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 Jeremy Whitley! His work includes Princeless, Princeless: Raven The Pirate Princess, The Unstoppable Wasp, and many more! He was kind enough to give us a glimpse into his creative process here:
What does a typical day in the life of Jeremy Whitley look like?
Well, generally I’m up between 5 and 6 am, either to get the kids and wife off to work and school or to get out to the gym – or both. I usually work out three days a week from 7-8, get back and take a shower, get dressed, and either set up at home or head out to a coffee shop/library or some other change of scenery. For someone that talks a lot about working from home, I rarely actually work from my home. I find that all my things are in my house and it’s much easier to get distracted.
I’ll generally start by going through my email and trying to answer or otherwise clean out as much of it as I can without getting into full on writing mode. That gives me fewer things to get distracted by. Once I get to work, I’ll usually sit until at least lunchtime and usually wait for a natural break in my writing to get something for lunch.
From there I’ll either get back into writing or take care of tasks that demand being done during traditional work hours. Once my kids and wife are home from work and school, I rarely have the ability or time to do more work. Recently, between 4 and 5, I’ll dive into cooking dinner for my family. With me being at home during the day, it’s nice being able to greet them with food.
Frequently, I’ll have to jump on the computer or phone late at night to do an interview or chat with collaborators in other parts of the country or world. Then I go to sleep and start it all over again in the morning.
What time of day do you do your best work?
It used to be late at night, but other responsibilities have kept me from doing much late night writing. Recently, it’s increasingly between 8am and 12pm, when I’m fresh off working out or taking a shower and fully rested.
Comics is a collaborative medium. How do you work with your teammates on your projects?
It depends a little bit on the project. Sometimes geography and language is a factor, especially when I’m writing for Marvel, because my artist is more likely to be in another country. I try to use all the means at my disposal. If I’m being set up with an artist, I try to make contact with them through email or social media as early in the project as I can. I like to know a lot about what my artist’s strengths are and what they want to draw. I don’t want any book to be a slog for an artist.
I want us all to have fun. I try to keep myself open to questions however they are most comfortable giving them and, where applicable, I try to provide as many references as possible. If I have particular thoughts on designs or fashion or I’m referencing something the artist may not be familiar with, I try to get them visual reference. This has been everything from particular locations in cities to Pinterest boards of clothes and hairstyles to videos of how to perform certain words in American Sign Language.
How do you manage your to-do list?
To be honest, things that can be done quickly (email responses, references, notes) tend to take top priority. From there my goal is to make sure that all of my collaborators constantly have something to work on. If one item is due first, but that artist is already hard at work on some facet of the project, I will try and write something for the other project where we’re ahead of schedule, but the artist is sitting on their hands. I feel like a good comic writer when I’m keeping as many editors and illustrators busy as possible.
What is your workspace like?
It varies greatly, if I’m honest. I do a lot of my work at home from my kitchen table, but as I said, I try to work in different places as much as possible. So, look at the average Starbucks table or library desk and that might be what my workspace looks like today. One day, I would like to have something a little more centralized, but I think I would need for it to be somewhere other than my house.
What tools are essential to your creative process?
Computer, internet access for quick reference, music, and headphones. That’s all I need. I also like to have coffee.
What do you love most about creating comics?
The thrill of making comics is coming up with the wildest, most outlandish things – things that nobody has ever seen – and then getting to see them come alive on the page. I never get sick of writing, but getting pages from your art team in the email is a special sort of magic you never get with other sorts of writing.
What is your favourite phase of a project?
I love it when a plan comes together.
Honestly getting that lettered art back and being able to look at it and say “hey, we did it. We pulled it off” is absolutely extraordinary. Especially when you’ve been planning and laying track and watching the gears turn. Seeing it actually materialize is beautiful.
A really close piece to that is the design phase. I can’t tell you how much stories have changes from seeing the designs that an artist turned around for characters and places in the world. Characters who had previously been background and become living breathing protagonists on the strength of a good design. You never know what you’ll find in the designs.
What do you listen to or watch while you work?
I can’t watch anything while working and I try to limit the input of similar stuff while a project is even still on the table.
As for listening, I try to put together playlists on my phone of familiar songs that are in the right spirit for the book. Unstoppable Wasp had a pretty significant girl power rock/pop mix. Future Foundation is a little bit wilder and more experimental. I think the biggest determining factor is that it can’t be new music. It has to be music I know and to which I know the words. When I try to write with new music, I end up listening to the lyrics and not writing.
Some frequent listens include: Janelle Monae, The Hamilton Soundtrack, Into the Spiderverse OST, Noisettes, Mountain Goats, Flaming Lips, MIA, Yeah yeah yeahs, Santigold.
When you aren’t creating comics, how do you like to spend your time?
Working out is still a new thing to me, but has come irreplaceable in my routine. I obviously read a lot and watch a lot of movies. I play with my kids. I play video games. I aspire to be part of a D&D campaign one of these days. It’s been literal decades since I played. I also listen to a lot of podcasts.
Networking and meeting other creators is an important part of the business. What is your preferred way to network?
Well, living in North Carolina, there isn’t a huge community of folks near me that I can hang out with all the time, so it usually comes in the form of conventions. I love meeting folks whose work I enjoy and who love my work. Those two things intersect more often than I ever would have dreamed. They can be a bit of a headache, but conventions are the life’s blood of the comics community.
What comics are you reading right now?
The Wicked and the Divine, Saga, Ms. Marvel, Hickman’s new X-Men stuff, doing a reread of Hawkeye and Ultimates, Moonstruck, Heavy Vinyl, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Fantastic Four, and a slew of others.
What do you hope to see in the industry in the future?
Growth. And I don’t just mean “more people”. I want to see comics reaching out to more kinds of people and finding itself in new venues. I’d love for comics to be as casual of a part of life fro people as books and TV are now. There was a point in literature where novels were considered silly things only to be read by housewives and as a creator of comics, I aspire to that kind of notoriety. I want romance comics and suspense comics and literary comics. I want comics to take over the world.