Welcome to the first edition of the new and improved #MakeComics! #MakeComics started out as a week long event, but with this iteration we’re going bi-weekly and featuring an in-depth conversation with a new creator every two weeks! Kicking the column off is Kelly Thompson, writer of Hawkeye, Jem And The Holograms, A-Force, Mega Princess, Rogue & Gambit, and more! Kelly was gracious enough to give us a glimpse into her creative process, below:
What does a typical day in the life of Kelly look like?
Utter chaos? I like to think my process is still…in process and that it will get better. That I’ll find some magic mix that will be a bit more regimented and controlled and make my life way better. But for now…I get up – usually by 9am and make breakfast (and coffee). I read and respond to some emails and check social media and then dig in on whatever’s on the agenda. What the day looks like beyond that depends largely on what my deadlines are – do I have a script due, or am I trying to finish a pitch, etc. – and how the day actually unfolds depends a lot on what goes wrong and right (day ends up consumed by calls from editors, or emails to review art “asap,” etc.) but I will generally work all day, with a few breaks, until I shut down for the day. Again, when that happens depends on a lot of factors. But I’m usually not in bed before 2am…if I can get to bed before 3am I feel pretty good.
What time of day do you do your best work?
Late at night, which probably accounts for at least some of the chaos. I’d love to be someone that got up early and kept really normal hours, but the truth is, I still really lack the discipline I need to ignore emails and social media, etc., and so I find I get the most hardcore script writing done at night – often pulling all nighters to get to “the end.” Though as I get older I feel less motivated by all-nighters. I tend to write my scripts very quickly, but the prep work (research, thinking through problems, notes, and an outline) takes place over a longer period of time to get to that fast & furious scripting time.
Comics is a collaborative medium. How do you work with your teammates on your projects?
Really depends on the teammate to be honest. So far almost all my collaborations have been different, with artists, colorists, inkers, letterers (and editors, of course). Things change based on both the project and the players. Sometimes you’re super in sync with someone and you talk all the time, sometimes you’re super in sync and that means you don’t even have to communicate that much – it just sorta slides together. Sometimes you’re less in sync and just cranking out the work, trying to get it done, trying not to get in one another’s way.
How do you manage your to-do list?
I put deadlines in my calendar with alerts for their due dates and then I also keep a word document that I call Priorities which is basically open at all times. It has four categories: “This Week,” “Next Week,” “On Deck,” and “Done.” It works pretty well for me. But the categories are critical – otherwise it’s too easy for all the deadlines to start to have the same priority and suddenly nothing is getting done.
What is your workspace like?
I have a reasonably nice desk space that I almost never use. More often I’m on my laptop on the couch, with my feet propped up. It’s far less fancy and official looking, but generally more comfortable.
What tools are essential to your creative process?
Laptop. Coffee. Music. Internet (greatest strength, greatest weakness, that one!). If I’m doing any heavy-duty brainstorming I also like to have a good black pen and a graph-lined black moleskine notebook.
What do you love most about creating comics?
Collaboration with brilliant artists. Writing novels has a lot of perks, especially self-pub as I have done, in that you have true free range in what you do and how you do it. Sure you still need an editor and great beta readers, but everything begins and ends with you, which creates a real sense of accomplishment. But through collaboration there’s the potential to really elevate your work to so much more. Partnering with far more brilliant people than yourself is usually a good bet. Plus getting stunning art in your email box is like Christmas everyday.
What is your favourite phase of a project?
Early days! The brainstorming and world building. Knowing you have the idea and fleshing it out, building the characters, finding their voices. At this stage everything is shiny and new, everything is still in front of you anything is possible.
What do you listen to or watch while you work?
Lots of times the answer is nothing – but I prefer music if I can – it’s much better at keeping me on task and motivated, as well as inspired. I like to come up with playlists specific to projects I’m working on. That way when I hear the music it’s almost Pavlovian in triggering me to work. It’s been especially successful with my novels. If I hear my Storykiller playlist I have a very powerful urge to write that book.
When you aren’t creating comics, how do you like to spend your time?
I am almost always working…which is good and bad. On the good side, I really love it and even when I’m away from it I often find myself thinking about it or wishing I was doing it. On the bad side, it’s not healthy to be that obsessed and to make your world that small. Like most creators I absorb a lot of media – books, comics, music, film, tv. But now that we’ve moved from NYC to Portland and I have a big yard I’ve been getting into gardening a bit. We also adopted kittens last summer (brothers – Clive and The Monarch) and I am of course consumed now with everything they do. It’s typically been difficult for me to step away from technology for long periods but I admit I’ve been enjoying it of late with the gardening and cats.
Networking and meeting other creators is an important part of the business. What is your preferred way to network?
I am incredibly reclusive (a former editor helped christen me Reclusive Sasquatch!) so almost all my networking has been done online – email, social media, etc. But I’m working on getting better at that…and I hope to have some cons in my future (2018?) where I can shake some hands
and buy some drinks and such.
What comics are you reading right now?
I obviously read a lot of Marvel to keep up with what’s going on – a lot of favorites like Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Wolverine, Phoenix Resurrection, some X-Men, Avengers, Runaways, Ms. Marvel, Jessica Jones, Defenders, etc. For non-Marvel stuff I’ve been enjoying Tom King’s Batman immensely as well as the new Mister Miracle and Batman Metal. And there’s always so much great “Indie” stuff – 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank, Lazarus, Bitch Planet, Redlands, Old Guard, Saga, Motor Crush, Heathen, Sex Criminals, Rumble, We Can Never Go Home, some of the new Archie stuff…so much stuff!
What do you hope to see in the industry in the future?
A continued push toward diversity on both book and creator fronts. More kids comics. Obviously I’d love to see the industry explode with readers – comics are such a unique and vibrant medium – I’d love for it to have a more sustainable and thriving base. But in lieu of a sudden explosion of readership, that we (as an industry) become more innovative and more flexible, so that we can change as necessary to meet the world. The only constant truly is change and we have to be willing to meet that head on and embrace it.
Check out Kelly’s work here and check back in 2 weeks for a new #MakeComics interview!