Cartoonist Kate Leth spent some time discussing her comics career with Jonah Weiland in the CBR TV Tiki Room at New York Comic Con, from writing and illustrating her “Kate or Die” webcomic to her participation in Beware the Valkyries, an online community she founded to provide a place for female comic shop workers to gather and discuss the unique issues they face in their work.
Leth also went into detail about the challenges of her latest gig, writing “Edward Scissorhands” for IDW Publishing, opening up about how she deals with the book’s darker tones, which are different from her typical, more kid-friendly comics work. The acclaimed cartoonist explained how the series artist, Drew Rausch, helps bring the book in line with creator Tim Burton’s very specific sensibilities and style.
On wearing different hats as a writer and an artist and which she is more confident doing: I would say it depends on the project, because there are certain things when I draw, I’m like “I know I can do that, and I know I’m going to do a decent job.” When I started doing these badges for “Lumberjanes” and for “Welcome to Night Vale” — I had never used Illustrator before, when I started doing those, and I just kind of did it as a fan project. And then it got picked up, and I’m like the badge guy. So that’s really crazy, and I do feel comfortable with that, so when doing those projects, I’m like, “I know I can do that.” With writing, everything is different, because, you know, I was asked to do a graphic novel before I had written an issue of a comic. So I had to figure out how to do that, and having to learn how to do an ongoing series versus a miniseries. So I’m testing it out. I’m not fully comfortable in either field, but I’m feeling challenged and having a lot of fun.
On the challenges of working on books designed for a younger audience versus “Edward Scissorhands” with its darker tone and built-in audience: It’s completely different. It’s so strange when I have one issue due within one week of the other and the mindset that you have — you know, “Bravest Warriors” and “Fraggle Rock” are different enough, but they’re both all-ages. I mean “Fraggle Rock” is a slightly younger audience, so you have to keep that in mind. But “Scissorhands” is so different, and I mean I was a Tim Burton fanatic growing up, I still am. I cannot even describe to you the face that I made when I got an e-mail from Chris Ryall at IDW that just said, “How do you feel about Edward Scissorhands?” I was just like, “I can’t even. I don’t even know where to start.” I watched the movie about five times in a weekend to get back into it and just figuring it out — It’s intimidating enough to work with licensed properties on things like “Bravest Warriors” and “Fraggle Rock,” because I have respect for Henson, obviously, but Scissorhands, I mean — he’s a teen goth. So, trying to get that right, and trying to get the voice right, and trying to do it justice without rehashing the original material was obviously a challenge, but I’m very excited about it, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job.
On bringing Tim Burton’s aesthetic to a comic book:I think a lot of it is Drew’s art. Because Drew Rausch is doing it. He grew up on the same kind of stuff. The first thing that I thought of when I saw his art and his original sketches was Tim Burton’s sketches for “Nightmare Before Christmas.” [A] crazy, over-exaggerated, really sketchy line art style that is so different from when you see it in film, it works so well, and is so much like [Burton’s] style. Drew really helps that come across, and obviously there are a lot of dark purples and greens and spirals and stripes. It’s trying to embrace that dark and creepy, but with a lot of heart. So trying not to just go for the stylistic elements, but to also go for the things that really hit — especially his earlier movies, that just really were about weirdos just trying to find their place. So we really focused on that as opposed to being like, “Oh, we’re just going to make it fun and Danny Elfman music in the background,” which you wish there could be when you are reading it.
On the online community she created with BewaretheValkyries.com she created and how women are being received more positively in the comics industry: It’s so much. The group when we originally formed it was basically — from my perspective, I was a girl working at a comic shop and because it’s a strange, niche market and it’s not really like a lot of other forms of retail, I just didn’t feel like I had a lot of people to talk to about like that crazy splash page at the end of “Saga” or you know the way you — sometimes you deal with unpleasant things every once and awhile and people over stepping their boundaries and things like that, and I just kind of created this network through a bunch of girls that I knew through Tumblr that worked in comic shops, and the word just started spreading, and people just kept on joining and I wanted it to be an army and it’s kind of ended up that way, which is exciting.
It’s really great because there is this network of support. You know, somebody has a really bad day, or something happens, like there’s girls who — something really upsetting will happen at their store, or they’ve been robbed, or like someone gets fired, or like there’s something bad — they come to the group and there are 300 girls who are there for them and who are going to talk to them, and there are so many friendships that have been formed within the group. I see people posting all the time that they are going to visit each other, they’re starting a pen pal group, or they’re making a comic together. That’s really exciting for me, that people found it from that place. But it is also really positive. Like there’s a comic exchange, so girls that are looking for, “Oh, I didn’t get this variant cover,” or, “I know you’ve got a shop exclusive,” where people will trade comics. There’s a couch surfing thing. So people that are traveling to different cities can stay with other Valkyries. Just stuff like that. It’s just an amazing network, and everyday that I check it, something new has happened and I’m like, “Oh, that’s so wonderful.”
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