19 Questions with Lora Innes
By John Wilson
1. So who is Lora Innes?
Lora Innes is a girl from Pittsburgh who moved to Ohio to attend art school and never went home. She met a boy there, convinced him to marry her, and has stayed in Ohio with him ever since. She loves Jesus, her family, her closest friends, and sleeping in--even on weekdays. She votes in every election, loves good, dark, strong coffee, and enjoys marathon TV nights with her husband, watching series on DVD, eating junk food and feeling a little guilty about it. She loves road trips where she gets to drive, visiting historic places, learning in general, reading books of all kinds, and rocking out to ridiculous pop songs because they put her in a good mood and life is hard enough as is. She is especially fond of the ocean and the city of New Orleans and worked for four months after "The Storm" to get the city back on its feet. She loves when Mike grills out in the summer, participates in silly family traditions of all kinds, adores campfires, snuggly blankets and vows to one day live in the French Quarter. And oh yeah, she writes and draws comics, absolutely loves it, and feels eternally grateful for being able to live a life she loves.
2. Tell us about The Dreamer.
The Dreamer is my delight. I feel like events in my life and my own personal growth as a human being converged at the right time and place to enable me to tell this story. I wanted to draw comics since I was a teenager but I think if I had done it then, I wouldn't have lived enough to write in a compelling way about life. A lot of fiction by young writers reads flat--all the characters have the same levels of depth, and they often are just different shaped cookies cut from the same dough. I think being older has helped me write teenagers who act and think like teenagers, but also adults who act and think like adults. That just comes from living life, experiencing loss and waiting and love and changing, disappointment and grief, elation and compassion, and above all, seeing yourself evolve and mature as you look back on your life. The Dreamer is all of these things coming together artistically in a format that I love telling.
Oh, you wanted a story summary? High Schooler Bea Whaley begins having vivid, reoccurring dreams about the American Revolution, and a soldier named Alan Warren. Lots of tight pants, 18th century cleavage, and hot guys.
3. The Dreamer is unique in the comics' world, how did you arrive at this particular idea?
I was freelancing commercial illustration work at the time; my full-time job had let me go as the company was undergoing major changes. I was still freelancing for them from my house, but the work wasn't nearly as enjoyable outside of the creative environment the office had provided. So I decided to pursue comics again. My friend Beau Smith challenged me to forget about drawing Spiderman (since I wasn't that good at it anyway) and asked me to draw the story that I wanted to tell.
Over the next few months, I figured out what that story was, and found a way to bring a lot of my interests together. I love American History, and high school dramas. I love drawing fashionable clothes, and I love drawing soldiers. I had a dream one night, much like the one Bea has in issue one (though it featured a shirtless Josh Holloway instead of a red-coated Alan Warren) and I woke up wanting to go back. That was it: What if you could go back? It all grew from there.
4. You do it all on The Dreamer...what is your favorite part of the process?
I've grown to love dialoguing with my fans online. There are so many cool people who read my story! I love meeting them and talking to them about art and history and The Dreamer. Who knew that aspect of self-promotion would be so fun?
When it comes to the actual stuff you see on a page of the comic... I love doing layouts and rough art--the stage where I get to pick camera angles and panels and expressions and environments and costumes. That's all really fun. It's the idea stuff.
5. Every artist has that one art supply they swear by...what's yours?
My 0.5 mm lead holder. I couldn't go back to drawing with a regular pencil ever, ever again. The point on that thing is like a needle tip. You can get such amazing detail. (http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/002726.php)
6. Why did you choose comics as your vehicle to tell your story?
It was more like I picked The Dreamer to be the comic I would tell, and not the other way around. It was always comics. I love comics. Comics, comics, comics. Drawings and words together. I love it!
7. Who are some of your comic influences?
J. Scott Campbell and Brandon Choi's run on Gen 13. Sean McKeever and Takeshi Miyazawa's run on Spiderman Loves Mary Jane. David Mack's passion and success for doing his own thing, his own way. Jeff Smith's epic long-format Bone, riddled with lovable, unforgettable characters. I grew up reading all things X-Men in the nineties, and all the original Image titles. I know that artistically those artists influenced my older art. It's since grown from those roots to be its own thing.
8. What comics are on your night stand right now?
An enormous stack that is probably driving my husband insane. He's asked me several times to put them away, lol. But I can't until I read them! I have Daredevil and Ultimate Comics: Spiderman, X-Factor, Billy Tucci's run on Sergeant Rock, a couple of Black Coat comics, and a stack of things that people gave me at conventions this summer. Oh, and Invincible: Large quantities of Invincible, but I've actually been reading through those.
9. You graduated Suma Cum Laude with a BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design, a prestigious honor from a prestigious school...how has your education informed your work?
Well, you spend four years doing nothing but pursing art and growing as an artist. Just that opportunity to focus so much time into your art is a huge blessing. Before that, my art was on my notebooks and homework assignments, and I drew during class and lunch and homeroom and on the bus and basically any place and time I could. In art school, you're there for that sole purpose. It's wonderful.
I also realized during that time, through my animation classes, that I didn't want to be an animator: I wanted to be a comic book artist. So senior year I was able to take a several Independent Studies instead of regular classes, where I worked on building up a comic book portfolio and a promotional website.
10. You began your artistic career in the commercial arts...how does that experience benefit your comics work?
The man I worked under, Jim Theodore of The Artifact Group is hands down one of the most amazing illustrators working today. He can draw anything and match any style. And the work he does in his own ';style' is brilliant. I've secretly wanted to have him draw a Dreamer cover for me, but I can't afford him, lol. He is fantastic though and took the time to teach me how to draw. In the three years that I worked for him, everything I drew he redrew and made me do over. Which initially is quite demoralizing, but looking back on it, I grew in leaps and bounds as an artist because of his tough critique.
I worked for a variety of clients, and learned a ton of different techniques. I learned Photoshop and Illustrator and got comfortable and very efficient in those programs. I learned to meet deadlines and stay motivated, working on something because it was due, and not because I was interested in it. That one thing was priceless: breaking free from the lazy art student trap of working on what I was interested in and procrastinating on the rest. Deadlines used to be a huge motivator for me, but after my stint at the Artifact Group I learned how to work long before a due date, so you don't have to crank a piece out at the last minute and be unhappy with it.
11. The Dreamer was recently picked up by IDW ...what has changed for you and your series?
A lot more people know who I am now, and a lot more people have heard of or now read The Dreamer. Before it was just a little webcomic. Now it's a Harvey-Award nominated graphic novel. That's a huge jump in not a lot of time. The IDW guys love The Dreamer. Bob Schreck came up to me at Baltimore Con to introduce himself to me and tell me how much he loves the book. Now that's a good feeling!
Creatively, they haven't interfered at all. I think the closest thing to change was them putting a variant artist on the series, and my editor and I having a talk about using "To Be Continued" at the end of the graphic novel. I can live with that level of interference, lol!
12. You have also done a bit of work for DC/Vertigo...how was the "working for the big company" experience?
I only penciled a really small project- a four page story for American Splendor. But it was a blast getting to work on a Harvey Pekar script and getting invoices and letters in the mail with "DC COMICS" on the return address. It's the dream. It wasn't much to brag about, but it was a goal achieved.
13. Do you believe the theory that "women don't read comics" is still true or was it ever true?
Women read my comics! And I read comics when I was young. Do less women than men read American comics? Sure. But in the age we live with webcomics and manga, I don't believe women read comics less, they just don't read mainstream American comics. And that's because I don't think that American mainstream comics are written with women in mind. I loved them as a teen, but I'd put up with trips to the Shi'ar Empire to find out if Rogue and Gambit would ever kiss! I think if anything, more American women read comics now than they used to ten and twenty years ago, and if the mainstream companies want in on the readers web and manga attract, they'll have to be willing to change some things or launch new titles.
14. Do you ever get ridiculed by your "fine arts friends" for working in comics?
Hmm. Not really, but I guess I don't hang out with a lot of fine art people anymore. If anything, I have a deeper interest in fine art than the people in my circle. But back in high school, one of my art teachers told me I was far too brilliant to ';waste it' on comic books and animation. My ex-boyfriend snubbed it too and told me I could do ';so much more,' and so I dropped comics for awhile when I started art school. But we broke up after freshman year and I soon realized it was for the best. I re-found myself outside of an unhealthy codependent relationship, and stopped caring what other people valued: I loved comics and I wanted to make them. One day I'm going to die, and what difference does it make whether I spend my life making ';high art' or ';low brow comics' when I'm dead? I think it matters more if I enjoyed my life while I was living it. If no one remembers The Dreamer in ten years, that's fine. Because I'm having the time of my life right now, and that's something I'll take with me for the rest of my life.
15. How do you feel about the idea that it is harder for a woman to break into comics?
For me, being a woman has been an advantage: less women attend conventions and work in the industry of print comics, so people remember me a lot more than just another guy they meet. The kind of work I do isn't even in the same league as most big name artists on super-hero books, but it also isn't the kind of work I want to do. So I think that has kept me from landing jobs on a bigger title book, but not being a woman. Even Marvel loved my work but said "It's not what we do." They said I could keep doing what I wanted to do, or get some new "Marvel" work together and send it in. I decided to stick with The Dreamer for now.
16. What advice do you have for aspiring creators?
If you want to draw comics you have to draw every day. You have to be one of those people who must draw. If you haven't drawn in a few days, is it irritating like an itch? If that's you, go for it. But if it's not... really get serious. Try to draw 10 consecutive pages in 2 weeks. If you can do that, and you still want to draw comics when you're done, you might be cut out for it after all. But if you can't get past page three and it's been a few months, I don't think comics is for you. At least not drawing them. It's so much work, and no one drives you--you have to be self-motivated. No one can put that kind of drive inside of you; it has to come from within. A lot of art careers aren't as drawing intensive, but comics isn't one of them.
17. If you had the chance to go back and start again...what, if anything, would you change?
I was pretty starry-eyed and naive about the industry. My expectations about what it meant to be published were unrealistic. If I could go back and tell myself what I've learned now when I started, it would save me a lot of heartache, disappointment and tears. But those experiences have made me stronger, and even more determined to stick to it. So they've had their value, even if they were extremely difficult.
I would also get a bigger buffer before I went live on the comic. The whole working with no buffer thing has gotten truly tiresome.
18. What is one thing that your fans would be surprised to learn about you?
Hmm. I spent two and a half years studying Theology and majored in Preaching. Bet they didn't know that!
19. Final Thoughts?
Just... thanks for the interview, John. It's been fun.
More Scenes From The Dreamer!
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Nominated for two Harvey Awards: Best New Series and Best New Talent
Adventure. Romance. War. 1776 is back.
John Wilson - John Wilson is a life long comic book fan and recent comics professional. In addition to his Graphic Content column of Comic and How-to book reviews on Comic Related, he writes content for Sketch Magazine.net, is a digital colorist for Unleashed Press, a moderator on the Art Unleashed forum for Blue Line Pro and Sketch Magazine and writes his own comic stories. John is also an Art educator, Multi-media artist and graphic designer. In the other five minutes of his day, he spends time with his wife, Kim and their two dogs and reads more magazines than should be humanly possible.
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