Hire This Woman: Writer Nadja Baer
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.”
Nadja Baer has adapted multiple written works into comics format, including an adaptation of the U.S. Constitution. She's currently working on two very different things: an ongoing webcomic called Impure and a law degree! She also appeared on the Hire This Woman panel at Denver Comic-Con.
ComicsAlliance: What’s your background/training?
Nadja Baer: I have a B.A. in Creative Writing with a minor in World History from the University of Minnesota. I’m also currently in law school, which asks for a very different kind of writing. That being said, I think there’s only so much you can learn by instruction. The bulk of my training and background, I think, are the result of growing up a voracious reader.
CA: How would you describe your creative style?
NB: Exploratory? Once I have a defined concept, I start by deciding how the story ends. When I know where it ends, that’s when I really start getting into my characters, asking what would have to happen to them to make them end up there. The world and the cast usually end up completely different than I originally imagined them, but that’s half (or more than half) the fun.
CA: What projects have you worked on in the past? What are you currently working on?
NB: The U.S. Constitution: A Round Table Comic Graphic Adaptation is probably the coolest work I’ve done for hire. I’ve also adapted several published books into graphic scripts. Right now (when I’m not writing research papers) I’m working on finishing the last ninety-six pages in the four-part series of Impure Blood, an indie project that my husband and I publish ourselves.
CA: Approximately how long does it take you to write a 20-page issue?
NB: Once I sit down to the task of actually writing out scenes and dialogue, I’d say I can knock out four or five pages a day, so maybe a week? However, I’m a big planner, so this usually comes after hours of brainstorming and exploring (and discarding) many potential scenes and characters.
CA: What is your dream project?
NB: I’m currently working on my first dream project with my husband, Nathan (the project being a 384-page fantasy graphic novel set in a steampunk milieu). As for future projects, I’m a sucker for historical fiction, and I have this vague idea rolling around in my head of a series of graphic novels about conquistadores. Another project that I’m hoping to focus on once I wrap up the script for Impure Blood is a near-future urban fantasy/sci-fi/I-don’t-know-exactly-where-it-fits book.
CA: Who are some comic creators that inspire you?
NB: Bill Waterson, for his ability to be profound in such an understated way. Neil Gaiman, for the way he can just say “up is down” and have the reader believe him. Nathan Lueth -- I married the guy, I must find him inspiring, right?
CA: What are some comics that have inspired you either growing up or as an adult?
NB: I cut my teeth on the Sunday funnies and old issues of Archie. Calvin & Hobbes is likely always going to be my favorite. Another enduring childhood love is René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s Asterix the Gaul series. These days I like to stroll through artist alleys at conventions, looking for indie projects centered on female main characters who aren’t regularly featured in a highly sexualized manner. This can be a tough quest. I’ll buy books that fit that description even if the art doesn’t thrill me at first. I tend to gravitate toward long form over single-issue stories, and I tend to shy away from the spandex superhero crowd unless penned by a writer I know I like (or one that comes recommended by someone whose taste I trust).
CA: What’s your ideal professional environment?
NB: I’m definitely an introvert -- when it comes to putting my head down and getting work done, I like any place where I can be alone. Preferably in a comfy chair. So much the better if there’s a purring cat nearby. Ten points to Ravenclaw if I can listen to appropriately themed film scores. If I get stuck in writer’s block, there’s a great local coffee shop with plenty of outlets and a truly welcoming attitude toward writers (even if we sit there for hours on end with just a chai tea latte). There are always other creatives hard a work at Nina’s, and the ambience does wonders for my productivity.
CA: What do you most want our readers and industry professionals to know about your work?
NB: There’s nothing I dislike more than flat characters built on cliché or stereotype, especially female characters. I revel in the gray spaces that bleed between genres -- I’m open to all types of projects, but will only take on ones that I am excited about -- the author’s passion is something that comes through in a strong finished product.
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.