Comic books weren’t really a part of my childhood – but superheroes were. The Wonder Woman TV series was on when I was a kid, and it just changed my life. Here was this ridiculous woman in this ridiculous outfit, jumping over cars and punching bad guys. It was just so enthralling and empowering. But I didn’t make the transition into comic books, because the very odd time that I would see a comic book at the newsagency, they’d be all about Thor and Hulk, and I would think, Who the fuck are these characters? Even when I did see Wonder Woman in the story, the way they were telling her story was very different to the TV show, so I was like, “These people have got it wrong; this isn’t like the TV show,” not realising that it’s actually the source material. But I just didn’t have any geek friends to correct me.
When I was nearing 30, I had that pre-30 “what the hell am I doing with my life” moment, which lasted a couple of years. I thought about getting into costume design or fashion design, because I knew I could sew, draw and act. Acting had been my training ground, but that wasn’t going very well. So I thought, What could I do with sewing and drawing that wouldn’t make me suicidal or homicidal? One Sunday morning over breakfast, I was pondering the question yet again, and thought, God, I wish I could just draw Wonder Woman every day. Then I realised that’s actually a job that someone has; that’s a job that exists; I want that job. I didn’t know anybody in the business, I didn’t know any geeks, but from that moment on, I was on a mission till I got what I wanted.
I got dressed, jumped in my car and within 20 minutes, I was at a comic book store. I bought everything that had Wonder Woman in it and everything that I liked the look of. It was a little bit was crazy. Over the next year, I did little bits and pieces, drawing for comic book companies in Australia, but discovered that if I wanted to do this for real, I’d have to go to America. I kept going to San Diego Comic-Con until the DC Comics editors knew me by name. Eventually they were saying, “It’s just a matter of time.” Then I got my first book at DC, Birds of Prey. I did a pretty good job at making my deadlines for the first year, so they signed me to an exclusive, and I was there drawing comics, including Wonder Woman, for 10 years.
Most comics are a collaboration between a writer and an artist. I work from a script, which looks like a screenplay; it’s essentially dialogue and stage directions. I’ll read it over a few times, so I’ve got an idea of the flow of that issue and where the primary moments are. Sometimes they’re not the big action-y moments, they’re quiet incidental moments. On the second or third reading, I’ll be like, “That panel, that’s where the real emotional anchor is.” So it’s kind of like an actor working out their character from a script – except I’m playing all the characters. And then I’m also casting all the characters, because I’ve got to design them all, and I’ve got to production design the whole thing, because I’m creating all the sets, costumes and props.
There can be a lot of misogyny thrown around, from the fanbase and from other creators. It’s rarely other creators, but it can happen. They’ll just target female creators. It’s Gamergate adjacent at times. I’m very lucky in that very little of it affects me because I’m far away from the industry proper, here in Sydney. Plus, but I’m a bit of a Teflon person and a good compartmentaliser, so when that stuff is directed at me, I’m like, “Oh, you’re kidding, right? Nice try. Bad attempt, but nice try.” It doesn’t mean anything to me; that tends to suck all the oxygen out of the argument.
Image: Carine Thevenau
This article first appeared in frankie magazine issue 77 (May/June 2017).