“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.
Originally hailing from Ireland, Leonie O’Moore’s artistic journey has covered three continents. She’s a busy member of the comics world, having been a writer, artist, art director, and workshop facilitator. Leonie knows what it’s like to work as a one-woman show, as well as part of team (including work with Gail Simone).
First, the particulars…
Your specialties (artist/writer/letterer/inker/etc.): Writer / Artist
Your home base: California
Current/recent project title(s):
Heavy Metal magazine
Pet Noir (Kymera Press)
Ivory Ghosts (Kymera Press)
Kevin Sharp, Fanbase Press Contributor: First off, why comics? What attracts you to working in comics specifically over other artforms?
Leonie O’Moore: I love storytelling, and comics are a great narrative medium. I enjoy drawing and writing, and this lets me indulge in both.
KS: At what age, or roughly when, did reading comics first become an important part of your life?
LOM: Growing up, our house was always full of comics and books. Comics were in my life before I could even read them properly, but I loved the pictures. We had some DC, Marvel, and Disney comics. Like most kids in Ireland, I’d get annuals for Christmas every year, which were full of comic strips. I guess the point it became really serious was when my mom put in a standing order for me at the newsagents for Transformers and Thundercats comics (Marvel UK). That’s when I became a regular reader.
KS: Do you have a memory of when a comic book or comic strip made you say, “I want to try doing that?”
LOM: When I was a kid, I think every comic book or cartoon show made me say that! But, I remember there was a section in the Thundercats comic where they’d encourage kids to write in and say who their favorite penciller or inker was. I think that was the moment it struck me that these were actual jobs. That was the point when I thought – I want to do that!
KS: What’s the first piece of “real” comics work you remember creating? I’m looking for something that felt like a serious project for you at the time — whatever age that was and whether or not you showed anyone else.
LOM: I guess when I was around 13 or 14 I started trying to make comics with some purpose. They were mostly humor based and only a few pages each, so I collected them together in an anthology-style comic. It was just black and white, photocopied. I think I did some spot color on the cover by hand with a highlighter pen. I sold it at a couple of local comic stores. Then, some other kids from my town expressed an interest in making comics, too, so I included their strips in the next issue and just kept going from there.
KS: Jumping to the present, tell us a little about your workspace or studio setup.
LOM: I work from home; there’s a little den area in our current apartment, so that’s my studio. I have a glass-top drawing board, and I put an angle poise lamp under it to make a large light box. This means I can easily ink on a separate piece of bristol board with my pencils underneath for reference. I paint directly on to my inks. Lately, I’ve been exploring working digitally. I did three comics digitally last year on a small tablet using Clip Studio. I also did a book illustration that was a digital / traditional hybrid, and I was pretty happy with that process but it’s still a bit too slow for comics work. I find it useful to prop the tablet on the drawing board, so it’s at that familiar angle.
I have lots of books in here, some of the ones that don’t fit in the living room but also some reference books. I like having things such as Kirby’s layouts or Wally Woods 22 panels to hand, as it’s easy to get stuck in a rut on breakdowns without realizing, so it’s good to have those little reminders. There’s lots of notebooks everywhere; I make notes and lists constantly. There are some sharks dotted about the room; it’s good for morale to have lots of smiling faces in your workplace.
KS: Do you have a set daily (or nightly) work routine? Does it include listening to music, or any other background noise while you work?
LOM: I mainly work during the day, If I’m painting, I like to have natural light. But, my routine varies depending on the project, deadlines, etc. When I’m drawing, I need to have music! Lots of music all the time. Spotify is amazing, I make so many playlists. I’ve also got back in to vinyl recently, so I’ve been listening to lots of records. I prefer that for writing though. It’s too disruptive when I’m painting to keep getting up and flipping a record over.
KS: What do you wish non-comic readers understood about comics?
LOM: I think that a lot of non comic readers just haven’t found the right book. They may think that comics = superheroes. I wish they could just find the right book that’d make them fall in love with the medium. If you like reading books or you like watching films, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy comics too.
KS: Alternately, what do you wish regular comic readers understood about comics?
LOM: I wish some regular comic readers understood how much work goes into comics at every step. If you’re reading a comic that comes out every month, that doesn’t mean it took one month to make. Also, it’s a collaborative medium and work-for-hire is different to creator owned (i.e., If you don’t like something in a book, you might be blaming the wrong person for it).
KS: You’ve written your own work and also illustrated for a variety of different writers. What’s something important you’ve discovered when it comes to this kind of collaboration?
LOM: Communication is super important. Sometimes, people aren’t too clear about their expectations, for themselves or for their collaborators. They may see the finished thing in their head but not know how to get there. If you want the artist to draw exactly what’s in your head, explain it in detail and send reference images. If you want them to have more freedom, let go and let them run with it. I’ve experienced this from all sides — as a writer, an illustrator, and as an art director. Understanding and communicating your expectations will save a lot of time and result in something everyone is happy with.
KS: When creating your own comics (as both writer and illustrator), is there a typical process of creation? In other words, do you usually start with story or with images?
LOM: The story always comes first. Sometimes, I may work it out with thumbnails before I do a proper script. I have a very organized approach to storytelling: Once I have the idea, I like to block out what happens on each page and then go back and work through it. I find this helps me with overall flow and pacing. It’s nice to sit down to write knowing you already have a solid ending in place. It’s also a good way to work if you’re pitching a lot, because you already know the key beats of your story, [so] it’s easier to explain it to an editor. There have been some books where I’ve worked the story out visually – where my script has really just been loose notes or keypoints. But it’s rare, and only on books I know I’m definitely drawing myself. I did Don’t Fall this way and my first graphic novel, Some Forgotten Part.
KS: Your work has also appeared in the legendary magazine Heavy Metal. How did that come about?
LOM: I pitched to them. It’s somewhere I’d always wanted to work. I took a chance and pitched them a completed short comic strip, and, lucky for me, they accepted it.
KS: What’s one word that sums up a key trait for being successful in this business?
LOM: Passion. It’s a tough industry and a very labor-intensive medium, so you need to really love it. And not just love doing the work, but also love reading it, talking about it, learning about it. If you’re passionate, you will happily immerse yourself in it, and you’ll always find enjoyment in it, even when the work is tough.
KS: If I ask what comic or graphic novel you look at as example of the craft at its highest, which title comes to mind?
LOM: The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, various artists, various colorists, Todd Klein, and Dave McKean. It makes the most of every aspect of the medium to tell the story, including font styles, page turns, panel spacing; it feels like a story that was really intended to be a comic book. There are high-concept characters with real emotional weight. The layered storytelling allows for repeat readings. There’s a diverse range of art styles throughout the series, but they all work beautifully for the stories they’re telling. It blends so many different styles and genres throughout yet remains easy to read and very accessible. It’s the sort of book I recommend to people who think they don’t like comics.
KS: Finally, tell us a little about your most recent/upcoming project.
LOM: I decided a while ago that I wanted to do more writing and less drawing, and this year I’ve managed it. So, I have some really fun things on the way — unfortunately, I can’t talk about those yet.
In the meantime, I have lots of books available through ComiXology, Amazon, and Etsy, which I can talk about! My horror graphic novel, Lord, B-movie-esque From Savage Seas, the odd, little fantasy story, Don’t Fall, the eclectic Mine! anthology in aid of Planned Parenthood, and a couple of issues of Heavy Metal.
I’m also an art director for Kymera Press on their Pet Noir and Ivory Ghosts series. Check them out; they have a wonderful range of books.