A Weak Spot for Fantasy Elements: Aatmaja Pandya [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.
Aatmaja Pandya is a cartoonist who specializes in doing minicomics and zines as well as webcomics. Some of her past projects include The Bell Blues, Baker’s Dozen, and Travelogue, which is the webcomic she's currently working on.
ComicsAlliance: What is your preferred form of creative output?
Aatmaja Pandya: I joke that each stage of making a comic is simultaneously my least and most favorite, but it’s a pretty honest answer. I think writing and thumbnailing is the most satisfying work for me to do! Seeing a book put together and printed beautifully is a great feeling. I like pencilling too, because it reminds me how nice the simple act of drawing something well is.
CA: If you’re an artist, do you work on paper or digitally? Why?
AP: I work... half and half? But more skewed towards traditional media. These days I do layouts digitally, blow them up and print them out, pencil on top of them, ink and scan them, and then do final tones or colors in Photoshop. Kind of convoluted, but working entirely with one method sort of drives me bananas. Switching gears a lot keeps me focused!
CA: What’s your background/training?
AP: I started taking drawing seriously in late high school, probably. I graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 2014 and have a BFA in Illustration! I took some Cartooning classes in school and was really lucky to have great, encouraging teachers who didn’t mind me straddling the illustration/comics line. But like most comics people, a lot of my training came from just making a lot of work and slowly getting better at it.
CA: How would you describe your creative style?
AP: Expressive, sincere, and warm, with a weak spot for fantasy elements. A really weak spot.
CA: What projects have you worked on in the past? What are you currently working on?
AP: My first serious project was my first webcomic, The Bell Blues, which is a slice-of-life comic that follows a group of grungy friends in a band. It was my primary focus for a while, and a really important learning experience. More recently, I self-published Baker’s Dozen, a magical adventure comic I did in my senior year set in a South Asian fantasy world. I’ve also contributed to a handful of cool comics anthologies, like the upcoming Chainmail Bikini anthology, which is currently being Kickstarted!
Currently, I’m working on a new-ish webcomic called Travelogue, which I’ve labelled a “fantasy diary comic." It’s kind of a quiet story with a big focus on individual moments and world-building. I am completely over the moon about it - it’s everything I like to draw and everything I like in a story. I’m doing freelance illustration and comic work here and there. I’m also slowly putting together another story set in the Baker’s Dozen world!
CA: Approximately how long does it take you to create a 20-page issue?
AP: Oh boy... this is hard to say, because I tend to juggle lots of projects at once and have a hard time gauging how much time I spend on a single thing as a result. If it was my biggest priority, I would guess 1-2 months.
CA: What is your dream project?
AP: I want to do everything!! Or at least, try everything. The most immediate thing that comes to mind is to publish a long-form comic. I want to be involved in making a game, maybe. I want to try working from someone else’s script, because I’ve never done that. I want to work with licensed characters... there’s so much cool crossover work being done in the comics world these days! It feels like anything’s possible.
CA: Who are some comic creators that inspire you?
AP: Phew, what a question... Sam Bosma, Kris Mukai, Jillian Tamaki are all people who make comics the way I want to make them someday. The good and bad thing about the artistic internet community is that you get exposed to so much great work all the time, but you see it for seconds and forget the individuals really easily. I wish I could remember more people off the top of my head. Mostly, though, I have a really fantastic, talented, hard-working group of friends in comics that are inspiring and supportive on a day-to-day basis.
CA: What are some comics that have inspired you either growing up or as an adult?
AP: Growing up, it was manga and video games and cartoons that made me want to draw/tell stories. Stuff like Fullmetal Alchemist, The Legend of Zelda series, lots of anime. I feel like this is the case with a lot of younger people in the industry? I read Calvin & Hobbes and Tintin when I was a really little kid. Then I got really into webcomics as I got older - Bobwhite by Magnolia Porter, especially, was the comic that made me want to start making my own comics. Then in my late teens I started reading some of the graphic novel classics, like Maus and Persepolis and Blankets and Asterios Polyp, and finally had the realization that the “mainstream” comics world existed beyond superheroes.
Recently, I’ve been looking at Ranma 1/2, Kuragehime, Studio Ghibli movies, and slowly re-reading the Earthsea books, which aren’t comics but are super inspiring.
CA: What’s your ideal professional environment?
AP: I had a studio space in school, and I really miss it! Right now I work from home, which is tolerable, but separating your bed and your desk is... very important. I hope I can join a studio again some time in the future.
CA: What do you most want our readers and industry professionals to know about your work?
AP: I try really hard to make work that comes from a genuine place. I want to make people feel included and happy and invested. Simply put, I really love comics and the comics community and want to contribute good work to the best of my ability.
CA: How can editors and readers keep up with your work and find your contact information?
AP: Twitter is probably the most frequently updated outlet I have! I’m @aymajay. I’m on Tumblr at aatmajapandya.tumblr.com and you can see my portfolio at aatmajapandya.com! Travelogue is updating weekly at traveloguecomic.com, and is my most recent project. And my contact email, firstname.lastname@example.org, is on all my social media!
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.