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 Vita Ayala! A member of the 2016 DC Talent Workshop, they’re work can be found in Suicide Squad: Most Wanted, Bitch Planet, Wonder Woman and The Wilds, coming soon from Black Mask Studios. Vita was gracious enough to give us a glimpse into their creative process below:
What does a typical day in the life of Vita look like?
I was fortunate enough recently to be able to become a full time freelancer, so there has actually been a large change.
It used to be: wake up at 10:30pm, get ready for work (I worked night security at a museum), work from midnight to 8am, go home and write for a few hours, do normal life stuff, sleep by 5pm, and do it again.
Now I wake up around 7am, do some stretches with my wife, make tea and eat breakfast, and then sit down to write until the evening. I eat lunch and watch some “nerd sports” (Magic the Gathering pro tours) in there too, haha. When my wife is off work, we hang out and have dinner, and then watch a movie or tv show, or read. Since I went freelance full time I’ve been able to actually take in media, which is amazing, and SLEEP!
What time of day do you do your best work?
Mornings traditionally are my best times for creative stuff, but afternoons are best for actually producing. So I’ll figure out what I need to do, maybe scribble out rough drafts, outlines, or ideas on paper, then after lunch I get down to the typing.
Comics is a collaborative medium. How do you work with your teammates on your projects?
I like to get thoughts on everything if I can, especially if we are communicating before I actually write whatever it is. And I will hit my collaborators up on text or messenger with questions or ideas pretty often during the actual writing process.
I like to get into conversations and exchanges of ideas, if I can. I don’t want to write things that my co-creators don’t want to draw, and I know that the more eyes on something the better. I love getting questions so I can refine my ideas – plug up any holes and polish the shape of things – as earlier and often as possible.
How do you manage your to-do list?
One bite at a time.
I love making to-do lists so I can check things off as I go. I have a Master List of writing I am working on, then a weekly list, and sometimes even a daily.
Breaking things down into small, manageable portions keeps me from getting overwhelmed, and also lets me be honest about what I can and cannot do. I can better hold myself accountable when I am slacking, and also lets me be good to myself when I am on track.
What is your workspace like?
Depends, haha. I have three work spaces, and use all of them pretty regularly.
My home workspace right now is our living room/eating table. I use it when either it is too cold to go outside, I am sick, or my deadlines are NOW and I don’t have time to travel. There is a pile of sketchbooks and art supplies in one corner (or when I FINALLY have time to dabble), and a 16 in. Moana doll (still in box, which transforms into her boat) sitting on it like a sort of patron god. The surface was polished wood buy my roommate and I painted it with chalkboard paint.
My favorite workspace is the New York Public Library Rose Room. It’s the main branch – at Bryant Park – and it is beautiful. Quiet but not silent, humongous ornate ceilings, free wi fi, and nice bathrooms. They open at 10am, so there is time for breakfast, and close at 5:30pm-ish, just in time for late lunch/early dinner. The study side (as opposed to the tourist/visitor side) gets nice and full by 12:30, so I am never alone.
The last is a cafe. My favorite had closed and left me adrift, but I found another even better one and I try to go at least 2x a week. The Library is dry – no food or drink – so if I need extra caffeine, or will be needing a snack, the cafe is perfect.
What tools are essential to your creative process?
Paper and ink. Matt Rosenberg used to make fun of me all the time (he works directly to his computer), but I produce my best work if I can rough things out in a more physical/tactile medium before committing it to a word document.
The transcription process is where I have my best moments of inspiration, and I treat the ink versions as a blue print or as the undersketch sort of. It is the scrap paper they give you for the complicated math portions of tests, you know? I never understood how people could do that inside their heads!
After that, my computer/tablet. Not just for the word processor, but to research. I look things up all the time, and I add hyperlinks into scripts on the regular.
Music. Always. I make playlists for specific projects, and also have go to albums when I need a push. I am not able to do things without music.
What do you love most about creating comics?
I love all of it! But if I had to choose, I would say I love how much of a collaborative process it is.
There is no joy and intensity like creating something, and there is something extra special about creating something with other people. All those different visions and interpretations that come together to produce something, and then the further perspective of the people reading the thing – they are JUST as much a part of the process as I am.
Stephen King said that writing is like being psychic and communicating directly to someone, and I think that is true. It is MAGIC, complicated with language but simplified again with interpretation. The same thing can literally have different meanings to people, all along the chain from idea inception to when a reader closes the issue. That is fucking amazing.
What is your favourite phase of a project?
The end of each stage.
I love when the ideas that have been swirling around finally take shape as an outline. I love finishing a draft of an issue. I love completing notes and sending that sucker off to the artist. I LOVE seeing what my collaborators send back my way (line art, colors, letters), and I love opening my mail and pulling out the printed issue.
I love the feeling of accomplishment and aw at the end of each part.
What do you listen to or watch while you work?
Like I said, music forever. Playlists galore. 90% of the time I am jammin to something. If not a project specific playlist, it’s probably Beyonce, one of the Hamilton soundtracks, Yung Bae, or the Borderlands (video games) sound tracks.
On occasion when I am feeling lonely at home, if my wife is out at a business meeting or something, I may turn on some Youtube art videos or one of those “chill and study” companion Youtube stations.
When you aren’t creating comics, how do you like to spend your time?
I like to play games. Board games and card games mostly – I worked in the Manga & Gaming section of Forbidden Planet NYC forever – but also video games. I JUST got my wife into Magic The Gathering, and I bought her one of those SNES Classics for Christmas, so I have been watching her play Zelda (my poor blood pressure). I am on the hunt for a D&D game (or any rpg really) right now haha. My family traditionally is a gaming family.
I love to read. Prose as well as comics. I have a book problem – as in I have filled two apartments with books (my own and my mother’s), and have a small storage space literally half crammed with books. If I could I would dedicate a day a week to just reading.
I love television. I haven’t had time in the last 4 years to watch a lot, but I found ways to squeeze in TV time (mostly for Orphan Black, Brooklyn 99, Stranger Things, and anything with a queer lady storyline). As a teenager I had my TV on for about 16 hours a day, even when I was sleeping.
Hanging with my wife and family too. We do all the above things together, so that is nice haha.
Networking and meeting other creators is an important part of the business. What is your preferred way to network?
Honestly, either conventions or twitter.
Conventions because my weird awkwardness is understandable because of how overwhelming things are for everyone (I am a bit shy and to counteract that I force myself to be outgoing). People are either totally on guard or raw at conventions, both of which can be useful, and you really get to refine pitches and hear about awesome new stuff there.
And twitter because we can communicate with people from everywhere. My artist on THE WILDS is in California. We met on twitter, became friends on twitter, and communicate primarily via dm. Our book would not exist without it. Twitter allows you the immediacy of face to face interactions in essentially the world’s largest chatroom, bit you can take the time to be more thoughtful about not just your own responses, but about curating your space. Amazing.
What comics are you reading right now?
- Mister Miracle. I am obsessed.
- Copra. I literally squeal for joy whenever it comes out.
- Hellboy. Always.
- Batman & The Signal. I love me some Duke!
- I just reread all of the current Supergirl run again (3rd time)
- Papergirls. Holy smokes, I love that book.
- Southern Bastards. This book is painfully good.
- the new Phoenix/Jean Grey book. So good!
- America. Queer, brown, quipping, punching ladies are my jam.
- Batwoman. Obviously.
I mostly read in trades – recently I picked up Kim & Kim volume 2, The Wrenchies, The Dregs, Backstagers, and the latest Monstress.
There is more, but this is a pretty good representation of my reading habits haha.
What do you hope to see in the industry in the future?
Pretty broad question, but I’ll take a shot!
Behind the scenes, I’d love to see more… Just, more of everything. More brown people, from all backgrounds, more queer people, more international books TRANSLATED.
That’s a big one. We are missing out on so much here, there are incredible comics coming out in languages we aren’t taught – or aren’t taught well – and we need, as a part of the industry, to be exposed to them!
On the page, I want more meaningful, well crafted stories for people that are like me. Brown, queer, designated female at birth. I want more NB characters doing dope stuff. Not token inclusion, but thoughtful, interesting, main characters. Not just for me, but because without representation, there is not understanding – of the self or of others. Without understanding there can be no empathy, and that is a damn steep slope to hatred.
Check out Vita’s work here and check back in 2 weeks for a new #MakeComics interview!