Silk Talkings: Artist AMANDA CONNER's Tell-All Art Book
THE Q: Creators Talk WATCHMEN 2
On sale this week, The Art of Amanda Conner covers the comics veteran (and former comic shop owner)’s career from her pro debut in 1988 drawing a story in Solo Avengers to now, but also doesn’t pull any punches in showing the California-born artist’s teenage years as an artist drawing pin-ups and strips for her high school paper and during her secondary education at the Kubert School. Newsarama spoke with Amanda Conner earlier this month in what turned out to be a rollicking phone interview that touched on everything from her future plans to her first taste of comics via the tooth fairy.
Newsarama: Let’s swing into this by talking about what’s currently on your art board now. What are you working on, Amanda?
Nrama: I remember last year after you finished your run on Power Girl you said you were doing some creator-owned work next, and you also mention that in The Art of Amanda Conner. What led to do the detour to do this Before Watchmen book?
Conner: It was too irresistible to say no to. I’m still doing creator-owned stuff, but I’m putting that on the backburner until Silk Spectre is finished. Once that’s done, I’m doing a book with Frank Tieri and Jimmy Palmiotti called Captain Brooklyn. That was the book I was originally planning on working on this year, but when the opportunity to do Silk Spectre came along I talked with Jimmy and we agreed it’d be a good idea to do it before Captain Brooklyn.
Nrama: There’s been a lot of talk about the Before Watchmen books, but today I wanted to talk to you about this art book of yours coming out from IDW and Desperado. Jimmy’s told me that people have been bugging you for years to do it, but why did here and now seem like a good time to finally go through with it?
Conner: The fact that someone came along and said they would do all the hard work, mainly! [laughs]
And doing it with IDW, they have a great track record of doing beautiful-looking books and I knew I could trust them.
Nrama: In terms of providing artwork, you dig deep and show off some art you did as a child – including an early comic strip you did called Preppies In Distress.
Conner: Yeah, I did that while attending the Kubert School. My thought with including that early work was to go ahead and not be embarrassed by my early stuff. It was to show artists that no one starts out fully professionally, but you need time to practice and refine your abilities. I wanted to inspire people to do art even if it isn’t professional, because with enough practice it could be. If you just keep at it, you can get a lot better.
Nrama: When did the idea of doing art, of doing comics, turn from a hobby to a career choice for you?
Conner: Pretty much by the fact that I thought I’d be bad at everything else. I’m pretty clumsy, so being a waitress is out – I’d probably pour coffee on someone. [laughs]
There were some other things I thought about doing, but they were even more unrealistic than being a comic artist.
Nrama: In the book you say you thought about becoming a lion tamer.
Conner: [laughs] Yes, or an action star! [laughs]
Compared to those, I thought being a comic book artist would be a lot more doable.
And having a mom and dad who are artists means that you tend to have a lot of art supplies all over the house. While growing up, I would get into trouble for snatching dad’s markers and using them in my room. He didn’t mind me using them, but he did get mad when he couldn’t find them and he was on deadline. I was a little bit of a pain in the ass for them, but in the end I think it worked out.Nrama: Looking at your comics work, even when you’re drawing someone else’s story I see a similar tone in terms of humor coming into it – even with Vampirella. Would you say you’re as funny in person as your comics are?
Nrama: While working in your zone, you still do some pretty disparate material – inside and outside of comics.
Conner: Yes, you’re right. It’s fun to stretch yourself a little bit. Right now I’m completely focused on Silk Spectre so I can’t balance anything else, even one-off illustration jobs, but when things are bit more calm I hop to be able to take on some outside projects.
Magazine illustrations and the like are fun for me; they’re always a little bit different and they reach a new audience. Another thing is I get to draw situations that are completely different form the ones I get to draw in a standard comic book. I got away with a lot of stuff drawing for the magazine Revolver. I couldn’t get away with that in comics, because no one’s really given me a storyline to go that far.
Nrama: Following your work for years now, I’ve known you to form strong bonds with your collaborators – working time and time again with Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, as well as colorist Paul Mounts. Most comic artists work alone at home, so what’s it like to create these bonds that last over several different projects?
Conner: Comics really is a solitary job, so making friends when you can sort of just happens automatically. You make strong bonds with people you work with.
As far as Paul Mounts goes, he’s our color guy. Once I saw his colors on my art the first time, I knew I had to keep him. And as far as editors go, I’ve been pretty lucky. So at the end of the day you develop bonds with the people you do talk with when you’re working at home. I don’t know if I do it more so than others in comics, or do it less. It feels natural to me.
Nrama: Some artists I’ve interviewed said they talk on the phone while drawing; I interviewed John Romita Jr. while he was literally drawing the first issue of Avengers Vs. X-Men. Are you able to do that?
Conner: It’s pretty difficult to me. If I’m filling in blacks or doing lineless work it’s possible, but it’s still difficult. If someone calls me while I’m working, I put the pen down to talk to them. I have to have a sort of concentration on what I’m doing to, well, do it. I keep a television on in the background, but it’s more for background noise for me to ignore while I work. TV won’t get insulted if I don’t listen to it, but if I’m talking to a friend I don’t want to fall away from the conversation. I can put the radio on, or music on, but it can’t be too interesting. The worst would be visually interesting television – that’d pull me away in a heartbeat. Usually what I have on in the background is the news or those judge shows; they’re just a bunch of talking heads, but I’ve learned a lot about the law. [laughs]
But I couldn’t put on Avatar or Gladiator. and work; not unless I had an extra set of eyeballs.
Nrama: I think you might have drawn that device in Two-Step. [laughs]
Conner: [laughs] I might have.
Nrama: Getting back around to a point we touched on in the beginning, lets’ talk about creator-owned work. You’ve done things like The Pro and Two-Step, but in your Art of Amanda Conner book you show glimpses of a variety of other ones that haven’t seen the light of day.
Jimmy’s a great idea guy. Once he throws the seed of an idea out there, we can really build on it. Sometimes we get these great, goofy ideas. Every once in a while we package them up and throw them at a television network to see if they’re interested. We came close to a TV deal for Surf & Turf but something happened and it fell apart. It’s still out there. That’s the thing…. When something is “in development”, it’s kind of waiting for the right people to say “hey, do it!” It’s a waiting game sometimes.
Nrama: Pulling things full circle, let me ask you this before I let you go: what would you say your dream project is?
Conner: That’s a tough one. That’d entail me to make a decision on something! [laughs]
Nrama: How about writing more of your own work? You’re co-writing Silk Spectre with Darwyn, and you’ve popped up here and there doing your own thing.FACEBOOK and TWITTER!