Just about a month ago, indie queer comics publisher Northwest Press announced a Kickstarter for the sequel to one of my favorite comics of recent years, The Legend of Bold Riley. Written by Leia Weathington, and drawn by several different artists, this book was everything I could have hoped. For the sequel, Bold Riley Unspun, Weathington opted for a Kickstarter to pay her artists well and upfront.
Today we have a special treat. Weathington has taken time out of her schedule to take a look inside her process and her thoughts about Bold Riley. I hope you will all welcome Leia Weathington to Okazu!
Let’s jump right into some questions:
Q1: How did you get into writing comics? Was it something you wanted to do as a child?
I was obsessed with the Disney Adventures magazine as a kid. They had all of these serialized little comics from Tail Spin, Darkwing Duck, all of the cartoons I’d run home from school and watch. For a few months they were running Jeff Smiths Bone. I was just…blown away.
I was a really big reader as a kid but until I saw Bone I thought that it was impossible for comics to be as immersive and detailed as the prose books I was consuming. I know, that seems absurd considering how fanatical I was about animated shows. When DA stopped running Bone they included a note on the last page that you could still buy it at your local comics books shop. So imagine a ten year old hanging off of her mothers belt loops, almost foaming at the mouth while said mom flips through the yellow pages.
So mom drives me to some little dark comic book store to get the new Bone issues and I came out with Bone, Ranma ½, MIX Magazine and a few other random comics and no change for her 20. I’m lucky my parents love art, media and books so much otherwise I may have been in deep shit.
After that I was balancing my prose books with comics. I read comics for kicks but Jeff Smith showed me what you could really do with comics.
Q2: Which artists or writers are your role models?
Ok, here is the Big Fat List: Fumi Yoshinaga, Emma Donahue (The Sealed Letter, Kissing The Witch), Tarsem Singh, Garth Nix , Jim Henson, Chiho Saito , Goya, Margaret Atwood, Zora Neale Hurston, Yukito Kishiro, and Mike Mignola.
Q3:How long does it take you to write a story?
Coming up with a cohesive plot can take a couple years of just…thinking. Writing an actual script can take a month or so depending on length. I have a bad habit (that I’ve managed to break only a couple years ago.) of needing to have the beginning, middle and end of something solidified in my mind before I would sit down and write something someone else could actually read.
Here is a bullet point break down of my process:
● Think of concept while doing something mundane, like showering.
● Make a stupid playlist for thing.
● Aggressively think about thing for several weeks while listening to stupid playlist on repeat.
● AGGRESSIVELY TYPE FIVE PARAGRAPHS ABOUT THING.
● Run away from thing for 2-4 weeks.
● Come back to thing, scrap half of thing.
● AGGRESSIVELY PACE IN A LOCKED BATHROOM AGGRESSIVELY THINKING AND AGGRESSIVELY ACTING OUT SCENES IN THE MIRROR.
● Sit down and type rough draft of thing.
● Have small crisis of faith.
● Sit back down and type final draft.
I cannot stress how important the aggressive pacing and aggressive acting out of scenes is. Also, the neighbors are terrified of me and will not make eye contact. To be fair, there are no curtains in that bathroom.
Q4: How do you go about choosing an artist?
When I’m developing a story I usually have a really clear idea of what sort of visual style would be most effective. I’m active on Tumblr and Twitter which is where a lot of artists display their talent. I’ve also been working in comics for about ten years now so I have connections with phenomenal talent. Sometimes there will be a toss up between two artists that would suit a script but that’s rare.
After I select an artist, approach them with the story and have their agreement to work on it I have a meeting with them to go over the script. Typically my final drafts are what I think of as “Bare minimum” meaning they are broken down into pages but not paneled. Some artists like having the structure of pages and panels and some don’t. I talk with them about how they like a script formatted for them to effectively work from. I give them folders of photo reference that evoke mood or setting and discuss the general emotional state and journey the characters go through. then they can also bounce back to me if they think that’s coming through in dialog or pacing.
With Bold Riley in particular I try to select artists for stories they would enjoy drawing and also be suited for.The type of artist I want for stories in the series actually strongly dictates the sort of narrative I want to tell. I have never and will probably never have multiple artists do test pages. I select comic artists who already have a body of work.
Q5: After you have chosen the artist, how does the collaboration work? Do you vet roughs, or critique the art in any way?
Generally an artist sends me rough thumbs to show how they would like to tell the story, I give the go ahead and then they proceed in the fashion they find the most effective and comfortable. I rarely edit art. If I ask for changes it’s because something is insanely off model or it’s a consistency issue for artists later in the series.
I believe that in comics if you want to be a writer working with an artist you have to listen to their input and be open to revisions. I may panel out something I feel is perfect but if my artist comes to me with an idea of how it could be more effective visually it’s my responsibility to take that into consideration and then rewrite accordingly. Communication is key. I think if you want to involve another human being in a creative endeavor you have to be able to talk things out and compromise.
Q6: You’re working on your second volume and your Kickstarter funded pretty quickly. What’s going through your head? What do you feel about your success so far?
I’m honestly amazed, surprised and terrified all at once. This is my first Kickstarter and Bold Riley is my first book. When I started doing this project I thought maybe ten people, tops, would read my lesbian fantasy adventure comic. It turns out that number is more quite a few more than ten and growing. That’s huge, That’s humbling. I have women come up to me at cons and tell me shit like, “This book is really important, We needed this.” and I want to sit down and cry for a little bit. Artists I admire have asked about doing work on this series. Like, this story I believed in and thought was important it turns out other people feel the same way? That’s huge.
Now I sometimes go to sleep and have dreams about every pledger canceling their reward and the whole industry turning it’s back on me but from what I understand that’s pretty normal for most creatives.
Q7: Do you read any Queer comics?
Hell yes! Blue Dellaquanti’s O Human Star, Sfe R Monster’s Eth’s Skin, EK Weaver’s The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ & Amal, Tom Siddell’s Gunnerkrigg Court, Benjamin Riley’s Iothera and Brittney Sabo’s All Night are some of the best comics I’m reading right now that also have a queer theme. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Amazing art and unique voices.
Q8: Plans for the future? More Riley?
Oh, so much Bold Riley. If things keep going well the plan is to finish the Bold Riley series with eight trades and a ninth epilogue volume. Book three is already half written and the artist lineup is solid.
I also have a couple projects I’m working on with Joanna Estep, the artist who is drawing “The Lion Jawed,” the final chapter of Bold Riley: Unspun and I’ll be in the Beyond anthology of queer sci fi fantasy comics with a story called “Eat At Chelle’s!” about a transwoman restaurateur who is getting her food stock from bizarre parallel worlds and serving them to a well heeled clientele. I’m really pleased to be working with Lin Visel, who will be the artist for that one.
Q9: Any message for fans?
Thank you for reading. Thank you for making all of the time I put into this worthwhile. It means a lot.
Thank you so much for your time today and we wish you the very best!