Writer Jessica Moorman has recently launched Penciltopost.com which is a website/studio geared towards individuals and small press publishers needing art for their comics. Jessica was gracious to chat with comicbookinterviews.com publisher John Michael Helmer about her studio, her career in comics, and the future…
JMH: Where were you born and raised?
JESSICA: A really frightening little town in central California. Small, rural secluded, not what you think of when you picture California, but I moved to San Franciscoas soon as I possibly could, and I consider that home. Amazing place, I suggest everyone live there for a little while.
JMH: Tell CBI about yourself…
JESSICA: Well, I’ve been in love with comics for about 20 years, but had to take hiatus while working multiple jobs and raising a family. I’m currently located in the Midwestwith my family (which includes the spouse, 2 boys, 3 dogs, 3 cats and whatever is making that noise in our attic). I have a pretty mundane day job teaching people how to use software applications, and run Pencils to Post (a comic art studio) that just launched 1/1/12. I only got back into comics about 3 years ago, and it was with a vengeance. I had a kid’s taste with a grown-up’s budget. The natural reaction to not being able to wait between weekly issues was to start writing my own. I wrote a few web comics and one print comic for a company that imploded before ever seeing actual life, but, thems’ the breaks. Now I’m happy to be a part of the process through lettering, and coordinating art teams for projects through the studio.
JMH: Have you had any formal training in writing?
JESSICA: Ha! No. And boy, did it show. I mean, I could write (but not spell), but comics is its own monster, and finding folks to help you out is a real challenge. Like so many others, I went to the internet boards for assistance, and QUICKLY got put in my place. Not something for the meek as most web posters will tear you apart if you dare post anything. I was lucky enough to hire some really awesome artists to do a page or two of a script I was trying to write that were willing to work with me and give me a TON of guidance. Ryan Moffett was the first artist to draw anything I did (a really talented fella) and Mikel Janin [/name dropping] was another. This was before Mr. Janin was picked up for Justice League Dark. They were both amazingly patient with me, and I learned so much from just those few pages. With a little more confidence, and had a few more pages done and characters designed by Mr. Brian Brinlee who really helped me to know what works and what doesn’t. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some really fantastic artists who were basically responsible for any and all training I have regarding writing for comics. Anyone looking to write comics, I strongly suggest getting out there, and hiring some folks for a page or two just to get a feel for it before submitting your mega-awesome 367 page script that will revolutionize the world.
JMH: Who are your writing influences?
JESSICA: Oooooo, that’s a toughy. Honestly, I’d have to say Peter David. He just has a way of telling great stories on a large scale, but without losing the heart of the individual characters. It’s something I really try and do as well. Doesn’t matter if he’s writing mutants or monsters, folks is folks at the end of the day, and I think that makes for some really powerful story telling. I hope my work comes across the same way.
JMH: How did you break into writing comic books?
JESSICA: I’ll let you know when it happens However, how I got started was by responding to an ad for a self-publishing company that was looking for a writer for their flagship book. It was the first time I was writing someone else’s outlines, and it was surprisingly fun. My first assignment was to invent 40 characters (heroes and villains)…then kill them all. It was the comic book equivalent to ‘improv.’ The creator also tasked me to write 3 of the web comics that took place in his ‘universe’ which was a lot of fun as well. Sadly, they never got out of the gate, but I did get to meet a lot of people in the indie biz which led to the studio.
JMH: What is the first comic you remember reading?
JESSICA: Well, I wanted it to be Batman, but when I announced I wanted to get into comics, a good friend told me, ‘You will read X-Men.’ I think the first issue I read was probably Uncanny X-Men #274, at least that’s the first cover I remember seeing, and story arc I read. Man, was that odd for a new fan. I’d never heard of half the characters, was really confused as to why Rogue was getting all handsy with a ‘bad guy’ and why everyone was nearly naked. I was terrified my mom would actually open it. It was probably the closest thing to porn that had every been in my house! Great story, still one of my favorites, and easily my all time favorite cover.
JMH: Do you read any of the new comic books that are being published today?
JESSICA: Yes, a lot of them. It’s actually rather embarrassing. I know I’m supposed to say I only read heady independent stuff (which I do) but I’m a sucker for capes too. I’m also a rather creepy creator-mega-fan. I get a majority of the marvel books including the Xs and Avengers…everything, as well as several others. I’ve hung on to a handful of the re-launched DC titles, and a handful of independents. I’ve got some pet creators that’ll I’ll buy whatever they do, wherever they go. I’m always on the look out for anything good.
JMH: Print versus Digital. Your thoughts…
JESSICA: Honestly, whatever helps the medium thrive. I will always want my hard copies, because you can’t put digi files on a book shelf (and I love my book shelves), and there is just something about being able to hold it in your hands. But I think some really neat stuff has been done with the digital copies, and the quick freebies you can grab the first issue of have exposed me to several titles that I now follow in print. Hopefully, both will be able to co-exist.
JMH: Writer’s block. How do you get around that creature?
JESSICA: I walk away. Mentally and physically get as far away from the subject matter as possible, then come back and review what I’ve done. If I still can’t get it, I’ll start something new to try and kickstart my brain. I wouldn’t say I get blocked often, just derailed a lot. I’ll find myself back tracking to the last thing I wrote that I liked, and picking it up again from there. Every once in awhile the off-shoots will become their own thing.
JMH: What is PenciltoPost?
JESSICA: It’s a studio for regular folks that want to see their ideas put to paper. We’re geared toward individuals and small press that needs art for their comics, but don’t have bottomless pockets. We’ve got some really strong talent, my goal, personally, is that they stick around for a few projects, build their portfolio then move on to bigger and better things.
It’s hard to find a good balance in pricing comic art. Our guys are underpaid, no doubt, but a lot of writers just can’t afford $150-$200 a pencilled page. Pencils to Post is an outlet for artist and writer to accomplish some really great stuff.
JMH: Do you research your story ideas? If so, how?
JESSICA: Oh, yes. As much as possible, and I try not to write out of my depths. Most of what I’ve done is street level, even if the environment is not. I haven’t done much out of my wheelhouse, and the research needed to take on something new is pretty intimidating. The best form of research is immersion. I don’t mean you have to fly toAlaskato write about snow, but to get as much exposure to the subject matter as you can. If you have an idea in your head, and it gets completely gutted and transformed by the time you are done researching, that’s good thing.
JMH: What is your writing process like?
JESSICA: Generally it starts with an image, or a sentence. I build around that item until I have kind of a messy brainstorm of emotions and ideas, then I try and organize them. Applying all the words actually comes last. I try to envision the story playing out, understand why things are happening, what motivates the events and characters, then give them a voice. It’s not the most effective way of doing things, but it feels right to me. I honestly don’t always know the ends of my own stories. Or if I do, it changes drastically by the time I’m done.
JMH: Do your stories carry a message?
JESSICA: If a message needs to be told, but that’s never my absolute objective. Sometimes a story is just a story, take it or leave it. I think every story has a message somewhere, but I don’t write from a soapbox.
JMH: Do you feel more comfortable with writing prose or comic book sequential storytelling?
JESSICA: Absolutely, 100% sequential. I’ve always loved to write, but there is just something about the pairing of art and words that really drives home the intent. Often I find an artist that can take my idea so much further than I could. Or, I start with the art and build a story around it, which is it’s own adventure, and honestly the one I prefer. I’ve had characters designed, my characters, and by the time the artist is done with them, who they are is a completely different person, and it takes the story a new directions.
JMH: What are your thoughts on the DC Reboot/Relaunch?
JESSICA: I think it’s been okay. I wouldn’t herald it as the greatest comic event ever, and found a lot of the titles that just got new numbering. It didn’t make them anymore user friendly. There is a good group of titles that are very strong, but a creative team change could have accomplished that. Marketing-wise, it seems to have been very successful. I’m not confident that it will last, though. I picked up several of the books due to the creators, if they leave I will as well. All in all, if it brought in new readers, awesome. I think comics are in under-appreciated medium, and anytime anyone can build up exposure, they have my support.
JMH: What do you think Marvel’s response will be?
JESSICA: Honestly, I hope they don’t do anything. I think there are some really great books out there, and I’d hate to see them cut short or derailed because of a marketing ploy. I think it happens too often, mid-awesomeness some big event comes along and completely erodes what could have been an amazing tale.
JMH: What future projects are in the works?
JESSICA: The studio is taking up most of my time. I’ve got a few stories I’ve been working on and off for awhile that I revisit at times, but mostly, it’s helping others get their stuff to print.
JMH: Where can fans get a hold of your books?
JESSICA: Stuff I’ve worked on personally is not available quite yet, but all the books I am involved with at pencils to post will be available through evilsquidcomics.com. We don’t have our titles to print yet, (we just launched) but the boys at evilsquid agreed to carry them. I think the online digi printers and carriers are awesome, and really do a lot for the indie market, but through evilsquid you can order our books along with the stuff from the big boys which I think makes it easier on the customer. Also, the idea of one of our books being packaged up with Batman and X-Men is kind of neat. It’s like having a national local comic book store.
JMH: Anything else you’d like to mention that we haven’t covered yet?
JESSICA: Just that I really appreciate what you do, for the small time creators, and fans. The more community the comics community can muster the better!
JMH: Jessica, CBI appreciates your time! All the best!
JESSICA: Thanks for having me, and keep up the good work!
About the interviewer –