MJ Wallace launched her latest IndieGogo campaign today and after loving her previous contributions to Team Girl Comic, her previous comic releases & her weekly web comic I jumped at the chance to speak with her about all things indie comics & beyond!
What was the first title you worked on?
My first book was a spooky comedy called “Haunters Gonna Haunt” (2013-ish), but I had also previously submitted work to the comic collective TGC and the Reads anthology by Avery Hill Publishing.
How has your work changed since then?
Well, my art has gotten a lot better! I’ve also progressed from co-writing comics with my brother (such as Haunters) to writing all my own content. Most of my work up until now has been short, self-contained autobiographical strips, but I’m working on more fiction and long-form projects. I want to make sure I keep making different types of comics, and pushing myself as a creator.
Who are your main influences?
The comics that first inspired me were series like “Robin” and “Young Justice”, and then Vertigo books like “Swamp Thing” and “Sandman”. I love both dramatic, generally light-hearted, teen stories and dark horror tales. Pretty disparate genres, I know, but there you have it.
With regard to individual creators that have influenced me, there are a few major ones. I discovered Kate Beaton around the same time I realised my art style didn’t really fit with the standard “look” of mainstream comics. Her work is so funny and great, and it made me realise I could make good comics without having to fit the typical style and content of the superhero comics I was used to reading.
The work of John Allison (“Bad Machinery”) and Tom Siddell (“Gunnerkrigg Court”) was also very formative for me. I read through their online archives, and as well as loving their stories (teens, the supernatural and some comedy – right up my alley!) I was really inspired by seeing how much their work changed and improved over time. As a self-conscious beginner artist, it was reassuring to see that even creators I really admire are constantly changing and honing their skills.
Abby Howard (“Last Halloween”, “Junior Scientist Power Hour”) is probably my favourite artist and biggest influence at the moment – her work combines humour and horror, and her art is incredible. Abby’s fun, cartoonish drawing style is elevated by her detailed knowledge of anatomy (which lets her design fantastically creepy monsters), and her Edward Gorey-esque line work in “Last Halloween” really inspires me to improve my own inking skills.
What comics are you reading just now?
As I’m a sucker for teens and supernatural mysteries, I’m currently collecting (and loving) “Lumberjanes” and “Gotham Academy”. “Squirrel Girl” is great too – there’s at least one moment in each issue that cracks me up. Outside of monthly comics, I’ve bought a few anthologies via Kickstarter recently: “Fresh Romance”, “The Other Side”, and “Power & Magic – The Queer Witch Comics Anthology”, which are all wonderful. There are so many more comics that I would like to be reading, of course, but time and money are limiting factors in that regard!
What’s the best thing about creating comics?
I love the whole laborious process of taking an idea in my head and working it into a finished story I can share with others: honing the punchline or story down to the right beats, figuring out the optimal composition for each panel, and then finally drawing that original idea into existence on the page. Good visual storytelling is something I’ve been fascinated with for a long time and, unlike in animation (which I specialised in for my university degree), comics allow a solo artist or small team to create a finished story relatively easily. This gives storytelling through comics (especially autobiographical comics) an immediacy and intimacy that I really enjoy both as a creator and a comics reader.
Also, it always makes my day when I hear that my work made someone smile, or touched them in some way. That’s a pretty cool thing too.
What are you working on just now?
I’m currently working on an autobiographical comic called “Bi The Way”, which is about how I realised I was bisexual in my mid-twenties. It tells the story of my realisation, coming out, and a lot of other stuff to do with identity and self-discovery. “Bi The Way” is an ambitious book for me, as it delves a lot deeper than my previous autobio work has, and has pushed my art skills as well. I’m very excited to finish it and get it out to people.
Where can we see you next?
I’ll be debuting “Bi The Way” at Glasgow Comic Con on July 1st, potentially with a launch party happening around then too. Exciting!!
You can catch-up with MJ on her website and over on Facebook & Twitter. You should also take a look at the weekly webcomic that she does (updated on Fridays and her Patreon too.
You can jump on board her newest project by backing it at the link below: