We get a chance to have a pressure free conversation about comics with women in the comics creators community. Their creativity is inspiring to people throughout the fandom who enjoy their work.
They are our HERoes.
Jen Bartel has become a staple cover artist for IDW’s Jem and the Holograms, and has recently completed an interior arc for the book. She has also taken the convention world by storm this last year with her candy colored prints and bold strong messages for women in her art, bags and other swag. Comicosity got a chance to talk to Jen who talks about her influences, how fashion shapes her style, and how social media shapes her decisions about work.
Jessica Boyd: What is your favorite aspect of comics?
Jen Bartel: Because the overhead for creating comics is relatively low, there are infinite possibilities—almost any story can be told. The same can’t be said for other industries, and I love that in comics we have the freedom to create how we want to.
Jess: What is your favorite part of creating comics?
Jen: The collaboration! It’s so great to work with other talented people and shape the end product together.
Jess: What issue or series or artist has had the biggest influence on your work?
Jen: I actually don’t have a ton of experience within comics as I just entered the industry late last year (I come from an illustration background) so most of my influences come from outside of comics, but one person who has been a huge inspiration to me for a long time now is Becky Cloonan—she’s an amazing artist and storyteller but she also does incredible screenprinted posters and standalone illustrations. I love her aesthetic and her brushwork. Another big source of inspiration is the late Satoshi Kon, who was a master storyteller and artist as well.
Jess: What is a typical creative working day for you?
Jen: I’ve been trying hard to stay on an early schedule, but with deadlines it becomes really challenging to adhere to that. Lately, my days are structured around my heavy workload so there are lots of hours spent at my work desk. If I didn’t have a dog, I probably wouldn’t see too much of the sun. (laughs)
Jess: Musical inspirations? Or do you need quiet to create?
Jen: I love down tempo stuff like Bonobo and Tycho, but if I’m working I’m usually listening to podcasts and audiobooks. I really like Radiolab, Modern Love, This American Life, and Reply All.
Jess: What is your favorite fashion comic or representation of fashion in comics (floppies, webcomics, any medium?)
Jen: I love Bryan Lee O’Malley’s attention to fashion in Seconds. The outfits he draws are such a key element of each character and his tastes are very similar to mine. I also can’t answer this without talking about The Wicked + The Divine—Jamie McKelvie is a hugely important voice for fashion in comics and he’s paving the way for a lot of us. Same goes for all the work of Kevin Wada, Babs Tarr, and Kris Anka.
Jess: What is one of your favorite stories you have ever been part of creating?
Jen: Well, once again, having not been at this for too long I haven’t had the chance to have a hand in too many stories just yet, but I recently finished up a 2 issue arc on Jem and The Holograms, and I think it’s really great what the team at IDW has been able to do with that book. Considering the fact that it started off as a cartoon to sell dolls, it’s pretty awesome that each character has a unique look and voice, and Sophie Campbell made sure to include a ton of body diversity in her designs. Kelly Thompson is a fantastic writer to work with, so that experience was really great!
Jess: What role do you think social media plays in comics or the comics industry? How has that changed since you began?
Jen: I think social media has done a lot to bring people together who maybe otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to each other’s’ work— for me personally, it’s been a great gauge of whether or not I want to enter into a working relationship with someone.. If they send me a pitch but I don’t know them too well, I’ll check out their social media. It usually becomes quickly apparent whether or not we’d actually get along on a personal level, and I definitely think I’m not alone in using social media in this way.
Jess: What is some advice you wish someone had given you before you began working in the comic medium?
Jen: That it’s ok to say no sometimes. 😉
Jess: What message(s) do you hope people get when experiencing your work?
Jen: I hope I’m able to accurately represent a diverse range of people—the most flattering thing I can hear when I post a new drawing is “oh my god, this looks like ME!” I want to create accessible comics that tell the stories of people who haven’t had the opportunity to be in the limelight as much.
Jess: When it comes to comics, “all I want or dream is …”
Jen: …for everyone to feel included.