How do the pros #MakeComics? We’re here to tell you. 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 Leah Williams! You’ve seen her name in X-Men Gold and her upcoming credits include X-Men Black, Domino and the new What If?! She was kind enough to give us a glimpse into her creative process here:
What does a typical day in the life of Leah Williams look like?
Oh no, this is going to be so boring!! I wake up, have breakfast, drink coffee while reading comics, and then I get to work. I set phone alarms to remind me to get up and do things like drink water and eat. When my blood sugar crashes because I’m an idiot who forgot to do either of those things despite the reminders, I stagger to the kitchen and bang around pots and pans until dinner happens. Don’t be like me. At night I read comics, play video games, watch netflix, or if I’m fidgety, crochet.
What time of day do you do your best work?
I have a really specific “writing window” for whatever reason, so for me that means about 10:00 am-3:00 pm. That’s usually when I get my best writing done and I’m thinking the clearest, but maybe if I could maintain a consistent eATING schedule (see previous answer) I wouldn’t crash every day at the same time.
Comics is a collaborative medium. How do you work with your teammates on your projects?
Oh, I’m highly collaborative. Comics are a team sport and I love comics for this reason! I love being a team player and pitching in for feedback or providing reference photos wherever needed. I also don’t want to overstep and assert my vision where it’d be inappropriate to do that, so mostly I try to just be helpful where I can. I’ve had the good fortune of working with quite a few people who I consider to be my creative partners-in-crime, and that’s a really magical thing. When you find an editor or artist that you can lock-step with, and toil over the nitty-gritty details together, it makes something really amazing–something you couldn’t have produced on your own.
How do you manage your to-do list?
I’m going to be literal and explain that I have a hand-written to-do list in a notebook that I’m constantly adding to. When something gets done, I highlight it instead of crossing out so I can still read what it says. Seeing blocks of color and scanning quickly for the white line space where an item still lingers helps me, too!
What is your workspace like?
Sadly I have no pictures, but right now my workspace is pretty flexible because I don’t -have- a dedicated workspace. I’m working on fixing up my own office but I haven’t gotten around to obtaining a desk or bookshelves yet, so just imagine me flopping around various surfaces around the house while frowning down at my laptop. If I have a sUPER long writing day, I mean, the kind where I’ll be striving to meet a deadline (often really ambitious and self-imposed, arbitrary deadlines, again: don’t be like me), I pull out a yoga mat and will write in between stretching and trying to at least move my body in some way. Even when I do have a sweet workspace to show you someday, I’ll still keep the yoga mat handy.
What tools are essential to your creative process?
Spotify, felt-tip pens, notebooks, and a water bottle.
What do you love most about creating comics?
I love the medium as a whole. I love writing for a visual medium in general, but comics especially because you get to take whatever it is you are trying to communicate, and use both words and imagery to distill it down to it’s most potent effect. And you do that in each panel, to construct something meaningful. It’s heady. I love that about creating comics, but creating comics for a place like Marvel, I mean, writing in this medium with characters that I’m already deeply affectionate about, characters who I learned to love comics with–that is a different kind of joy. That’s something closer to an ideology for me at this point. It feels bigger than me and I abide by this deference.
What is your favourite phase of a project?
Idea generation. This is the part just after having a project materialize, and just before getting to the outline. It’s when you start to discuss things with the co-conspirators you’re working with, and having the concept start to materialize in my head is a uniquely addictive thrill. I always tell people that art an oasis mirage in the middle of the desert that only you can see, and that the hardest part won’t be making it, but convincing other people to walk towards your vision without being able to see it from a distance. Idea generation is when other people start to see what previously, only you could–or when you start to see the edges of someone else’s miracle in your own mind. That is a kind of connection unique to creatives and I don’t know how else to explain it, but it’s my favorite phase of every project.
What do you listen to or watch while you work?
I am one of those Easily Distractible types so I can’t watch anything, and even listening to music can be risky on days when I need to buckle down and not let my eyes leave the page. I have highly-articulated writing playlists that help me hone in on atmospheric vibes I’d otherwise struggle to keep in sight while I’m writing, but otherwise I work in total silence. I’m boring.
When you aren’t creating comics, how do you like to spend your time?
Reading. I’m a devourer. I’m curious about the world in a way that is bottomless. I’m constantly reading. I also act up on twitter on a regular basis.
Networking and meeting other creators is an important part of the business. What is your preferred way to network?
Twitter and comic-cons. I don’t get to go to many cons yet for time/money reasons, but every time I do get to attend one it totally innervates me as a comics fan, and subsequently as a creator.
What comics are you reading right now?
Well, don’t tell Jason Aaron this, but I’ve been reading Jason Aaron’s entire back catalogue lately. I have Marvel Unlimited (which is amazing) so it allows me to gorge back issue after back issue, and I got on a Jason Aaron kick recently because I found myself missing Wolverine and the X-Men again, which is fantastic. When I completed that re-read I just kept going through all of his existing oeuvre on Marvel Unlimited. It’s been great, and he’s one of my very favorite writers. Don’t tell him that. I know him personally now and this will make it weird.
What do you hope to see in the industry in the future?
No more hate movements being allowed to fester unchecked within the community under a disingenuous pretense of “fixing” comics just because one embittered fan thought he could break into our industry by peddling hate for profit on YouTube.
For real though, I believe we are in the Protean Age of comics. Comics are great, and they’re only going to get better. The medium has already been exploding outward into a stunning array of diverse voices and incredible new modes of storytelling, and we’re seeing the nascent dawn of a potential new comics boom with these voices. We need to lean into the progress and continue to foster new talent and encourage diversity, and at the same time we need to continue embracing new technology, new platforms, and promoting comics literacy. Real comics fans know that’s what’s up, because this is why we love comics. We ‘been ready. Art has always been on the frontlines of political dissention, and comics have always been the underdog of art. There is no going backwards.
Check out Leah’s work here and check back soon for a new #MakeComics interview!