Luke Healy

Luke Healy, an Irishman, is publishing part of his thesis project. Just before graduating from CCS in 2014, he won a MoCCA fest Award of Excellence from the Society of Illustrators for his comic Of the Monstrous Pictures of WhalesNobrow Press just published How to Survive in the North. I emailed with Luke while he was at a pit stop with email on his current adventures backpacking the west coast of North America. What follows is the edited interview.

Luke's thesis project.

Luke’s thesis project.

Angela: You graduated CCS in 2014. Who was your advisor?

Luke Healy: Jason Lutes was my thesis advisor!

A: I am assuming that his massive research on Berlin is what made him a good adviser? And he’s awesome, of course. What in particular drew you to him? You did the second year low res?

L: Y’know, I think Jason just has a great head for narrative. He’s a great editor. Kind of like a comics doctor. He looks at your work, and can diagnose the flaws you don’t even know are there.

Interestingly enough, Jason wasn’t my first choice of thesis advisor. I didn’t initially think of asking him, because he’s a CCS faculty member, and I had assumed I’d have some access to him throughout the year anyway. I was paired with a cartoonist who I won’t name, that ended up flaking out pretty immediately, and then I learned that I’d have to leave the USA for the first semester of my second year. At that point, Jason seemed like the obvious choice, and it became clear pretty immediately that he was the perfect choice all along.

Luke drew a lot during his time as a TA for Jon Chad and Alec Longstreth in the Cartoon Studio summer workshop

Luke drew a lot during his time as a TA for Jon Chad and Alec Longstreth in the Cartoon Studio summer workshop

A: If you could have had any advisor living or dead, no limitations, who would it be?

L: I have to say, Jason was really the perfect advisor for this project, but I’d love to pick Posy Simmonds‘ brain. Or maybe Andrew Hussie. That guy is next level.

A: Could we talk about coming to CCS from across the pond? Was there a lot of culture shock? Was it your first time leaving ireland?

L: It was far from my first time leaving Ireland. The summer before I moved to White River Junction, I actually backpacked around Europe on trains by myself, so I have always loved to travel.

That being said, I hadn’t been to the USA since I was a child, so there was definitely some culture shock. I’ve obviously watched a lot of American movies and TV (ask anyone, I have a bit if an American accent) but there are some things that doesn’t prepare you for. The food for example. I’ll never forget stopping at a Cracker Barrel on a road trip down to SPX a couple of days after I moved over. I may still be in recovery.

A: Oh yeah. I remember, Pigs I think? Your comic about traveling on the train. [Note: It is Eat the Pig and it is not as bad as he claims it is. :) It also appears to no longer be available.]

L: Yup. It’s a terrible comic, and I hope nobody has to read it again, haha. I made it specifically with my CCS application in mind, and I got in, so I guess it was good for something!

A: What about Cracker Barrel threw you for such a loop? I’ve never been.

L: The portions are huge and disgusting. Don’t bother trying it out.

Thesis 2

Pages from Luke’s thesis project.

A: So first I should have asked why you are taking this trip away from the internet. How’s the timing work out with the books you have coming out this year?

L: Well, the timing is pretty inconvenient, honestly. When I graduated CCS, I had a bit of a “what do I do now?” moment.

I graduated in May, and I didn’t hear back from Nobrow until October or November I think, so I didn’t know the book was going to be a thing. I heard about this trail (the Pacific Crest Trail, a wilderness trail that runs 2660 miles through California, Oregon, and Washington, connecting Mexico and Canada) and became a little obsessed with it. I had no experience backpacking, so I set the date 2 years in the future to leave time to prepare. It was really helpful to have a goal again. Gave me structure.

Then I heard from Nobrow, and worked on the book during that time, and when I learned it would be launching during the time I was planning to be on trail, I had to have a long think about what I was going to do.

Eventually, I decided that I wouldn’t postpone this trip. I agonised over the decision, but I knew that in the end, there’s never a good time to take five months out from your life, and if I delayed now, I’d end up putting it off forever.

Nobrow have been really gracious about it, and I’ll be doing lots of promotional stuff once I finish in September. I’m hoping to be at SPX this year, where the book will be having its American launch, and I was also just invited to an Italian comics festival, so hopefully that will work out too.

Luke helping me in the lab during the summer woskhop.

Luke helping me in the lab during the summer workshop.

A: How is it publishing your thesis? It was completely drawn when you submitted it to Nobrow, or did they find you? Or somewhere in between?

L: I won’t lie, it feels weird to be publishing my thesis. I’m very proud of How to Survive in the North, but in some ways it still feels like student work to me. Not that it isn’t professional quality, but I did all of my research for the book at the Dartmouth Rauner Special Collections Library just across the river in Hanover, so I strongly associate the stories in the book with that time.

I pitched the book to Nobrow with the same draft that I turned in for thesis review. The book was all written and roughly pencilled, with about 30 pages of finished art. I ended up changing a lot for the Nobrow edition. Almost all of the pages were redrawn, and a good chunk was rewritten. The final published version is also about 60 pages longer than my thesis version.

I met Tucker Stone, Nobrow’s US sales and marketing director, at the industry day of my second year. He liked my work and encouraged me to send a pitch, but other than that I just followed their submission guidelines. They had, and possibly still have, an open submissions policy.

Nobrow's cover of How To Survive in the North

Nobrow’s cover of How To Survive in the North

A: How long did the research part take you? How did you come up with such a research heavy semi-fiction tale? Would you call this semi-fiction?

L: It’s actually a pretty huge coincidence. Months before applying for CCS, I had been looking up some photo reference for a comic, and a really striking photo of a woman named Ada Blackjack was among the Google image search results (I think I had been searching for a picture of a parka or something). I clicked through to her Wikipedia page and read her story and was fascinated.  Then I just sort of forgot about her.

When it came time to choose a thesis topic, I remembered her, and decided it might be fun to adapt her story into a comic. Then, when I went to do a bit more digging online, I discovered, by a massive coincidence, that all the primary sources about her expedition were in a library only ten minutes from CCS. I couldn’t believe it. I got to read her actual 90 year old diary, written on receipts for a photo shop while she was marooned on an Arctic island. It was insane. The scope just grew from there.

I think the best term is fiction “based on a true story” as I interwove a separate fictional narrative into the book, but you can really categorize it however you like.  Research took about three months.

A: Did you work with an editor through Nobrow? Or did they leave you alone to work on it? How did the editing process work in either case?

L: Nobrow were pretty hands off throughout. I kind of got to do whatever o wanted, which I was happy with. I was assigned an editor near the end of the process to help smooth things out, which was definitely useful.

A: When you finish a book, are you already ready to start your next project or do you need time to unwind before coming up with your next project?

L: I took a couple of months off after finishing the book, but I had written a pretty substantial short story while I was drawing up the last half of How to Survive, so I just drew that, and it will be out in September. As for my next long book, I’m not sure when I’ll start working on it. I already know what I want it to be about. It’s more personal, more like a memoir about my teenhood, so that will be an interesting change of pace. I don’t know when I will be ready to start working on it. Right now I am trying to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada, so it will definitely have to wait at least five months, haha!

A: What’s the project out in September? Is that also through a publisher?

L: It’s a 60 page comic entitled The Unofficial Cuckoo’s Nest Study Companion. It’s definitely my most ambitious comic to date, and attempts to combine elements of comics, prose and scriptwriting. I’m really happy with how it came together.

I’m going to self publish a small edition of the comic, to have at SPX (with the help of CCS alums and my fellow Dog City editors Simon Reinhardt and Juan Fernandez). After that, we’ll see. I’ve had interest from a publisher, so it might possibly come out through that channel. But get a copy at SPX if you want one!


Page from the Nobrow edition of How To Survive in the North

A: What’s your favorite thing to draw?

L: My favourite things to draw are birds, and little people in uniforms.

A: What is it about birds? Even more, what is it about little people in uniforms? Do you mean “little people” or tiny drawings?

L: I’m not sure. Birds are just satisfyingly aerodynamic and pointy.

I mean tiny drawings. I like to draw small, and mostly try to have figures less than half of the panel’s height over most of the page. Not sure why, I just think it works better.

Luke was a very helpful TA in the lab during the summer workshop.

Luke was a very helpful TA in the lab during the summer workshop.

A: What’s your favorite comic?

L: My favourite comic is Apartment 3 by Pascal Girard. I got it in 2012 and it’s still the best comic I’ve ever read.

A: Is Apartment 3 only in French? I don’t see it on Amazon, but I am a huge Pascal Girard fan. What is it about that comic you like so much.

L: I have a mini comic of Apartment 3, and it is in English, but I am not sure if it is available to buy anymore. I got it in 2012. It is just so succinct and humane. It makes me emotional every time I read it. I think about it all the time.

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Eisner Nominations 2015

The Center for Cartoon Studies has two people associated with the school up for Eisner Nominations, Noah Van Sciver and Tillie Walden this year!

CCS folks' Eisner nominated books!

CCS folks’ Eisner nominated books!

Noah Van Sciver (fellow for 15-16) is up for Best Writer/Artist for Fante Bukowski and Saint Cole. (Fair warning, poor Noah was just coming out the other end of a terrible cold that had been sweeping through the school.)


Noah Van Sciver as visiting artist.

Angela: How does it feel being an Eisner nominee? Is this your first one?

Noah: Yeah, this is my first one. It’s just unreal, that’s all. It doesn’t seem like a real thing. I mean, I’ve been through all this stuff before. It doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. It sounds jaded, but I don’t get my hopes up for this stuff anymore. It’s nice to be nominated, and I’ll enjoy all the attention I get before the actual award ceremony, but during the awards I’ll probably try and just forget about it.

A: So you were sick when you found out?

N: Uh, yeah.

A: Did you feel better for even a second?

N: Uh, yeah, there was a little thrill. Yeah.

A: A little giddiness? You got to giggle and look at your ceiling?

N: Yeah, sure. Yeah.

A: And it’s for Fante Bukowski, which you drew on a whim by drawing one page a day?

N: Yeah, for three months.

A: So how does that in particular feel, that all of your like hard work ones. . . .

N: Yeah, that’s weird. It’s for Fante Bukowski and Saint Cole since they both came out around the same time. I feel weird, too, because I’m nominated against, like, Bill Griffith, who should win. I would vote for Bill Griffith. Yeah, and like Ed Piskor. I would vote for Ed Piskor. I mean, I feel like I’m the one who shouldn’t win. Someone like Bill Griffith who does this like amazing personal story that he had to work on on the weekends, and it’s incredible. So yeah, I don’t really mind if I lose.

A: Are you going to SDCC?

N: Nope, never been.

A: Are you gonna do anything that night?

N: No. I don’t even know when it is.


Tillie Walden (’16) is up for Best Single Issue/One-Shot  for I Love This Part. I got to talk with both of them soon after they found out.

Tillie Walden

Tillie Walden

Angela: How do you feel being an Eisner nominee? And not even having graduated, though we all know you’re graduating.

Tillie: It feels insane. It feels like I skipped a step somewhere. Like, it really feels like that. I feel like I should have done some like smaller awards before this happened. I haven’t even applied for the Ignatz yet and then this happens. So that’s insane. But what I feel like is best, not only does it feel cool to be nominated and have this book nominated because it’s a pretty diverse book, but it’s really cool for my publishers. You know, Avery Hill are just, like, these three people, like the main two guys, Ricky and Dave, are these South London guys running a little publisher and met me by a chance. And now we’ve been working together, but they haven’t gotten a lot of recognition. They’ve been getting more and more popular as they’ve been going and publishing these books. They’ve never had US creators before, and they’ve never gotten in the Eisner’s, and I hope it will help them out. I know it’s gonna help me out. It’s really great, because I feel like it was really a victory for both of us.

I would not have drawn I Love This Part without them. Because after doing The End of Summer, I felt like I had these people backing me up to where they would support me with whatever idea I had. And when I had the idea for I Love This Part, I wouldn’t have done it unless I knew there were people out there who were gonna take the care to make it a book. Otherwise I would have just dismissed it, like “Aw I’ll do it some other day when people care.” But they were there for me, and they loved the idea the instant I told it to them and made it a book, just like that. And so I have them to thank for part of this.

A: You excited to go to SDCC?

T: I’m terrified! I’ve never been to a con that big.

A: I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been there has been to a con that big. It’s huge!

T: Yeah, it sounds insane. I’m really excited. It’s gonna be kind of like a vacation because I don’t really have any responsibilities.

A: Yeah, are you tabling or are you just going?

T: Nope! I’m just gonna go and visit the award ceremony. I was born in San Diego, so I feel like I should go back to my birthplace.

A: Are you gonna make like a plan of attack? Because I know Emerald City, like 5 years ago, if you walked every single aisle was said to be 8 miles. And SDCC is like crazy bigger.

T: I wasn’t even thinking of making a plan, but now that you’ve said that, I’m gonna make a plan.

A: And it might, “I’m going to go to artist alley, and I’m never going to leave because everything else is . . . ”

T: Super heroes.

A: Yeah, and like main stream movies

T: Yeah, I mean I think it might also just be fun to like be in that space and see cosplayers and all these people. And it’ll be exciting to go to the Eisner awards! My parents are coming with me! They’re very excited.

A: Are they gonna take you to a fancy shrimp dinner or something?

T: If I win they’ll probably take me out to a nice dinner.

A: What are you going to do if you lose?

T: Put Eisner Nominated on that book!

A: Haha, that’s the only difference. Good!

T: That it’s associated now with the Eisner awards, that’s huge for me and I’m not gonna stop making comics. And I have a feeling this won’t be my last Eisner. And it’s a good excuse to go to San Diego ComiCon, ‘cause I wouldn’t have gone otherwise.

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Tillie Walden

Tillie Walden

Tillie Walden

Tillie Walden ’16 is a current student at The Center for Cartoon Studies, graduating this May, 2016. By the time she graduates, she will have three books published: The End of Summer, I Love This Part, and A City Inside. A fourth, as-yet-unannounced book will be released later this year. I interviewed Tillie, my classmate, in the Schulz Library because A City Inside is debuting at TCAF this May, just after she graduates. What follows is the edited interview.

Angela: If you could choose any cartoonists living or dead as your thesis advisor, who would you have picked?

Tillie: Winsor McCay. Absolutely.

A: I knew you were gonna say that!

T: I know, it’s so obvious. It’s not because I feel like Winsor McCay would guide me, would teach me something new and exciting. I feel like just knowing a person who was so productive and who drew so beautifully and being able to draw next to him would be, like, insane. I’d also bring up, “Hey, Winsor McCay. Where are all the females in your strip? Why are they all princesses?” We’d have some frank conversations. So yeah, he’d be my thesis advisor. That’s a great question. I would also like Tove Jansson. Because I love her prose especially. And most of those stories are queer stories, so I love how she writes gay women. I would love to talk to her. Just to be like gay lady to gay lady, give me your wisdom.

A: Did you think about that when picking an advisor, or did you just want James [Sturm]?

T: No. The most important thing to me was being able to be comfortable with them. Because my thesis is so personal. I was not ready to open up to a stranger. And before I chose James as my thesis advisor, we were already friends, so it just made it so much easier. I chose him because I wanted someone I felt comfortable with and someone who I could trust.

Talking with Dave Lloyd.

Talking with Dave Lloyd.

A: What’s your favorite thing to draw? ‘Cause there’s like hair and smooching and buildings. . . .

T: Yeah, I’m gonna have to think about it. Hmmm. I love drawing snowflakes. I love drawing snow falling. Because it’s a really satisfying way to fill up a panel.

A: Do you draw, like, around each snowflake? Do you go Alec Longstreth on it?

T: Yup! You bet I do. You bet I do! No fill button in this girl’s life. But I love drawing people lying down. Or either curled up or on surfaces. Just showing them interacting with their environment. Either their head like sort of, like, leaning on something, or their legs are kind of tucked up. Because I feel like I’m always sort of making weird poses with my own body, and I like to sort of replicate that feeling.

Talking to Kriota Willberg, visiting artist in Fall of 2015.

Talking to Kriota Willberg, visiting artist in Fall of 2015.

A: So I read some of your interviews very briefly, and you said that you curl up in blankets and pillows to write . . . and draw?!

T: Yeah, it’s a little weird. My dad is the only one who can really picture it because he’s walked into my room as I was drawing and has seen me like that. But I can’t be cold while I draw. So I go to the extreme of, like, I put stuffed animals on my desk. And I put a couple blankets on my legs. I wrap one around my shoulders. And sometimes I put on my dad’s old hat. Just ‘cause it keeps my head warm. I just have to feel very grounded. Because when I feel the weight of the blankets holding me down to sit at my desk, I feel like I can just sit there and work. But if I’m, like, in shorts and t-shirt and I just kind of sit down really quick to draw, it doesn’t feel right.

Class time is not boredom time, no matter how much it might look like it.

Class time is not boredom time, no matter how much it might look like it.

A: What’s it like working with a foreign publisher?

T: One of the bonuses is when I go to visit them, I get to go to cons in the UK, which is really fun. I think I’m their only American creator right now. When I did I Love This Part, it’s very much a book about two young American girls, which I don’t think is something my editor knew a lot about. So I mean, still, he was able to edit, and we were still able to interact well on the project. But I think it’s nice that I’m bringing this new perspective. And then I learn things from him, just hearing stories about his own life. And you know, by just talking to him. I feel like we’re exchanging these cultural things that I wouldn’t get to otherwise. And I like saying that I’m internationally published!

A: So what’s the editing process? Are they editing just the text? Or just the images?

T: So it’s changed a little bit with each project. For The End of Summer, which was our first one, it was a little different because we were sort of testing the waters. But I worked with my editor, Ricky, on first sort of a general layout, like this is what happened in this part. And we talked about a couple plot points. Then he asked me if I would do a script. I said “no” because I hate scripting. So I penciled the whole book. And then he edited the pencils, like “Oh, this scene seems rushed,” or “Oh, wait. Let’s fix this.” He would look at the dialog, the pacing, the placement of characters. He really did a complete job. He’s a great editor. I need him at this point. And once the whole book was drawn, we went back with a fine-toothed comb, and he was like, “Hmm, this section, let’s fix it up.” And at that point, working on The End of Summer, I was like “I completely trust this guy.” Like absolutely.

And then on I Love This Part, the book was thrown together so fast that I took a stack of, like, 40 sheets of paper and a pen, and I just loosely drew the entire book. It’s really funny to look through [those pages] because it’s like looking at a poorly drawn version of the book. When I sent that to him, that was when he was like, “Oh, I love this. I love this part.” Haha. Joke. And we decided to do it. I just drew it, and then we futzed around. And we found this really great way of working together on I Love This Part where normally we go back and forth with so many emails, and it was such a drag. But on I Love This Part, we Skyped. And I was Photoshopping stuff as he was like, “Oh, fix that nose” or “Switch these pages, update the PDF, and see how it looks.” It was so much more fun, you know, because we were bouncing ideas off of each other really quickly. And then we did that for this most recent book as well. Every book we work on we’re more comfortable with each other, and I think being comfortable and close with your editor, having him as a friend, is really cool.

Our classmates are an interesting bunch, as you can tell by Tillie's expression.

Our classmates are an interesting bunch, as you can tell by Tillie’s expression.

A: Can I ask about plans to branch out to larger publishers?

T: I do have plans to branch out to larger publishers. Plans that have been very successful so far. Yes, I have a couple books in the works right now that I can’t talk about. . . .

A: More than one?!

T: Yes. And, uh. . . . Yes. I do have plans. And you know, my biggest goal with bigger publishers is that I just want to reach more people. You know, I love Avery Hill, but I really want, like, gigantic distribution. ‘Cause that’s my biggest goal for a publisher.

A: So how’s the distribution been on the American side with Retrofit?

T: It’s been good! In fact, they run out of books really fast, which is a really good sign. I met Box [Brown] when he came to the school [as a visiting artist lecturer]. And he was great, and it was, like, really cool to put a face to Retrofit. And I’m happy to have US distribution because I think some people do think I’m British. And also in The End of Summer, we definitely edited it to have, like, UK words. Haha. So, yeah. I’m not British. I’m American, so it’s nice to have my books here in America, too.

A: Do they print them in the UK and then ship them here?

T: At the moment, that’s how we’re doing it. I think eventually the situation may change? Because right now I Love This Part is in it’s second print run, and The End of Summer is about to be. So you know. The print runs are getting bigger. The print runs are moving faster. So I think we’ll have to sort of adjust with that.

I do declare.

I do declare.

A: Can you talk about working with an agent?

T: I’ve had an agent for . . . a few months now? And it’s been great. I was a little nervous because it seemed so official and real and scary. I feel like I’ve learned, after working with Avery Hill Publishing, to sort of communicate, like talking about your comics, talking about the business. And so when I got to work with my agent, I was ready to really talk to him about what I wanted, where I wanted my comics to go, and he was very enthusiastic about everything. I don’t think having an agent is for everybody. But I think having an agent is great for me.

A: So have you ever really self-published? I know you put stuff online.

T: Yes, my only self-publishing has been publishing my work online. And I will always have free comics on my website. I want people to just be able to read those comics, and I plan to keep making short comics. I do have some plans in the future to self publish some work. You know, I’m very close with Dave Humphreys ’16, who—for those of you reading this who do not know—with his wife Mel Joulwan self-published very popular cookbooks called Well Fed, and I’ve talked to them a lot about the benefits of self-publishing. I would love to be able to draw a book and put it all for free online and then say “Hey, I have print copies if you want print copies as well.” And I think the perfect balance for me would be to be self-publishing some things and publishing other things. And sort of having those multiple revenue sources, as well, would really help me out financially.

Tillie talking with Dave H. during a visiting artist break.

Tillie talking with Dave Humphreys ’16. during a visiting artist break.

A: One of the things you’ve been asked about is writing I Love This Part being your first gay comic, and I was wondering if the CCS community helped you feel comfortable with that or if it was just age and time. ‘Cause you are so old and wise now.

T: I’m so old right now, you guys. . . . I think it was a combination of both because this was the first place where I’ve ever been completely out of the closet. In the past some people have known and others didn’t. And I couldn’t really talk about it in most cases. But here, you know, I’m not the only queer person here, and it was just so accepting right off that bat that, you know, I think I was able to just live for a while as a gay person. And then after I did that here, I was just like, “This is cool. So I’m gay. So why don’t I just draw some cute gay people.” And it just sort of naturally flowed into that. And it’s been great. It’s hard to describe the feeling of drawing gay characters. Because it’s something I never thought I would do. I just shied away from it so hard because I didn’t think it was possible. And here it’s so simple, and it’s so obviously possible because you can just draw gay characters, and everyone reads it, and then they clap. And that’s fine. I think CCS will always hold a place in my heart as that first place where I got to just sort of be like, “Hey that girl’s super cute,” and no one minds.

A: So do you think you’re gonna be doing more gay lady comics?

T: Yeah. In fact, I mean obviously whenever I draw comics about myself, there’s gonna be a gay girl in that. Haha. We’ll put that in there. I think I touched on something in I Love This Part that I really wanna expand on. Because I really like I Love This Part, but there’s a lot more that I want to talk about than just their experience. I do think it’s gonna be something I continue to explore. And I can’t really see myself doing a book that doesn’t have at least one gay character at this point. Because in general, it makes sense to me now; why wouldn’t I put characters who reflect who I am in my work. It’s just . . . it’s obvious, now. And now that I’m comfortable doing it, I’m just going to throw those gay characters out there.

Good times for Tillie.

Good times for Tillie.

A: So, unlike most of us here, you came to CCS without a bachelor’s degree, like straight out of high school.

T: Yeah, I left for CCS the day after graduation.

A: Sheesh. So why did you make that decision, I guess? I mean, it makes sense but also sounds kind of frightening.

T: Hahaha! Yeah, it’s weird. But it’s also not something my parents were prepared for. Because, you know, it seemed very obvious that I would just go to a school. And I did apply to colleges. And I got into a lot of them. I got scholarships, and it seemed right. But something hit me in twelfth grade where I was making comics all the time. Something was going on inside me where I just felt like I couldn’t go somewhere and do this part time. I knew I could go to college, and I would learn a lot, and I’m sure I would have a cute girlfriend, and I’d have all that life experience or whatever people do in college: beer pong in dorms, or whatever. It was a really hard decision to make because everyone around me told me that college was an important experience. And I know that, and I listened when they said that to me. But at the same time, I knew that coming to CCS could still be a formative experience for me. And I just had this gut feeling that I needed to draw comics all day every day. And then after coming here, I was talking to my mom, and she was like, “Absolutely you made the right choice.” It’s very clear now that I don’t want to slow down. I love what I’m doing. And I like how the timing worked out. Because if I had gone to college and then come to CCS, I wouldn’t have been in this class. This group of people at this time. And I feel like I like where I landed.

Tillie with Kelly and Dave, all not sleeping.

Tillie with Kelly Swann ’16 and Dave Humphreys ’16, all not sleeping.

A: So another thing I saw on one of your interviews is that you get 10-12 hours of sleep a night. So how many hours a day do you typically draw?

T: You know? Less and less actually. Yeah, because I’ve gotten so much faster that actually most days I only have to draw, like, half the day. I mostly draw in the morning, and I’ll have drawn like 3 or 4 pages. And then I don’t need to draw for the rest of the day. Because it’s done. And I’ll, like, do other things. I’ll do email, and I’ll just edit. Most days I never feel over-worked because so much of the day I leave to down time. So by the time its 8pm, it’s like “Oh, I can go to bed now. No one can stop me.” I get my energy by sleeping. And also eating well and exercising. . . . But sleep is so important. And I think it’s really important for my drawing arm and my hand and my shoulders and my neck and all that stuff. I can feel my hand, like, just relaxing as I sleep. Because I am very cautious of over-use. And I haven’t sustained any injuries or had any big problems so far. But I think that’s because I will stop if my hand hurts.

A: So when you finish a book, are you already ready to start your next project. . . .

T: I always have an idea. Rumbling around in the back. But they’re usually very undeveloped. Like right now, I finished one book, and the other book is kind of being quiet for other reasons I can’t talk about, but I’m sort of rumbling with my next book. And today? I haven’t drawn today. I wrote a little bit. And then kind of went on a walk and watched TV. But then when I’ve decided I’m going to start this project, I start laying out pages. I start laying out all the notes I need. I email my editor. And then I go straight into it. But I always have, like, five book ideas rockin’ around.

A: Cool. No stoppin’ any time soon.

T: Yeah, I like it cause it feels good. Cause there’s always a new thing to look forward to.

Tillie next to me Kelly Swann ('16), next to me.

Tillie next to Kelly, next to me.

A: Yeah, me too. You’ve been touted as a “future great.” I’m wondering how, being 19, that feels. Because it sounds stressful.

T: Yeah, it’s a little weird. Honestly, I try not to think about it too much. ‘Cause I think it’s just too . . . strange to have other people try and gauge my potential. It can be a little nerve-wracking. And the more books I put out, the more anticipation I see for the next one. And I really have to push myself to not think about it. Because it can be scary to try and like live up to these expectations. And I also don’t want my career to just be this bubble of like, “Oh, she was 19, and she was great, and then, I don’t know what happened.” You know. I’m in this for the long run. And I get so many mixed responses about my age because some people find it fascinating. Some people really get angry because they think like, “Oh, this little precocious talent right here.” It’s like, “Get her out.” But the universal thing I get is that everyone feels the need to mention it. But I do wish people wouldn’t. I guess I don’t really want to think about people saying how I have this great potential. Because I just want to know it for myself. Especially after the Steven Universe comic went viral. . . . I mean I get a steady stream of feedback from people all the time, and it’s great, but it’s also bizarre.

A: So how has it been going to cons? Have people been doing the same thing but to your face?

T: Yeah! Yeah. And especially . . . people drink at cons. Like, a lot. So I’ve had a couple situations where some very loud drunk people have been talking with gross booze breath in my ear about how I’m amazing but I hate you for it. In general, it’s been lovely because people just come up, and they’ll kind of gush. And that’s wonderful to hear. It’s like, oh, you really do like my stuff. That’s so cool. And they see me, and I see them, and it’s like this weird connection. But most of the time, it can be freaky. Because some people can be very up front about how they’re like, “Aw, she’s too good for her own good.” You know, “Aw, you’re leaving no room for the rest of us.” And it’s like, I am not trying to threaten your career. I promise.

A: Is it better because it’s limited to the convention?

T: Yes. In a way it is because just getting messages on tumblr and email, it can be, you know, that’s the whole wide world who can talk to me there. And also at cons I’ve been at with my publisher, I stay close to my editor, and he’s very protective! Haha! Heehee, which is helpful.

A: You have a lot of really good people to work with. So . . . what’s your favorite book in this library and why?

T: That’s tough. So if I had to, there’s a Nancy collection over there [in the Classic Comics section] that I read when I was a kid. They were just so important to me. I’ll always have such a huge spot in my heart for Nancy. I love the drawings! I love the humor! I love . . . I love everything about Nancy. But right now, my recent favorite book would definitely be Sunny by Taiyo Matsumoto, which is a series that I had heard about but I would not have read if I had not been perusing the Manga section in the library. I read all the ones that we had. And I just . . . I love it. I love the drawing style. It’s so dreamy and atmospheric and raw. And the stories, of course, are heartbreaking but wonderful. The characters are great. I love everything about Taiyo Matsumoto. It’s wonderful. And then I ended up reading more Taiyo Matsumoto after reading Sunny, and it’s just so great! But yeah, Sunny takes the cake right now.

Nothing in our interview shocked Tillie as much as whatever I am saying here.

Nothing in our interview shocked Tillie as much as whatever I am saying here.

Interview by Angela Boyle.

Photos courtesy of Abe Olson.

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2016 Commencement Speaker: Nate Powell


The commencement speaker for 2016 has been announced: Nate Powell! Nate has been making comics since he was a kid, publishing his first book with Soft Skull in 2003, Tiny Giants. More recently, he has been working on the March series, a graphic novel memoir by US Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis. The third book is due out later this year. (Book one, Book two)

Some of the Nate Powell books in the Schulz Library.

Some of the Nate Powell books in the Schulz Library.

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Cartoonist Studio Prize 2016

The Slate Book Review and the Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) announce the winners of the third annual Cartoonist Studio Prize!

The winners were selected by Slate Book Review editor Dan Kois; the faculty and students at the Center for Cartoon Studies, represented by CCS Fellow Noah Van Sciver; and this year’s guest judge, Caitlin McGurk of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.

In the graphic novel category, we have Carol Tyler winning with Soldier’s Heart: The Campaign to understand my WWII veteran father, a daughter’s memoir. Originally published as three separate volumes, Soldier’s Heart combines them into a single book.

Soldier's Heart by Carol Tyler

Soldier’s Heart by Carol Tyler

In the web comic category, Boulet wins all the way from France. His endearing web comic, The Bouletcorp, is available in French, English, and Korean. can read more about the prize and winners at Slate.

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Industry Day 2016

Industry Day is the time of year when a group of comics industry professionals outside the art side come to talk to the students at The Center for Cartoon Studies. This year, we had Bill Boichel, Tracy Hurren, Jennifer Linnan, and Joan Hilty.

Luke still working on the sign!

Luke still working on the sign!

Bill is from Copacetic Comics in Pittsburgh, PA, and moderated the panel. His comic store specializes in getting great mini-comics out into the world. He also helps to run PIX, a comic fest in Pittsburgh.

Bill Boichel of Copacetic Comics

Bill Boichel of Copacetic Comics

Tracy Hurren has been at Drawn and Quarterly for 6 years and is currently the managing editor.

Tracy Hurren from Drawn and Quarterly

Tracy Hurren from Drawn and Quarterly

Jen Linnan is a literary agent for the likes of Emily Carroll, Carly Monardo, Madeleine Flores, Phil McAndrew, Ryan Adams, and Sam Alden.

_AO17279_03 24 CCS Industry Day

Jennifer Linnan of Linnan Literary Management

Joan Hilty runs the book producing company Page Turner and has worked at Vertigo.

_AO17288_03 24 CCS Industry Day

Joan Hilty of Page Turner

What is the new role of social media in promoting and discovering work? It has been an interesting last 5 years, as Joan said. It is more important than ever to have a web presence. But you must have a central location for people to go to. And include your email address! A contact form isn’t enough. Use this place to put your best images. Art directors like to save the work they find online. Kate Beaton is a great example, who of course no one can follow, of how free comics can get you a bigger audience, which leads to more sales. You should also be using social media to find educate yourself on publishers. Find out what specific publishers are looking for. Tracy says it is clear when people send in book proposals without doing the footwork before hand. Follow agents on Twitter; they promote their own books, but they also post about what interests and excites them. Though for Jen, that seems to be tuna melts. As part of this education, you should also pay attention to which of your comics are selling and to whom.

It is a time for note-taking.

Are anthologies still a valid form? Bill likes to promote anthologies in his shop because they can be a great starting point for new comics readers. Jen loves reading them and points out that they are a great way to build a resume. Joan finds them to be an important platform, though she admits that might be in part her sentimental attachment after working on Wimmen’s Comix. But the reason that most anthologies are self-published is, as Tracy said, that it is impossible to make money on an anthology after the initial bubble. None of the panel would want to see them disappear though. They are great samplers. In the history of anthologies, they were an important way for minority voices to be heard. And even today, they are good community builders. Tracy says there is no better way to practice making a book than running an anthology.

A serious time.

Conventions are a big part of toonie life. But how critical are they to people making their own comics? Joan says the important part is getting that face to face, not just with publishers, but with potential collaborators. Jen likes the shows that are more intimate, where people are sharing tables and cosplayers are rare. Exhibitors get to meet agents AND consumers. Tracy finds that at most shows the consumers are actually just other toonies; fewer fans are attending shows. But that is the nice thing about smaller shows—lots of kids. Noelle Stevenson had a line of 12-year olds at one of her last cons.

But also a happy time.

What is the most important quality: art, writing, character design, etc.? Jen would say layout. Comics are visual storytelling. In a single illustration, something should make you curious. But in sequential art, it is about the pacing and page breaks. These are incredibly important in long form. Tracy pointed out that writing is often the weakest part of most cartoonists. There are lots of great artists, but just because you can draw doesn’t mean you can craft a story. Joan said to recognize your strengths and put those forward. If you aren’t good at crafting a story, collaborate with someone who is! Collaborations might appeal to a larger audience.

It's a rare sight to see so much faculty in one place. Here we have Stephen R. Bissette and Luke Howard

It’s a rare sight to see so much faculty in one place. Here we have Stephen R. Bissette and Luke Howard

Overall, the panel had a very positive attitude towards comics. The students left the talk excited to work on their comics. Later in the day, the students also each got a review with at least one of the panelists. They left even more excited. As it should be.

The panel in session

The panel in session

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Eisner Week 2016

Welcome to Eisner Week!


Will Eisner Week is an annual event to celebrate graphic novels, comics literacy, and free speech and to honor the legacy of Will Eisner who popularized the term “graphic novel.” Every year, Eisner Week starts in the beginning of March to coincide with his birthday March 6th. Starting in 2009, four years after Einser’s death in 2005, 2016 is the 8th annual Eisner week.

Eisner books on the shelf at the Schulz Library.

Eisner books on the shelf at the Schulz Library.

We have some books on display to celebrate this week. First up, we have The Outer Space Spirit, which includes the last 10 episodes of The Spirit as a newspaper strip. It also includes the roughs or layouts for another 3 episodes that were never completed because the strip was cancelled. The introduction to this book includes a history lesson about 1952 specifically about The Spirit being in comic strip in major newspapers. Second, we also have The Invisible People out, a collection of three stories about every cartoonist’s favorite topic, shut-ins (because we are one) in New York.

Two special Eisner picks on display in the library.

Two special Eisner picks on display in the library.

As part of the celebration, the Schulz Library is staying open late on Friday, March 4, for the First Friday Art Walk in White River Junction, with extra hours from 5-8. We will have some displays of books and craft tables where people can come make their own book marks. So come in to the Schulz library or go to your local library or comic shop, and read a comic or two!

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Visiting Artist: Meags Fitzgerald

Meags Fitzgerald is the creator of Photobooth and Long Red Hair. She hails from Canada. She started in fine art before making comics. Even now, she primarily considers herself an illustrator rather than a cartoonist. And she would call herself a storyteller, rather than a writer.


Meags Fitzgerald with her name board drawn by Luke Howard.

She created Photobooth because when she was growing up, photobooths were her art form. She would take lots of photos while on the road with her improve group. In the end, she was surprised she didn’t think of doing this book earlier. She even had the patience and fortitude to make some “animated shorts” using photobooths.

The research for Photobooth book was difficult because there is not that much research done already. Mostly, she did first-hand research, finding manufacturers and news articles and other documentation. For each drawing, she tried to find at least two photo references. This helps avoid any infringement and allows her to draw the thing from any angle. To get all this material, she spent lots of money on E-Bay! Essentially, this book took 10 or more years of life experience, 9 months of outright research and travel, 4 months to outline and apply for grants, and 1 year to write, draw, and layout. She didn’t miss any deadlines, but she had one breakup and one stress-related trip to the ER. But then there was much more work after production.

Meags in a funny discussion with Sophie Yanow ('16).

Meags in a funny discussion with Sophie Yanow (’16).

With Long Red Hair, she used a new process. She already had the idea for this book while working on Photobooth, so when she finished that book, she jumped right into the next. She thought, “Who am I if I’m not writing a book?” She found this non-stop jump to be a bad choice. To create Long Red Hair, she spent 4 months on informal research, 4 months drafting, and 9 months to draw. She missed 2 deadlines, but she didn’t breakup with anyone or end up in the ER.

In designing the cover of Long Red Hair, Meags had some very definite ideas. She wanted hands in hair, but she had also heard that books with a face on the cover sells better. These faces are often in ¾ profile, but this didn’t feel right for her book. She found a picture of herself from a time when she was upset that was taken in ¾ from the back and used this as the model for the cover. For the colors, she chose something that would look nice with her first book. She was thinking of displaying the books together and wanted them to look of a piece.

Meags . . . fierce.

Meags . . . fierce.

Meags uses animator pencils because they are easy to erase and come in a lot of colors so she can draw different pieces in different colors. She has a ceramic escargot dish for ink because it has many holders to use. She uses a quilting ruler because it is see-through. And she has an LED light table that she might be a little in love with. In regards to style, Meags says she is now more concerned with form than line.

Meags discusses her tools, one of the students favorite parts of a visiting artist.

Meags discusses her tools, one of the students favorite parts of a visiting artist.

The process for creating Long Red Hair was pretty standard, until the end: thumbnails, quick under-drawing with different colored pencils, the drawing itself, clean up in RGB in Photoshop, change it to grayscale, add duo tones (her method made this incredibly difficult), then make it an EPS file, then put the various files (ink and both tone colors) together in InDesign. The duo tones, a soft red and green, were made using different exclusive layers so she couldn’t even see how they were work together until they were put together in InDesign.

During the break, Meags talks with James Lunt ('16), Michelle Ollie, and Kane Lynch ('16).

During the break, Meags talks with J. D. Lunt (’16), Michelle Ollie, and Kane Lynch (’16).

Meags next book will be about left-handedness, as a South-paw herself. This book will include the history and science as well as her own experiences. She seems to love research. To avoid the stress of deadlines, she is working on it at her own pace through the support of patrons on her Patreon.

Thanks, Meags!

Thanks, Meags!

Photos courtesy Abe Olson.

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Visiting Artist: Hal Mayforth

Hal Mayforth is more of “an idea guy” than a narrative guy. He started his artistic career in music, which he continues to this day, but found that you needed other people too much. But he found fine art too heartbreaking. Hence his move to illustration and comics.

Hal Mayforth at the name board drawn by Luke Howard.

Hal Mayforth at the name board drawn by Luke Howard.

Hal is a big believer in sketchbooks. He uses them for lots of experimentation like they are his laboratories. Your brain is like a muscle, he says, and you have to use it. To stay in shape, your body needs physical exercise. Your brain needs both mental exercises and the physical. Hal goes on long bike rides for the endorphins to pump up his brain. Hal is currently on sketchbook vol. 101, but that doesn’t include the over 70 sketchbooks he uses for job work or the family and travel sketchbooks.

Visiting artists always get a kick out of the probing ice breaker questions from the ever-serious Luke Howard.

Visiting artists always get a kick out of the probing ice breaker questions from the ever-serious Luke Howard.

To maintain his freelancing life-style, Hal is all about maintaining many small income sources: comics, illustrations, humorous paintings on wood panels, and more. He will often come up with a marketable series: dental, pets, math, coffee, reading. He will make illustrations and work to sell them to the appropriate audience, like libraries for the reading illustrations.

One of the main medias Hal uses is watercolor. But he is completely self-taught. He got the book Exploring Color by Needle Seeland and employed lots of experimentation. To aid in this experimenting, Hal would keep the illustration simple and let the watercolor do the heaving lifting. He also practiced by making one watercolor painting after work every day. He says watercolor is all about pigment. He works almost entirely wet on wet. Recently, though, he has moved more into acrylics because you can do light over dark. To scan his watercolors, he uses an old S1400 that has 2 lamps which helps negate the paper texture (he uses rough Arches watercolor paper), which he doesn’t want. However, this old scanner has a scuzi connection, meaning he has to maintain an entirely separate operating system just to scan. In the future, he does plan to get a new scanner.

Hal Mayforth is explaining something in depth to Benjamin Wright-Heuman ('16).

Hal Mayforth is explaining something in depth to Benjamin Wright-Heuman (’16).

Hall draws his characters “like they are calligraphy.” He knows them as well as writing. And he loves the alphabet. Saul Steingberg was a huge influence on him, saying Saul has “talent so deep he’s gotta be an old soul.” Hal thinks its because with architects, every line is permanent. Saul Steingberg once said it “took me a lifetime to learn to draw like a kid again.”


Hal seemed to have a great time giving his talk.

Photos courtesy Abe Olson.

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Visiting Artist: Katie Skelly

Katie Skelly told a hard-hitting tale of smart work. She is the creator of Nurse Nurse and Operation Margerine and has more comics already in the works. She creates the Agent series for a sex-positive feminist group, which is now on Agent 10. And she is currently self-publishing My Pretty Vampire, a gorgeous color comic exploring her interest in vampire B-movies.

Katie Skelly next to her name board, drawn by Luke Howard.

Katie Skelly next to her name board, drawn by Luke Howard.

She started Nurse Nurse while going to grad school for art history but realized she wanted to focus on comics. Barbarella, an over-the-top sci-fi movie from the 60s that makes use of smoke instead of fancy settings, inspired Nurse Nurse. Katie realized you don’t need to be able to draw a background like Moebius to create an engaging sci-fi story. From the comics, she learned how to use vague psychedelic space in lieu of specific landscapes.

Katie, what a pro.

Katie, what a pro.

Katie was her own marketer, as most self-publishers are, and so sent Nurse Nurse out for reviews and got it into the comic stores she knew of in New York. Dylan of Sparkplug saw it and asked to publish it. It was the first book that Sparkplug published without Dylan.

Katie signing books for (left to right): Michelle Ollie, Dean Sudarsky ('16), Jacob Busseirre ('17), Kane Lynch ('16), and Kotaline Jones ('16).

Katie signing books for (left to right): Michelle Ollie, Dean Sudarsky (’16), Jacob Bousseirre (’17), Kane Lynch (’16), and Kotaline Jones (’16).

With Nurse Nurse, Katie got the hippy dippy vibe out of her system and examined what she enjoyed in that story. It was Bandit, the tough space pirate. And she thought, what do I think looks cool: Kate Moss and motorcycle jackets. So she bought herself a motorcycle jacket and loved it. And she began watching old movies. Four months after Nurse Nurse was released, Katie began work on Operation Margerine. The character BonBon was based on how Katie was dressing at the time. And Margerine was based partly on Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, the properness. She had grown since working on Nurse Nurse and began to use pauses in her stories like the directors did in the movies she loved.

Sometimes visiting artists have too much fun giving their talk.

Sometimes visiting artists have too much fun giving their talk.

Since the completion of Operation Margerine with AdHouse, Katie has begun work on My Pretty Vampire. She had been working on web comics and decided to try color because it is free to publish color online, a barrier to her exploring color work in her print books in the past. But with My Pretty Vampire and color experience under her belt, she is working even more with color. She is inspired by palletes like those by Peellaert in The Adventures of Jodelle. Peelaert makes great use of white as a color, and Katie wanted to explore that.


We were lucky enough to be able to buy books directly from Katie.

Katie’s style is fairly minimalistic partly because she is trying to save time, and partly because she prefers the look. Minimalistic makes the work more accessible and easier to read. She works a full-time job, plus a long commute, so when that is compared with the massive amount of work she has put out in the last 3 years, it is quite impressive.

Katie's favorite book in the Schulz Library is Araya by Osamu Tezuka.

Katie’s favorite book in the Schulz Library is Ayako by Osamu Tezuka.

Photos courtesy of Abe Olson.

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