Organic, Very Human: An Interview with E.K. Weaver [Hire This Woman]
Hire This Woman is a recurring feature on ComicsAlliance that shines a spotlight on female comics creators, whether they’re relative newcomers or experienced pros who are ready to break out. In an overwhelmingly male business, we want to draw your attention to these creators — and to raise their profile with editors and industry gatekeepers.
Cartoonist E.K. Weaver produced her webcomic The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal for five years, and it is currently being collected in an omnibus that’s being Kickstarted by Iron Circus Comics. She’s also done things as varied as erotica for Smut Peddler and covers for Adventure Time.
ComicsAlliance: What is your preferred form of creative output?
E.K. Weaver: Sequential illustration.
CA: Do you work on paper or digitally? Why?
EKW: A combination of both. I prefer to do planning sketches and pencils on paper, as it makes me feel more connected to the work. Traditional inking is really enjoyable; I work with India ink, brushes, and nibs, then use Photoshop and Manga Studio 5 for cleanup after scanning.
All my color work and lettering and ballooning is done digitally. Traditional color media (I like to use Copic markers and paints) get expensive fast. As for lettering, I tweak dialogue up to the very last minute, so changes need to be as painless as possible.
CA: What’s your background/training?
EKW: I haven’t had any formal training in comics; I took lots of art classes in high school and obtained a BFA, but that education was focused on painting. Most of my day jobs have involved print production, so I had the good luck of coming into comics with layout and prepress experience.
CA: How would you describe your creative style?
EKW: Art- and writing-wise, I’d call it very organic, very human. I love the natural ebb and flow of conversation, the small interactions between people, and lively, loose artwork. That’s the kind of thing I work for; the type of creative work I thrive doing.
In terms of production, I take things day by day. There are a lot of facets to comic work; if I’m not feeling up to drawing characters, I’ll draw environments. If I’m not up to drawing at all, I’ll script and draft pages. If I’m not up to scripting, I’ll handle ballooning and retouch. There’s always something that can get done.
CA: What projects have you worked on in the past, and what are you currently working on?
EKW: Last May, I finished my first graphic novel/webcomic, The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal. I’ve also had a short story in the Smut Peddler erotic comic anthology, done a TJ and Amal erotic side comic, illustrated some comics for Paradox Space, and done cover art for Adventure Time and The Legend of Bold Riley.
I’m currently working with Spike Trotman on publishing the collected edition of TJ and Amal; that project also involves a new side comic with three alternate-future stories. After that, I’ve lined up three more short comics: one for a fairy tale anthology, one for an erotic fantasy anthology, and one for a sci-fi anthology.
(I’m also working a day job in tech illustration and doing set design for a local stage production.)
CA: Approximately how long does it take you to create a 20-page issue?
EKW: Depending on detail, content, and amount of retouch needed, a single page can take anywhere from 4 hours to 25 hours. I’d say my current average is 10 hours per page from pencils to print-ready. In 2013, I drew a 20 page side comic in around 3 months (though this was around both my job and work on TJ and Amal.)
CA: What is your dream project?
EKW: A comic that contains characters I can love; a project where I can work with another artist or writer to edit and improve the story or layout; something that demands my A-game. Something that stands out, like, “Oh, I haven’t seen anything quite like this before.”
CA: Who are some comic creators that inspire you?
EKW: Oh man, there are too many to name. Kyle Baker, Fumi Yoshinaga, and Terry Moore have been huge influences. I also get inspired by a lot of my friends and comic-making peers; hanging out during a con and talking shop gets me really jazzed up to work on a new project.
CA: What are some comics that have inspired you either growing up or as an adult?
EKW: Akira and Appleseed blew me away when I was in high school — especially the action sequences and those huge, lushly detailed cityscapes. Independent comics like Strangers in Paradise, Berlin, and Finder showed me that comics could be about the inner life, not just flashy action.
These days, when I need some inspiration, I open up Blacksad or Eyeshield 21 to pore over the environments and the dynamic figures. I’m also in awe of how Tom Siddell weaves so many story threads together in Gunnerkrigg Court.
And this may sound weird, but I get a lot of inspiration from comics that I don’t like! Comics that let me down or frustrate me in some way. It motivates me to make what I wish I’d read instead.
CA: What’s your ideal professional environment?
EKW: Honestly, I like having a non-comics day job — that safety net lets me tell the stories I want, without having to worry about whether it will sell. The downside is, of course, less time for comics. I guess the ideal situation would be 25 hours a week at each.
I’d love to work in a studio with other artists, too. Comics can be a lonely job.
CA: What do you most want our readers and industry professionals to know about your work?
EKW: That I’m very dedicated to characterization – through appearance, body language, facial expression, etc. I think that and dialogue are my strong points.
CA: How can editors and readers keep up with your work and find your contact information?
EKW: I post most of my new drawings to my Tumblr (bigbigtruck.tumblr.com), and anything TJ and Amal-related goes on tjandamal.com. The front page of tjandamal.com contains all my social media contacts, too!
If there’s a woman who you think should 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.