Hire This Woman: Cartoonist and Publisher Spike Trotman
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.”
Spike Trotman is probably best known for her webcomic Templar, Arizona which she creates entirely herself, and the sex-positive Smut Peddler anthologies she's published through crowdfunding on Kickstarter.
ComicsAlliance: What is your preferred form of creative output?
C. Spike Trotman: Jeez, it is really, really hard to choose. I invented my job, everything I do all day is something I naturally gravitated towards. But being an all-around creator (writing and drawing my own work) is what got me into comics, so it has to win by a narrow margin. I was making minicomics in high school, marking up my schoolbooks with doodles in middle school. And when I don't get a chance to draw for a while, I get really sullen.
CA: Do you work on paper or digitally? Why?
ST: I'm one of those people who thought they would never go fully digital, and then did. For over a decade, I was all about the 11 x 17 bristol, the Winsor & Newton Series 7 #0s, and the Speedball ink. I even used a t-square and an Ames guide to hand-letter. But I converted when I got my hands on my first Cintiq. My problem with digital inking was always the line quality; I couldn't replicate the smooth, tapering lines I like digitally until then. Now that I can... why not switch? Never jostle the inkwell reaching for your tea and splatter it over the page. Endless undos. and I'll never have to wrestle with white-out ever again.
My load out right now is Scrivener for scripting and art-wise: Manga Studio EX5, Ray Frenden's and Amanda Lafrenais' brushes, and ScruffyScribbler's Copic Marker color set. I also use a plug-in called Lazy Nezumi, which smooths brush strokes.
CA: What’s your background/training?
ST: I attended Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia; it's a small, historically black college that's part of the Atlanta University Center along with Morehouse and Clark Atlanta. I got a Studio Art degree there. Then, I made the mistake of my life and enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The only highlight of that experience was moving to Chicago, which I love. Everything else was a wash. Art Institute: great museum, school literally attempted to turn me into an abstractionist. No exaggeration there. If it were up to them, I'd probably be peeing into a can of Spaghetti-Os on a stage somewhere right now.
But really, I would describe myself as self-taught when it comes to comics. I never had any specialist training in comic art or scripting, beyond one childhood summer camp program.
CA: How would you describe your creative style?
ST: Exuberant. Character-driven. Adventurous. Anthropological. Potty-mouthed!
CA: What projects have you worked on in the past? What are you currently working on?
ST: My first big webcomic projects were Sparkneedle and Lucas and Odessa, on Girlamatic. (If you remember, congrats on being old!) Those were the heady, experimental days of Internet comics; people were still trying to figure out how to do this stuff professionally, and established print cartoonists were maligning us instead of sending us emails asking for help. There was such a high attrition rate, people quitting, giving up and falling off the face of the earth. (But there always is in comics, I suppose.) From there, I moved on toTemplar, Arizona. It was (and is) an alternate universe comic I posted online, about a fictional city full of invented subcultures and movements, a story about a runaway and his weird, occasionally terrible neighbors. That got some real attention, and I made a modest living from it after three or so years. (A big deal, back in 2008!) I "Kickstarted" the trade collections before there was a Kickstarter, starting in 2007, crowdfunding the books on templaraz.com with an honest-to-god thermometer graphic.
I keep swearing I'll give TAZ more attention soon (and I will), but lately my focus has been Iron Circus Comics, the publisher I created to make the TAZ books. Its branched out into lifestyle, genre and erotic comics, by way of Poorcraft, my comic guide to frugality, Sleep of Reason, my horror anthology, and Smut Peddler, an anthology of sex-positive, woman-made erotica (featured in NY Mag, and Bitch magazine!). I have two more book projects planned for 2014, and at least three, maybe four for 2015. Things are ramping up!
CA: Approximately how long does it take you to create a 20-page issue?
ST: At my very, very best, fastest, and most focused? A little less than a month. When I'm working on my own stuff, I script on the page, so there's a whole step most people need that I can skip. If I'm working on something for someone else, someone who needed script approval... and this is all purely theoretical, because I never have... it would probably take a week longer.
CA: What is your dream project?
ST: Oh, I've got a bunch. But if we're talking something mainstream? I've joked with my friends that Marvel should give me a Nightcrawler miniseries. Kitty Pride would be urging him to sign up for a mutant-specific dating site. He balks and laughs it off in her presence, but when he quietly investigates the site later on his own, he's a little hurt by all the profiles requesting people who write be "sapiens-appearing." (in other words, able to pass themselves off as a non-mutant.) He could use a hologram, sure, but c'mon. But.... he's still curious. So, he makes a profile that completely honest, except for one aspect: he uses an out-of-costume Gambit as his photo.
C'mon. You know you wanna read this.
CA: Who are some comic creators that inspire you?
ST: Oh, wow, so many. Rick Geary. Keiko Tobe. Junji Ito. Emily Carroll. Larry Marder. Scott McCloud. Lynda Barry. Roberta Gregory. Kaoru Mori. Carla Speed Neil. Charles Burns. I could go on forever. Seriously.
CA: What are some comics that have inspired you either growing up or as an adult?
ST: As a kid, cuz that's a more fun story: The Far Side! Calvin & Hobbes! Power Pack! Excalibur! and when I was very small, I found copies of of Penguins Behind Bars and Oddkins, that Dean Koontz children's book, at the library. I hated that I had to return them and ended up buying my own copies when I was in my 20s. DON'T JUDGE ME.
CA: What’s your ideal professional environment?
ST: An office where I work alone, with a computer that doesn't have Steam or Skype installed. I need a distraction-free space where I can talk to myself without being embarrassed.
CA: What do you most want our readers and industry professionals to know about your work?
ST: I wanna create (and do create) the comics no one else is creating. I have a great ear for naturalistic dialogue. And I publish fun, inclusive, atypical work.
CA: How can editors and readers keep up with your work and find your contact information?
ST: The best possible way is Twitter, I'm at @Iron_Spike. I'm also on Tumblr at http://spikedrewthis.tumblr.com/, and I have a mailing list you can join here. http://ironcircus.com/contact.php Also, please read Poorcraft in its entirety at poorcraft.com, and read my webcomic Templar, Arizona at templaraz.com!
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.