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Between the Panels: Artist Meghan Hetrick on Quiet Stories, Self Teaching, and Working Without a Safety Net

“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.

Meghan Hetrick’s varied portfolio of comics work includes DC, Marvel, Dynamite, Valiant, and more. She’s developed a style distinctly her own that bridges both traditional and digital art — as well as being equally adaptable to the worlds of superheroes and fantasy.
First off, the basics…
Your specialties (artist/writer/letterer/inker/etc.): Artist (layouts, pencils, inks, colors), with a dabbling in writing.
Your home base: Outside Atlanta, GA
Social Media
Instagram: @meghan_hetrick
Twitter: @meghanhetrick

Current projects:

Multiple covers for Dynamite (Red Sonja vs Chaos, Vampirella, Sacred Six), and random covers for other folks. 

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

Meghan Hetrick: I love telling stories, and I think comics are one of the best ways to do that.  You don’t have the budgeting constraints like you do in film or gaming, so your idea can be as grand as you’d like (just take mercy on your artists at some points, writers, lol).
KS: When did comics first become a part of your life as a reader?

MH: I first fell into comics, or rather the X-Men, with the animated TV show.  From there, it was Batman: The Animated Series, as well as Gargoyles (the old Disney Magazine had Gargoyles comics in it sometimes). I was a very casual reader up until about twelve years old and would con my mom into getting me a few when she went to the liquor store. Cheap way to keep me entertained for the night. 
KS: Fanbase Press launched the #StoriesMatter initiative this year to highlight the impact that stories can have on their audience.  Looking back, what was a story that really had an impact on you as a young reader?

MH: I like the quiet stories the most. My first X-Men issue was actually the one where Magik dies from the Legacy Virus.  My second actual issue was directly after the Onslaught Saga, and the team is just sitting around chatting and trying to heal.  The third book that really had a major impact on me was Lucifer, specifically the first issue — it was painted, and that was when I realized that comics could be art, but it also was a very, very quiet issue, dealing with the relationships between family.  Now that I think about it, that’s really the common theme amongst my favorite books/issues: how these supernatural or superhuman individuals relate to one another.

BTP MH Thor 65e

KS: What about the idea of an art-centered career?  How did that come about for you?

MH: Primarily, I wanted to work for Disney or be a gaming character artist.  Comics weren’t really a factor in it, because even though I loved them, I honestly didn’t know of any mainstream female artists at the time — late ’90s — except for inkers or colorists.  I thought if I wanted to do comics, I’d have to learn how to ink or color which meant I needed pencil art to ink, so I taught myself how to draw, so I could learn how to ink, and then learn how to color.  It never even occurred to me that I could do the actual base pencils as a career – haha.

KS: Can you remember any “serious” art project from your younger days?

MH: I’m pretty certain it was something Gargoyles or Star Wars related.  Likely a combo of the two, as a friend of mine and I wrote this sort of fanfic thing and I did art for it.  But, I did all the character designs and setting art and such for it, so I think doing the research and really being creative with a purpose kind of hits those marks. 

KS: And what age are we talking about?

MH: I was… 12 or 13 I think?  Now, I want to go dig through my old-ass art tote and see.
KS: As a reader, who were the first artists you really responded to back when you first started being able to differentiate art styles?

MH: Joe Mad and Michael Turner at the very beginning.  Scott Hampton once my tastes matured a bit.
KS: Imagine yourself today as an art instructor and one of your students is the college-age version of you. What’s a specific piece of guidance you’d give her about her work?

MH: Don’t let the opinions of family and friends who don’t actually support you sway you and what you think you can do with your abilities.

BTP MH Vampirella 51a
KS: What was your first pro comics assignment?

MH: So, it’s a bit weird.  I had two come in pretty much simultaneously.  The first was for a few short stories in the Fairest: In All the Land OGN.  The second was for Joker’s Daughter.  Vastly different stories in terms of theme and approach. 

KS: For some creative folks, there’s a feeling of “making it” when that first check comes in, while for others it’s the imposter syndrome… What about in your case back then?

MH: [H]onestly, my personal life was in such turmoil at that time — divorce, move, etc — that I didn’t really have the ability to process what was going on with my creative career. By the time things settled down a bit, I’d already been in the weeds for about a year, so it had already just become a part of my life.
KS: Do you remember the specific moment when you first held a real comic with your work in it?

MH: Yes, and it wasn’t either one of the two above.  I won a Conan fanart contest that Dark Horse had run, and they printed my piece in the back of one of the issues.  That was a fun moment.
KS: Tell us a little about your current workspace or studio setup.

MH: Currently, my “proper” studio is set up in my garage.  I still like to work traditionally when I can, but it’s mainly swapped over to oil or gouache painting at this point, which means that I need a decent amount of space to store my materials.  Most of the time though?  I’m working off my bed or couch on my Surface Book 2, happily covered in pets – haha.

BTP MH Studio 3aa
KS: Do you have a set daily work routine, or does it fluctuate significantly based on what’s on your plate?

MH: It’s a routine in that it’s pretty much all day, every day. I take breaks when I can, to get the household stuff done, but I live by myself now, so it’s just been a whole lot of work, and taking care of the pets/house.
KS: How about listening to music or any other background noise while you work?

MH: I tend to have documentaries on while working, so that way I at least feel like I’m learning something.  Podcasts aren’t as effective, because I use the TV as a way to refocus my eyes from off the computer screen and give them a rest for a minute or two before going back to work.  I can only really have one thing going at a time, though.  I know some folks that can do music, TV, and manage a phone call all while working, and I am most definitely not that type of person.

KS: What’s an art tool you especially like to work with, even if you don’t get to use it often?

MH: Oil paints. I love them. They bring me to my happy place.

KS: Now that you’ve been in comics for a while, what’s something you understand about the business that maybe you didn’t when looking in from the outside as a fan?

MH: It’s a job, and it’s a very, very difficult job at times. There’s no PTO, no insurance, no safety net, especially if you don’t have the support of a significant other to help offset the lean times.  One small financial mistake can easily snowball, and it ends up affecting you for years.

BTP MH Passion bec

KS: What’s a geeky passion of yours outside the world of comics?

MH: Totally outside the world of comics negates a lot of gaming stuff, so I’ll skip that (though I have a gaming collection that’s essentially a museum, from my tenure as an EBGameworld manager).  I love cars — I have a 2005 WRX that I bought new, and I have it up to Stage 2.  I also have a 1964 Dodge 440, which was a 15-year quest to acquire, and there’s a fun story around how I actually got that car.  Finally, I had a 2005 HEMI Dodge Magnum until this past weekend, because I traded it in on a 2016 Tahoe LT, and I’m going to try to not have a panic attack over those payments, woo!  

I also love cooking and baking, which has been fun during Coronavirus times, since I’m single, and it’s only me and the dogs eating this food.

KS: Let’s end by spreading some love… Pick a comic or graphic novel by someone else that you look at with full admiration.

MH: Either Metabarons or The Incal.  Both by Jodorowsky, but with different artists (Moebius being on Incal).  I also adore Blacksad — that book is just stunning on so many different levels.


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