Cartoony Isn’t a Bad Word: Artist Megan Levens [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.
Artist Megan Levens worked in advertising for years before moving into comics, where she's built up an impressive resume already. She's drawn books like Madame Frankenstein and Ares & Aphrodite and is currently illustrating Buffy Season 10.
ComicsAlliance: What is your preferred form of creative output?
Megan Levens: Drawing comes naturally to me so I'm most at ease and content with a pencil or brush in my hand, and some paper.
CA: Do you work on paper or digitally? Why?
ML: Paper, pencil, sable brush, india ink...there's something viscerally appealing about working with real materials for me. I like my work to be clean but my hands to be messy. I've worked digitally and I have yet to be able to produce as authentic of a line using a tablet and stylus as I do with a pencil or ink. I do generally color my work digitally, however.
CA: What’s your background/training?
ML: I graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a major in Sequential Art, so, I quite literally have a bachelor's degree in drawing comics and storyboards. After a few of the typical "why did I get an art degree" retail jobs post-college, I began working in advertising, drawing storyboards for television commercials for seven years before finally breaking into comics.
CA: How would you describe your creative style?
ML: Cartoony and emotive. It took me a long time to realize that "cartoony" wasn't a bad word... that it doesn't always mean cutesy or childlike, and that it's not dismissive of my drawing skill. Now I embrace it.
CA: What projects have you worked on in the past? What are you currently working on?
ML: I co-created and illustrated Image Comics' Madame Frankenstein mini-series, and illustrated Oni Press' Ares & Aphrodite graphic novel, both with writer Jamie S. Rich. Currently I'm working as a fill-in artist on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 for Dark Horse Comics.
CA: Approximately how long does it take you to draw a 20-page issue?
ML: I can finish a 20-page issue generally in about a month, from thumbnails to finished inks. Sometimes faster, but it all depends on how many projects I'm juggling at the time. (It's always a few! Gotta keep several irons in the fire!)
CA: What is your dream project?
ML: That's funny, because my lifelong goal was to create my own comic character and publish that story, and I've already done that with Madame Frankenstein, so that book was really my dream project! But there are a several mainstream superhero books now that I'd love the chance to draw for. Top of that list is Ms. Marvel. It's such a brilliantly-written story and she's an amazing, relatable character. She-Hulk, Spider-Man, or Batman are some of my other longtime favorites that I'd kill to take a crack at.
CA: Who are some comic creators that inspire you?
ML: Craig Thompson, Stan Sakai, Jeff Smith, Mike and Laura Allred, Terry Moore, Joëlle Jones, Jamie S. Rich (yes, I'm a little biased!), and most recently, G. Willow Wilson (again, Ms. Marvel!).
CA: What are some comics that have inspired you either growing up or as an adult?
ML: The earliest comics I can remember really reading faithfully were the Knightfall series of Batman in the early 90s, and Ranma 1/2 by Rumiko Takahashi. I read X-Men and Spider-Man off and on...I loved the characters, but we lived so far from a proper comic book store that it was hard to keep up with the increasingly complex storylines. Later in high school I devoured Boneand Strangers in Paradise, and in college it was all about Blankets and Summer Blonde by Adrian Tomine. As an adult I still love the "indie" sensibility of books like March and Daytripper, but I've found myself circling back to mainstream superhero books a bit more as well. They were my "gateway drug" to the big beautiful world of comics so it just made sense to go back.
CA: What’s your ideal professional environment?
ML: I'm currently loving my home studio. I suppose it's a bit of an "unprofessional" environment in that I work in my pajamas most of the time, my cat is always nearby, and I'm just a short roll of my office chair away from the fridge. But every time I settle in to draw, I have a moment where I think that this is totally "living the dream"!
CA: What do you most want our readers and industry professionals to know about your work?
ML: That I'm a very character-driven artist. Believable, uniquely relatable characters, a wide range of emotions, figures that realistically interact with each other and their environments --- that's my focus, and what I feel sets me apart from many other artists.
CA: How can editors and readers keep up with your work and find your contact information?
ML: Twitter (@SadMeganGirls) is the best way to keep track of me. I post progress photos of my projects (if allowed!), as well as warm-up sketches, info on signings, book releases, and conventions.
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.