Hire This Woman: Cartoonist Allison Thomas
In the overwhelmingly male comic book industry, it has been a challenge for some editors and readers to see the ever growing number of talented women currently trying to make a name for themselves. With that in mind, ComicsAlliance offers Hire This Woman, a recurring feature designed for comics readers as well as editors and other professionals, where we shine the spotlight on a female comics pro on the ascendance. Some of these women will be at the very beginning of their careers, while others will be more experienced but not yet “household names.”
This time our spotlight falls on Allison Thomas. She does everything on her projects from writing to art to lettering. This manga- and webcomic-inspired cartoonist is currentlyhard at work on a webcomic called Whisper.
ComicsAlliance: What's your preferred form of creative output?
Allison Thomas: I would say it's a fair balance between writing and drawing. My brain is always on and pumping out dialogue and characters, so writing is something I can do pretty much at any given moment until I am too tired or the sun starts coming up, whoops. And drawing is something I can do for hours on end, and shut off my brain. Both of them suck me in completely.
CA: Do you work on paper or digitally?
AT: Both. They have their time and their place for me, though I'm not sure how to distinguish when and why. I think working digitally is something I can do spontaneously and finish in one or two (very long) sitting, while working on paper requires setting up my desk and pulling out supplies. I use it for projects I intend to commit multiple drawing sessions to.
CA: What’s your background/training?
AT: Some of the best training I got was in high school. Once we got past Art 1, our teacher took us seriously and all of our projects were projects he'd done in art school. I was 15 and doing studies in oil, acrylic, watercolor, scratch board, inking, and colored pencil. I learned to stretch my own canvas, compose my own still life's, and mat my own work. Despite knowing I was an illustrator and wanted to make comics, I was trained to do it all and I love it.
After high school, I didn't go to art school, I went to a normal university. I almost majored in art more than once, but changed my mind again and again until I decided I was tired of school and wanted to graduate, thanks. I ended up with a bachelor's in Liberal Studies and a bunch of college art classes under my belt, including design, animation, photography, ceramics, drawing, and creative writing.
I consider my degree really helpful to my work, though. I took a lot of classes in a lot of fields. My basic knowledge is broad which is such a benefit to writing a variety of stories and settings.
CA: How would you describe your creative style?
AT: A love of details, fantasy, and sci-fi. All of my comics have an element of fantasy or sci-fi in them. My writing and my art pay attention to details that I doubt anyone else cares about. I work in multimedia a lot--to get the right lines, the right effects. Some stories are best told in black and white ink, while another is better in watercolor.
CA: What projects have you worked on in the past?
AT: Two years ago I was working on a comic I had written, but as I was starting to draw the third chapter, I had an art crisis, wanted to change my style, and realized the story was too big and based on a few weak ideas. It's been in the works since then and I only began to make headway recently.
CA: What are you currently working on?
AT: I'm currently working on rewriting that, editing another, and drawing a third. I'm sitting on a finished script, a story that is bare bones, and a google doc of 20 bullet point story ideas waiting to be explored or crossed out. I am always working on something, in some stage. I doubt I will ever run out of ideas.
CA: Approximately how long does it take you to create a 20-page issue?
AT: Geez, that's tough. The longest bit of the process is the writing, since I tend to work on one script for a few months then shift gear to another and back and forth. I usually have two or three scripts in works at a time. My current project took about a year to get the script right -- I'm a perfectionist in my writing, but I'm trying to get better at writing faster. Thumbnails took about a day. I can draw a page to completion in a day and a half, currently. I'm trying to speed that up.
Ignoring time it takes to write, a 20-page issue would take me about a month and a half, give or take.
CA: What is your dream project?
AT: There is no one dream project. I want to write and make my own work. I am excited about all of it. I suppose a dream project would be to draw a comic for a writer I admire, or to write for an artist I admire. I'd love to do a variant cover for BOOM! Studios. The dream is to have work that makes me giddy.
CA: Who are some comic creators that inspire you?
AT: Kazu Kibuishi, Becky Cloonan, Jake Wyatt, Megan lawton, Emi Muto, Ashley Cope, John Allison, Kate Beaton, Tom Siddell, Yuko Ota, Karl Kerschl, Evan Dahm, Bryan Lee O'Malley. A handful are good friends, most are webcomics, all are at least artists.
CA: What are some comics that have inspired you either growing up or as an adult?
AT: As a child, I grew up reading newspaper comics. I had no exposure to comics if it wasn't Calvin & Hobbes, Far Side, For Better or For Worse, Foxtrot, or Luann. I had no thought to make comics until middle school, when I read my first manga. I probably shouldn't have been reading that particular manga at 12. I didn't have any idea what kind of stories I wanted to tell until I read the online comic Reman Mythology in high school. That definitely changed me and inspired me for years. I also found a webcomic called The Way to Your Heart, and many years later became very good friends with the creator. Our work is very different, but she helped me find my footing with sharing comics online.
Ultimately I find almost all of my inspiring comics online: Unsounded, Gunnerkrigg Court, Bad Machinery, Johnny Wander, Necropolis, Rice Boy, and The Abominable Charles Christopher. Some non-digital comics would be the Flight anthologies, Scott Pilgrim, Amulet, and Bone.
CA: What’s your ideal professional environment?
AT: I love to be around other artists. A shared studio with some artists I admire would be the best. Our desks tucked in around the room, some bookshelves of art books and comics, a cabinet of supplies, a paint stained sink.. to be able to consult with each other, peek over shoulders and be motivated to do better. I thrive in that kind of a space, even if everyone else is gone. Just knowing it's a special place to create.
CA: What do you most want our readers and industry professionals to know about your work?
AT: I don't believe in half baked writing. The best art is nothing if the story is weak. A good story is crap if the ending is whack. I don't start drawing a comic until I have the script done; too often major edits are needed. I do the research, collect reference, and I know my work is good because of it. I want to make comics, and I want them to be the best work I can do, not just "good enough."
CA: How can editors and readers keep up with your work and find your contact information?
If there is a woman you’d like to recommend or if you’d like to be included in a future installment of this feature, drop us a line at comicsalliance-at-gmail-dot-com with "Hire This Woman" in the subject line.