Interview: Mia Goodwin

Ah Princeless… In case you hadn’t guessed I like Princeless rather a lot & if the Eisner nominations are anything to go by then so do quite a few other people. Now for those of you that weren’t on board the first time this book came out then don’t worry the trade is due out this month & you should definitely buy it. But you should also read the interview I’ve conducted with the artist on Princeless, M. Goodwin. As well as being an artist M. teaches courses on Art & Sequential Design & in this interview we discuss everything from the Skullkickers crossover to what sort of books you can find on the classes she teaches & the possibility of her setting a new record for speed drawing…

 

So, it’s been 6 months & 4 issues since the last interview (& the first reviews). How do you both feel about Princeless now the first volume is finished compared to before it started?

Truth be told: I haven’t had a chance to sit down yet and experience the sort of denouement that comes from finishing a project. I worked through the holiday on issue four and classes started up again almost immediately after, along with the pages for the Skullkickers comic and other freelance work—so it’s really been an unending flurry of being in that production mindset without catharsis.

I really enjoyed working with Dave Dwonch on the individual issues, however; he’s endlessly optimistic and definitely the type of artist you can get down in the trenches and fight through the rough parts with. Overall, I’m satisfied with how the first volume came to a close and I’m especially pleased with the art and edits on number four. It’s definitely my favorite issue on the Citadel.

I noticed that about Dave when I interviewed him about Fracture. His positivity is infectious & he’s full of ideas. You mention that you been drawing a Skullkickers crossover that’s going in the trade as a back up story. The 2 titles are a great fit for each other. Can you tell us a little bit about how the crossover came about? 

Jim and I have been on the same internet forum for several years now and he’s always been very supportive of other people’s projects. Back in November, one of the guys I gamed with from the forum made a comment that we should do a crossover between the books and Zub replied that he thought that’d be pretty epic.  I followed up on it and Jim was really positive about the idea.  We decided on doing something short that could be sort of a bonus story that would run in both books and Zubby shot me three fun concepts to pick from, including one where Adrienne and Kusia sort of have this fireside chat over armor and male warriors and such.  There’s so much of that already in Princeless, however, I was really more interested in seeing the characters just doing what they do best from both books: kick ass.  I’ve always been a fan of the Dwarf from SK and one of the concepts Jim pitched not only included this really fun bit with both Dwarf and Adrienne, but was just so easy to see in the script, I knew it’d be a blast to draw. Once we’d nailed the choice down, I presented it to the ALE crew as the one we were going with and we went from there. I know Jim’s a big supporter of seeing more fantasy comics out there in the market and it was an exciting opportunity getting to work with him on the crossover story.

It does seem that the comic market is somewhat lacking in terms of original fantasy properties when compared with other genres. It’s one of the things that made Princeless stand out to me as a title. How many pages is the crossover & will those of us who are picked up Princeless in monthly form still be able to get a read of it?

It’s a three page story called Two for One and it’s currently slated to be released as bonus material in the first Princeless trade, as well as in one of the new issues of Skullkickers.

Excellent, I look forward to reading the crossover. What else had you worked on previous to becoming the artist for Princeless?

A lot of various projects.  I’ve been very fortunate over the years to work freelance in the comics, illustration and concept fields, although most people know me better as Rocketshoes.

I used to work quite frequently as a colorist and letterer and some of the books I’ve done under my name include The Twilight Zone graphic novel series, Coin-Operated Boy from Studio 803 and Zach Lehner’s section of Resurrection from Oni Press. I’ve also been busy with small original series releases through the years including a motion comic called Open for Business for Whaang! and self publications like Cross Check and Mem Loop.

Currently, I’m working with my friend, J. Verrall, on our original comic series, Rocket: The Second Star, which is slated for a late March release. It’s a book I’ve been looking to work on for years now but have had to set aside for more lucrative work.  It’s extremely exciting to have the opportunity to focus on this year.

In my spare time, I’m also an adjunct professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design teaching in both the Sequential Art and Illustration departments.

Ok, teaching and freelance comic book work. That’s a pretty packed schedule. Do you still find time to sleep in amongst all that? You say you’ve worked on a motion comic in the past, but the only motion comics I’ve ever seen are of previously printed work. Does the creation process differ when you’re animating something that hasn’t previously appeared in print & do you find it opens up new avenues in the way you can tell stories?

Sleep and I don’t get on well, so it all works out.  Coffee helps too.

In terms of motion comics, I’ve been in love with the concept since the release of the ones for Dead Space and when the opportunity came up to try one out, I jumped at it. Working for motion comics is definitely cool, but was much more like prepping an animatic storyboard than a traditional page. The really exciting difference is that you not only have the option of controlling the camera movement beyond the static image, but that you can also add voice and sound. Jon (Verrall) who I’m working with on Rocket right now is also an actor and, together with my spouse and I, the three of us put together a voice over track for the first episode of Open for Business.  The end result was really fun and it’s definitely something I’m interested in exploring again when I get the time.

The first experience I had of a motion comic was the Watchmen one. I don’t know if it was because Watchmen is the closest thing comics has to a sacred text but I didn’t get along with it & the standard of acting reminded me of the first Resident Evil game on the Playstation. That was a few years ago though so I imagine it’s improved. Speaking of texts though you say you teach Sequential Art. What sort of books do you have on the reading list?

I have a long list of reference texts, tutorials and books I like to recommend and use in class–too many in fact.  For comics, Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art is definitely one of my favorites, especially for people starting out. It covers a lot of ground very quickly and it’s a handy read. Most recently, I picked up a copy of Comicker’s How to Pen and Ink, which has this great section near the back that’s full of practice exercises for training your hand. I still think the best tool for picking up sequential storytelling, however, is to pick up and analyze various comics, movies and games.  You read/watch/play it through for entertainment purposes and then you go back and really start breaking it down and studying the parts–deciding what works and what doesn’t, why certain choices were made–really taking a look at the elements that make up the whole and then consciously applying those elements that are working into your own books.

So what various comics movies & games etc have had the biggest impact on your own work & why?

I’ve always found animation to be extremely influential.  Disney’s animated features were an especially predominant influence throughout my childhood and the works of Satoshi Kon and Studio Ghibli are things I find myself always going back to and studying at length for just about everything from cinematic composition to environment design.  Also, comics like Belladone, Blacksad and Monster Allergy have really great pacing, gesture, color and panel choices.   I remember spending a lot of time as a kid drawing from the old game booklets and Nintendo power as well in an attempt to mimic styles and figure construction and games like Bioshock, Psychonauts and TF2 are titles I’m still looking to in terms of storytelling through environment, character design and color palettes. My personal style and approach is always changing–I’m really looking for the day when I hit a more pleasing balance between gestural expression and detail–but it’s starting to settle into something I’m pretty happy with overall.

I did notice that Princeless has a very “animated” feel to its artwork that takes in aspects of both Eastern & Western styles. It fits the tone of the book perfectly making sure it remains suitable for younger viewers but still having subtleties that the adults will pick up on, it’s also very different (but  more fitting IMO) to the original issue I reviewed a few years back. Did you have a lot of input when it came to designing the look & feel of the book?

For the most part, I worked on my own. Adrienne went through a mini design phase right before I drew the first issue where most of the experimentation went into figuring out her hair as Jeremy wanted it to transition from straight to natural as she was adventuring. I know I spent a lot of time researching various hair types and styles.  Eventually, I ended up modeling her to an extent after my friend Andrea.  I’d also originally played with the idea of making her signature colors red and gold to really play up the royalty and the hero aspects of her character, but it was requested she instead wear blue, which changed clothing schemes and things later to accommodate that choice. The red was eventually toned down and maroon became the color of choice for the king’s banners (to oppose Adrienne’s blue) and this rusty sort of red went to accent Bedelia–which is toned down enough by her neutral color scheme so that she looks important, but not so much as to compete with Adrienne.

In other cases, like the King, there were specific directions in the script– “He is a very large black man. He has an air of royalty and strength. He is fond of dark colors.”– that made more of the design on my part about getting creative with the emotional expressions to help convey depth of character.  Not many of the characters were like that though or discussed beyond some personality and most of their physical descriptions were left open–for example, Bedelia’s description in book three was “A sixteen year old girl sits behind the counter reading.”  Her design really came about for me through one of the lines where she says something about getting her height from her mother. I played with the idea and made her extremely tall–I secretly like to imagine her father was in love with a half-giant or something.

Otherwise, I tried to keep everything fairly generic in terms of props and environments so as to further reinforce the idea of “the fairy tale land we all know” to make it as inviting and familiar as possible for the reader to step in to Adrienne’s adventures as she deviates from the princess norms.

It’s interesting that you say about getting creative with the King’s emotional expressions as there was a single panel in issue 2 where he gets some bad news & we see his face drop, just for the one panel, but it conveys a totally different side to the character without ever breaking the flow of the story. There are a lot of nice moments like that throughout the book. When you look back on Princeless what would you say is the scene or character you’re most proud of?

Out of all the books, it’s issue 4 that I’m really the most pleased with.  I made some pretty heavy handed editing suggestions with the art and switched a few of the scenes around in page placement for greater turning impact and timing. The last four page sequence transition I remember being especially fond of as a way to close out the book.  Issue 3 I’ll always be proud of as it went from 28 pages of thumbnails to full color in the span of 3-4 days, which is a new record for me.

3-4 days from thumbnails to Full colour pages?!? Now I’m even more impressed, especially considering some of the touches that were in that issue in particular. I think you have a lot to be proud of in Princeless though. I thought the final few pages were probably my favourite moment of the entire series both as a way to close it out & as way to set it up for the next volume. Now as is the customary final question to close out MOMB interviews, what advice would you give to anyone trying to make it in comics?

Man, I really had to think about this one. We could spend an entire ten week quarter talking about this…

If I could only say one thing though to someone wanting to pursue a career in comics? Be passionate about it and don’t just talk about it–do it, because literally–with access to web, POD printing, tablets, etc.–nothing is stopping you these days from getting your work out there. Realize it’s often a lot of long monk-like hours and hard work, especially if you’re juggling multiple jobs or full time work along with the pages.  When you love it, however, it doesn’t matter, because you just have that need to sit down and work the panels, no matter how tired you are or how long a day has been.  I’ve had a lot of set backs in my own career due to poor health and such, but you can’t let any of that stop you cold. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by so many passionate and talented people at the school (SCAD), because it really keeps the positive energy flowing.

Also, on an academic note: Research. Research is awesome and you can learn so much about a book or a movie by not just sitting down and taking it in for entertainment purposes. Breaking it down and studying it and figuring out what makes it work so that you can apply it to your own pursuits is a really great way to learn this stuff.

 

You can find Mia’s Deviant art page here.  Join us once again in a few days when I’ll be posting my final thoughts on Princeless (well my final thoughts on the first volume at any rate) before we have another interview with the series writer Jeremy Whitley next Wednesday!