How do the pros #MakeComics? We’re here to tell you. Every second week, Comicosity is picking the brains of a pro who is killing it in the comics industry, and this week I was lucky enough to talk to Chad Sell! Chad is the cartoonist who brought together one of the most impressive graphic novels I have ever read, The Cardboard Kingdom, coming to bookstores on June 5 from Knopf Books. He also wrote and penciled The Cloud, which can be found on his website. Check out how he makes comics below:
What does a typical day in the life of Chad Sell look like?
I’m someone who likes structure and routine, which can be particularly important when you work at home! I get up pretty early to have coffee with my husband before he heads to work. Sometimes I’ll dive straight into some work, but more often than not, I’ll try to warm up my brain more gradually by reading about news and video games and drag queens.
My days vary quite a bit depending on whether I’m actively working on a big comic project, or if I’m more focused on smaller illustrations, but regardless, I’ll work on those through the afternoon. I like to take lots of breaks, and as restlessness sets in, I go for a nice long walk or work out at my local gym.
In the late afternoon, I often take care of business things like replying to e-mails, packaging up Etsy orders, all that stuff. And then I make dinner! (I love cooking and experimenting in the kitchen.)
One of the most important things about the self-employed lifestyle is to set limits and to set aside time to… live your life. I rarely let myself do work after dinner – I try to relax and enjoy some “couch time” with my husband and cats.
What time of day do you do your best work?
I can only write in the morning. Which is okay, given that I make comics. I try to write for 1-2 hours in the morning, and then I can spend the rest of the day drawing everything I’ve planned out! It works pretty well.
Comics is a collaborative medium. How do you work with your teammates on your projects?
For The Cardboard Kingdom, I had a team of 10 contributors, so we mostly interact in a private Facebook group. It’s great to bounce ideas back and forth all day! But obviously, for more in-depth work on a project, we switch to e-mail. For brainstorming story ideas, I *love* hashing things out over the phone. There’s something really magical about that process, how you can spin an entire story out of nowhere!
How do you manage your to-do list?
I have been using this app/website called Workflowy for years, and I love it. It’s basically an infinite to-do list that’s actually really easy to organize and stay on top of.
What is your workspace like?
It is utter chaos. Sheer madness. There are prints, packaging materials, and poster tubes everywhere! I try to limit the mess to my little corner of the apartment, but sometimes it spreads!
What tools are essential to your creative process?
Most of my work is digital, and I draw it on a Yiynova MSP19u monitor in Clip Studio Paint. I highly recommend both.
When I’m working with more traditional materials, I love Tombow Fudenosuke brush pens!
What do you love most about creating comics?
I love the magic of creating an entire world and filling it with engaging characters. I love that comics don’t need a huge Hollywood budget or a CGI team or a production crew – you can make a compelling story by yourself if you have the time and the talent.
What is your favourite phase of a project?
Comics are hard. There’s a ton of doubt and worry in the early phases where you’re not sure if all your grand plans are actually carrying through on the page. My favorite part is *after* all that hard stuff, when you’ve gotten together a rough draft for your story that has endured several rounds of revision, and you’re ready to go ahead with the final art. I love the feeling that my story is *worth* telling and then, page by page, day by day, bringing it into the world.
What do you listen to or watch while you work?
Way too many political podcasts. It’s a problem. I’ve been trying to fit more comedy and queer pop-cultural podcasts into my rotation to lighten things up! And sometimes, you just need to find the perfect song to match your mood and possibly dance around your workspace until you scare your cats. Possibly.
When you aren’t creating comics, how do you like to spend your time?
I like cooking. I like finding lowkey creative outlets where you can make stuff without the high stakes of it being your livelihood. I love videogames, but I rarely have the time for them. I’m pretty seriously into board games, and I lovvvvve reading. I… may not be a very exciting person.
Networking and meeting other creators is an important part of the business. What is your preferred way to network?
Hmm, that is a good question. Do you mind if I re-frame the question as: “How do you interact with other creators?” I love discovering new creators on Twitter and casually keeping up with my peers there. I’ve really enjoyed pledging to some artists on Patreon and getting a more in-depth look at their process there! Probably my very favorite thing is getting to actually meet other creators at comic conventions and talk shop, but those opportunities are few and far between!
What comics are you reading right now?
Because I’m getting into the kids’ comic world with The Cardboard Kingdom, I try to keep up to date with all the best new work coming out – like Jen Wang’s The Prince and the Dressmaker, which was so lovely and beautifully done. (Does anyone draw as expressive characters as Jen Wang??) And I’ve also been re-reading one of the classics: Bone. The artistry that Jeff Smith brought to that epic is truly staggering – every panel is such a delight!
What do you hope to see in the industry in the future?
Oh my, that’s a big question! Comics seem to be going through A LOT of changes right now. There’s so much debate about who should be making comics, what characters should be starring in them, and who reads them. And then there’s the looming question of business models, the direct market, and the growth of sales in the children’s book market. Throughout all of that, I hope I will see an increasingly diverse group of creators have the opportunity to tell engaging and inventive new stories in whatever format and mode of distribution works best for them! I hope that comics readers will embrace new creators rather than rally against them. There are so many stories worth telling.
Check out Chad’s work here and check back in 2 weeks for a new #MakeComics interview!