Love & Comics: Creators on the Importance of Family–Part 1

When I first began reading comics in the early 90s, the independent scene popped with creators like Terry Moore, Jeff Smith, and Wendy and Richard Pini.  These true-life superheroes attained success with the help of their teammates—their families.  The self-publishing landscape is a warzone, and without the support of family, many creators would not survive.

There are many ways to break into the comic biz.  You can do it the Marvel way; you can do it the Kickstarter way; you can do it a million damn ways.  No matter how you get in the biz, you need to hustle; you need to be creative; you need to promote yourself; you need to understand the business.  For many people, creating comics will be a side business to the job that pays the bills.  They work a 9-5, bang out comics at night and then promote their work on weekends.  How can creators have a life and family?  How do they juggle it all?  Do they all date total geeks or artists?

I recently proposed to my girlfriend of five years.  She said yes (mazal tov to me).  She isn’t a geek or artist (GASP!).  At the same time, my creative career is moving forward faster than Quicksilver (mazal tov to me).  I wonder how to find balance.  At this year’s New York Comic Con, I decided to be a sneaky sneak and delve into the personal lives of the creators who inspire me.  I wanted to see how their significant others and families influence their careers.  Interestingly, many creators working for the big two would not discuss their personal lives.  Meanwhile, every single indie creator I asked proudly credited their families.  In some cases, their families were standing by their sides at their booths, sometimes even hiding under the tables.  Here is what I learned:

Terry Moore and his wife Robyn

terry and Robyn mooreProminent works:Strangers in Paradise, Rachael Rising, Echo

Awards won: Eisner Award, GLAAD Award, National Cartoonists Society Reuben Award

On marrying a comic creator:

“I’d never talked to her much about comics until I got into comics,” says Terry.  Once Terry told Robyn he wanted to break into the field, Robyn was understandably worried.  Robyn says, “I was wondering how we were going to live, how we were going to eat. …  I didn’t know that you could make a living doing comics and he’s proved that you could.  So we’ve been doing it for 22 years.”

On how Robyn got involved:

At first, Terry attended the cons alone, but after a year of hitting the 90s comic-con scene, it became overwhelming.  Terry said to Robyn, “Okay honey, I need you now because it’s too much for me.”  Their first con together was in San Diego.  He warned her, “Everybody has got black t-shirts and piercings and tattoos but they’re all really sweet people.” She said, “Okay, I’m not afraid.”

Terry recalls, “She just loved it. She just embraced it, and we’ve been happy ever since.”

“I was never scared.  People are so warm and welcoming, it’s such a great community… there was never a moment’s hesitation,” Robyn says.

On working together:Strangers-In-Paradise

“[Robyn’s] my business partner, my editor. We bounce things off each other and stuff.  It’s really, after a while, especially to be an indie/self publisher–It takes 2 people. …  If you’re really good enough to be a cartoonist, then you’re probably not a great business person also. I know a lot of cartoonists that have a business person partner whether it’s a husband or a wife.”

They do have debates, often about subject matter.

Terry says, “She calls me out every now and then or we’ll have a fight about something.  Sometimes I’ll think, ‘Okay, that needs to be in there for this reason, and I’m going after this reason,’ and she says, ‘Well I don’t like it,’ and I say, ‘Well, that’s the story,’ and we wrestle.  She beats the crap out of me and she wins.”

On if Robyn is now a comic fan:

Robyn never read comics prior to Terry’s career.  Now, she says, “If something catches my eye or somebody brings us something that looks interesting, I’ll certainly check it out.”

On advice to other couples in the business:

Robyn says, “Be aware of each other’s space and listen to each other’s opinions.  Everybody has their own opinion, and we may not always agree but we respect each other’s’ opinions. …  Twenty-four hours a day is a lot and working together and living together… sometimes you just need a break.”

Terry points out, “She’s a morning person and I’m a night person and then there’s a big overlap in the day where we do everything together.  It kind of works out.  It’s a lifestyle.”

“Well, for two years I kept saying, ‘I quit! I quit! I quit!’ Then you kind of work it out,” Robyn says.  Terry then screamed, “You can’t quit, you’re fired!”

N. Steven Harris

n stevenKnown for:Watson and Holmes and Ajala: A Series of Adventures

Awards: 4 Glyph awards, Eisner Award nominated

On if his wife is a geek:Book-3-Cover

“She’s [Bianca Dorsey of  Amaspiritartist] more of a fine artist. …  She does the jewelry I wear, and she also paints.  She paints and she does fabric stuff so she makes dolls, little things like that.”

On the importance of having a supportive significant other:

“She’s very supportive of what I do, and she helps out wherever she can, and however she can.”  He adds that, “Sometimes, you need the financial help as well.”

On significant other horror stories:

N. Steven knows many comic creators whose significant others don’t support their careers.    They stay in unsupportive relationships because “it’s comfortable or because it’s predictable,” but they feel like they have no one to talk to.  When things get difficult, their significant others will tell them to get real jobs or to work for bigger companies.

On his family’s support:

”They were very supportive, too, but my mother and father were not really artists.”  His paternal grandmother’s relatives were artsy.  “I think I was the first one to actually go to college for it and make a living out of it,” he says.  “They were very supportive in me going to an art college since they paid for it.”

Erica Schultz and her husband A.J.

erica and aj schultzProminent Works: M3, Revenge: The Secret Origin of Emily Thorne

Awards: 2012 Burbank International Film Festival Best Comic Book award

On the importance of dating a fellow geek:

“I think that having similar interests is important for a relationship.  The fact that he is a geek like me is great, and the fact that he supports not only what I’m doing but my interests, my wanting to go to conventions and things like that, I think that is very important,” Erica says.

Before they started dating, A.J. was not a huge comic fan although he read them occasionally.  “We got married and she was introducing me to everything.  I definitely read all of the comics she would hand over to me, and now I know pretty much everything Marvel, DC and, now, expanded to the indie world, too,” A.J. says.

On A.J.’s support for Erica when she decided to go into comics:

Erica, previously a poet, and A.J. were together six years when she decided to jump into comics (they have currently been together for twelve years).   She says, “From the beginning, he was very supportive and he said, ‘Why not?  There’s a lot of great comics out there and there’s a lot of crap comics out there, and I know that you could do way better than the crap comics, so let’s do this.’”

On the big team-up:M3 cover

A.J., a television editor by day, proofs Erica’s scripts for grammar and typos and to give a second opinion.  He makes “sure the message is as direct as it can be.”

Erica says, “We’re both very creative people and we’re both very collaborative and we work together in other aspects, not just on the comic book. …  He’s creative as well in his job so we work together, sort of bouncing some ideas off of each other. … One of the two of us will roll over virtually once a week being like, ‘Honey I’ve got a great idea,’ at like three o’clock in the morning.”

On balancing work and their relationship:

A.J. says that it isn’t hard at all, since they both work in entertainment.  “Even before she was really getting gung-ho about her writing, I was already doing the opposite.  She was having to balance with me. …  We both understand the schedule.”   There are times when they have to leave each other alone and do their own things.

On family vacations:

“Any ‘vacation’ that we ever take is basically for a convention,” says Erica.

On being the supportive hubby:

A.J. says, “I love to come to these conventions and help. …  I know it’s four days.  It’s exhausting.  You’re standing all days.  You’re lugging around hundreds of pounds of books.  It’s nice to have someone else’s help. …  I see a lot of actual spouse’s support at these cons.  Girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, wives helping each other out.  And even kids. …  And it’s great to see everyone pitch in because I think you need that.  I think you need your family to be behind you.”

On creativity running in Erica’s family:

“[They are] very creative.  My mother is a nurse full time, but she was also an artist.  My dad worked full time, but he was also a musician and a photographer.  My sister loves to write and stuff.  My brother is just insanely creative in anything.  My brother is one of the people who could do anything, God bless him.  If he wanted to paint, he could probably be the next da Vinci.  We’ve always had very creative roots and I kind of feel that creativity is kind of something that’s genetic.  I think it’s something that can be learned and can be taught, but I also think that you kind of have to have an initial foundation, a little spark inside you to really get out there.”

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez

UTF_Edgardo+KyungProminent Work: Editor-In-Chief of Darryl Makes Comics

On his wife’s geek cred:

Edgardo says, “My wife [ Kyung Jeon of] is a reformed geek.  She never really realized she was a geek until she actually started dating me.  We first started binging off of Thundercats.  Then, we started binging religiously off of Walking Dead.”

When Edgardo started working on Darryl Makes Comics and hitting up the Comic Cons, his wife tagged along.  The first comic she fell for was Scottie Young’s Oz.  Soon after, she met Young and she “totally fanned out.”  At Kansas City Con, she met Tony Moore, and after another bug-out session, she started reading the comic version of The Walking Dead.  By the time she finished the entire series, she was fiending for comics “like a crack head” (Edgardo’s words, not mine).  She got her fix from Saga; Edgardo even let her read his original copies.  She fell in love.

On their love of art:dmc cover

“What’s dope about her is she is actually a fine artist.  She has galleries in New York and South Korea to represent her, and she is in the whole fine art world.  So she’s never really seen or really looked at the comic book art world, and it’s something now that she’s completely fascinated by. ”

“She’s seen the process of me working on this graphic novel with such an array of talent and it’s something that completely blew her away. … She totally gets it, loves it and admires it.  She literally now sees that it’s all art.”

“She’s so dope.”

On his wife reading his work:

“Totally reads it.  In fact, she proofreads my stuff.  She actually catches little color stuff that needs to be done.  Little illustration stuff that needs to be done.  As an artist, she has a really amazing eye for it.”

On his son’s love of comics:

Edgardo proudly boasts that his son is a total “comic book-head.”  He plans to give his collection to him someday.  Edgardo is buddies with Marvel Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso, so Edgardo’s son gets to tour Marvel offices for his birthday.  (Uggggh, my birthdays were never that cool.)  After each visit, Edgardo’s son leaves Marvel HQ with a stack of new comics.  His son currently geeks out over the DMC book as well as Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog  and Mega Man series.

This is part one of a two-part series.  Next week,  I talk to Amy Chu, Kathleen David and Joe Eisma.  See you next Monday.

Photo credits: Terry Moore Photo is from Terry Moore’s Facebook.  N. Steven Harris photo was taken by Rob Taylor.  Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez’s invitation is by Phil Jimenez (penciler) and Gabriel Bautista (colorist).