Rachel Nabors might be one of the biggest names in comics that you've never heard of. Not just because she's a thousand feet tall, although there is that, but because she's been writing "Rachel The Great (and Tuna)" at gURL.com for a while now, quietly getting fairly large page views and an enviable following.
Mostly without being heard of in the comics mainstream. Now a crusty twenty-one, Nabors has been publishing comics since she was seventeen, including being a finalist in the Seventeen Magazine sponsored 2003 CHANEL "Colour of the Year" Contest and becoming the youngest American woman to publish a graphic novel when she released 18 Revolutions, right after her nineteenth birthday.
She also created MangaPunk.com and http://www.subcultureofone.com , got in on the ground floor of the Women's Work Creator's Collective and generally makes a person feel both old and like they've not accomplished enough because by the time they were her age all they'd accomplished was drinking an awful lot.
Or maybe that's just me.
Anyways, CBR News sat down to talk with Nabors about comics, talking cats and how comics can get more girls and women reading.
CBR News: So, Rachel, how'd you get into this whole comics thing?
Rachel Nabors: I started drawing comics as soon as I started reading them. I remember making animal cartoons and superheroine comics when I was nine or so. As I grew up, I started telling less fantastical stories.
I remember going out of my way to watch "Chasing Amy" when I was a teen. After that, I wanted to get into comics, either as an inker or with my own series. Eventually I realized that there is a difference between saying you want to do something and actually doing it. When I was fifteen I started submitting my work to small projects on Digital Webbing. My art was pretty awful at the time, but I persevered and got better. I got my start in webcomics when I was seventeen, around the time I purchased my own laptop. Best investment of my life. It made the process so much easier.
RN: Hell yes. Unlike regular students, I was able to pick and choose my course of study. I focused mainly on the core basics like math, science and writing, and branched out into subjects that held more interest for me like ancient history, ornithology, politics and mythology. I made time to draw every day, and when I got my laptop and Photoshop, I added practicing with those to my curriculum. I think studying on my own also helped me learn to rely on myself to learn or accomplish things. Nobody was going to make me do anything. If I wanted something, it was up to me to get it. I gained a strong sense of self-motivation from the experience.
CBR: What, or who, are your influences?
RN: Right now I am very much under the influence of Junko Mizuno, an excellent Japanese comics creator. Her work is just so slick and stylized. When I started out drawing comics, though, I was a fan of the J. Scott Campbell's take on "Gen 13," and after that " Sailor Moon" put me on the path to bigger, sparklier eyes.
CBR: Where do you get your inspiration and ideas for "Rachel the Great?"
RN: I find inspiration from life: things that happen to me, talking with my friends and fans, snooping around band message boards, watching and listening to people in the mall, reading magazines, and watching far too many British comedies ("French and Saunders" rule, by the way). Most of my stories are formed the same way a comedian writes a skit. You start with a nugget of truth and inspiration, and you build around it using bits of fact and fiction to reach the punchline.
CBR: So how is Rachel the comic version different from Rachel the approximately real version?
RN: Rachel the approximately real version is older and (hopefully) more mature and secure with herself. Comic Rachel is still very much an idealistic innocent.
CBR: Does your cat really talk to you?
RN: My cat has been dead for five years, and yes.
CBR: How'd you get hooked up with gURL.com?
RN: I saw their call for readers' comics submissions when I was seventeen and still starting out. I sent them 15 Revolutions, and they liked it enough to put it up. It has been a joyride ever since then!
CBR: And what's it like?
RN: When I was a teenager it was something I worked on every couple of months in between studying. Now I'm (technically) out of school and have to make a comic every week. It's a rush and a thrill keeping pace. Sometimes I wonder, "Oh no, what happens if this is the last good idea I have for months?" but then I'll see something online or I'll start thinking too much again and boom, there's another idea. I don't have months to mull it over anymore, but my brain seems to have picked up the pace. I'm keeping later hours now, though.
CBR: Do you know how many people are reading your strip?
RN: I have about a thousand subscribers to my personal newsletter at SubcultureofOne.com right now, and when my comics go live at gURL.com they typically bring in about 150,000 page views during the first few days then taper down from there. To put that in perspective, each month gURL.com gets 20 million pageviews, 1.6 million of which come from the comix section.
CBR: You live in the middle of nowhere, or at least just to the left – good or bad for making comics?
RN: Good: I get to hole up far away from other people so I can focus on my comics. I find other people distracting, so the isolation can be a blessing. Beautiful scenery, clean air and wildlife abound. Plus, I can play my music as loud as I want without angering neighbors.
Bad: No social life, no grocery store, no library, no movies. My DSL is my umbilical cord to the rest of the world.
I think moving to a more metropolitan area would be good for a change of pace.
RN: When it comes to print, I am very much a fan of "Blue Monday" and "Action Philosophers." Online I check out the Dreamland Chronicles , By the Wayside and Kimono's Townhouse, which is hysterical if you like My Little Ponies and computers.
CBR: Do you find doing comics for the web is a different animal than doing them for print, or is it largely the same?
RN: The only difference is in the preparation. If you know what you're doing, you can prepare two copies of a comic at the same time in Photoshop, one for print and one for web output. Another thing I've started doing since I went weekly is to cut a page into several chunks so readers can read one third or so of a page at a time without having to wait for the whole thing to download.
CBR: Tell us a bit about the Women's Work Collective?
RN: We're a bunch of chicks who write and draw comics pooling our collective art and bloggage to create a hub of feminine sequential prosperity. All that estrogen under one URL! It's so handy to pass the link on to young women looking for more comics by women.
CBR: What do you think about DC's new Minx imprint?
RN: It is a noble motion in the right direction on DC's part, and I look forward to seeing the books. However, as a young woman who both reads and makes comics for the same audience, I am greatly disappointed that there are only two female creators in the entire lineup (to my knowledge). I hope there will be more in the future. We have many proven female talents in the comics industry. I want to see their work on the shelves selling to girls, too.
Some people have gotten upset over the line's name, but I don't have any feelings one way or the other about it. I do wonder if some parents will feel awkward buying their daughters books from something called "Minx," though.
CBR: What do you think comics need to do to get to more girls and women?
RN: Start packaging minicomics inside boxes of pads and tampons! Actually that's not such a bad idea, providing the minicomics can appeal to women.
If comic companies want to reach more women they should try the following:
A) Hire more women. If you can't find enough already within the comics industry, then hire from outside. Get illustrators, authors, editors, anyone who has been successful at reaching a female audience via print.
B) Listen to them, both the readers and the employees.
C) Scale back the raunch in your books and at the cons. Tiny outfits and big boobs might sell to boys, but they can intimidate and/or outrage girls. Don't throw a frat party and expect women to break down the door to get in.
D) Branch out. Explore new genres. Don't fear change.
CBR: Thanks for talking with us, and good luck with that whole talking dead cat thing.