I come back. 

When you've been at SPX previously, have you been selling self-published books?

 My first time exhibiting I was with Oni Press, debuting a comic called Uncle Slam Fights Back. Most other times I shared space with Jonathan Baylis, who writes an autobiographical comic series called So Buttons. It's in the same vein as Harvey Pekar's work - only a bit more upbeat. I've been contributing art to that series since the first issue ten years ago. But yes, sometimes I'll be showcasing self published minis, or other work I'd done for Oni Press and others. 

Is the experience different when at a table of a mid-level publisher?

It's always easier, and far less stressful, when you can just show up and start signing books, rather than worrying about shipping your own or coordinating everything that goes along with exhibiting.

If you've been coming since 2008, any thoughts about how it's grown and changed?

I can say it's grown every year I've gone. More lines out the door for star cartoonists, more congestion in the aisle, but also the exhibitors all make amazing work and that never changes.

What's your favorite thing about DC?

My favorite things about DC are the closeness to SPX ( of course ), the fast, efficient and clean Metro system, and the fact that I have family there.

Least favorite?

It gets wayyyyy too hot in the summer! Maybe I just need to visit closer to the colder months.

What monument or museum do you like?

I like them all, but the Lincoln Memorial is one I always need to see. The Holocaust Museum is something everyone needs to see.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

There's a small place in Bethesda called the Lilit Cafe that has the most amazing gluten free crabcakes. I didn't have enough time this year to go since I was only around for a day, but that always a necessary stop. There's also Ella's Wood-Fired Pizza across from the National Portrait Gallery that has great gluten free pizza. I've got Celiac disease so these stand out for me.

Do you have a website or blog?

You can find out more about me and my work at - and you'll find links to all my various social media, info about my books and more.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Vanessa Bettencourt

by Mike Rhode

Last weekend, I briefly stopped in the Hooray for Books bookstore in Alexandria on Saturday to meet Portuguese cartoonist Vanessa Bettencourt who was doing a drawing workshop for children, and I enjoyed seeing her interact with the kids in the audience. She agreed to answer our usual questions about her journey from Europe to northern Virginia.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

My comics have a lot of humor and fantasy and a mix of manga and Disney styles together. When I'm not working on commissions for business, websites or people who want their portraits as comic characters, I work diligently on my personal projects.

I work daily on my free webcomic series,

It started as an effective way to communicate with Jon, my fiancé in a long-distance relationship, and became a way to share my life with those who stayed behind at home after I moved from Portugal to the USA. Now I share my daily adventures as a freelance artist in the USA.

In 2015 I set a goal of a year to write, illustrate and completely finish a graphic novel on my own. I accomplished the goal. Polly and the Black Ink is 520 full-color pages that I divided into five paperbacks. The first three volumes are already available.

Sometimes I take commissions to do political cartoons (as happened with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence), but between social and political I favor social issues.

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

For Polly and the Black Ink, I drew and wrote it all in paper for a few months first, then I scanned it and edited before the digital process of inking, coloring and adding the text. I write the text as I draw the scenes, instead of having a script. This way I have a better sense of space and where the text will fit in each panel.

This is my first graphic novel and I learned a lot, especially about writing short but meaningful sentences when sometimes I feel the character has so much more to say. For I only work digitally. I have my format and I stick to it. Commissions can be digital or traditional. I use Photoshop and I recently upgraded from an Intuos3 to a Cintiq 13HD.

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

I was born in December, 1979 in Lisbon, Portugal.

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

I moved to the USA in 2015. I met my fiancé in 2012 when he hired me to draw all the covers for his epic fantasy series Heir of Scars, including chapter illustrations and maps. A few years later we started the K1 Visa (fiancée process), which I describe with a lot of humor in He was currently working in DC so we decided to stay. I'm a freelance artist so it's easier to adapt. We live in Alexandria near the Potomac river. As a Portuguese soul, I miss the ocean a lot, so the river is nice to have nearby.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I have a degree in Portuguese and English literature. I became a teacher and worked for publishers as a fantasy illustrator Then, I returned to college for Fine Arts while I worked. I'm self-taught when it comes to comic books and cartoons. I started drawing this style for fun. A simple away to share my day with Jon then it became more serious. I intend to continue to learn, share and create more stories and worlds.

Who are your influences?

For fantasy illustration: William Bouguereau, Larry Elmore (and all D&D art), Luis Royo, Donato Giancola, Prince Valiant by Hal Foster…

For comics and cartooning: Calvin and Hobbes’ Bill Waterson, Bones by Jeff Smith, Asterix, Turma da Monica by Mauricio de Sousa, Hagar the Horrible by Chris Browne, W.I.T.C.H fantasy series, Naoko Takeuchi (Sailor Moon), Akihiro Yamada (Junni Kokki - The Twelve Kingdoms artist), all Disney, many manga, anime and fantasy books.

And for the surreal humor with a lot of nonsense: Mortadelo & Filemon by Francisco Ibanez Talavera, Guillermo Mordillo, Janguru wa Itsumo Hare Nochi Guu manga.

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

Sometimes I want to go back and retouch finished work. In the beginning, I wished I had more time to finish a cover or a project, but to get the commission we have to go with the publisher's schedule.

What work are you best-known for?

Notfrombrazil, because for the past two years I’ve been uploading thrice a week online, on the usual social media and in platforms such as tapastic and LINE Webtoon.

What work are you most proud of?

Polly and the Black Ink. I am really happy that I was able to create a compelling world, story and characters with a lot of adventure, action, mystery and fantasy parallel worlds that children, teens and adults feel compelled to read and discover. Also, the new art for the Heir of Scars book series.

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

Continue to get as many commissions as possible so I can make my dreams come true. HaHa!
I will focus on finishing my epic novels so there’s not a gap between publishing Polly’s 5th volume and my next project. I will continue to work on the next covers for the Heir of Scars book also. My husband and I decided to agglomerate our projects under the same name, Violet West Entertainment, as we build our brand together.

I want to be proud of my projects, control the outcome as much as possible and be sure it's something memorable. I might return to Polly and the Black Ink for a second arc too later.

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

Because I work in so many different projects and styles I got used to having an escape, but there are times that I can't work at all and I need to watch animation, movies, read, learn a new technique, go to a museum or a park, do something completely different from my daily routine and refill my batteries.

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

Things change so quickly now. Everything has an up and down side. The system or the rules change without notice, and we're forced to go with the flow or stay behind. Artists and authors will always create and try to reach their audience.

The Internet allows us to publish our books, to see people engage daily with our process and become part of the process. What we do is starting to be seen more as a job. We are professionals.

Also, the audience is starting to learn how to give back. It balances all the free entertainment or work they've been having access to. That's why it's important to support artists. Kickstarter and Patreon are good examples of making it possible for an artist to work full time on their craft and support themselves.

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

I attended Katsucon last February as an artist with Polly and the Black Ink debut. I got a table and it was a great experience. The audience reacted very well to the books. We'll be attending Awesome Con DC again in June with Polly and the Black Ink and the Heir of Scars books and art. I will have book III available at our table.

Next event will be Small Press Expo. We've attended it as visitors before, but this time in September we will be managing a table with our books, including Polly and the Black Ink volume IV. The downside of having a table is to be stuck behind it and miss the panels, the contests, etc.

I also attend local events as much as possible, from bookstores to street art festivals when schedule allows. I had a great opportunity to publish one comic page on the Magic Bullet #14 and I intend to keep going.

I also have an invitation from Alexandria's Duncan Branch Library, where I taught a comic book workshop last year. I will be drawing people's portrait in my cartoonish style on the street and raise money for the library during the Del Ray Street Art Festival next September 7th, 2017.

Polly and I are available to attend schools, libraries and other events to share my experience as an independent author, but also to share my process and give some tips (ages 5 up). You can reach me on my official website or contact me at

What's your favorite thing about DC?

I love the free museums and the food diversity.

Least favorite?

The business, political stiffness and mood of the city.

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

The Lincoln Memorial. The size of the sculpture helps, but the entire area has soul. There are many good museums. The National Museum of Natural History is my favorite to visit over and over. I get so much inspiration from it to draw and come up with new storylines. And I have to visit the Zoo. I haven't had the chance.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

I love food. It's hard to pick. Each day is a different mood. From Asian to Americana. There are good seafood places in Old Town, but being Portuguese, I also miss some of the fresh and diverse seafood that we don’t have here.

Do you have a website or blog?

I keep two websites. One as an artist and another for the free webcomic series notfrombrazil.
My website has a blog where I share news of my creative process, tutorials, articles with events and book releases.

People are free to subscribe to get news of the next events or book releases.

For those who wish to get a weekly reminder of subscribe to the website I add new episodes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

You can also find the following pages on Facebook: @pollyandtheblackink, @notfrombrazil, @vanessabettencourtart and @heirofscars up to date.

On Instagram: @vanessabettencourtart where I host giveaways.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Kathleen Brenowitz - An Artomatic update interview

 by Mike Rhode

A few years back we interviewed Kathleen Brenowitz about her cartooning. She's currently exhibiting her work at Artomatic, and we checked back in with her.


How did you decide to exhibit at Artomatic?

Oddly enough, through LARPing! (Live Action Role Playing). Wyrd Armories ( - the duo who make up the rest of the room I'm displaying in - are friends of mine I met while LARPing with my significant other. When talking shop, Cynthia mentioned Artomatic, and that we all should try to get a room together - and once I'd seen some pictures of previous shows, I was hooked!

As a sequential artist, how did you decide what to include in the show?

While I'm most known for my comics, I'm also known for my prints - most of them being of characters or worlds I plan to develop as part of my stories. Also I'd been working on stand-alone pieces for a pal's choose your own adventure - the finished "From Out of a Dream" and the current "Back Alive or Maybe Dead".  So all the pieces may have been more illustrative than my usual, there is a theme and a story up on the Artomatic wall.

Has exhibiting at an art show been different than a comic con?

It has been wonderful to get out from behind the table, hands down. At the last meet the artist night, it was a delight to wander from small group to small group, answer questions, and generally move around. Cons have you standing in one place for hours, and it's hard to not get ansty. I also felt like less of a carnival barker - I waved to some people who passed by the room, but I never felt the need to shout to slow down a hurried seeker. At a con, you end up with people walking past a row of  booths simply because it's more of a market - and you're not the booth they're trying to find; as a seller, you need to catch attention, usually with a loud greeting. I may have nearly lost my voice at the artist night, but it was from chatting, not hailing.

The crowd is also a little different - most of my experience of larger cons has been one of younger crowds and a great deal of shopping. Artomatic has the shopping element (in fact, my pieces are available for sale!) but with the motion of going in and out of each little room, there's a urge to linger that comes from passing a threshold. The Artomatic crowd is also very diverse in terms of ages - teenagers stopped by due to the free admission and curiosity, young couples on date nights, middle-aged artists who wanted to see what new stuff had been made, older folks who had great commentary on ink lines. In depends on the con, but I'm used to seeing fewer families and the age range as tilting towards younger - it was nice to have it flip for a change!


Has it been successful for you in reaching an audience?

Well, half of the art scene in DC knows my day job (art store minion) now, and I ran out of business cards. Time will tell if this brings in more sales/views/general eyeballs-on-my-work overall, but it's been a nice stretch of my boundaries. I'd love to do more long-term shows like this!


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Ru Xu's News Prints

Webcomics cartoonist Ru Xu has a News Prints new graphic novel out from Scholastic's Graphix imprint.  She was at Fantom Comics on Dupont Circle yesterday and I'm sure they still have signed copies.

The book is the start of a steampunk series about a young girl who pretends to be a boy to sell newspapers on the street after her family is killed in an ongoing war. She falls in with a crazed inventor and then gets involved with high-level hijinks about the conduct of the war, and also has to contend with what journalism and truth really mean.

The art is heavily-manga influenced, and I liked it quite a bit. Ms. Xu told me that one of her influences for this book is Miyazaki and one can certainly see that. She's working on the next book in the series now. Her webcomic, Saint for Rent is here.

Recommended for tweens (and aging men who like Miyazaki)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Chris Fenoglio

by Mike Rhode

A Baltimore Comic Con staffer tipped me about Chris Fenoglio of Alexandria, VA, who kindly answered our usual questions. Fenoglio should be getting wider recognition soon as he's drawn an X-Files spin-off that comes out this summer.

MR: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

CF: I have a couple of projects right now. The biggest one I’m working on is the X-Files Origins: Mulder series coming out in August from IDW. I just finished the first issue of a project called Bloodworth written by the supremely talented Dan Corey that’s coming out really soon as well. I also work on a webcomic strip called Chris & Christina about me and my wife. It’s funnier than it sounds…

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

CF: Mostly computer… especially lately. I have a lot of plates spinning, and it’s just faster this way.

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

CF: In Berkeley, CA in the early 1980s.

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

CF: Alexandria. Does that count still?

MR: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

CF: I have a master’s degree in illustration from The Academy of Art University. I teach some of their online classes now (like I said… lotsa plates).

MR: Who are your influences?

CF: Too many to count, but the major ones would be, like, Jeff Smith from Bone, Alex Toth, Chris Samnee, and Greg Capullo… at least those are the guys I try to copy as much as I can.

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

CF: Nothing so far… maybe go to art school sooner in life? Or maybe pick a career that makes a lot of money… like accounting.

MR: What work are you best-known for?

CF: Probably the X-Files one now… but I also colored a few issues of the Orphan Black comic IDW put out.

MR: What work are you most proud of?

CF: Right now it’s a tie between my X-Files and Chris & Christina stuff. X-Files feels like a huge step forward in my career both artistically and in terms of my standing in the industry. Chris & Christina scratches that artistic itch of putting something together that’s totally mine. And it also lets me try out some of my weirder ideas.

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

CF: Everything. Is that an answer?

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

CF: Just keep working. I find that you can usually work through things like that if you just keep noodling. Worse comes to worse, I’ll take a break and go do something else for awhile.

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

CF: Hopefully universal acceptance. I’d love to live in a world where everyone read comics. I think the way the medium is expanding and diversifying is really helping, but it’s still got a ways to go.

MR: What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?

CF: I just moved to the area about 2 years ago, so not a bunch. I’ve gone to NYCC the last two years and it’s been pretty great. I also checked out Baltimore this year also, which was a ton of fun.

MR: What's your favorite thing about DC?

CF: Is it cheesy to say, “the monuments and museums?” If you grew up on the other side of the country, they’re really awesome to see up close.

MR: Least favorite?

CF: Traffic… And that’s coming from a Californian. Is getting hit over the head with a tack hammer part of the driving exam out here?

MR: What monument or museum do like to take visitors to?

CF: Portrait Gallery. I like paintings.

MR: How about a favorite local restaurant?

CF: There’s this awesome place in Alexandria called Rustico. I love their pizza… and vast selection of beer.

MR: Do you have a website or blog?

CF: I have a website (that’s in dire need of an update) at and you can check out my webcomic at And people can always follow me on Instagram and Twitter @ChrisFenoglio

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Meet a Local Cartoonist: Dana Maier

(all images from Ms. Maier's website)

by Mike Rhode

Late last month news broke that GoComics had added four new strips to its website, including Dana Maier's The Worried Well. Here's the strip description: 

Dana Jeri Maier's comics provide useful advice, philosophical musings and spot-on witticisms. She shows us ourselves, not unkindly, as silly and vain and self-involved. Her cartoons feel very interior, a mind watching the world and muttering to itself. They're what that person standing by themselves at the party, not talking to anyone, pretending to look vaguely interested in nothing in particular, has been secretly thinking the whole time.

Dana Jeri Maier is an artist and cartoonist living in Washington, DC. She has exhibited widely throughout the DC Metro area and various street corners, if you know where to look. Maier's site-specific mural, Inscrutable Comic, is on permanent display at the Flashpoint Gallery in Washington, DC.

Read The Worried Well at

A Washington, DC cartoonist who hasn't been featured here? Bad form! I reached out to her to ask her to answer our standard questions.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I try to straddle the line between cartoon and fine art. Some of my comics are observation-type humor, some are more philosophical.

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

Pen and ink and watercolor, and occasionally gauche. I try to use the computer as little as possible—coloring on the computer is just too soul-sucking for me. My favorite tools are Microns with slightly-broken nibs (so you get a nice variation in line), and portable Japanese brush pens. 

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

I was born in the early 80s in Arlington, Virginia. My family moved to Falls Church when I was four, and I grew up there.  

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

I live in Columbia Heights. I'm here because I haven't found a good enough reason to leave the area—I went to art school in Baltimore, then lived in England for half a year, and wound up back in DC. The Type-A-yet-small-town-ish nature of the city appeals to me. 

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I went to art school and studied illustration. I dabbled in cartoons while I was there, and did some animation work in grad school, but put cartoons on the back-burner until a few years ago. 

Who are your influences?

Saul Steinberg has had a significant impact on me as an adult. When I was a kid I checked the Shel Silverstein poetry books out of the school library so often that the librarian gently reminded me that maybe there were other books I might like to give a chance? (Looking back I can see she meant well, but I remember being deeply insulted at the time.) As a teenager I grew up reading Richard's Poor Almanac and Cul De Sac in the Washington Post, so I'm happy Richard Thompson is finally getting more recognition as a brilliant artist. And my parents always had copies of Esquire magazine lying around the house, which is where I read cartoons by Daniel Clowes for the first time, believe it or not. Not that his work has a lot in common with mine; it just showed me what kind of storytelling comics were capable of, in a way that I'd never seen before. I also love the work of a bunch of women cartoonists: Lisa Hanawalt, Emily Flake, Eleanor Davis, and Lilli Carre are some of my favorites.

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

I regret not taking more sculpture classes when I was an art student—it would be nice to know how to use power tools and be more confident working 3D. And I should've taken cartooning more seriously early on. I didn't do it as much because it was so much harder than fine art, where I felt like I had more freedom for my work not to make any sense. Cartoons can't really get away with being inscrutable the way fine art can.  

What work are you best-known for?

Probably my wheat pastes of mice in cups, and the Indifferent Guy

What work are you most proud of?

Flashpoint gallery mural
I have a series of ink drawings I did a few years ago that I always look at and think, "man, I would like to do something like that again." I think my mural at the Flashpoint gallery came out pretty well, too. But it's hard to look at my old work and not just see mistakes or things I'd do differently. 

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

I'd like to do a comic essay, or create cartoons that are more writing-heavy than what I've been doing. I feel as though I could use the practice. Cartoons are sneaky in that the writing is a thousand times more important than the drawing; a cartoon with shitty drawings and great writing can still be a joy to read, but a cartoon with great drawing and bad writing will always be terrible no matter what. 

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

Worst-case scenario I will go down a rabbit hole of Facebook and think pieces. Best case scenario, I'll read, or study the work of other artists I like. I have a pad of lined yellow Post-It Notes that has been particularly good for doodles. Or I try to work on something fun or brainless. 

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

I'm not sure. I can't really speak to the industry side of things, but I've been thinking a lot about the effect of social media on art, and how we use it as a barometer of what "good" is. That is, if I draw something and post it online and no one likes I will feel bad, and wonder what's wrong with the drawing. And I hate that this is a phenomenon in my life now, but I'm guessing it's true for a lot of artists. On the flip side of things, artists who are well-known have to deal with immediately opening themselves up to a barrage of online comments and criticism, which can make you cautious with your work (or at the very least, ruin your day). So maybe you really can't win.   

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

I tabled at the Small Press Expo for the first time last year. It was terrifying, but it was also where an acquisitions editor from GoComics found me and signed me up, which is probably a best-case scenario for tabling at a convention. I'd like to table at more of them, now that I know what to expect. 

What's your favorite thing about DC?

There's a moldy stereotype of DC being a stuffy town with a bunch of power-hungry wonks, but I've never found that to be true. For me at least, it's like a high school cafeteria where I can sit at whatever table I feel like—it's easy to meet a variety of good-natured, intelligent people here. And I appreciate that it's small and well-organized. I hate driving, so any city that requires a car is a deal breaker for me. 

Least favorite?

 Everything here seems about 30% more expensive than it should be. 

What monument or museum do like to take visitors to?

My favorite art museum is the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. I don't think museum-going gets much more fun than that.  In DC proper I like taking people to The Portrait Gallery / American Art Museum. The Kogod Courtyard is also a great place to draw if I need a change of scenery. 

How about a favorite local restaurant?

I like the Red Hen in Bloomingdale for special occasions. The happy hour at Eat the Rich is pretty sweet, too. 

Do you have a website or blog?