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 for this round I was lucky enough to talk to Marissa Louise! Marissa is the colourist on, well, tons of comics – including Hex Wives, Fairlady, Doom Patrol/JLA Annual, Mother Panic: Gotham A.D., The Wilds, Semiautomagic and many more! She was kind enough to give us a glimpse into her creative process here:
What does a typical day in the life of Marissa Louise look like?
It changes a lot, but typically I get up at 8am and spend some time with my husband while he goes to work. He works as a luthier. I am currently trying to run again, but the last few weeks I’ve been playing red dead online instead. I have a cheese sandwich and a salad for breakfast. I should be at my desk by 11am, at which point I’m scheduling my day, answering emails, blast a little social media, downloading flats or uploading pages to the flatter. Then I start coloring between noon and 2pm. My goal is to color until 8PM, but sometimes I need to go to 10pm or 2am.
My working order is either flatting or downloading flats, then I prep the pages for color corrections, then I do color corrections, then I do rendering. I find working in this order gives me a chance to think about how the page is set up and create a plan for how I want to tackle it.
What time of day do you do your best work?
I love to work first thing in the morning! Unfortunately, I often must do other things. If I want to run at all, it has to happen before my end of day. It’s not safe to run in my area at 10PM or 2AM.
Comics is a collaborative medium. How do you work with your teammates on your projects?
Each team is slightly different, but a colorist is like a support character. I do the bass line, I do the health drops, I do lighting. I’m not here to be on the front getting praise, I just want to support my team and make the best thing we can make! Sometimes someone will have a specific vision, then we talk about that. I think about how I can do that best or add to it. Sometimes I have a specific vision & I tell the writer or artist & we build on that together. Each team is totally different. I just try to be open to whatever and do my best.
How do you manage your to-do list?
I have a Hobonichi daily planner. I’m not always perfect about using it, but when I do use it regularly my life is so much better. I have a kind of complex but very visual system for scheduling. I put a little washi tape tab on the top of the page on the deadline. On that page I write out all the page numbers with some space so I can mark off what stage they are in ( o sent to flatter, \ color corrected, x rendered), I highlight the pages that have something unique about them that I need to remember, and circle the pages that need edits. This helps me so I can just look at the page and have an idea of how much time I’ll need. I used to also have a vertex for each pomodoro unit.
Once I have my deadlines in I use washi tape in the monthly section to block out how much time I’ll need for a given project. This is also color coded by company. So this helps me know just at a glance if I have any free spots. The only hang up with this is sometimes I don’t have my deadlines!
When I don’t have deadlines, I have a lot of chaos because I don’t know if I have time to take on books or not. So that is always when I over book myself.
What is your workspace like?
I have a standing desk and a Wacom on an arm. I face a window so I can scare the deer out of my garden or watch the sky change. My desk is messy right now, which is not what I prefer. I need to figure out a more efficient filing system so boxes & paperwork don’t pile up on my desk. But with out a filing cabinet it’s a tough thing to do!
My studio also has lots of art from friends and ballet bar for stretching. I have an old office chair my cats compete to sleep on and a dog bed under my drafting table. My dog has a newer better bed in the living room so she never joins me in the office anymore. I think she also enjoys watching the birds through our front door though.
What tools are essential to your creative process?
Time is one of the big ones. It’s hard to stay creative when you’re just grinding out content. I need to go for walks and look at art to get inspired. I can’t put things out if I don’t take things in. I have a watercolor set I take with me where ever I go so that I can paint on trains & planes.
What do you love most about creating comics?
I like the puzzle. In another life I probably would’ve been a doctor or a forensic scientist. I got into art because I saw my mom working 60 hours a week as a doctor and did not want to do that. I thought I could set my own schedule as an artist. Which I can, I just didn’t correctly calculate how poorly paid art is!
What do you listen to or watch while you work?
Since I work long hours I grind through stuff pretty quickly. I like things I don’t have to pay attention to, but make sort of a consistent level of noise that lets me concentrate. I have been listening to Mueller She Wrote, Casefile, This Podcast Will Kill You and my random spotify mixes. If you follow me on twitter, you know that Ramon Villalobos, Tamra Bonvillain, Craig Cermak, Sophie Campbell and me will get in a group chat and watch something. A lot of times it’s not a good movie, but it’s really fun to watch it with friends. We watch a lot of lifetime movies or horror movies. I’ll also get on chat just to talk to other comics creators. I need some level of noise to concentrate.
When you aren’t creating comics, how do you like to spend your time?
Woof, it’s been a while. Part of why I play Red Dead Online right now, is because it’s like camping with friends for one hour. Which is about all my free time for the day. I used to be super sporty & an outdoors enthusiast, but I just don’t have time for that right now. I used to love to play basketball, race bikes, play soccer, dance, swim, camp. I love horses and I find just spending time with them really relaxing. I used to make clothes & bake also! I like to choose a really challenging recipe then master it. I was getting pretty good at eclairs! Now I’m working on ma po tofu, just because it’s easy in the amount of time I have. I’m getting there with it!
Networking and meeting other creators is an important part of the business. What is your preferred way to network?
Well, here’s a not so secret thing: I actually kind of dislike networking. I think a lot of creators do, because a lot of us are introverts. I’m a little more on the extroverted side. I also had to learn a lot of those skills working as a barista many years ago. Back in 2010 or so twitter was great for networking, but a lot of the changes to it have made it less porous than it was before. A lot of creators had to turn off the ability for strangers to talk to them. I’ve done a lot of meat space networking and usually I just introduce myself to someone. If I like their work I’ll simply tell them why and try to not put pressure on them. I never wedge myself into a conversation. I’m fortunate now, that I have a lot of friends in comics and they will introduce me to people. Then I just try to make pleasant conversation. The last thing I want is to be a downer when people are already stressed and tired.
What comics are you reading right now?
Finally getting around to reading Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol. I absolutely adore Delicious in Dungeon and if you aren’t reading it, you are depriving yourself of something truly magical. I’m working my way through 7 Deadly Sins, but had some deadlines so I stopped about half way through. I have a huge stack of things to read like Triage, Doom Patrol, Shade: The Changing Girl, Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye, Johan Hex, Blueberry, Perdy, The Fearsome Doctor Fang, The Cute Girl Network. As you can see, lots to read! So little time!
What do you hope to see in the industry in the future?
I have a lot of hopes. But as long as we keep siphoning money to the top percentage of people (like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, etc), there are fewer and fewer crumbs for everyone else. Everyone works so hard in comics. I want people to get paid so they can take time off, get health care, spend time with their families and live long lives. We are in a new golden age of comics. We are so absolutely lucky to have access to the world and it’s history of media. But we’ll only see great media continue if we take care of the creators who make it!