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 Sophie Campbell! Sophie’s resume is long and fierce, with her creator owned Wet Moon, as well as titles such as Jem And The Holograms, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Glory, Fraggle Rock and more! Check out how she makes comics below:
What does a typical day in the life of Sophie look like?
I get up between 9 and 11am, and first order of business is feeding my cat Rambo, then I do my various morning routine stuff before checking email and seeing if there’s any comics drama on Twitter. If it’s a Wednesday, I usually watch The Flash and Black Lightning before I get to work because I get too excited, and same thing on Fridays when it’s Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. But typically I try to get upstairs to my office before noon, some days I can get started by 10am and others I kinda drag my feet. Once I’m ready to get to work, I usually work until 1am while taking breaks throughout the day to visit with Rambo and make dinner and sometimes taking breathers where I doodle other non-work-related drawings or I work on music or something. Some days I chat with friends online or play D&D in the evening, but I go back to work after that. I’ve been really trying lately to get to bed early but usually I end up getting to sleep around 2:30am.
What time of day do you do your best work?
In the evenings, definitely. Sometimes I get started in the morning with a bang and I work really fast, but then I’ll peter out quickly until I get my second wind after dinner.
Comics is a collaborative medium. How do you work with your teammates on your projects?
I tend to think of myself as difficult to work with but I don’t know if that’s true, since people seem to enjoy working with me and they keep coming back. I guess I’m usually easy-going and flexible but I’ll get antagonistic toward a person if there’s something I feel strongly about and they’re fighting me on it. I try to step back when it comes to other people’s jobs, I’m kind of a control freak but I really try to give everyone space like I don’t want to step on the colorist’s toes or the letterer’s. I want them to have fun in addition to doing their job, and I know what it feels like when someone else tries to get their hands in what you’re doing. Obviously I like there to be communication between everyone, and batting ideas around is good, I don’t like it when each person is isolated and not talking to the other people on the book, it should be a friendly exchange of ideas, but I think there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed when it verges on interference. I don’t know if I always heed that because I like to get my fingers in the script when I’m working with a writer, I can get pretty bullheaded with them. I don’t know why I always view writers as adversaries, haha. But, all that said, comics isn’t always collaborative for me, on my Wet Moon series for example, I do EVERYTHING! Writing, drawing, coloring, lettering, and in those cases I don’t have to worry about what anyone else is doing, which is both great and sometimes lonely.
How do you manage your to-do list?
I’m not very good at it, haha. I get really single-minded when I’m in the middle of a big project and I get frazzled and overwhelmed when other tasks intrude on it, which I usually end up forgetting about until someone bugs me about it. When I have a to-do list with lots of little tasks on it, I usually procrastinate until the last minute when I’ll set aside the main project and do all the smaller tasks in one burst to get them all out of the way in one go.
What is your workspace like?
This past year or so I got a separate studio apartment to use as an office for work, which is upstairs from my main apartment. It’s really great, I love having a work space that isn’t in the same room as my bed, I like how it helps get me in a different mindset. Also since I’ve gotten my cat, it helps being in a different area from him because he’s so needy and distracting. It’s hard to get work done when I just want to grab him and snuggle him all the time.
What tools are essential to your creative process?
I’m pretty straightforward. When I do traditional media, it’s a mechanical pencil, a brush, and ink, and when it’s digital it’s a Wacom tablet and Photoshop. Hot beverages are also an important tool, like chai lattes and hot chocolate.
What do you love most about creating comics?
Figuring out who the characters are is my favorite thing to do, what they’re all about, how they act, what they look like, what their style is. I need to be invested in the characters to even want to do comics, whether it’s personal comics or work-for-hire. Once I figure a character out, I feel like the rest easily falls into place and that’s a really exciting feeling. If I’m excited about the characters then that’s when I love doing comics the most, that’s when it’s the most fun.
What is your favourite phase of a project?
Probably the beginning when things are being hashed out, when I’m figuring out the characters like I said in the last answer. I like that exploratory sort of process, when things are new and you’re discovering what the project is going to be. When I’m working on my own comics, my favorite part is usually the scripting and coming up with the dialogue, I love writing interactions between characters. The very end phase is also fun, when things finally all coalesce into a whole and you get to see the end result.
What do you listen to or watch while you work?
When I’m writing I always work in silence, I can’t hear myself think when I have something to listening to, especially if there’s words like in a podcast or song lyrics. When I’m drawing, I listen to true crime podcasts most of the time, like Generation Why, My Favorite Murder, True Crime All The Time, In Sight, I love that stuff. I also listen to music but not as often, there’s something about listening to people talk on podcasts that really helps me focus when I’m drawing. If a musician I like releases a new album (like The Rain Within’s new album Atomic Eyes!!!) then I’ll listen to that a lot for a month or so, but otherwise it’s podcasts all day.
When you aren’t creating comics, how do you like to spend your time?
I do tabletop gaming, like D&D for example, and I love working on that, doing drawings for characters and monsters, and drawing maps. I also like doing fanart, that’s a great way to just enjoy drawing without any work baggage or pressure. Another thing is doing music on my computer, last year I discovered that my Mac came with a copy of GarageBand and I’d always wanted to try electronic music but never had the time or the tools until then. Making music is really fun for me because I don’t totally know what I’m doing, I don’t know if it’s “good” or not, there’s something really freeing and exciting about creating something when you don’t care if it’s any good and it doesn’t matter to you if anyone likes it. I don’t know anything about music composition or production or mixing, it’s just really fun figuring out how to do it and learning it on my own, and then posting songs online without knowing or caring if they’re any good or not. It’s something I struggled with for years with my art, I got so into the work aspect of it and meticulous perfectionism, that I forgot how to have fun and not worry about the final product so much. In recent years I’ve taught myself how to have fun with drawing again, but right now doing music feels like a pure version of that, like it’s a whole new world that I don’t know anything about and the only thing I understand is that it’s fun. My Bandcamp page is forgethepast.bandcamp.com if anyone is interested.
Networking and meeting other creators is an important part of the business. What is your preferred way to network?
Twitter! That seems like the best way these days, everyone is just a click away. I’ve met so many great people through Twitter, both new friends and people I’m trying to get work from. It’s really nice and handy because I don’t do many conventions anymore.
What comics are you reading right now?
I don’t read a lot of comics these days, I’ll be honest! Right now the only two ongoings I’m reading are Prism Stalker by Sloane Leong, and Heathen by Natasha Alterici & Rachel Deering. I also really like Barbarous by Yuko Ota & Ananth Hirsh, The Inheritors by Janet Kim, and O Human Star by Blue Delliquanti but I usually read that when she puts out the big collected books because I’m terrible at keeping up with webcomics.
What do you hope to see in the industry in the future?
More opportunities for living full-time on comics, more opportunities for women of color, more trans creators and more comics with trans characters, no more harassment both sexual and the online troll variety, more men in comics being busted for harassment and fired, and finally, a publisher getting the Gamera license and hiring me to do it.
Check out Sophie’s work here and check back in 2 weeks for a new #MakeComics interview!