HERoes: Tana Ford

We get a chance to have a pressure free conversation about comics with women in the comics creators community. Their creativity is inspiring to people throughout the fandom who enjoy their work.

They are our HERoes.

From Cafe Racer to Avengers: No More Bullying writer and artist Tana Ford has been an online force is showing people that comics can be both fun and inclusive. That message is clearest with her latest work as the artist for Marvel’s Silk. I got a chance to talk to her about the creation processes, her biggest influence and comic dreams.

tanafordheroes-2Jessica Boyd: What is your favorite aspect of comics?

Tana Ford: I like how comics connect us to our imagination. These static images that can feel like motion and action and speed and sound –it’s magic! And I love that.

JB: What is your favorite part of creating comics?

TF:   All of it. I sometimes catch myself just smiling at my drafting table while I’m drawing Silk, marveling that this is my life, that comics are my job.

JB: What issue or series has had the biggest influence on your work? Who is your favorite protagonist/antagonist?

TF:   Alison Bechdel’s  “Dykes to Watch Out For” was important to me, though I’m not sure her art influenced my own. DTWOF introduced me to a world of normal queer people (most of them lesbians!) who felt authentic. They were funny and sad and charming and although their life struggles were not similar to my own (I found the strip when I was in college and the women in the strip were all in their 40s balancing marriages and kids and careers) the fact of its existence had a powerful effect on me.  When it comes to mainstream comics, my gateway drug was cartoons. I gobbled up both “Batman: The Animated Series” and “The X-Men” cartoon shows, and when they ended I needed to know more about these characters and so I found my way to comic books.  

tanafordheroes-5JB: What is a typical creative working day for you?

TF:    I wake up at 7:30am, take a delicious cup of homemade coffee into the office at the other end of my house and settle in to work. There are 3 stages that go into making a monthly comic book for me. STAGE 1 is layouts. This is always the hardest and most taxing part of the job for me. Translating Robbie Thompson’s fun and energetic Silk scripts into art is a heavy lift. It takes days. I have to decide what camera angles I’m going to use, what emotions should be expressed on the page, generally –what the book will look like.

STAGE 2 is pencils & inks. This is the best part of the job. I print the digital layouts I’ve done onto 11×17” watercolor paper at about 13% opacity. Then I draw my tight pencils on top of these layouts and ink those. I have been experimenting with ink washes and grey copic markers lately so I find having a toothier watercolor paper (as opposed to smooth Bristol board) works better for me.

STAGE 3 is finishes. I scan all my art pages into the computer and begin to paint highlights over them and clean up whatever needs it. I mostly use Kyle T Webster’s pressure sensitive Photoshop brushes –he’s got watercolor brushes, art markers, ink washes, everything. I rent the latest version of Adobe Photoshop CC ($9.99/month) and use a little Wacom tablet for all of that.

Though recently I got myself an iPad Pro and that has been invaluable to me when it comes to Stage 3. Now, I can paint in the finishes from the comfort of my couch after dinner instead of feeling chained to my office forever and ever.

tanafordheroes-3JB: Musical inspirations? Or do you need quiet to create?

TF:    What I listen to really depends on what stage of the art process I am in. If I am doing digital layout, and thereby chained to my computer, I listen to Pandora, or podcasts. (These days I’m loving the “Women of Marvel podcast” but my heart usually belongs to “RadioWesteros” and “Davos’ Fingers” –both are podcasts about George Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series, which I love.)

My drafting table is set up in my living room so when I move from layouts to the pencils and inks stage I will listen to the TV – typically last night’s “Rachel Maddow Show” or the Red Sox game. If I have to work through a stack of pages due to a tight deadline I might put on a long movie series like “Lord of the Rings” or a TV series so I can live tweet it and not feel so alone. Currently I’m working my way through “Star Trek: Deep Space 9” which I’ve never made the time to get into before.

JB: What is one of your favorite stories you have ever been part of creating?

TF:    Silk. It really is a dream come true.

JB: What impact do you feel representation has in a visual medium, such as comics?

TF:    I cannot stress enough how important representation is. In Silk (for instance) I get to draw an Asian American superhero who talks openly and honestly with her therapist, who is actively unpacking her PTSD from having been locked in a bunker for 10 years, whose two best friends are out lesbians in a healthy interracial relationship… and Silk is a spider-woman! So she gets to do all the badass spidery-awesomeness that comes with having these incredible powers.

So, in my book alone we have: positive queer representation, we are helping to de-stigmatize mental health, we have a leading female hero and we are talking openly about anxiety, isolation, friendship and love.

I wish this book had existed when I was growing up!

tanafordheroes-1

JB: What role do you think social media plays in comics or the comics industry?  

TF:    You and I are a great example of this. We found each other through social media and here we are having this great discussion. That’s the magic of the Internet. It connects us all, and through it, we can create a community.

JB: What is some advice you wish someone had given you before you began working in the comic medium?

TF:    Be brave. And never stop creating. Although all sorts of people will express their opinions on your work, it is a good idea to listen to the people who are down in trenches doing the hard work alongside you, putting their art out in the world and making a positive change. Tune out the Trolls, and keep doin’ you, girl.  

JB: What message(s) do you hope people get when experiencing your work?

TF:    I just hope that people enjoy the stories.

JB: When it comes to comics, “all I want or dream is …”

TF:    I would love to see more women and more people of color working on comics. We need representation on the page and behind the page, too. It’ll make for richer stories.

To learn more about Tana you can follow her on Twitter @tanaford

If you’d like to purchase books by Tana check out her works on ComiXology.

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