At this year’s Long Beach Comic Expo, IDW was given a bit of a spotlight via a panel hosted by Geek and Sundry’s Erika Ishii called “IDW Creators, Unite!” In attendance as panelists were artists Sara Richard (who has done variant covers for Jem and the Holograms and My Little Pony) and Livio Ramondelli (whose specialty has been working on Transformers), along with D.J. Kirkbride (writer of the creator-owned series Amelia Cole and Bigger Bang).
Ishii began the panel by asking what had gotten the trio started in the industry. For Ramondelli, growing up he wanted to do his own characters, but also Batman. When he had broken into the field, his dream was to work on Star Wars (which he was able to do a few covers for at Dark Horse before the license transferred to Marvel), but he wound up with Transformers, a series he has also enjoyed as a child. Ramondelli said that he would like to work on Robocop someday, but also has recently found himself being drawn into the world of creator-owned properties. Richard knew she had wanted to work on covers and likes to work on licensed material. She had grown up with Jem and the Holograms, but has a goal to also work on her own characters and hopefully to emulate the success of David Petersen and Mouse Guard. She still has dream projects of other IPs, as well, such as working on Jurassic Park but also giving new life to Gosamyr of old-school New Mutants fame, a character she felt had so much potential that remains untapped. Growing up, Kirkbride always wanted to be Superman and not write it. He questions the validity of it, “Who am I to write Superman?” but he also entertains the fantasy of someday perhaps working on licensed work himself, particularly Star Trek.
For the next question, Ishii asked how both artists were able to reconcile their art styles to the IPs they were working on. Richard expressed the sentiment that IDW seemed to be open to different artistic styles for their properties, so long as the end product is still recognizable as the characters. Ramondelli agreed, saying that the characters from the properties all had a universality to them, which lent them to being realized with diverse styles. Ishii then catered the question to Kirkbride asking about his writing relationship with his artists. Kirkbride said that he found different artists operated with different mindsets and he worked with each. For example, some artists want the flexibility to do what they want, while others really wanted the detail and the nuances scripted out for them. Kirkbride suggested when working with an artist that you want to give them the script that they would enjoy drawing.
In regards to artists breaking into working on other IPs, Richard suggested one should always take advantage of portfolio reviews, but to incorporate not only what they can do, but also show off their own voice. She strongly suggested that having a webcomic also greatly helps in that it shows that one is able to successfully execute a project.
When pressed for horror stories working on other properties, Richard recalled her time working on Bob’s Burgers. After finishing the penciling and painting, she submitted the work, initially receiving satisfactory remarks, only to have the publisher come back and request that she make her lines thicker (not readily possible when they were completed in pen); however, working on My Little Pony, she’s only had to work with a few tight deadlines, but otherwise has described the experience as cool. Ramondelli expressed bewilderment at a time he was working on a fantasy property and had done a cover with a lantern on it. The publisher came back and said that in their world, that is not what their lanterns looked like; however they then confessed that they actually didn’t even know what their own lanterns looked like. Kirkbride felt himself lucky in that Amelia Cole originally started off at Monkeybrain before moving to IDW, where it was subject to simple proofreading.
Ishii asked if the three creators could share any creator-owned projects that they were currently working on. Richard talked of a project having owls in it that is due out in the summer, and her desire to do work with short stories in the vein of Edward Gorey and the iconic children’s series, Scary Tales to Tell in the Dark. Kirkbride had finished wrapping up a new project called The Once and Future Queen which will be a five-issue miniseries. Ramondelli talked about an original sci-fi series that has robots in it. He also expressed his adoration for ComiXology and the ability to get one's work out there.
When asked where they got their inspiration from, Richard confessed she drew from music, movies, and art history with a particular affinity to art deco and art nouveau. Ramondelli said he took much from watching Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (The Final Cut version), and had seen it a hundred times, applying much of what he learned to his own art. Kirkbride was a bit sombre, saying his work explored different emotions that would come to him.
The panel then ended with Q&A with a few fun questions, such as how Ramondelli would kill off Starscream (He was satisfied with his epic death in the movie.) to what the creators were most scared to work on but would be willing to give it a shot .(Richard wanted to work more on perspective and cityscapes while Ramondelli basically wanted to a few panels of two folks chatting over breakfast a la My Dinner with Andre.)
Panel photograph courtesy of Michele Brittany.
Nicholas Diak is a pop culture scholar of industrial and synthwave music, Italian genre films, and Lovecraft studies. He contributes essays to various anthologies, journals, and pop culture websites. He is the editor of the forthcoming anthology, Ad Victoriam! Essays on Neo-peplum Cinema and Television. He can be found at nickdiak.com.