The face behind the comics – Rebecca Hicks
First off, I’d like to apologize to all of you for the hiatus, it was that time of year when San Diego is a big thing and artists and writers alike are all very busy!
For this weeks The Face Behind the Comics I got a chance to speak to the very lovely Rebecca Hicks, the artist behind Little Vampires . Make sure to check out the strip, but first, here’s a little Q&A.
1. As always, my first question for you is the obvious “how did you get into comics”?I devoured newspaper comic strips and comic books when I was a kid in Brooklyn, New York. I read comic books throughout high school and college, and began reading webcomics with Dr. Fun (original webcomics gangsta, yo). So I’ve always been a fan of sequential art. I self-published the Little Vampires book, and the characters developed a really wonderful and supportive fan base. I realized that the best way to thank that fan base was to give them continued and accessible stories about the Little Vampires. So I went from comic fan to creator when I decided that a webcomic was the best way to say thank you to Little Vampire supporters.2. Don’t get me wrong, I think that comics are wonderful, and little vampires is beyond adorable, but I hear that more often than not a day job is still a necessity, does this apply to you? And is it tough balancing work and comics?This is one of those questions that I think needs to be asked more often, but it can be difficult to answer because everyone’s situation is different. I like to encourage people to live a creative life, but I don’t encourage delusional thinking. Don’t quit your day job until you’ve got some financial cushioning, I say. How do decide when you’re ready to go full time? When your brain can make that decision without input from your ego. Follow your dreams but pay your rent.I began self-publishing while still a teacher. But as we saw the success I was having, my husband, James, and I decided that we could become more successful if we put more time and effort into this art thing. So he looked at our finances and realized that we could afford to allow me to take a year’s leave from teaching. So I did. And I haven’t looked back. I am now a full time artist and writer.The business of my art is self-sustaining at this point, and is paying for itself. I make enough to do conventions, invest in printing new books and making new merch based on my characters, and so on. But I am not paying myself a salary. None of the money I make at conventions goes towards personal stuff. So my business does not pay for my food or lodging or clothing or any bare necessities. My husband has a very stable job that allows us to pay for our bare necessities. And for non-necessary necessities like Starbucks. :) But if not for my husband’s job, I would still have a day job, the comic would probably be one day a week, and I wouldn’t do nearly as many conventions as I do now.My goal now, of course, is to pay for my own damned Starbucks coffee. So James and I are both more focused on making the business more profitable. So I art harder every day!So that is my particular situation. Everyone else’s mileage may vary.3. I know that conventions are a huge part of the comic industry. Do you have to be picky about which shows you go to? How do you chose which to attend and which to leave for another year?Conventions have been my main source of income. Because I’ve done about 20 shows a year for the past five years or so, I’ve gotten picky because I know what to look for. I usually give a new show two years. If I’m not covering costs with profit after two years, I don’t do that show again. The exception to this is if the show is growing. Sometimes it takes a few years for a convention to build its audience. But if the organizers are, well, organized, if they’re putting a good amount of effort into improving and marketing their show, if they’re open to feedback from exhibitors, then yeah, I’ll give that show another year.It’s been heartbreaking, sometimes, “quitting” a particular convention. No matter how bad a show might be financially, I always meet the greatest people. I feel like I’m betraying them if I don’t return to their city. But these people are also the most understanding, which is what makes them the greatest. They know this is a business, and that if I can’t afford airfare I can’t afford airfare. And they can always chat with me on Twitter, or in the comments on the Little Vampires site.So what I try to do is continue to build my audience to the point where conventions will accept me as a guest. It’s like I’m arting harder not just for me, but for all those great people that I want to see again.4. Being a woman in the geek world is a different experience for each of us, but would you say that it’s made any difference in your life, any funny observations as a woman?I’m oollllllld, so I grew up in a time when “geek girls” didn’t exist. We existed, but we didn’t know that there were more of us out there. We didn’t have the internet to connect us like we do today. Yay internet!But I was always lucky enough to find open-minded geeky friends in all the places I’ve lived and visited in the U.S. And when you’re with open-minded geeky people, your gender, race, religion, whatever doesn’t matter. Geek is geek. But I often had to prove my geek cred to others, especially to guys at comic book stores and conventions. It was like they couldn’t believe a woman had actually read and analyzed Watchmen and could quote Monty Python.I’ve observed that geek, in general, has come a long way. I used to tell people I was a geek, and they’d say, “Oh, don’t put yourself down like that.” Wha???? That doesn’t happen anymore. Yay! And the idea of a geek girl is more accepted than ever before. I still, on occasion, have to say things like, “Hey, don’t let the tits fool you, I know a lot about Batman comics,” to some geek guys. But what’s awesome is that the guys I have so say that to now laugh, then apologize, and then don’t question my knowledge anymore. That’s progress.5. What would you say your best con-moment has been so far?Okay, this one is tough because I cannot choose between two . . . no, three . . . wait, there’s that other one. I do a lot of conventions! Okay, I’ll go with two.First: Scott Kurtz complimenting my art and talking shop with me at Wizard World Texas in, I think, 2007. This was when I was just starting out with the book, while I was still a teacher, and long before I had the webcomic going. He complimented my ability to convey the Little Vampires’s emotions in their posture, talked about the art of doing quick sketches, and, most importantly, talked to me like a peer. I still credit this moment as being the moment when I felt that yeah, I could do this thing.Second: OMG CARRIE FISHER PRINCESS LEIA BOUGHT TWO OF OUR T-SHIRTS AT WONDERCON 2009. OMG!!!!!6. If you could give any one piece of advice to someone beginning in comics, what would it be?A little self-doubt is a good thing. It keeps you getting too big for your britches. But crippling self-doubt is never a good thing. That keeps you from putting on your britches to begin with.7. What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?Raise your prices. Your art has value.8. What convention has been your favourite so far?There is NO way I can answer this one. I’ve enjoyed them all for so many different reasons!9. If you could have any guest artist (dead or alive) come do one page for you, who would it be, and why?Okay, I want to start by saying this is a great question. I was thinking about this question all night! I cannot narrow it down to one, so I’ll go with Charles Addams and Edward Gorey, not because of their art style so much as because their work was so full of dark whimsy, which I love. Jill Thompson is on my list for the same reason. But Chuck Jones and Walt Disney are also on the list because animation has been such an influence on my style. And Amanda Conner ’cause she’s so freaking awesome! And Alan Davis because he’s been my favorite comic book artist forEVAR because he draws with curves and not with the typical angular blocks . . . sorry, I got excited.10. If you had to pick one word to describe your experience in webcomics so far, what would it be?Jubilant.