Amy Reeder Talks Rocket Girl, Kickstarter And Redeeming ’80s Fashion [Interview]
Amy Reeder made a name for herself in the comics scene with Fools Gold from Tokyopop, but became a favorite of comics art lovers for her excellent occasionally breathtaking work on Vertigo’s Madame Xanadu, which saw the versatile stylist to depict a complex and beautiful heroine across vast expanses of time and in all the aesthetic luxury that affords. Her profile rose further with a major level up on Batwoman, synthesizing her manga storytelling influence with tightly rendered yet loose and dynamic action. Whether you quiet scenes with exquisite facial expressions and palpable mood, or diverse body types in the throes of big splash-page comic book action, Reeder’s got you covered.
Following those distinctly dramatic and darker works, Reeder teamed up with writer Brandon Montclare to create and later successfully Kickstart Halloween Eve, the story of a Halloween grinch who has to face down a costume store full of rubber masks and empty suits that start coming to life. The pair followed that up with Rocket Girl, another book funded by Kickstarter and ultimately released by Image.
Possibly the most Reeder book ever, Rocket Girl is about a teenage girl who’s a cop in the future sent back to the middle of the 1980s to investigate Time Crimes, and in so doing discovers secrets that reveal her utopian home-time isn’t so great after all. The premise allows Reeder to indulge herself fully, and in the best sense possible. Full of action, fashion and drama, Rocket Girl is a pleasure to read — partly because it’s obvious that its artist has so much fun drawing it.
We sat down with Amy Reeder at Comic-Con International in San Diego to talk about Rocket Girl, Kickstarter, and the evolution of her unmistakable style.
ComicsAlliance: Amy, you’ve worked with a million different places at this point from Tokyopop to DC to Image. What sets them apart, and do you have a favorite?
Amy Reeder: Well, that’s a little easy because with Image I get to do whatever I want. So, I mean, yeah, I don’t know about other people, I guess one of the draws to doing something for DC Comics, for instance, is to be able to draw characters that you’ve loved for years and years. But I guess I was a little more new to comics so, I prefer original work [now]. I’ve been very very happy ever since working for Image. But they’re all good in their different ways.
CA: How did Rocket Girl come into being?
AR: Well, Brandon and I were trying to come up with an idea of something that we wanted to publish together after Halloween Eve and nothing was really fitting right. He was saying how it can’t just be a cool name like “Rocket Girl,” you know, and not have any substance. And I was like, “Wait, stop, stop, stop…” He just kept talking so I was like, “No, stop! What is Rocket Girl?” And he was like, “No, that’s not the point. What I’m trying to say is…” and I’m like “No, no, no — what’s Rocket Girl? We have to do Rocket Girl.” And so he luckily entertained my craziness and came up with a story that ended up being exactly the one [we needed]. It just felt right.
CA: You’ve worked with a lot of different writers at this point in different capacities. What makes a writer particularly good to work with? What’s some stuff you love working with as an artist? People who are really descriptive? People who make you get really creative in a particular way outside of your comfort zone? People who give you a lot of free rein? What do you look for in a writer to work with?
AR: Oh, free rein is a big deal, but even more than that is their own faith in you. If they really get your work and they really, really like it, I think that’s so important because I can get totally jaded if I feel like we’re not syncing up like that. And that’s really why I like working with Brandon is because he kind of discovered me, like he was an editor before and nobody believed [in me]. I had fans, you know and that’s great and stuff, but nobody believes in my stuff like Brandon does, in my opinion. So it’s really privilege to work with him and I think also he has a philosophy of… he wants to make things that are fun to read. So, yeah, I’ve learned that it’s really nice to have a writer who gives you a lot of fun material to draw.
CA: Your style is a definite look but it’s very adaptable. Your work on Madame Xanadu looks totally different than your work on Rocket Girl.I can tell it’s by the same person but there’s a real different feel. Like, your work for Batwoman is sort of horror-tinged, which I thought was really cool. How do you adapt your style, and how do you feel like you’ve grown since you first started working in comics?
AR: You know, I think it’s kind of interesting. I think some of it is just me learning how to draw. When I first started at Fools Gold with Tokyopop, things were a lot simpler because I didn’t know how to draw everything yet and so it got a little more realistic with Madame Xanadu. Batwoman, that was kind of a special thing, because part of the character to me was rendering her differently when she’s in costume. I really wanted to keep that going, like JH Williams III had done. So that kind of naturally made it different.
But some of the changes between the different projects are actually just because of working with collaborators. I mean, there’s different moods to be sure, but also, you know, you work with different inkers and it totally changes how your stuff works. Right now I’m inking myself, so there’s certain things that are gonna be a little more specific to what [I like]. I had a different inker for Batwoman than Madame Xanadu. I think it really changed things. Rob Hunter did the Batwoman stuff and I actually really liked his touch on it because it was really gritty and I kind of needed something like that to kind of like rough up my work.
CA: What would you say your biggest influences are as an artist?
AR: Well, I think reality is my biggest one. Like, sensing and people and stuff like that. But related to that, my biggest influence is maybe Norman Rockwell, because his stuff is just so on point of what he’s trying to draw. It totally delivers and it’s very specific in what it’s doing. Even if it’s a simple theme. When it comes to comics I feel there’s a bunch of people i’m inspired by that i don’t really look like or anything, but maybe the closest one would be Ross Campbell. He’s my favorite artist/writer. He’s pretty amazing and is great at drawing women, and more importantly great at writing women so they are very different from each other. I think [I'm influenced by] Osamu Tezuka‘s paneling. It’s not that I have the same paneling as he does but I have learned from him how to stage action in a way that’s exciting and moves across the page.
CA: I think I can see all of those, actually. Especially Ross Campbell, I wouldn’t have expected that but now I don’t know why I didn’t think of it.
AR: It makes me feel bad, I’m actually a huge fan of his and I made him be my friend. I feel real bad, I apologized to him one time and said I hope you don’t feel like I’m stealing from you or anything and he was really nice about it. He said, “Oh no! I feel like I’ve changed some of my stuff because of you” and I was like, woah. It’s funny, even though we’re friends I realized sometimes that I’m still a super-fan; it blew my mind when he said that.
CA: Rocketgirl, somewhat famously, was launched with a Kickstarter campaign. This is something we’re seeing more and more in the comics industry. What was your experience and what do you think the future of Kickstarter and the comics industry is?
AR: I’ve already done two Kickstarters now, so obviously we liked the experience. It helps that I have Brandon working a lot of the kinks of it all. He knows how to price things, so luckily we didn’t run out of money. We knew how much we needed for everything, we knew how much we needed to ship things. I don’t know if I could do it on my own but I do think it’s a really cool experience and I hope it lasts forever. I dont know if it will, it’s one of those really interesting experiments that we watch, but it is an example of what i hope will be a trend of consuming being put into the consumers’ hands, their choices are the way things go. It’s really great. Honestly, my favorite thing about it is the publicity that goes along with it. There’s no other publicity that is that useful for me, so it’s cool.
CA: Something I’ve noticed a lot in your work in Rocketgirl, it’s hard to articulate but you seem to really get and love to draw the 1980s. Something about your art feels ’80s. Was this a focus?
AR: That’s a good question. I guess I have a mixed answer. I did hold onto the ’80s for too long. I was born in 1980, so I got to experience the ’80s as a kid but my mom is a jazzercise instructor. She’d wear leotards with belts and bike shorts underneath. I kind of had a love for spandex, wearing neon colors, the big shirts with paint splatters with spandex pants underneath. I definitely got made fun of for holding onto the ’80s for too long. Yeah, I think it is kind of weirdly in my blood, even if I don’t remember it all.
But in addition to that, I did Madame Xanadu which was set in all these different time periods. It’s become a specialty of mine accidentally where I’ve learned to soak in culture to the point of feeling like I’m there. It’s actually a very strange experience. It’s really different to re-create something in history.
I have this weird thing… sometimes I’ve had nostalgia for periods I wasn’t even alive during. I think the fact that I was alive during the ’80s, plus I have this ability to specialize in it, and now it’s just a straight focus that something I’m doing for multiple years. Yeah, you really start to live the ’80s and start to notice things and soak it in. It’s a process.
CA: What are some of your favorite comics being published right now?
AR: I’d say at this very moment, I’ve been reading a lot of comics lately, which is unusual for me. I’ll tell you what, it’s because I go to Forbidden Planet in New York and there’s a guy who works there, Matt Rosenberg, who’s really outgoing and I’d talk to him and as that’s progressed I’ve become friends with everyone in the store and I want to hang out. So it just goes to show, a welcoming place changes everything. I go every Wednesday now. I have to and I get my comics. Speaking of which, I didn’t get mine yet. It’s the worst part about San Diego Comic-Con! Oh, I’m in this insane comics Bacchanalia but I can’t actually pick up my books! I’m reading a lot of things and I like a lot of them but I think my top right now is Ms. Marvel. I think after that it’s maybe Ghost Rider. I’m only reading three Marvel titles so it’s pretty cool that they’re so good.
CA: What’s in the future for Amy Reeder? Any plans?
AR: Oh no, because – obviously this is a common question and hopefully people like the book. They know there’s quality in it and in order to be able to do that you have extreme focus and not get distracted by other things so no, my focus is just Rocketgirl and making it as awesome as I can possibly make it.