Dan Berry: This is Make It Then Tell Everybody. I’m Dan Berry. Liz Prince and I got together to talk about ideas, autobiography, and the mysterious Wolfman. This is Make It Then Tell Everybody. Hello Liz Prince.
Liz Prince: Hey Dan, thanks for having me.
DB: Well thanks, thanks for coming round.
LP: Via the internet, we’re not in the same room. I think people should know that.
DB: Yeah, they’ll probably be able to tell by the sound quality I imagine, that it’s strange acoustics in this room if we were sat together. Whereabouts are you?
LP: I live in Somerville, Massachusetts. That is right outside of Boston.
DB: And that’s, correct my geography, towards the top of the US?
LP: Yes, it’s on the east coast, it’s in New England. It’s the state that’s got the little arm that looks like it’s flexing.
DB: Oh right, okay. That’s the state character?
LP: The ‘strong-arm’ state, yeah, Massachusetts.
DB: Nice! So you’re a cartoonist.
LP: Guilty as charged.
DB: Is being a cartoonist your single job, or do you have other work?
LP: Yes it is, it is my one and only job.
DB: Nice. So, how do you end up with drawing comics as being your only job?
LP: Well, I went to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, or college, or art school, and while I was there I had a work-study job in the library at the Museum School, which is also part of the actual Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. So when I graduated there was a position open at the Museum for full time employment, and I took that job, and I worked there for three years and, kind of, I didn’t hate the desk job, but I didn’t want to be a librarian when I grew up, I wanted to be a cartoonist. So I decided that I’d saved up enough money, having a full time real job, and not having many expenses on the side, that I would just give being a full time cartoonist a shot, and see if I could actually make it work. It’s not always that easy to make ends meet, but I have managed to continue to do it so far, and hopefully that will continue into the future.
DB: Well, congratulations!
LP: Thank you.
DB: What was it that made you decide that you wanted to draw comics specifically, now I’m making a big assumption here, I’m assuming that you’d read them before, and you’d read enough that you thought, ‘I can do this’?
LP: Yeah, when I was really young I actually wanted to be a cartoon character when I grew up, and then my mom told me that they aren’t real. I was a little devastated, but I decided that if I couldn’t be a cartoon character that I wanted to make cartoons, and I thought I wanted to be an animator, and when I was in elementary school my friends and I used to make flip books. Take 100 drawings to make a bird blink and flap its arms once, and we’d be like, ‘How do people make movies that are like, an hour and a half long like this? This is insane!’ I didn’t discover my first comic book until I was in third or fourth grade, and I was in the grocery store with my grandmother, and I saw that they had Donald Duck comics. I loved the duck characters, they were my favourite, so that was the first time that I ever saw an actual comic book, and it was cartoons and books put together, which were my two favourite things, and that was the moment that I decided, ‘Well, this looks a lot easier than doing animation. I want to draw comics instead of making cartoons!’
DB: You have to draw a fraction of the number of pictures! So it was laziness.
LP: Yeah, well everything that I’ve done has been motivated by laziness. If there’s one thing that the listeners will learn, it’s that I’m very motivated by laziness.
DB: The glue that binds you together.
LP: Yes. (Laughs).
DB: Pretty good. When did you start drawing with any real motivation?
LP: Sorry, I picked up Wolfman, and now she’s here. I’ll put her down. Bye!
DB: Let’s not tell the listeners that don’t know who Wolfman is.
LP: (Laughs). What just happened? When did I start drawing with any real motivation? I mean, I’ve always drawn. My mom has what she considers my first ever comic, it’s framed, on a little, small piece of notepaper, and it’s this weird blobby character that looks like it has wheels for legs, and it’s just a bunch of drawings of that character over and over and over again in slightly different positions. There’s probably, like, seven rows of four on this piece of paper, and I drew that when I was two years old. I’ve just always drawn. My drawings in elementary school were things like me and Luke Skywalker, because he was my boyfriend when I was in elementary school. I was really into Ghostbusters and I used to draw a lot of Ghostbusters pictures. When I first started writing and drawing my own comics, they were all very… what’s the correct word that I’m looking for here? I don’t want to say ripping something off.
DB: They drew inspiration from…
LP: Sure, they were inspired, but a little more directly than inspired, like, I had a character called Batrat who was Batman, but as a rat, and I wrote and drew comics about him. When I was a little bit older and I started reading comics like Milk & Cheese by Evan Dorkin, and I had a character called Scott the Angry Paper Cup, and it was basically the same. He was an anthropomorphic paper cup that beat people up when he thought they were stupid. It wasn’t until I discovered Ariel Schrag’s autobiographical books, Potential and Awkward and Definition that I really started thinking about drawing comics about my own life. That was when, probably like, when I was 17 or 18 was when I started drawing my own autobiographical comics.
DB: So you’ve work primarily in autobio since?
LP: Yes, that’s pretty much my main writing style, and even when I write stories for Adventure Time, I’m writing a series based on the Cartoon Network show Clarence for KaBOOM! right now, and a lot of the stories are inspired by things that actually happened to me when I was a kid. Obviously not word for word or verbatim, but I still take a lot of things from my own experience, even when it’s supposed to be fictional.
DB: Let’s throw this question in early then, where do you get your ideas from?
LP: Well, since everything is autobiographical, they’re usually pre-existing through my experiences. A lot of times people, they kind of had this idea that writing autobio comics is kind of cheating, because you don’t have to make something up, it’s already there. But I think that strong storytelling is still such an aspect, even in autobio comics. Because someone could have the most exciting thing happen to them, they’ve been in an airplane that landed on a mountain, and everyone had to parachute off, and everyone survived! But they could tell it in the most boring, bland way where you’d be like, ‘Ugh, okay, so…?’
DB: Oh, just crash already!
LP: Yeah, and so I write a lot of comics about mundane things that happen to me, but I try to write them in a way that would make people interested, and I think that given the success of my work I’ve succeeded in that, at least in some ways.
DB: I would agree with that.
LP: So I don’t think autobio is cheating.
DB: No, but I think it does get a bad rap.
LP: It’s a little navel-gazey for people I suppose.
DB: But I think that it spans the full spectrum of the really, really good stuff, down to the ‘can’t make a good story out of a plane crash’ that we just discussed.
LP: Here’s the thing, is that I’m kind of a fan of it all. One of my favourite genres are the daily journal comics, and of course there’s the kings like James Kochalka and American Elf, which is still one of the best examples of a journal comic out there. And there’s something like Snakepit, which is like, you know, towards the end he isn’t really doing very many different drawings, or not really working at creating a different narrative. It’ll just be like, ‘went to work, went home, drank a beer’, ‘went to work, went home, drank a beer’, but there’s still something about the repetition of that narrative that’s like, ‘Yeah, that’s actually what life is like.’ There’s so many boring little interludes between the exciting times that we have to jump out of a plane that’s crashing into a mountain.
DB: Which is very regular for us cartoonists.
LP: Yeah, I mean, it happens four or five times a week for me.
DB: Maybe once or twice every couple of years for me. I’m not quite up to the same standard just yet.
LP: You’ve gotta get out more!
DB: (Laughs). I’ve got to stop meeting people by Facetime and Skype, that’s my problem. So your ideas are drawn from everyday life, normal things.
LP: Yeah, and it’s only recently that I’ve started writing more memoir-type stuff. My book Tomboy that came out last year was a memoir about my childhood, and gender stereotypes, and how those things had affected me. Up until that point I’d really been writing about more recent experiences, so it was different to go back in my childhood, and I found that some of the things that I remembered the most were actually the way an event felt, more than the actual distinct details of an event, which was interesting to go back and think about it in those terms. So I had to recreate, what made me feel that way? What was it? It was like going back and investigating my own childhood, and trying to put the pieces back together.
DB: Here’s a technical question about that then. What does that look like? Do you do this on paper? Is it just sitting, looking at the ceiling, thinking it through? Where does that development happen, does it happen in your head, or on a page, or in a word processor, or what?
LP: It almost always happens in my head. I’m pretty good at coming up with the actual flow of a story, or at least the key sequences in my mind before I start any of the writing process. For a book like Tomboy, which was the first time that I’d ever written anything that was really over 30 pages at once, a 250 page graphic novel is kind of a different beast.
DB: Yeah, congratulations by the way.
LP: Thank you! It was also the first time that I’d ever really worked with an editor that was reading the story as I was writing it, and was making suggestions, or correcting mistakes and things like that.
DB: Was that a very smooth and painless transition to working with an editor then, or was it slightly difficult?
LP: For me it was actually very easy. My editor was really great. He started off the process by basically saying, ‘Hey, the only think that I’m really going to force you to change would be spelling or grammatical errors. Any other suggestions I make, you can feel free to ignore them,’ which is great, especially when we’re talking about an autobiographical story that’s so close to my heart, which is actually kind of funny, because when I first came up with the idea of Tomboy, I had never worked with an editor before and I’ve definitely heard some horror stories from people who work with editors who go in and want them to add things that don’t mean anything to them. So when I first got the idea for it I was like, ‘Well this is a book that I wouldn’t mind if someone had their hand in it, that’s fine,’ and then the second I started writing it I was like, ‘This is the most personal thing I’ve actually ever written.’ It’s just the very core of my being, and of course I wouldn’t be okay with someone coming in and being like… you know? ‘There’s not enough ethnicity, how about you make this person…’ you know? ‘How about you do X, Y and Z? Why don’t we put a scene where you’re on a roller coaster for no reason, that’s exciting!’
DB: Kids love rollercoasters.
LP: Yeah, they love it. It was also the first time that I’d ever written a book for a teen or a young adult audience specifically, and that was also a different experience, because I’m used to just saying or doing whatever I want in my comics, and not really worrying about how it gets interpreted, or who will be reading it. That was a real big hindrance for me when I first started writing the book, was trying to think, is this something that’s appropriate? So I had to abandon that idea, and I just wrote the book the way that I wanted to write it, and I assumed if there were any changes or things that really wouldn’t fly for that audience, that they’d be taken out. But they actually ended up, everything ended up staying, which was kind of surprising.
DB: So really you didn’t need an editor.
LP: Well, he made some really good suggestions. It’s funny, when he looked at the final draft of the book he sent me his final chunk of notes on the entire story, but on the first page it had a breakdown of every time that I swore in the book. So it said ‘instances of ass, page 20, page 42’, ‘instances of fuck’, ‘instances of dick’, ‘instances of shit’, and I thought that that was so hilarious, that he actually had to go through and catalogue those things in my book. He was like, ‘You don’t have to change them, I just need to know how many times they’re in there, so here’s a tally,’ and I felt really proud of it, that little tally there.
DB: That’s something to surpass for the next one.
LP: We’ll see. I do have to say that if I could go back… well, this is a bittersweet thought, I’m conflicted about it. Some of the reviews of the book had talked about how it’s really disappointing that there are swear words, and that there’s some talk of drug use and some talk of sexuality, because otherwise it could be for an even younger audience, but to me those things were just very much a genuine part of my experience growing up, and they were so much a part, especially of my junior high and high school experiences that the book would feel really disingenuous without it. I’m torn, on the one hand I’m like, ‘It’ll be so great if every ten-year-old could read Tomboy, no one would have a problem with it,’ and there are certainly tonnes of ten-year-olds and nine-year-olds, and I’ve gotten fan letters from really little kids who have read the book and they really love it, and their parents love it to, but I know that that kind of stuff is not for everyone.
DB: It’s not a universal like, is it?
LP: Yeah, not everyone’s parents are super duper cool like that, and that’s alright, you know? They can wait ‘til they’re 14 or 15 to read the book. It’ll still be around.
DB: So you mentioned your editor looked at the draft, so what does the draft look like? Is this pencil drawings, is this very, very rough stuff? What level of finish do you put on a draft page?
LP: Since this was my first time ever having someone read the book while I was working on it, and I can’t… I know some people who can sit down and just write a script like it’s a movie script, in text for a comic, and I can’t sit down and do that. I have to visualise what the page looks like, so I wrote the book as thumbnails, but since I knew that an editor was going to have to be looking at it and reading it, they were actually pretty much just pencils, but copier paper that I couldn’t ink onto.
DB: (Laughs). So you stifled yourself into not being able to finish it too quickly.
LP: I did, yeah. Well, I still finished it in nine months, the entire thing, writing, drawing it, whatever, which is pretty insane.
DB: That’s pretty good, yeah.
LP: I didn’t know what to expect with the editing process. I didn’t know if there was going to be a chunk of 40 pages that they’d be like, ‘This has to be all turned around,’ and I didn’t want to commit myself to just drawing it straight on Bristol, but when it all came down to it, there ended up being no changes to the art, it was all text stuff. When I redrew it, I was redrawing it exactly the same, I had to pencil it from my thumbnails. Somebody was like, ‘Why didn’t you just…’ because I had already scanned in all of the thumbnails for him to look at anyway. Someone was like, ‘You should have just printed them in blue line on Bristol and inked over that,’ but I don’t have a printer that’s big enough to put my 9×12 Bristol in it. Listen, it was a real rookie move! I feel like I’ve learned from that mistake. I’m gonna trust my gut instinct.
DB: Work smaller!
LP: I did! I worked very small actually. I drew the book at the size that it was printed, so I drew two pages on each 9×12 sheet of Bristol, and I drew it at 5.5 by… whatever…
DB: Whatever maths that is.
LP: Whatever this book was printed at, I forget. I’m the worst at knowing about myself. I shouldn’t even write about myself, I’m the worst at knowing about myself.
LP: I drew it at the size that it was printed, so I was drawing two pages on each Bristol sheet. What I’m trying to say, I’m a conservationist. I really wanted to save paper, and so…
DB: And see what the spreads would look like as you produced them, of course.
LP: Yeah, that was a good way to do that too. It also made the book portable. While I was working on finishing this book I did a little west coast tour. My book Alone Forever came out, and so I was actually inking pages while I was on the road. I was still inking between five and ten pages a day while I was on this California vacation, quote, unquote, so I prefer to work small.
DB: That’s pretty hard-core.
LP: Yeah, I really went for it, and then I haven’t drawn anything about myself since. That’s not entirely true, but I finished that book over a year ago, and I haven’t started on another one. Everyone’s always like, ‘What’s your next book?’ and I’m like, this book’s not even nine months old. Maybe it’s nine months old now. It came out in September and, ‘Here, can I just hold my baby and be proud of it before I have to make another baby?’
DB: Now this is a question, I want to ask you about this, because you started I think by self-publishing a lot.
DB: As a self-publisher myself I feel this urge, or this momentum carrying me. As soon as I finish one thing, I’ve got to move onto the next, and then get that next one out. And, ‘Oh, there’s a show coming up, I’ve got to get a new thing.’ ‘Oh, there’s another show coming up, I’ve got to get another new thing!’ You end up with this self-imposed schedule that says, ‘If it’s not brand new it’s not going to sell, no one’s going to buy it.’ Do you think people have that same expectation of a book when it’s through a publisher, and it’s a big, thick, hardback thing?
LP: You know, I learned a lot about traditional, regular book publishing, because Zest Books who put out Tomboy is not primarily a graphic novel publisher. They do all kinds of different coffee table books, advice books, blah, blah, blah. So I learned a lot more about what that publishing world is like. Conventional publishing seems to state that a book is really only new and getting traction in the first six months that it’s out, and then if it hasn’t exploded or reached its audience within that time, it’s not dead to the publisher, but there’s no further publicity pushes for a book. All of that stuff happens right before the book comes out, and then in the first couple months afterwards, and then it’s on to the next thing because publishers don’t have time to just dwell on books forever. Tomboy has done so well for Zest that they actually have been doing another publicity push for it. We just actually made a study guide for teachers and librarians that we released online for free last week.
DB: Nice, again congratulations Liz.
LP: Thank you. Yeah, it’s been great, it’s been used as a textbook in some classes, middle school, high school. I went and talked to a university’s gender studies department about the book, so it’s just been really interesting to see what kind of a life a graphic novel can have on the actual book market, as opposed to just the comic shop, indie shop, convention circuit. For me personally, when I am self-publishing something, I will consider a book new pretty much for the first year that I’ve had it. If I wasn’t at, let’s say, the small press expo with this book last year, then it’s ‘new’, because you might not have seen it.
DB: It’s brand new for this particular location, this particular venue.
DB: That makes sense.
LP: For this particular table that I’m sitting at, has never been graced with this book before.
DB: Brand new everybody! Still warm! Roll up, roll up! (Laughs). So Tomboy that dealt with the theme of gender identity. Do you feel, if this is people’s only exposure to you as an artist, that they’re going to expect you to do more work about this?
LP: I mean, I actually hope so, because I’m not done talking about this subject, and I’ve had a little bit of an internal debate with myself, do I really want to be that, like, that’s my thing, I talk about gender? But kind of, yeah. I still have a lot of things to say about it. There are some sections in the book that I wish I could expand upon, primarily when I talked about on a Little League team and I was the only girl in the entire league, and when I talked about Girl Scout camp, those were two experiences that I have a lot more stories about. I couldn’t just curtail the narrative of this book to be like, ‘now here’s 50 pages about me being in Little League!’ Those are one of the frustrating things about writing a book like Tomboy is that it really, since it was so long and it spanned for my entire life, from being a toddler to being 18-years-old, it really had to be pretty faced paced, and I didn’t have any time to go into asides that didn’t really fit the theme of the book. So there were a lot of fun stories that I was like, ‘Oh, I want to talk about that!’ but it would just be this diversion that wouldn’t mean anything to this book. So I have a lot of that kind of stuff waiting around for a venue.
DB: I want to read those stories.
LP: Good, I want to write those stories, eventually!
DB: As well you’re working writing, and so you’re writing stories that someone else is drawing now.
LP: Yes, that’s a fairly new experience for me.
DB: To me that sounds either wonderful, or awful.
LP: It’s been so great. I mean, here’s one of the things that I’ve really been coming to terms with for myself in my cartoonist identity, is that I don’t think that my art is necessarily the strongest point of my comics. I think it’s probably the writing, but I think that my art services the stories that I am telling, but I can really see where, when I’m writing, let’s say I’m writing an issue of Clarence. How I write it is I will draw very rough thumbnails in a notebook, and then I’ll use those to write a script for the artist, and they’re very directorial. I say how many tiers are on the page, I say how many panels are in each tier. I will say what the characters are doing, sometimes I’ll establish where the camera angle should be. It’s very hands on, just because I see it so distinctly in my head how I would draw it, and then when I see what Evan Palmer, who’s drawing Clarence has done, I’m like, ‘This is 1,000 times better than how I was imagining it.’ It’s things like that where I’m like, my art, I can only take it so far, because I know that I have weaknesses, things like perspective, I’m not great at backgrounds, I hate drawing backgrounds. I really don’t like colouring, I’ve always loved black and white comics because it evokes that zine, DIY, self-published aesthetic. Most of the books that I was reading after those initial Disney comics were all things like Oni Press and stuff like that where they weren’t in colour, unless I’m remembering things wrong. I don’t think they usually were.
DB: I think they were black and white.
LP: I think most of the time, unless there was some kind of real special occasion. I just think I really actually like writing for someone else to draw, and it’s been fun because I’ve gotten to write scenarios that I would never want to draw in 100 years. The second issue, there’s a water park in it, and I don’t want to draw that, but this other guy has to, and he’s good at it! So, there you go, you know?
DB: So draw on!
LP: (Laughs). Yeah. It’s given me a chance to write the kinds of stories that I’d never draw, because there’d be artistic limitations for me as an artist.
DB: Well that sounds good. You mentioned earlier, the process starts with these thumbnails, and it sounds like if you’re working for yourself or you’re working with someone else, it always starts with those thumbnails. Is that the way that you record ideas? Do you work in a sketchbook, do you work on paper? Where does this happen?
LP: Well, over the course of my decade-long comics career, can you believe that my first book came out almost… it’ll be ten years in September.
DB: Again, congratulations Liz.
LP: How old does that make me feel! Thank you, it makes me feel very old. With a book like Will You Still Love Me If I Wet The Bed, those comics were drawn entirely in a sketchbook, and those were even just straight pen on paper. There was no planning out, there were no pencil lines. Those comics actually started as me making thumbnails for comics that I wanted to eventually go back and draw for real, quote unquote, but some people who had seen them said that they felt the sketchy, unfinished quality of them felt really in the moment, like the moments that I wrote about would be. They felt like it really worked for this comic that was about all these cute little things that had happened in a relationship that I was in. Again, you know, I’m lazy, so I was like, ‘I don’t have to redraw these? You guys already think they’re good enough? Great!’
LP: Top Shelf agreed, and I had self-published that book before Top Shelf picked it up, and so I got really into the habit of drawing that way for a couple of years. It was always pen on paper, real… I don’t want to say stream of consciousness, but in terms of translating something that’s actually happened in my life, very stream of consciousness. There was very little editing that was going on with those things, and whenever I would do an anthology piece, or a comic that somebody would be including in their own book, I always sat down and pencilled it on Bristol, and used a ruler to map out the lines and stuff. I was much more…
DB: Did it ‘properly’.
LP: Yeah, I was much more ‘professional’.
DB: We’re both doing quote marks when we say ‘professional’ and ‘proper’.
LP: Yeah, we’re doing the bunny ears. I say that because there’s actually no real, one way to do this. Nobody’s way of doing it is more correct than anyone else’s. I mean, I guess unless… when it comes to the Photoshop actual prepping your images for print part, yes.
DB: You can get it wrong.
LP: That’s probably a real process to it, and that’s probably why it’s my least favourite part of the entire process. So yeah, I was spending a lot more time, being a lot more precious with comics that were for other people’s books, and not for my own work. So somewhere along the line, I just decided that it was more gratifying to spend the time pencilling and inking and making a comic look more finished. It felt better to me, it felt more complete, and I haven’t… it’s so funny, I actually did a little sketch, travel diary with my friend Nicole Georges. In April we were on a road trip together, and we were just passing this piece of paper back and forth with a ballpoint pen, and I’m like, so out of practice for just drawing straight in pen. I was like, ‘I used to be able to do this, and now it’s awful!’ Sometimes you really can’t go home, you know?
DB: That’s what they say. So once you’ve got these thumbnails, and you’re working in this more polished way, what’s the process you go through to polish it?
LP: I draw all of my comics pretty much on 9×12 Bristol board. I use a ruler to mark out where the panels are going to be. It’s usually pretty standardised, I don’t do a lot of really fun… that’s another thing with these Clarence comics, is that he lays out the page in a much more interesting way than I would, because I am very, square panel, square panel, square panel, square panel, square panel. You know, they vary in size sometimes, but I’m not the kind of person who’s like, ‘Here’s a dynamic triangle that’s jutting into the thing!’ I get with these monthly comics that the more that you can make it like a, ‘wow, look at how crazy that is’, it’s a better experience for the reader. I try to make my reading experience the least fun it can possibly be, make it real boring for people, because I want them to feel like I feel all of the time, which is sad, and bored, and like I have this routine that I can’t break out of.
LP: Okay, none of that was true, but I do a lot of very traditional square panel, kind of things. I go through and pencil, I think I use a 2H, just a regular old 2H pencil, and I use them until they’re total nubs. I have one right now that’s probably an inch and a half long. I should probably replace it at some point. The last time I bought a new pencil, they put it in a little plastic bag, and I put it inside my backpack, and when I went to reach into my backpack for something the lead poked through the plastic and stabbed me in the hand, and I actually still have a little lead tattoo on my finger where that happened.
LP: Which is kind of, a really cool cartoonist badge of honour. I’m like, ‘The last time I bought a pencil, five years ago, it stabbed me!’
DB: (Laughs). Hard-core.
LP: Yeah I know, right? People think that this full sleeve tattoo I have is hard-core. Nah, it’s this little dot of lead in my finger!
DB: ‘If I could go back, I’d do it again, the other hand.’
LP: Yeah, that’s right. I just keep hoping I get another one. Once it’s pencilled I will move onto inking, and I ink my comics with, I don’t know if they have these in the UK or if they are called something different, but they are Pilot Precise Roller Ball pens, you can just buy them at any drugstore.
DB: Yeah, I know the ones.
LP: They come in two sizes, V5 and V7, fine and extra-fine, and I just grew up using those pens to draw. They were just the pens that my parents had in their house, so it felt really natural and easy to me. I’ve tried to use things like Microns or Bic pens, and the felt tips on those, I press very hard when I’m drawing, so I usually end up smashing them, or the line takes on this almost boxy quality to it, ‘cause I press too hard. So I’ve just always stuck with the Pilot pens.
DB: It’s not broken, and you’re not going to fix it.
LP: Right, I mean, it’s inconsistent enough to look just enough crappy that I think it has a little bit of character.
DB: A line’s got to have things wrong with it, otherwise it’s boring.
LP: Right. I’ve never really used a brush to ink with, I’ve never really used nibs or things like that, probably because one of the things that really scares me a lot is process, things that have a process that you could actually screw up. I over think things a lot in that capacity, like, when I took printmaking classes when I was in college, I was always way too concerned with, ‘Am I doing this part, am I doing the actual process part right? Am I burning the silkscreen, am I burning it correctly?’ It was way less about the art, so I’ve kind of, tried to keep it as simple as possible, because otherwise there’s too much in my head. That keeps me from being able to get some good work done.
DB: Yeah I get that, I understand that.
LP: Then once I ink a page and that is dry, which takes anywhere between five hours to 24 hours. Sometimes if it’s really humid out, it can be really humid here during the summer and the ink won’t take to the page. The worst is when you’re racing a page, and then you take a line and just smear it across.
DB: See, here in the UK when we talk about humidity, it’s because it’s raining.
LP: Here when we talk about humidity, it’s just because the air is full of water and you go outside, and it’s awful. (Laughs).
DB: I don’t think we really get that here.
LP: Well, maybe I should move to the UK then.
LP: That’s way too fancy for my meagre cartoonist budget.
LP: So after I ink, I will erase my pencil lines, and then I will scan it and put it into Photoshop, and that’s my least favourite part, is cleaning up the page and getting it all ready for whatever print process it needs.
DB: And that’s the worst bit for you.
LP: Yes, when I finished Tomboy, I finished drawing it, I finished erasing the pages, and then I had to just scan and Photoshop for an entire week for 10 to 12 hours a day, and at the end of that I was like, ‘I hate everything, except for Wolfman!’
DB: And we’re not going to say who Wolfman is.
LP: No, we’re not going to say.
DB: I love this! So when you’re doing your own book, you know, a self-published thing, how do you take those pages and turn them into an actual book?
LP: For the longest time I was actually doing cut and paste layouts, where I would photocopy the comic, either out of my sketchbook or off the Bristol that I drew it on, and if there was any resizing that needed to be done I would actually just do it on the copy machine. Then I would actually create a dummy version of the book by cutting out the comics and pasting them onto these pieces of paper, and then I would go and recopy those so that I had a flat copy that could then be run through the actual… you know, at the top of the machine, what is that called?
DB: The duplexer?
LP: Yeah, the duplexer. I would actually then take it to a copy shop and have them run it off for me in quantities of 500 copies. I have not done a book like that in a pretty long time. I actually was self-publishing, or am technically still self-publishing a series called I Swallowed the Key to My Heart, and that is an autobiographical story about breaking up with the guy from Will You Still Love Me If I Wet The Bed, and those are magazine-sized. So they’re bigger, they’re larger than what you would consider a normal self-published 8.5×11 folded in half. These are actually 11×17, then folded in half.
DB: So for UK listeners, this is the difference between A4 and A3, I think. Thereabouts.
LP: Whenever I’ve had to design things for shops in London, they always are like, ‘A-whatever,’ and I have to look it up. And it’s always a few centimetres difference than what our sheet of paper would be, and I’m like, ‘Augh! Metric system!’
DB: Po-tay-toe, po-tat-toe.
LP: You’ve got a lot of fries/chips, you call them chips right?
LP: The cultural differences, they run so deep.
DB: It’s like we’re speaking a different language.
LP: I know, I can hardly understand you, and I’m sure that if your listeners are in the UK they’ll be like, ‘What is she blathering on about?’
DB: I’m going to subtitle it, it’s fine, don’t worry.
LP: So with that book, I made it at a larger size, which has actually been a pretty big burden for me to keep it in print, because it costs a lot of money, and it costs more money to make a copy of an issue now than it did when I started back in 2010. How sad that I’ve only drawn three issues of that book in five years, but I’ve done so many other things.
DB: But you’ve done so many other things, yeah.
LP: I’ve done so many other things, and the first two issues of that were this, I laid them out in that cut and paste manner, and then the last one I just scanned it all in and laid it out in Photoshop, and you can actually see a very big quality difference in the printing of it, because it’s not a photocopy of a photocopy that was resized on a copy machine.
DB: It’s not so many steps removed.
LP: Right, but you know, I like the charm that comes from laying things out by hand, and it really just actually makes a lot more sense to me than doing it on a computer.
DB: Yeah, I think with all my books I do that same thing, I mock them up and I have a hand printed thing that I can check, or feel, and see how much of a book it feels like before I print it myself, or send it to a printer or something. I like to have that tactile bit.
LP: Oh yeah, definitely when I’m laying out a book on the computer, I still have to make a mock up of it so that I know, because it’s not going to be… if you’re laying it out for print, page one will be here and page 20 will be here on the same sheet, so I have to make sure that I’m doing that correctly. A good part of when you do it, the cut and paste layout is that all you had to do is cut it out and paste it on again.
DB: It sounds so simple!
LP: But I’ll stop being a technophobe. Whenever I do lectures at art schools, and I talk about my work, inevitably the first question that someone asks after I’ve done my entire presentation is they’re like, ‘So you draw, like, entirely on the computer?’ I have to be like, ‘Ah, no! That’s not even a thing for me!’
DB: I get asked a lot, ‘How do you get that watercolour effect?’ I’m like, ‘Watercolours. Really simple, I just colour it with watercolours,’ but people seem to be married to the idea now that it has to happen inside a computer for some reason, and I don’t know why that is.
LP: Yeah, some people say that autobio comics are cheating, I think drawing your comics entirely on the computer is cheating. I’ll just say that right now.
DB: Ooh! Right, well I think that sounded like the sound of a gauntlet going down, didn’t it?
LP: Yeah, start some fights. No, I don’t feel that way, but you know, it’s funny because when I first… when I was in third or fourth grade and I was like, ‘I want to draw comics when I grow up,’ this whole, you scan your pages in and get them ready for print yourself, that wasn’t part of the deal. People just drew their comics and someone else did all of that technical layout stuff, and I wish that I could go through time, and that was the case. I think what actually just needs to happen, is I just need to get so famous that I can be like, ‘I’m going to draw this book, but someone else is going to do all the scanning, Photoshopping.’
DB: ‘They will courier it away from me!’
LP: I know people who have interns who do all their scanning and clean up for them.
DB: Sounds lovely.
LP: Unfortunately two days after I finished scanning all of Tomboy, someone from our local art school emailed me and was like, ‘I’m a student who would love to be your intern. Do you have need for an intern?’ I almost jumped out the window into traffic. (Laughs).
DB: I can only imagine.
LP: Yeah well, you know, at times I’m like, ‘It would be great to have someone who did that stuff for me,’ and I still think it would, but I’m also the kind of person who is so used to being alone and not having to talk to people, that I feel like it would almost be really hard for me to have another person in on the process, do you know what I mean?
LP: When something goes wrong and I only have myself to blame, I’m like, ‘Well, at least I know who the asshole is, it’s me.’ But if there was someone else in on it that I could be like…
DB: ‘It’s you!’
LP: Wolfman, you did it!
DB: (Laughs). People are just going to have to go to your website to figure this out, aren’t they?
DB: Ah, this is a marketing strategy.
LP: It’s pretty obvious right away.
DB: Yeah, I hope so, I hope so.
LP: Go to lizprincepower.com to find out what Wolfman is!
DB: What is a Wolfman? So if there’s things that you want people to do right now, if there’s books that you want people to buy, and websites that you want them to visit, or Twitter feeds and Tumblrs that you want them to go and follow and tap little ‘likes’ and favourites into. What do you want people to do right now?
LP: Well, all of my social media things are listed on my main website, as well as links to where you can buy my books, some of them directly from me, which is very helpful.
DB: Because all the money goes to you?
LP: All the money goes to me when you buy a book from me.
DB: And goes to Wolfman food?
LP: Yes, that’s right.
DB: You get to feed your Wolfman.
LP: For feeding the Wolf, and that is lizprincepower.com, very easy.
DB: Awesome. Liz, thank you very much for speaking to me.
LP: Thanks for having me.