Welcome to the CBR SUNDAY CONVERSATION, a new weekly feature where we speak in-depth with some of the most interesting members of the comic book community. These conversations will range from analyses of their current projects to a look at the lives they lead outside of comics.
Rebekah Isaacs had been working in comics for years at Devil’s Due and Marvel Comics before she made a splash in 2010 with “DV8: Gods and Monsters,” the Brian Wood-scripted miniseries that relaunched the ’90s Wildstorm superteam for a new generation. Isaacs redesigned the characters and showed that she was as adept with the small character moments as she was with the fight scenes. Since then Isaacs has worked on a few projects at Marvel including “Iron Age: Alpha,” “Iron Age” Omega” and “Captain American and Falcon.” She also illustrated the miniseries “Magus” published by 12 Gauge Comics and written by her then-boyfriend, now-fiance Jon Price.
Currently, Isaacs pencils and inks the monthly “Angel and Faith” series from Dark Horse Comics. The Sunday Conversation reached her at her home in Florida.
CBR News: Rebekah, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. It’s funny because the purpose of these conversations are to talk a little about life outside of work, but the running theme seems to be that most people’s free time is spent doing work or on a work-related hobby.
Rebekah Isaacs: Yeah. I guess when you’re in a creative field, everything does end up tying back in some way. If you’re doing it right, you can draw inspiration from just about everything but it’s nice to have something that doesn’t actually involve sitting in front of a computer if you’re a writer or using pencils if you’re an artist.
When we spoke before about what you’re into, you mentioned gaming and collectibles and that before you were working in comics you were cosplaying at anime conventions.
You knew I was going to bring that up.
Oh yeah. That’s the piece de resistance. [Laughs] That’s the fun one that everybody really likes to hear, but I don’t think that many people really know it. I love costuming. I really tire people who know me complaining about how creators are kind of discouraged from doing things like that. I mean, we could do it if we wanted to. Lately I’ve been thinking about just taking maybe a Friday or Sunday at the next convention I go to and going in costume.
Being a professional, you can’t really do that because all the other people you deal with will be like, “hmm…”
Yeah I wouldn’t be able to show up for signings or sit at my table that’s for sure. [Laughs] I’m pretty sure [Dark Horse editor] Scott Allie would deny ever having met me. Ever. For the rest of his life. [Laughs]
So how did you first get into gaming?
We had a Playstation and we didn’t have anything before that. I saw “Final Fantasy VII” on the racks at Blockbuster. I think it was ’97. I was maybe thirteen. I’d never played anything like that before but the cover looked cool to me for whatever reason. I convinced my parents to let me rent it and that was the first game that I really played on a Playstation. I ended up finishing the entire game just by renting it. I don’t think I bought it until after I beat it. I ended up renting it like twenty times just going back and re-renting it. I was dumb and didn’t get that it would be more practical for me to just buy the game. [Laughs] But from then I was really hooked on RPGs. That’s mostly what I play. Action adventure stuff sometimes, but I’m really just a big RPG nerd.
What are you playing now?
Right now I don’t have anything going right now. I’m playing “Yakuza 4” on Playstation 3. That was my last big gaming purchase. I finally got a Playstation 3 after I’d had a few too many beers at the mall. That’s my drunk shopping damage. I don’t go out and Internet shop or buy a bunch of clothes. I come home with high dollar game machine purchases. [Laughs] I got “Yakuza 4” for that. That’s really cool so far. I discovered that there’s a huge Playstation 1 RPG library on the online Playstation Store so I’ve been trying to get through some of those. I’ve been playing “Xenogears” on that right now.
Okay, you’re clearly getting drunk too early. You have to go out later when the stores are closed.
[Laughs] There’s this really great mall around here where all the stores stay open really late. It’s an outdoor mall and there are all these restaurants and bars and you have to pass through the store area to get back to your car so [Laughs] it’s very deviously planned. But yeah, you’re right.
You moved to Florida recently. Last time we spoke you were still living in New York City.
We moved here in December of last year.
What made you move to Florida? Or maybe I should ask what made you leave New York?
I think we just had our fill of it, especially the cost of living. We figured, if we can work from anywhere, might as well just give the tropics a shot for a while.
So why Florida?
Jon has some family here. His dad lives down here. I was actually born in Florida and lived here for about five years. We both had a fairly decent grasp of the way of life here. We’re fairly comfortable here. We’ve both spent time here in the past. We also knew that it was super cheap and that’s a big part. We’re here just kind of taking an extended vacation in a way. Regrouping and planning our next move.
Do you have any idea where that next move will be?
So you can join everyone else in comics.
Exactly. [Laughs] In a couple years every sequential arts professional will live there. I love it out there. We visited there for ECCC two years ago and it was just amazing. I have a lot of friends from Savannah College of Art and Design there. It’s a great place.
I didn’t really work in a studio in New York but I had a lot of artist friends who I would hang out with now and then and I didn’t realize until I moved down here just how important it is to be close to people who work in a similar field to you. When you’re entirely around people with 9 to 5 jobs it just drives you a little crazy. The grass starts to look a little green over on that side. [Laughs] There’s no one to empathize with you and help you pull through those nights when you’re just having a really tough time and you’re not drawing anything right and you’re working until two in the morning. It’s really great to have that kind of camaraderie, so I’m really looking forward to that about Portland.
Portland is nice because it’s smaller and cheaper than New York or San Francisco and it’s a city where you don’t need a car.
Yeah. And I don’t drive, so that’s a big deal. Probably one of the worst things about living in Florida is the not driving thing. [Laughs]
In Florida where you are, is there much to do without a car? Are you out in the suburbs where you have to drive everywhere?
Yeah, kind of. There is some public transportation here, but it’s really poor. Basically people only use it if they have absolutely no choice, so I rely on Jon to get most places. [Laughs] Which is good in a way because I can’t be distracted. I can’t just be like, I’m going to go shopping and just decide that I want to leave my desk at any time. It keeps me working, but yeah, that’s been a big problem. I have a fear of driving. I’ve actually never had a license and never driven except for trying to practice with my parents. It just never stuck. I’m just one of those weirdos.
Did you grow up in a city where it just wasn’t a big deal?
No, actually I grew up in the middle of nowhere in the Appalachian foothills. We lived about twenty minutes away from any sort of town. I think that probably had a lot to do with how I turned out and what I do for a living and the skills that I developed. I wanted to just sit around and read and draw all day. I was very much a homebody, but it never really bothered me when I was growing up. I never really thought about it until I was an adult and I needed to get places. New York was great for that.
You mentioned that you’re a big collector. What do you collect?
I collect a lot of random old lady knickknacks. I love any sort of tacky wall art. My favorite piece is one of the sad-eyed children prints. Have you ever seen these from the ’70s? It’s little children with huge, huge sad eyes where you can see the tear drops are just about to start and they’re just standing there looking sad. [Laughs] It’s really bizarre to me but I was really obsessed with them for a while and I have this great print in a frame.
And I collect anything with Princess Leia on it, but especially action figures or dolls. Any kind of figurative representation of her.
I got the collecting thing from my parents because they’re hoarders — not the scary ones that you see on TV, but the flea market/antique-ing kind. They always had great knickknacks and toys and old vintage things around the house. There was this huge bag of action figures that they’d collected over the years and most of them they didn’t even know what they were. They had just found them at random yard sales and kept them for me and my brother. I found, I didn’t know at the time, but it was a 1977 original Princess Leia figure. It was from the first line where the costumes are in no way representative of what they actually are in the films. She has pants on and doesn’t have a cape. She’s basically just wearing a white pantsuit and this little black belt. For some reason I was obsessed with her. I hadn’t seen “Star Wars.” I didn’t know that this was a Princess Leia action figure or anything else about her, but I carried her around with me everywhere. I think I was maybe seven or eight. I would tuck her into the waistband of my pants or skirt so that her arms were hanging over so she would stay there. [Laughs] It was so pathetic. But I loved this little figure and my mom recognized the character and they rented “Star Wars” for me and I absolutely fell in love with it. That was how I got introduced to “Star Wars,” just randomly finding this action figure. I eventually lost this one Princess Leia which was just a tragic moment in my childhood. [Laughs] Since then I’ve got two others that were the exact same one and tons of others of newer editions.
Do your editors at Dark Horse know of this particular obsession?
I think so. I’ve mentioned it to them a couple times. They know that I am definitely interested in doing something “Star Wars” in the future, although I have heard that it can be very stressful dealing with the licensing portion of that and the approval portion.
So “Star Wars” was your first geek obsession.
Definitely. About the same time I started watching the “Star Trek” movies with my dad and so I got really into that. I wanted my parents to buy me the models of the Enterprise and things. I hadn’t seen any of the TV shows, though. I had this huge crush on Kirk and then my dad and I went to go see “Generations” in the theater and that was horrifying. [Laughs] Since then I’ve seen a lot of the TV shows and “Next Generation” but I’ll never really love any of them as much as I love the movies. But “Star Wars” was what really got me into sci-fi in general. I think it will always be my greatest fan love.
How did you end up cosplaying?
It was high school. I think sophomore year might have been the first time I did anything at an actual convention. My mom used to be a seamstress so she’d always make me things, costumes for halloween, things for different dress up events at school or wherever. So I’d been Princess Leia for Halloween of course, and I don’t remember how I heard about Anime Weekend Atlanta — and I don’t even remember how I heard about cosplay because it wasn’t a big deal at that time. There weren’t special cosplayers at that point, there weren’t cosplay expos. The masquerade was very simple and nothing elaborate whatsoever but somehow I did hear about it. I showed my mom a picture of Luna from “Lunar: Silver Star Story.” It’s this obscure Japanese anime RPG. I forget who made it. It’s one of the ones that had tons of actual anime cut scenes thrown in to it. It was a cute little game. It wasn’t a classic by any means but it was fun. I really liked this character. My mom did most of the work with that and I just helped a little. I ended up winning an award the first time. I think I won a gift certificate to one of the booths where I picked up some random manga. “Maison Ikoku,” I think. From then on I was obsessed with it. I didn’t do it for very long after that but I started to get really serious about it and wanting everything to be perfect. Some of the people doing it now their costumes are so beautiful and so professional I don’t know how they have time for anything else because the ones I did were nowhere near that and it still took up every waking hour of my time for months.
Sometimes I feel like they’re doing this as a job try out more than a hobby.
Yeah and sometimes I think they do. I know people who cosplay who work in fashion or costume design and I think they’d be crazy to not use them as their portfolio when trying to get work. It’s amazing. I have a lot of respect for it.
Do you watch the parades or masquerades at cons?
I haven’t had time to go to one of those in so long. Or even the masquerade or the costume contest. Although I did get to go to the one at WonderCon last year and it was pretty cool. Staying at the table and doing sketches and commissions takes up so so much time, I’m thinking about maybe doing something for Dragon Con this year, maybe Sunday.
Something that covers your face?
Yeah. [Laughs] I mean I’m not worried about people seeing me. If I’m not shirking my duties and I’m still making myself available for panels or for anybody who wants stuff signed the other days I’m not going to be embarrassed by it. Do you know Ming Doyle? You may have seen the costumes that she does. She did a really cool Thor one time. At a convention she actually was working her table in costume. I don’t know if I’ll go that far. I’m a little shy about doing it at my actual table.
You mentioned that one of your great obsessions is potato chips.
Chips of any kind.
Strange ones, especially.
As long as it’s not rotten or it’s still alive, I’ll eat it. I’ve eaten silkworms. I’ve eaten scorpions. Those were all cooked. I’ve had raw beef liver, which is actually really delicious. I’m not scared of anything as long as it’s not like I saw a picture once of some sort of bird embryos and they’re pickled and people actually eat them. I forget where. It’s actually a delicacy. I draw the line at anything like that, but just about anything else. I have an iron stomach.
But yes, I am a big fan of potato chips. Especially since we moved down here. In New York the grocery stores don’t always have the most expansive stock. The new special limited edition kinds of chips or cookies or ice cream or whatever can be really hard to find. We would always hear about these potato chip flavors that are coming out and we would get so frustrated trying to find them. If we ever did find them, it was like we just won the lottery. Here they get everything. There’s an entire department of potato chips at Walmart. [Laughs] Which is sad and kind of awful, but for now it’s great. If we hear about a new flavor we have to go get it immediately. I mean I think we’ve probably got five different kinds of bags just waiting to be opened in the pantry right now. We don’t have backups of anything else, just potato chips. [Laughs] For the readers I would definitely recommend going out and trying to find the Classic BLT flavor that Lay’s just came out with. It’s amazing.
Is it different from “New BLT?”
I don’t know. I must have missed the modern BLT.
Maybe it was like New Coke? We blinked and missed it.
I don’t know. Maybe they felt people would be too confused by an acronym, but it’s incredible. Like in Jelly bellies where you can almost taste the different layers of flavor, you can taste the bread part and the tomato part and the bacon part and the mayonnaise part. It’s really a feat of food engineering.
Now I’m hungry. [Laughs]
[Laughs] Well you’ll probably be hungry after eating them for an actual BLT, but it’s a good snack.
We’re talking about our geeky obsessions, but your day job is drawing “Angel and Faith.” Were you a Buffy fan?
Not before I got the job. Not before I started auditioning for the job. They had me test me out for the book at first. I started watching Season One about six months before I got the e-mail asking me to try out for the book. Jon is a huge Buffy fan. I just couldn’t get into Season One. Now I love Season One. It’s so fun to go back and watch it knowing what the characters are going to grow into, but at the time I just wasn’t feeling it. I hated high school dramas because I hated high school. [Laughs] So I didn’t really get into it until I started trying out, but now I love it. It’s a great show.
I have to ask, have you ever spoken with Joss?
[Laughs] No. Everyone’s a little disappointed when they find out that I haven’t. He’s obviously an insanely busy dude lately. He sent me a very nice e-mail one time saying that he really liked my stuff. That was awesome. Just to get a personal reply from him. Every now and again something will get forwarded from him and I’ll be on the e-mail chain but just getting a few words form him personally was so great. I haven’t met him in person yet. I hope to remedy that soon. Hopefully I won’t go all fan girl and assault him. [Laughs]
Security will run in at the sound of screaming.
I worry more about what Jon will do if he’s in the same area when it happens. [Laughs]
Or if he’s not allowed to be in the same area when you meet him.
Oh yeah. [Laughs] He’s more likely to go crazy and start blubbering than I am.
Rebekah, thanks so much.
Rebekah Isaacs’ work can be seen each and every month in “Angel & Faith” from Dark Horse Comics. The first trade paperback, “Angel & Faith: Live Through This,” collects the first five issues and goes on sale this Wednesday, June 20.