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Between the Panels: Artist Zoe Thorogood on One Favorite Teacher, Reading Comics the Wrong Way, and Creating Her First Graphic Novel

“Between the Panels” is a bi-weekly interview series focusing on comic book creators of all experience levels, seeking to examine not just what each individual creates, but how they go about creating it.

By the time most “new” creators arrive on the comics scene, they’ve spent untold hours honing their craft in anonymity. Zoe Thorogood is one such case; she’s currently poised at the start of her professional path, with the talent, the drive, and the original project that will get her work in front of a whole new audience.

First, the particulars…

Your specialties (artist/writer/letterer/inker/etc.): Most people would call me an artist but I do everything to varying degrees of success.

Your home base: England

Website: I should make a website…

Instagram: @zoethorogood

Twitter: @zoethorogood

Current project title(s):

The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott [Avery Hill]

Fanbase Press Contributor Kevin Sharp: Why comics? What attracts you to working in comics specifically over other artforms?

Zoe Thorogood: So many disciplines go into making a comic: writing, concept art, illustration, coloring, graphic design, etc., and for a control freak who likes to do everything, that works out pretty well. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a playwright, then an author, then an actor, then an artist. I find comics scratch all those itches.

I briefly worked in concept art a few years back. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but I found something was missing, and that something was storytelling. I’ve always been obsessed with stories, and creating stories just gives me a buzz that drawing 3/4 view iterations of armored men with assorted weaponry didn’t.

KS: Do you remember when you first had the “I want to do THAT” thought in regards to being a professional artist?

ZT: I studied art and design at college when I was 16, but I didn’t think you could actually do art as a job at that point. I was trying to pursue acting, but there were no acting schools for my age group, so I thought, “Meh, art’s easy. I’ll do that.”
My class had a teacher named Claire who was a pretty unconventional art teacher, and the only art teacher I’ve had who I’ve actually liked. Previous art teachers at my high school hated me; they couldn’t understand why all I wanted to draw were “silly cartoons.” But Claire took a shine to my work and was the first person I met who actually hyped me up about my art and didn’t make me paint another f***ing fruit bowl. She introduced me to concept art, which is when I started seriously pursuing a career in art.

KS: To many people, being a working artist (of any kind) may sound like “living the dream.” Talk a little about your experience in this life. How do projects typically find their way to you, or vice versa?

ZT: I’m very stubborn, and probably very stupid, so I tend to just make my own projects and throw them at people. I don’t want to be stuck being just an artist for other folks’ projects for decades — so very early in my career I, probably foolishly, told myself I wanted to work on my own solo created projects. I know art is my forté, but I wanna write stories, too! Hello! I have things to say!

KS: What was your first “real” try at making comics specifically?

ZT: It was June 2018, and I’d just started posting my spare time comics work online, and people seemed to dig it. So, then I decided [to] make a comic. I pitched a story titled Interns Make Coffee Not Paradoxes; it got rejected, but it was such an important moment for me. It took about a few months to make the pitch, and every day I remember waking up so excited I could barely sleep at night, because I was just that excited to make it. I hope one day I can return to it after I’ve learned more about my craft. It certainly wasn’t ready for publication as it was, but, in a few years, I think it could be sick.

KS: Can you remember an early comic that really wowed you as a reader?

ZT: The first comic I ever read was a Pokemon manga when I was 13; I became obsessed pretty quickly after that. But I think comics really became important to me when I read Bakuman by Tsugmi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. It’s a story about two guys who want to publish manga, and it was the first series I read that made me think, “Oh… this medium is special.” I’m not sure I’d be here without it. I urge everyone to read Bakuman; it’s brilliant.

BTP ZT bakuman 39c

KS: Who were some of your favorite comics artists when you first started noticing specific styles?

ZT: Pretty much all my favorite artists were manga artists when I started out, specifically Takeshi Obata (Death Note, Bakuman) and Jun Mochizuki (Pandora Hearts). Nowadays, I tend to prefer more “westernized” comic styles, but the manga influence on my art is definitely very obvious.

KS: Can you look at your work and see any influences of specific artists?

ZT: Oh for sure. I’ve been called mini Matt Rhodes before, and I proudly accept that title. Matt is a concept artist for Bioware, whose games I play religiously. I got super into the art of Bioware games when I was about 14 and just loved how expressive and narrative Matt’s work was. I’m Matt Rhodes if Matt exclusively watched anime for years.

KS: Are you at the point yet where you have a dedicated studio or workspace?

ZT: Hahaha, nope. I’m 21 and straight outta university, so I’m moving between living with my parents, a student house, and a caravan on my parents’ farm. Most of the time, I just work on the floor. I’m a rat.

KS: How about a favorite way to procrastinate?

ZT: Video games. I’m fully committed to comics now, but video games were my first love. I’ve got quite an addictive personality, so I get way too into games; I think I have about 2000 hours drilled into Overwatch. At one point, I wanted to go pro, haha.

KS: What’s something you feel like you’ve learned about making comics that you might not have fully grasped when looking in from the outside?

ZT: I now know how annoying it is when people read a comic in under ten minutes. I was really guilty of speed reading comics and not really appreciating the art, like I’d just read the dialogue and skim the art. But now that I know how many hours go into each page I make an effort to appreciate the little things the artist does. Plus, comics is a collaborative medium — if you’re only reading the words then you’re missing half the story!

BTP ZT art2 e0d

KS: Hypothetical time: A comics publisher is offering you a chance to do one story featuring any character or team of your choice — could be one issue, a miniseries, a graphic novel, whatever format you land on. Who do you choose?

ZT: Hmmmm, interesting question. I was thinking recently after watching Joker that I’d love to a graphic novel based in that universe. I found the world building in that film really interesting; it was the most appealing take on Gotham I’ve seen so far. Oh! Yeah, I’d love to do a graphic novel based on that universe’s Harley Quinn. DC? Call me.

KS: Moving away from the hypothetical into the real… You’ve got an original graphic novel in the works! Talk about the secret origin of The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott. Did you start with story or with images? How do you decide on a story that fits the comics form?

ZT: Oh boy, yes I do. How it came about was a bit… weird? I actually got the idea for it while having an eye test. I have really poor vision and had been struggling with some small vision blackouts, which is when my optician let slip that I was at a fairly high risk of blindness. Me, an artist, going blind? Rather than panicking I just thought, “Man, that’s such a good story idea.”

I didn’t think about it too much [because] at the time I was working on another pitch about superpowered theatre performers, so a story about an artist going blind seemed a bit boring in comparison. But then one evening, I was doodling mindlessly and did this scribble, nothing like my usual style at all but I was like, “THAT’S HER! THAT’S BILLIE SCOTT!”

People know me for my intricate and clean linework, so initially I was really scared of doing a book compiled of scribbly cartoonish art, but people seemed to dig it… so here we are!

KS: Where are you in the process as of now?

ZT: I’m pretty far into inking now. I haven’t been as organized as I would’ve liked so I can’t say how many pages I’ve done [as] I’ve been doing the fun ones first. It still hasn’t quite hit me yet that it’s going to be published; I feel like I’m just working on another dumb comic on my bedroom floor. I don’t know, I’m trying not to think about it. I feel like if I start thinking about people besides me reading it I’ll overthink my work and panic. In my opinion, seeing other people read my work is like running through a shopping centre naked. Is that just me? Yeah, that’s just me.

KS: What can we expect from the book? And when?

ZT: [It’s] going to be my first published graphic novel, due to release next September from Avery Hill.

Billie Scott is an artist. Her debut gallery exhibition displays in a few months. Within the fortnight, she’ll be completely blind. It’s primarily a story about self worth, Billie places all of her worth as a person onto her art, so when she discovers she’s going blind, it completely shatters her perception of self. But it’s not a sad story — her impending blindness shocks her into action, as she attempts to create her one and only series of a lifetime. Penniless and alone, Billie must step outside her box and discover her artistic legacy… in under two weeks.

It’s pretty intense, and goes to some dark places I didn’t really expect it to. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I’m having an absolute blast making it.

BTP ZT billie 3ad

KS: Finally, let’s spread some love… What’s a comic or graphic novel by someone else (current or older) that you look at with admiration?

ZT: The first non-manga comic I fell in love with was Deadly Class by Rick Remender and Wes Craig. I love stories about misfits. Oh, and I recently read Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me which is now my favorite comic ever. I’m so mad about how good it is.


Kevin Sharp, Fanbase Press Contributor



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