Hello! In this episode of the Creative Interview series, I interview comic writer Atla Hrafney.
There’s no recording to share today, at Atla’s request, so follow along using the transcripts below.
Leanna: First off, then, can you introduce yourself and tell us about what you do?
Atla: Mostly I write comic books that are general audience or for everyone. I try to make comics that can reach a wide audience. And I also help production with other comics, where I guess you’d call it editor, but it’s not quite that. An indie producer or an indie artist have a story they want to make, a story that they like, but they can’t produce the general outline, in a nutshell. So I also help with that, and I edit general stories. I’ve done work for Upyri comics. They are an African-American owned multimedia company.
Leanna: Oh okay! Yes. I read that comic.
Atla: Those are the published comics I’ve done. I’ve also been working with indie artists and I’ve actually managed to get a lot of different artists on board with smaller, short comics and stuff like that. Right now I’m pitching a series with Marta Selusi. We’re doing an Arabian Nights project and we’re currently pitching it to larger publishers.
Leanna: Oh, cool! Yeah, I’ve seen that you were looking for artists for different projects coming up.
Atla: Yeah, I look for different artists for anthology projects and stuff like that, and that’s been working out pretty well.
Leanna: Oh, good! Yeah, there’s been a few times where you’ve posted and then I’ll share it, and it seems like you find people pretty quickly. Are they usually people that you’re already familiar with, or do you wind up finding new artists just by linking and suggestions?
Atla: It’s a cheap tactic, but I do the whole follow-for-follow thing, so I’ll accumulate like 200, 300, 400 people who are working artists that have a passing interest in my thing. Then I can post that I need an artist, and then they’re suddenly very interested in me and in my general work because I’m offering them a job. So it’ll be loose acquaintances more than people I specifically know. I’ll definitely try to get more invested in their work as soon as they try to approach me.
Leanna: You said before that you’re something of an editor with other writers, you’re helping them in some way produce the final project, and I think it’s really great to collaborate in that way. If you can have a discussion with someone and not feel closed off and be open to other ideas, I think it creates more interesting work and allows it to have a different life than it might have had if you had just kept it to yourself.
Atla: Yeah, and the first thing I always ask any artist that I want to collaborate with is, “What do you actually want to make?” Because there’s a bunch of artists or indie, small press creators, who have two or three scripts that they haul off and they pitch to a totally different creator and they might passively get that project. Personally what I do is ask what people’s interests are, look at their portfolios, and then create a specific list of ideas meant for that artist. So every list of ideas I create is generally made for a single artist. That way I can guarantee that something catches their eye. And that way they have more passion for the project itself and want to work harder on it.
Leanna: Yeah, that totally makes sense. It has to be something within their interests in order for them to do their best work.
So I also saw that you are writing indie books, books you’ve self-published. I saw Galaxy Knight 00487 is available on Amazon. Do you have any others that you’re working on, or is that one just a standalone, or a test, or what brought it about?
Atla: Well, the thing is that I’m not active in prose writing. There was one novel I was working on, a large scale 300-page novel, but I kind of started it too young and I grew out of the general idea that I had. But Galaxy Knight was originally an anthology submission, and I knew that it was long enough that even if I didn’t get in, which I didn’t, I would have a viable copy. And so right now I started to look more into prose. I’ve heard I’m slightly better at writing pure prose because I get kind of wild and have ADHD so my ideas or books usually blow everything out of the screen. Like this book, for example, has things like a rat made out of the remains of dead crew members and a giant feline creature with technicolor pus coming out of its eyes. Weird stuff that doesn’t make a whole lot of technical sense, but sounds good enough when you imagine it. And that’s kind of why I don’t like writing prose too much, because I get so much freedom that I tend to play around too much, so the work that I make kind of fits that same vibe. As a creator I don’t want to just create that, and I feel like I won’t be able to create anything but that with prose.
Leanna: Do you think then that writing for comics restrains you but maybe in a way that is helpful?
Atla: Yes, because I have to adhere to the artists. If the artist isn’t adept with architecture, I have to limit the number of space shuttles. If an artist isn’t very expressive, or they have a more ink style, that might not fit humorous comics, or highly emotional, kind of pick-me-up pieces. I have to limit that accordingly, and that shapes the comic story.
Leanna: Yeah, it’s true that sometimes limitations can lead to more creativity. Because you think, okay, these are the restrictions that I have, what’s the best thing I can create within these boundaries? And then it’s kind of a built-in editing process. You can still be creative, but it’s just within certain boundaries, certain rules, and you can create really interesting things that way.
I read the Upyri comic you wrote and I really liked your dialogue in it. I think a lot of times in comics people write dialogue and it’s just not very natural, it’s not the way a person would actually speak in a conversation. But I felt like you had that going on. So I thought it was great.
Atla: Oh thank you. I’m very surprised by how much people like that comic. Not because I’m a particularly bad writer. It was a project where I didn’t know how good I was going to do because it’s about vampires in Detroit and the comic is published by African-Americans. Every editor, everyone above me is black. Full editorial, marketing, everyone is African-American. So I didn’t have a lack of confidence for myself, but still, I’m white. Mass immigration started here in the 90s. I often worry that if I try to write other ethnicities or places like Detroit that are so ethnically and culturally diverse that I’ll fuck it up entirely. So I was very surprised by how not only just general audiences but also people of color enjoyed that. So yeah, I was just kind of nervous about that from the get-go.
Leanna: I’ve been hearing that from a lot of creators too. They want to diversify, but they’re afraid of stepping on toes or doing things wrong. I think it’s great that you can have an editor or other team members to work with. I know there are sensitivity readers these days, too. Rather than making something on your own, it’s better to utilize the people around you in order to get a more complete view. Like be open to suggestions on that.
Atla: Exactly. And I’ve been learning that more and more. There was one short comic that I actually made and had been scripting out and in the middle of creating it I thought I’d have some friends edit it. Two years ago, I hadn’t discovered I was trans yet. I hadn’t gotten into everything in terms of what’s right and what’s not right, and one of my friends, my trans friend, referenced how I made a penis joke. One of my trans gay male friends was like, no, there’s men without penises. And I turned to him and just put my fist in my mouth nervously, like, Oh God, I’m writing this for LGBT people…
Leanna: I mean, everyone makes mistakes. Even if you’re marginalized yourself, at some point we all say something and we’re like Ohh, snap, we shouldn’t have said that, we went too far. I think the best you can do is just apologize and learn. Listen and learn and apologize.
Atla: Yeah, I think that’s what I’ve seen. You kind of need sensitivity readers during the process. It’s not just about having a proofreader and then making someone check it. It’s about bringing an idea to them and making sure that they enjoyed and had fun with that idea that’s drawn from their identity or their culture.
Leanna: Sometimes stories can have implications that, if you’re not part of the group you’re writing about, you don’t really realize they mean something different to the people in that group than they mean to someone outside of the group. So it’s good to get feedback on that. Like your friend with the penis joke. It might mean nothing to a cis man, but to a trans man it can mean something totally different.
Atla: So that is something I’ve been slowly learning about. We’re currently trying to see if we can pitch the Arabian Nights comic into a small series. The original issue was kinda done in that kinda checklist way but it was still – like I did an interview with a Muslim teen and I got two, three sensitivity readers, so it went okay, but now that we have some other stories planned out, I really want to step up my game and get actual people involved while I’m creating.
Leanna: That’s a good idea. That does sound really interesting. What anthology was that for? Oh wait, you want to make it into an actual project of its own.
Atla: So it’s actually an anthology that we’re currently pitching of Arabian Nights-related stories that’re inspired by the general world of the Arabian Nights. We wanted to make newer stories mostly because there’s such a large foundation with Arabian Nights that it would take a long, long time to pick. Like, I don’t know if we need to make Aladdin again. So I thought it would be better to, rather than read every single story, it’ll be better if I just read a few. I read about ten or so from back to back, and then researched the general themes and tried to adhere to the themes rather than to remake the story.
Leanna: That makes a lot of sense to me. That seems like an efficient way to research.
Atla: At the very least, at this point, I want it to be accessible to Muslim teens and general readers and general fantasy readers. The artist did a really good job doing research: architecture, clothing, and I think we only got one comment where we needed to redo a dress. That dress was literally inspired by Jasmine from the Disney movie, so that was the only one. We just changed that. They know better than us. And we also wanted to adhere to cultural standards – we wanted to make sure that the general cultural standards of the country were met without including the harmful stuff. For example, within the universe of these stories, a character is not going to kiss another character without being married to them first. We didn’t get that from a research book, we actually talked to Muslim teens and they genuinely say that’s a value they aspire to. So we’re like, if that’s how they feel, there’s nothing really wrong with making a story that adheres to that value. A character can be a good positive character without being sexually active.
Leanna: I definitely agree.
Atla: I’m trying to word this carefully, because it’s a complex idea to explain without getting myself into a corner.
Leanna: Yes. It can be pretty complicated sometimes.
Atla: Yes. I was trying to get a general reader for files and we were showing her stuff like, here’s the script we have, you can look over that if you want, and here are some of the drawings we have, some of the rough drawings, and her only complaint—and she tried very hard to not step on any toes, but you could tell she felt passionately about this—how she wrote it was, “Could you please make sure that the two people kissing here are married?” And I’d actually made sure of that because I’d done another interview and I’d done my research. The reason she didn’t know that was because we hadn’t lettered the copy.
Leanna: Oh, okay. That’s really interesting, because that’s not something I knew. I mean I can’t say that I’m super informed about every culture because I’m definitely not. Especially interesting that a teen is the one who said it.
Atla: Exactly, because some would expect it to be from the old men. And it’s apparently not, because I did separate interviews with two teens who I don’t think knew each other from two different countries. So at that point I just had to sit down and say, “Well, having a character that doesn’t kiss other people isn’t bad, so let’s just do that.” We still have some characters that would not appear in the traditional folklore of Arabian Nights, such as a woman character who wears a dress and is called The Swordswoman, who engages in swordfighting. That might not have been in the original Arabian Nights because of general gendered standards. But that’s one we want to include because we want to encourage young teens and say that you can still uphold these values but also uphold some new values.
Leanna: That’s really interesting. I feel like sometimes that can be a hard line for people to discern. But ultimately it’s about respect, isn’t it?
Atla: Yes. It’s less about agreeing and more about understanding that that’s how they feel and that feeling that in and of itself is not bad.
Leanna: Especially related to sexualization. That’s pretty personal—that’s almost about as personal as it gets—so to have an issue with that is different than to have an issue with a woman swordfighting.
Atla: So we were trying to be very careful about that. Every single time that I’ve asked a Muslim person to look over it, to look over the artwork and the copy, they’ve been very excited about that. And I actually have a small project lined up with a Hindu Muslim writer and general artist, and we’re working together currently to create a trans Hindu superhero. That’s a project that’s a long way away, but it was basically created because a friend of mine, a trans Indian American girl, she said on Twitter, “I really wish there were Indian trans superheroes because that would make me really happy.” And I just wrote back to her and I said, “Okay, I’ll do that!”
Leanna: Right? I feel like any time someone asks for something like that, we might not really think about it specifically, but it’s why I love diverse media so much because it means so much to the people that see it. I mean, we all have our different identities. One of mine, I guess you would say, is that I’m half Mexican, so I have tan skin, brown skin. And I have curly hair. A lot of people have those qualities, but when you look at the TV, what you see in movies and in TV shows is rarely brown skinned girls with curly hair. So that when there are characters that look like me—I don’t even think about it, but once I see them I feel so alive and so powerful and awesome, like, “Oh, I love that character!” It’s really powerful for someone to get to see a character that reminds them of themselves.
Atla: Yes, and I think it’s very important in pretty much all media.
Leanna: It’s totally important.
So how come you had teens, specifically teens, read the comic you’re working on for Arabian Nights?
Atla: Well, that started out because I hired and inquired about it through deviantART. So I thought, “Okay, better to get artists looking at this.” Also, at the time I was more inexperienced, not at the place I’m at now, because I didn’t have the proper connections, and I didn’t have the general experience to go out and get the sensitivity readers that I needed. At the time, I had not thought about making sure that the person I was talking to was of proper age, and it just so happens that you can go to deviantART and you can set whether or not to show your age. So I’d look at their artwork and go, oh, this person’s 18, 20. And then it turns out, when I’d ask, “For the record, how old are you, so I can get a gauge of how to judge your responses to your age group?” And they’d say, “Oh, I’m 16,” and I realized I should’ve asked in the message interview. But after realizing that, I kind of rolled with it. And I think it is important because, looking back, I like it better now than if I had someone read it who was 28, because a 16 or 18 year old is much more likely to read this comic than even a 28 year old.
Leanna: Demographics are super important, and teens are really smart, and they have a lot to say. It’s not always the case, but more often than not, teens are going to be more open about the way they feel. It sounds like they were really thorough, especially if they’re pointing out something that’s so specific, like about the whole kiss thing. And being married. I mean, it sounds like they did a good job. And it’s good to have that demographic.
Atla: Especially considering that because they were that young. If they had been even 20 when the interview was conducted, and I got some of the opinions that I got, my immediate reaction would’ve been, ‘yeah, but what about the younger group?’ So that kind of puts things in perspective for a comic that I wouldn’t have gotten if I’d gotten much older people to read it. And now I checked out some new people who have more time. With the other readers, because they’re younger, they don’t have a lot of time to spare with schoolwork and all that.
Leanna: That’s another thing, too. You’re giving them something to put on their resume. You’re giving them an opportunity to gain experience.
Atla: I had open calls for sensitivity readers just to get a few more and that didn’t go too well, but then I searched through a personal friend and I talked to some people I actually know, a few individuals that have the time to do that, and I’ve been very lucky about that. So we’ll see how that goes.
Leanna: It’s good for you to do that as a comics writer. I usually see calls for sensitivity readers more within the fiction book community.
Atla: I don’t want to name names, but there are certain writers out there who have their heart in the right place, they just didn’t get the sensitivity readers, and that’s probably why it didn’t go so well. My journey not only as a writer but as a trans woman started by reading two comics starring trans women made by cis men.
Leanna: I definitely disagree with the viewpoint that says that people are not allowed to write things outside their experience. I don’t understand where that came from. People should be researching and learning about other cultures and other people. Because you don’t know what’s going to open the eyes of someone else. I’ve had friends approach me and tell me, “I want to write this type of person in my story but I’m afraid to approach it,” and I try to tell them, look, it’s fine if you want to, and I can’t say you’re never going to get hate because that could happen, but you’re way ahead of yourself. You should produce what you’re doing first, but there’s no reason why you can’t research another type of person and put them in your story. It could really mean a lot to someone else.
Atla: Yes, and I think that type of reaction is twofold. There is a difference between having a marginalized character and talking about issues related to marginalized characters.
Leanna: That’s true.
Atla: And it’s a lot easier to mess up the second one. And I think that’s where a lot of the hate comes from. But also I think when larger series and book publishers have a lot of power and make a larger series or a project starring marginalized characters, but don’t hire a marginalized creator to do it. For example, this series I’m doing right now, Arabian Nights, if I wasn’t making it, it just wouldn’t exist. Because all of the things concerning publishing were all initiated by myself. If I hadn’t started making the Arabian Nights story, it just wouldn’t have happened. But if a company created an Arabian Nights cartoon and then didn’t hire any Arabian people or anything like that on a larger or smaller production, I think part of the negative feedback stems from that. Like the Netflix series The Crown is about a woman, and throughout the series it does not have a single woman director. And that’s a little bit of a problem.
Leanna: Yes, you want to hire marginalized people. So I do get that, but I also don’t want people to be afraid of writing things that they haven’t experienced. Another thing is that it puts a lot of pressure on marginalized people to write marginalized people and talk about the issues that affect marginalized people when they might want to write something that’s less loaded. I’ve heard before that’s a burden that some people don’t want to take. Like, “I didn’t sign up for this, I was born this way, or this is who I am, but it’s not what I’m always going to be talking about.” I guess it’s nuanced.
Atla: I think it’s very important to generally keep a balance. Like my characters are always gonna be talking about their gender orientation or their sexual orientation or their race. I think everyone should try a little bit. Because there’s still guy writers, published writers, who ask, “How do I write a woman?” The fact that that still happens means that we have to be a bit more direct about our diversity.
Leanna: Do you have other messages you’d like to share, or work that you want people to know about that you want to talk about?
Atla: My first published work was a Viking comic called “Gunnveig’s Saga.” We released the first issue and we decided to totally remake it, just because I want to take the story in a different direction than how it turned out. But because there were some production difficulties, we decided to remake it from scratch. So we’re currently doing that and we have a young girl, an Icelander, a good friend of mine, and she’s been tasked with making the art. We’re really excited to do that, to see how that goes, because it’s pretty much completely different from what the original was about. The original had elements of a character cross-dressing as a way to get into the Viking society so she could travel and get revenge on her brother for stealing her heritage from her. And we removed the general cross-dressing and made it a revenge drama and made it a bit more mature because I learned a lot since I wrote that. It was my first written series and I’d learned so much since I made that that I felt that I could do it way better if I just let it flow naturally. And I used the current skill that I have to retell it. That’s going to be a lot of fun. And the very few images that I’ve shown so far have been met with really positively.
Leanna: Oh good! How did you decide that you wanted to go back and work on something that you’ve done before but do it in a new way? Were the artists also on board, did you guys talk about it, or did you instigate?
Atla: Because we switched artists between issues, I at the very least made sure that there was expressed permission to remake it, because certain artists would take it as a personal offense, but Adelayde was very cool about it. It didn’t sell too well, the company was just starting out, and the writing wasn’t as tight as I wanted it, so we didn’t get very good reviews. So we could’ve just dropped it there and made something else from scratch. But I felt that there was something unique about an Icelander who had seen people in non-Icelandic communities try the Viking thing and not really do as well. I feel that there was a clear story there that I just hadn’t managed to etch out. I put in a lot of undesirable parts and muddled the story a lot.
Leanna: Yeah, I understand that. Because we learn and then we build on what we learn over time. And Vikings are somewhat popular right now because there’s a series on some channel or another. I just know my old coworkers really loved it.
Atla: I haven’t seen it, but I heard positives and I’m very happy about that.
Leanna: So people are interested in that. And then of course it will be interesting to see what you and the artist bring.
Atla: Yeah, because while we were starting the remake, I heard about another Icelandic-made comic, a Viking comic, that was being co-produced in Icelandic and in English, with an English translation and an Icelandic translation. And I read the English translation, so obviously there might be some translation errors. It wasn’t quite gelling with me and I think that’s mostly because of how I like to see history. Vikings barely had a written language, and the written language they had didn’t give a lot of information. For example, the sagas that educated many people about a lot of Viking-era history was made 300 years after the Viking age ended. There’s a scene in one of them where a male character tries to anger another character by going to his house with a mannequin, pretending that it’s that character, dressing him in feminine clothing, and then pretending to have sex with him. And the thing is that in 1300AD Christian-era Iceland, homosexuality was seen as a sin, so even if being openly gay was a reality of the Viking era, they wouldn’t have written it. Because their view would’ve been skewed. So in the Viking TV show, I believe there’s a female gay couple. We have no idea how historically accurate that is. I have had very passionate fights with my Icelandic friend about whether or not homosexuality would have been present in Viking communities. So in that sense I wanted to give my own version or at least my own personal view on what Iceland at that time could’ve been like.
Leanna: Yeah, it’s your perspective, so it’s going to be different from anyone else’s, which will make it unique and interesting.
Atla: Yeah, and we don’t have a lot of comic writers. I can name probably about less than 100 published comic writers and most of them I can’t name by name, but a general example.
Leanna: That’s not very many.
Atla: Uh-huh. And we only have one that’s been published by Penguin.
Leanna: Oh, okay. Are the others more small press?
Atla: Yeah, they’re smaller, they have not had work outside of Iceland. And the one that does, actually a great example of how small Iceland is, his nephew was my childhood friend. I had an interview with him. So that gives you an example of how isolated the community is here. So really I’m the first comic writer in Iceland – I think, I might be wrong – to become internationally published before being locally published.
Leanna: Oh good! That’s pretty awesome.
Atla: Yeah, I’ve been trying really hard at it, and it’s been going pretty good now. And I hope it’ll continue to improve, with a larger publisher involved. But we still get a lot of attention. I know Gail Simone had personally visited our local comic store, I know David Cronenberg did a signing at the store, and one of the creators of Lumberjanes did a signing. For being such a small country, we do a lot of things right.
Leanna: So the comics community is growing there, then.
Atla: Yeah, but it’s pretty much only because our comic book store is one of the best ever. I think they have a 4.5 out 5 right now – no, 4.7. They’re very efficient and very friendly towards comic people and are very open. When I went there for a job interview, I went as openly trans because I was trying to advertise that I could help with LGBT-related stories and that they have an LGBT audience and the manager asked me, “Which pronouns should I use?” And he’s like a 40 year old guy. I got introduced to comics there, they have a toy selection, they have a book section, a DVD section, they’ve got pretty much everything, they even have a small shelf of video games. They really single-handedly made comics a viable culture here.
Leanna: That’s really great. Especially if they’re being so inclusive while they’re doing it.
Atla: It’s really encouraging to see that at the very least there’s a good chance of growing beyond where we are. I have seen examples of comics diminishing in terms of popularity and in terms of visibility. I believe in the Philippines at one point during the 20th century about 46% of people read comics at some level, and it’s gone down, way down. I’ve seen examples of that. Where people will kinda give up on those books. We’ve been really lucky because we can’t afford to translate our books. We tried to do a W.I.T.C.H. trade paperback line – that was canceled after 3 books. We tried to do a Tokyopop-related translation line – that was canceled after 5 issues. And there’s a ton of series from the 2000s, even if they were super popular once they were translated, they were not viable here. Skullduggery; Tunnels; Discworld managed to get two books before getting canceled; Children of the Lamp, an 8-book series, lasted for 2 books. I’ve seen it happen where I go to Nexus with a friend and we’ll just be browsing. We’ll see one of the continuations of those translations and their immediate reaction will be, “Oh my god, they made more?” So in terms of comics, we’re at the point where we can’t really afford to bring in American comics except in English. To have a sort of viable comic center we couldn’t remain in foreign comics. We couldn’t be able to translate them and grow interest. The only thing we’ve been able to translate successfully is Donald Duck comics.
Leanna: I think I’ve heard of that and I was so surprised because I didn’t even know that there were Donald Duck comics.
Atla: That’s what Duck Tales are based off of.
Leanna: Oh! Well I know Duck Tales, but…
Atla: There’s an entire of universe with side characters and a whole extended cast. It’s crazy. Some of them are actually super depressing. If you’ve seen Duck Tales, there’s a few episodes that go into Scrooge’s past, and they’re really sad. And all of those depressing parts are actually based on one comic author, Don Rosa’s career writing Donald Duck. So yeah, they get very dark and brooding sometimes. But they’re mostly very cheerful.
Leanna: Yeah, I would think that Donald Duck would be pretty light-hearted.
Atla: Yeah, for the most part it is. But they’re super popular in Europe in particular, Finland, and all of the other Nordic countries. I think I own about 200 here. Like, large, sizeable trade paperbacks. So yeah, my family used to collect them until we all got a bit too old to collect them anymore. Until we did, we had about 200, maybe more. Chronologically labelled.
Leanna: What are some really popular Icelandic series? Are there that many? Because I don’t know, how big is the comics community there?
Atla: There’s one guy, Hugleikur Dagsson, then there’s a bunch of other people who really struggled to release a comic. That’s the long and short of it. The big one – that’s the one I got to interview. He is a satirical dark humor writer and I think American audiences might not appreciate it but I’ll send it to you.
Leanna: Okay, thank you.
Atla: Here you go. It’s one panel, and most of it is one panel work.
Leanna: I see.
Atla: And that was the tamest one I could find. So he’s our main guy. You might think he wouldn’t be too popular, but there was an Apple store called MACLAND, and they paid him to get digital advertisements that were just this. Like this morose, but they were official store advertisements that they used online. He’s been in, when it still printed, phone books. He was actually hired to make a book like this for phone books, so we really like him. And he’s been at it for a few dozen years. He’s pretty good. I like him, but I think American audiences would certainly be split on him, and I definitely understand why. Other than that we had – let’s see here – we had some sagas made into books, like generally children’s books, and we have one group that I really like and I’ve talked to them before online, Sirry & Smári. They’re very nice people online and they make general work for all ages. They’re comedy people and they work in both Icelandic and English. They’ve released a few comics and they released a children’s book, called Askur og Prinsessan. It starred a gay couple, and was like an LGBT fairy tale story, and it is actually currently taught in school.
Leanna: Oh, that’s really cool!
Atla: Yeah, because we’re actually super liberal. We’re the second country to legalize gay marriage. We had our biggest gay celebrity explain gender and sexuality on the country’s biggest children’s show. It doesn’t mean we’re much better about it, but we’re much more open about things like that.
Leanna: That’s interesting to know.
Atla: That about wraps it up.
Leanna: Oh! I have one more question. What would you say to any writers or aspiring writers if they’re thinking about getting started writing comics or collaborating with other creators?
Atla: I would say, first off, be respectful. Understand that they’re comics people and that friendliness and communication works best. You are probably not the best writer and that’s completely okay. Being a nice person matters way more. Be open about what you want to do. Take in their ideas whole-heartedly. Be open about payments, for the love of god. That doesn’t mean that they need to get paid. I have had experiences where some artists do not actively want to get paid. I’ve offered them money and they’ve actually said that it hurts their creative flow. So understand, respect, and be open to the fact that artists work a lot. Some writers want to get paid, too. They’re putting a price tag on the work that they make and that’s okay. Be open to being flexible about things, don’t just set them in stone. I’ve had to do that sometimes and I missed out on a lot more opportunities. So let an artist ask for the price that they want. That way, They’ll not only be a lot more trusting, they’ll also make offers that are a little more or a little bit less than what you were planning on offering. So it can be mutually beneficial.
Leanna: Those are all really great tips.
Atla: Just be very open about all general communications. It’s fun in comics to talk about creating whatever the story is, but it’s also work. And you have to understand that these are not just people, these are business partners.
Leanna: Yes, I agree.
Atla: Get the legal stuff out of the way like as soon as a project is solid. Before you get any artwork, talk about legal stuff.
Leanna: I’ve heard that too. It’s really important to get contracts done as soon as possible, even if the person is your best friend and you think nothing could ever happen. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. So it’s just good to have it in writing.
Atla: And personally, I don’t write up specific contracts. But I have everything written down so they understand and can adjust and ask questions. For example, what many artists and writers don’t consider is that if you start a project with an artist and they make certain art and they have to quit, do you, without contacting them, have permission to use their art? Because that’s not only a moral issue, it’s a legal issue. So talking about that and asking about who owns what is very important. And I don’t always remember to do it, but I try to do it persistently just so that everyone can be on the same general page.
Leanna: It sounds like with the way you find people, you already have at least a small relationship beforehand and the people you’re contacting are professionals. Professionals want things to go as smoothly as possible. But it’s also just really good to have things down in writing. That way it’s absolutely clear for everyone involved.
Atla: It’s also very important because you might find out that a person is friendly and is a good person, but is not tolerant to people accidentally forgetting to send an invoice, or general business things. So with business, it’s better to get all that out of the way because it is one of the largest decisions you make in comics.
Leanna: Well, thank you very much for taking this interview. We talked about a lot of things, and I enjoyed the conversation.
You can find Atla Hrafney online at:
Amazon: Galaxy Knight 00487
Ko-Fi: Buy a coffee
Twitter: Atla Hrafney
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