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She Has No Head! – Interview With Creator Ross Campbell

Scout & Sparkle from Shadoweyes

Scout & Sparkle from Shadoweyes

Welcome to part two of Ross Campbell week here on She Has No Head!.  Part one, a Spotlight on Ross Campbell’s work can be found here.  As I mention at the beginning of the following interview, I had the good fortune of becoming friends with comics phenom Ross Campbell via the magic of the internet – and thanks to that friendship, and Ross’ generosity, and his upcoming book Shadoweyes – I was able to convince him to stop by for an in-depth interview.

So join me as Ross takes time out of his busy comics making schedule to talk about everything from when we can expect the next volume of Wet Moon, to what super power he’d most like to have, to the inside scoop on what to expect from his new project Shadoweyes, releasing from SLG in June.

And make sure to come back on Monday, May 17th for an advance review of Shadoweyes and an exclusive preview excerpt from the book.

Kelly: So Ross…first and foremost I want to thank you for doing this…I’m so excited to have you on She Has No Head!

Ross: My pleasure.

Kelly: I guess, in the interest of full disclosure I should let everyone out there reading know that we do sort of know each other…though not in real life, we have become friends through the magic of the internet.  I should also tell people that we both graduated from SCAD…though we never met there.

Ross: Yeah, I graduated in 2002, so was I even there at all when you were?  I think I started in ’99, so you must have been leaving right when I got there?

Kelly: I graduated in ‘99 and left Savannah in 2000.  So yeah, we would have just missed each other…ships in the night and all that.  And as if to beautifully segue into some questions here…the city of Wet Moon is loosely based on Savannah, correct?

Ross: Yeah, Savannah was a huge inspiration for the city and environment and everything, and the college, too.

Kelly: Having lived there, I can totally see it.  While we’re talking about Wet Moon, I think Wet Moon fans everywhere will kill me if I don’t try to at least find out what Tribly’s fate will be…any hints?

Ross: Haha.  I can’t say!!!!

Kelly: I figured…but it was worth a try!  Any idea then when we’ll be getting Wet Moon 6?  I know you’ve been swamped with other projects that we’ll get to that later, but with Trilby’s life hanging in the balance…people are anxious!

Trilby, Wet Moon Volume 5

Trilby, Wet Moon Volume 5

Ross: I’m hoping before the end of the year. It’s written and although it needs a little tinkering I want to start thumbnailing it in the next week or so.  I think we scheduled it for fall of this year but I’m expecting it to be more like late October or November.

Kelly: That’s actually quite soon – I’m sure Wet Moon fans everywhere will do their best to hold you to that.

Ross: I’m trying! I had to get some other stuff out of my system first before I did volume 6.

Kelly: I’m sure it will be well worth the wait.  Wet Moon is this very strange but effective blend of kind of realistic slice of life stories about some colorful college students and this mysterious horror element…was the horror aspect of the story always your intent from the beginning or did that develop as you fleshed out the world?

Ross: It was there from the beginning, yeah.  In really early versions of Wet Moon it had much more horror stuff actually, like underground CHUD-type mutants and it actually took place on a lunar bio-dome on the surface of the moon, but all that stuff got scaled way back.

Kelly: No way.  That’s wild.

Ross: I probably should have kept the moon base idea. Haha.

Kelly: What made you scale it back…just self-editing?

Ross: Yeah.  I was tooling with the story for so long that my interests changed, that sort of thing, and I just wanted to focus on different aspects of the characters and story.  But the core of the series is still the same.

Kelly: Sometimes working with a story like that for a long time can really be a blessing…allowing you to separate what you really love from what you just think you love.  I think in this case, the result is fantastic.  Though I wouldn’t mind seeing a Chud/mutant/moon base story someday too.

Ross: Yeah!  When I do Wet Moon 2099.

Kelly: PERFECT.  You heard it here first folks!

Ross: And I’m not kidding! It’ll be at the very least a mini-comic.

Kelly: That would blow peoples’ minds.  I would be first in line for it.  Consider yourself committed.  One of my favorite things about Wet Moon is that you present your characters (especially your female characters) in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.  But it’s particularly noticeable in the physical…because so few artists in comics today draw that way…why do you draw that way?

Ross: It just seems natural to me, since even when I’m doing stories with weird or fantastical stuff in them, I still

Kinzoku from Wet Moon

Kinzoku from Wet Moon

want them to be “real” and that’s how people are in the real world, so it seems an obvious choice for me.  And obviously there still has to be some editing, since I can’t represent EVERYone but I still like to have the suggestion of diversity in there.  Plus it’s super fun.

Kelly: It really speaks to me, for the very reasons you mention – and also because it stands out in the crowd.

Ross: I never get bored because every character is different.  Or I try to make them different, anyway, heh.  Sometimes I catch myself, like I’ll draw a new character’s nose and go “oh wait, that’s Character X’s nose, too” and I have to make myself change it.  But I think there must be some kind of natural artistic inclination to draw a certain type of person and then keep doing that over and over.

Kelly: At the same time that you’ve been praised by many (both critics and fans) for your portrayals of women, you’ve also drawn some criticism from people that think you are fetishizing or over-sexualizing some of your female characters…what do you think about that?

Ross: I agree. Haha.

Kelly: You agree with the criticism?

Ross: Yeah.  I think they’re right, and I look back on my older stuff and I cringe.  Which is normal, I cringe regardless when I look at my work, but I think I definitely got out of control with the sexualization, particularly with Water Baby.  And what made it worse was that it wasn’t even intentional, I wasn’t sitting down to try to make a specifically “sexy” or titillating book like you’d see Milo Manara do or whatever, and that I didn’t intend it makes it seem to worse to me.

Kelly: Yeah, that was my next question – intention vs. just natural evolution of art.

Ross: It just came out that way, like I didn’t even realize it until I started becoming more aware of it and what I was doing. I just regret that it took me so many years to “get” it.

Kelly: So you have deliberately changed your drawing process…I actually think that’s interesting and laudable. That you’re more interested in the message you’re perhaps sending then just, “this is fun to draw, and this is how my style looks right now”.

Ross: At first it was kind of like that, yeah.  Like I reached a point actually while I was greytoning Water Baby, I think, that I started freaking out and almost tried to keep the book from being released and not wanting to finish it, and I was like “what am I doing, look at these characters’ boobs and everything, what is wrong with me?!” So after that I really had to train myself to draw how I wanted to draw, but I think it’s become more natural now that I’ve been moving in that direction for a few years, but it’s still a process.

Kelly: I find this fascinating…and admirable, I have to say.  Few artists seem to have a vested interest in not contributing to exploitation.  Especially to the degree that they’ll train themselves not to do it.

Ross: Yeah, I just don’t want to be part of that.  And I think there’s a big difference between having characters just

Audrey from Wet Moon

Audrey from Wet Moon

be attractive or sexy in a “natural” way (natural in quotes because they’re still drawn characters) than them being like…crazy sexpot male gaze characters for no reason.  And I think there’s a place for those types of characters, it’s fine if an artist wants to do that, I still enjoy looking at some stuff like that, but not really in the types of stories I want to do.

Kelly: Speaking of a place for those things – what about stuff that maybe subverts things or pays homage, or satire and parody…how do you feel about that kind of stuff.  Is it worthwhile…or does it just end up inadvertently adding fuel to the fire of exploitation

Ross: I’ve thought a LOT about this sort of thing.  But it’s really hard, it’s so obtuse and blurry, that I think it really depends on the specific work.  It all depends on the execution and what the other context in the work is.

Kelly: I tend to agree.  It’s very much case by case in my mind.

Ross: But I definitely do see a lot of things that are supposedly progressive or aware doing this stuff in a satirical way like you said, or trying to subvert something, that they either can’t pull it off or the message isn’t strong enough, that yeah, they just add fuel to the fire.  I think unless you nail it you just add to it.  Same with racial and cultural issues, too, like if you even mess it up a LITTLE, your whole thing is sunk.

Kelly: In a similar vein, I’ve talked about “the microscope” on SHNH! a couple times before – the idea that everything in comics – especially female portrayals and gender lately – get analyzed to death and put under a microscope.  Do you feel that?  Is it ever paralyzing and actively affecting your work?  Or alternatively I suppose, do you find something good in that hyper-analysis?

Ross: Hmm.  I think maybe I put my own microscope on my own work, heh.  But I guess I see that, yeah.  Especially in comics it seems like people are always on the lookout, but I think that’s probably good.  I like when there’s some comic or whatever that seems okay at first, but then when people analyze it, there’s all this ugly stuff that comes to the surface.  I mean not that I LIKE the ugly stuff, haha, but I like when people can analyze and scrutinize something to the point where that becomes clear. I guess maybe sometimes they can analyze something too much or go too far, but I think generally it helps to have people doing this, especially with gender, portrayals of women, portrayals of race, culture, etc. I guess I only find it debilitating when it’s a criticism I agree with and that I see in my own work, like the Water Baby stuff, going back to that.

Kelly: That’s why the Water Baby criticism hit you so hard – because you agreed with it on some level in retrospect?

Ross: Yeah, totally.  When those first horrendously negative reviews came along, I already agreed with them, and they just reinforced it.

Kelly: For what it’s worth, I loved Water Baby.  It was my favorite of the Minx books – by about a mile.

Ross: Thanks!  I’ve softened on it a bit, looking back on it, I like it a lot more now than I did when I finished it.

Kelly: Speaking of great books… I recently got my hands on The Abandoned (which is out of print and can be hard to find or pricey) and really liked it.

Ross: Awesome!  Yeah, it can be tough to find.

Kelly: You played with some interesting horror tropes to good affect I thought…The Abandoned (to me) would be a pretty good example of subverting something successfully.  For example there’s a lot of “girls in tight tops in trouble” stuff in The Abandoned, but since the ladies are all the main/major character “heroes” and “villains” it works for me.

Ross: I wish I’d taken that stuff to the next level, or a better level, or whatever.

Kelly: How so?

Ross: I was trying to do some subverting in The Abandond, yeah, but looking back on it I don’t feel like I was totally successful.  Maybe just because I’m the creator and I’m my own worst critic, but I think it still came off more exploitative than I wanted it to be.  But I think it also fits way more than in Water Baby, because The Abandoned is meant to be this trashy, gross, grimy kind of horror thing.

Kelly: I can see how you’d feel that way, since it’s your own work, but the fact that the main characters (pretty much all girls/women) were very much in charge of their own destinies rather than running around waiting to be saved…not to mention the ever present variety of shapes, sizes, ethnicities, etc. …it really offset any exploitation.  Besides most modern horror is pretty exploitative…so I don’t know how you’d play with it, without jumping in full throttle.

Ross: Yeah, true. I really love the George Romero zombie stuff and his work is pretty non-exploitative in terms of The Abandoned Coversex and gender (despite the shrieking Barbara in Night of the Living Dead, but that’s a different conversation, heh), and that was the main inspiration for The Abandoned, like Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, but I also wanted to do stuff along the lines of trashy Friday The 13th type stuff that merges sex and death in sometimes uncomfortable ways.

Kelly: If it was supposed to be a blend of the two inspirations…I think you came pretty close.

Ross: It was kind of combining all the aspects of horror that I love and hate, except it didn’t have killer aliens.

Kelly: Maybe killer aliens can be next.  Maybe they can show up on that moon base in Wet Moon 2099.  What stuff do you hate in horror?

Ross: The girls-in-tight-tops stuff you’re talking about, mostly, like they’re not inherently bad and I like girls in tight tops and everything but they always get killed or get “sexy deaths” and that kind of thing.  Sometimes it’s funny, I can’t deny that part of me loves all those stupid slasher movies, but other times you’re like OKAY, ENOUGH.  And I hate when characters in horror movies have PLANS, whether they’re good plans or bad plans.

Kelly: Yeah, but I think you well subverted some of that stuff…by making the girls fully able to take care of themselves.  I do LOVE that in The Abandoned they don’t have much of a plan…and make stupid mistakes.  I thought it was particularly realistic because of their age and inexperience (all under 23) – and that’s something you do quite well in all your books – allow people to be realistic to their ages.

Ross: Yeah, I wanted to have it where they don’t know what the hell to do.  They’ve known this cushy society all their lives, then suddenly they’re basically in the “wild” and having to hunt for what they need and they’re being hunted, etc.  And so they end up just trying to live like they’ve always lived, in this boarded up apartment like nothing’s wrong.

Kelly: That worked for me.  I found myself screaming at them…DO SOMETHING.  But it felt quite realistic.  Speaking of age and realism…you write a lot of teen/collage age characters – especially girls and women – is there any particular reason?

Ross: I guess it just feels more natural.  I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing when I write guy characters.

Kelly: Do you have to do any research to get that young voice right (because it does feel right to me)…I’m envisioning a lot of time spent at the mall…maybe Hot Topic?

Ross: Haha.  No, not really.  I think most of my research comes just from how my friends and I used to talk when we were that age, or how my younger friends talk, that sort of thing.  Not that I’ve ever really tried, but I wouldn’t know what to do if I had to go out and do research into how teens/20-somethings talk.  How do you eavesdrop like that?  All you’d get would be little snippets and excerpts completely out of context,  you need super hearing or be able to turn invisible so you can follow people without them knowing.

Kelly: Super hearing would totally be a curse, but I’d take invisibility in a heartbeat.  I want to get back to Minx…especially on the heels of Greg Rucka leaving DC I’m curious what the experience of working for a more mainstream publisher like DC (Minx) was like for you versus the more independent stuff like Oni, Tokyopop, and SLG…?

Ross: It was really great working with them.  The only real limitation they placed on me was that I couldn’t use strong profanity, which I was put off by at first and almost didn’t do the project, until I remembered I was poor and my editor convinced me.  Another thing that really got me freaked out about Water Baby, going back to me freaking out for a minute, was that when I did the book, there were no other Minx books yet, so I had no real frame of reference.  And granted, DC green lit the book and published it, I didn’t force them, but I felt confused by it.  I can’t remember when Plain Janes came out and the other books started to appear, but when I saw the other Minx stuff I was like “wait… so THAT’S what Minx is supposed to be like?” I don’t know where this came from but for some reason I was under the impression that it was for much older readers, and granted that doesn’t excuse everything I did since I still knew I was supposed to be doing a book for girls, but that’s why I started out wanting to do this crass, raunchy kind of thing, I was skewing way older – like my original script had sex scenes and all this other real, nitty-gritty stuff.  I don’t mean to say I felt duped or anything because DC and my editor were all great and awesome to work with, but I think, had I known what the rest of the line was going to be like and who it was marketed to, THAT would have been the wake-up call I’d needed to make the artistic shift I’ve been trying to do for the past however many years.

Kelly: That makes sense – of just not quite realizing who/what you’re writing TO.  I don’t know if you read my “conversation” with Mariah Huehner a couple months back but I said there that I thought it was a really big mistake and missed opportunity not to have a superhero book in the Minx line…so that it might be a good gateway drug for young girls (assuming they could get them reading the books) into more mainstream superhero stuff…I heard a rumor that you pitched Minx a Supergirl story…any truth to that?

Ross: It was a really brief thing.  I never wrote a pitch for it or did anything with it, but when I was talking with my editor trying to figure out what sort of book to do for Minx, that was one of the ideas that I threw out there. I was basically throwing anything I could at her so I could get the job, haha.

ross-campbell-supergirl1

Ross Campbell Supergirl Project Rooftop Design

Kelly: Whatever it takes, right?  I saw a (I guess unrelated?) sketch you did for a really off the wall Supergirl for Dean Trippe’s Project Rooftop…would that have been the direction you wanted to go?  Because I would have bought THE HELL out of that book…that version of Supergirl.

Ross: Those were unrelated, yeah.  I think if I ever was able to do my own Supergirl, it would be more like the one I did in blue/white with the mohawk for Project Rooftop, yeah.

Kelly: So much more interesting to me than the “regular Supergirl” – no offense Supergirl!

Ross: Haha.  That design was meant to be a totally different character, a Latina Supergirl, so that’s probably what I’d do.

Kelly: Did DC give any reason for not going with your little Supergirl pitch?  Seems like a real missed opportunity to me.

Ross: No, we never talked about it.  We really loved the Water Baby ideas so we went with that.

Kelly: Well, I’m glad we got Water Baby…so I guess it’s win win…but I still want that mohawked Supergirl!

Ross: Haha.  Maybe someday!!!  I’d still love to do it, or some new character along similar lines.

Kelly: Since we’re talking superheroes…let’s talk about your new book, coming out in June, Shadoweyes.  This is your most superhero-y thing to date, correct?

Ross: Yeah, definitely.

Kelly: As you know, I’ve been lucky enough to read an advance copy of Shadoweyes…and I LOVE it.  I think both artistically and thematically it’s some of your most complicated and interesting work.

Ross: Thanks!! I’m really glad you dug it.

Kelly: What made you finally seek out superheroes (of a sort) at this point?  You’ve been doing your own books since 2004…what made now the time?

Ross: I don’t know. I’d always wanted to do a superhero book, I’ve been doing personal superhero characters, mostly for tabletop gaming, since I was a kid, so I guess I always knew that sooner or later I’d have to do something like that.

Kelly: And how do you feel about working with the superhero genre now that you have?

Ross: Awesome.  Shadoweyes is the most fun I’ve ever had doing a book.

Kelly: That is fantastic to hear, because it feels like that in reading it.  I love a lot of your work, but Shadoweyes is definitely my favorite thing you’ve done thus far – even just from a visual standpoint – which is interesting because I believe you did the art for Shadoweyes differently than Wet Moon, correct?

Sparkle navigating the streets of Dranac

Sparkle navigating the streets of Dranac

Ross: Yeah, Shadoweyes is my first totally digital book.  Well besides the thumbnails, which I still did in pencil.  I’d done a couple short digital comics before that, like I did a short Hack/Slash story a year or two ago, and I feel like there was something else but I can’t remember.  Anyway, Shadoweyes is the first BIG book I did all digitally.

Kelly: I can’t believe it’s all digital.  It is beautiful.  And I honestly never would have guessed it was done digitally.  How did you like that process as opposed to more traditional hand drawing?

Ross: It’s so much more fun.  I’ve done a lot of computer coloring in the past but drawing the lines digitally is so new to me, so maybe I like it so much because it’s like a brand new toy or whatever.

Kelly: Will you do future work this way, or do you think you’ll continue doing both depending on the project?

Ross: Probably depends on the project.  I am seriously considering doing Wet Moon 6 digitally, but I think if I got some big high-paying job I might stick with traditional for that because I’d be able to, financially.

Kelly: In order to keep all the Wet Moon books looking relatively the same?

Ross: Yeah. The Wet Moon books have always fluctuated since the beginning though, because I was still trying to get my process down and I never liked how anything came out so I kept trying new things, and even though I’d like to stick with the pencil/digital greytones of Wet Moon 4 and 5, it’s getting to a point where it’s tough to do that without any other money coming in.  Because it takes longer to draw in pencil, I mean.  And paper is expensive.

Kelly: I never thought of it as being significantly more expensive…but you’re right, of course.

Ross: So while I’m kind of loathe to do something stylistically different in Wet Moon YET AGAIN (sorry, people! haha), I might have to because digital is so much faster and cheaper and is sooo much easier on my tendonitis-ridden drawing arm.

Kelly: I think people want you to protect your drawing arm at all costs…and if Wet Moon looks as good as Shadoweyes…I doubt there will be many complaints!  In addition to the book looking different, I think thematically Shadoweyes is different from your other work as well.  It’s similar, but a little more layered, a little more interested in delving deep into “right” and “wrong” and all the black and white and grey of those two words, which I think is something that comes naturally with superheroes…but in mainstream work it doesn’t often get addressed as effectively as it maybe should.

Ross: It’s a little different because with Shadoweyes I’m trying to actually “tackle” things, I guess, whereas with Wet Moon, even though it does raise issues, isn’t really “about” anything specific other than the lives of the characters and the things they deal with. Does that even make sense? Haha.

Kelly: That totally makes sense.  I completely got a sense of tackling real questions.  And searching for the answers.

Ross: Yeah, and while in Wet Moon there are characters that address various important issues, I try to avoid any thematic elements in that, whereas with Shadoweyes I’m trying to do things with particular themes and issues.

Kelly: Without spoiling everything…can you talk a little bit about the themes in Shadoweyes and what interested you there…the things you were especially interested in tackling?

Ross: Hmm.  I wanted to do some stuff about identity and morality, and how those things are so fluid and can be silenced or compromised or invisible to others, and how morality is malleable and easily broken.  And there’s plenty of Shadoweyes punching bad guys, but I also wanted to have a hero (or antihero) who has to deal with more “invisible” kind of things that you can’t just punch and make them go away.  Not that punching shouldn’t be considered.

Kelly: I love it.  I think you addressed all those things quite well…and yet there’s still lots of good punching.  I’m excited for people to read this book…I think it’s going to show a whole other side of you to your existing fans, and bring in a lot of new ones.

Ross: I hope so!!!

Kelly: You did a lot of great world-building in Shadoweyes, the city of Dranac feeling very clearly like a kind of futuristic but not so technologically advanced society…can you tell us a little bit about your thoughts behind that?

Ross: Yeah, I wanted to do a setting where I could make my own rules, and not have to be limited by real life

City of Dranac

City of Dranac

laws or customs, where I could make stuff up or exaggerate it if I needed to, and draw a setting where there isn’t any vegetation or trees, it’s all metal and concrete. It’s supposed to be the future, or an alternate timeline if you want to get technical, kind of a combo of the 80s and early 2000s.  It’s all pretty low-tech, yeah, like although people have cell phones and laptops, there aren’t any flying cars or anything like that, just a bunch of jury-rigged technology crammed inside a confined space.  Which is super fun to draw, I love doing all the hoses and pistons and being able to make up the architecture.  The world-building stuff is always in the background, it never overtakes the characters, but there’ll be more stuff about the society and what the rest of the city is like as the series goes on.

Kelly: Probably my favorite aspect of the world-building and design (other than the design of Shadoweyes herself) are the clothes.  I wanted so many of the pieces that you came up with for this book – where does your great fashion sense come from and can you please start a clothing line for real people?

Ross: Haha, thanks.  I’ve always wanted to design real clothes but I have no idea how to get into that field or if I’d even be cut out for it.  I’m not a stylish person so I don’t know where I get this desire to design outfits and everything.  Shadoweyes was really fun, though, because since it’s this make-believe society I didn’t feel like I had to be authentic with what clothes people actually wear or what actually exists.  It’s still inspired by real life and it would all be wearable, but I tried to show that Dranac has its own fads and styles.

Kyisha Outfits

I'll take 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10 to go please!

Kelly: You were totally successful with it.  I found myself just completely coveting some of the clothes. Okay…while I’ve still got you here and while we’re still talking superheroes…I have to quit lobbing you softballs and get to the tough stuff…You can have any super power…what would it be?

Ross: Damn.  Telekinesis…but like, high-level telekinesis, because that nabs you flying AND invulnerability.

Kelly: Very clever.  You’ve just made my answer seem silly and uniformed!

Ross: You’d also have super strength, in a way, because you could do telekinetically propelled punches.

Kelly: So you’re basically telling me you want to be Jean Grey?

Ross: Haha.  Yeah, telekinetically manipulating molecules.  I could cure cancer with telekinesis.  It does everything if you can get small enough with it!  Telekinetic healing.  Telekinetic genetic engineering.  Telekinetically flip genes on and off, haha.

Kelly: Well…now you’re not Jean Grey…but like the evil ruler of Genosha circa 1980 whatever…

Ross: Haha.

Kelly: So…favorite character YOU have created.  I know it’s like picking a favorite child…but do it anyway!

Ross: Oh man…can I ask you what yours is?  Or am I not supposed to ask the questions?  Because you also have to tell me what superpower you want.

Kelly: Oh!  Of course you can ask.  I was going to say flying…but you’ve outed me as being a simpleton that has clearly not thought enough about the question.  And my favorite character of yours would be a tie between Scout and Sparkle, from Shadoweyes…and I’m not just saying that because it’s your shiny new book.

Ross: I think I’m kind of Scout/Sparkle tying myself, yeah, but I also love Mara and Cleo from Wet Moon. If I HAD to pick one I’d pick Scout, though, because I just love the mopey ones.  My other choice would be this character Razerback who Scout’s design is based on.  I think I mentioned her in a couple interviews; she’s this character I created in like 6th grade.

tmntcasey

Casey Jones, TMNT

Kelly: See…your love for Scout/Shadoweyes was destined from way back.  So who is your favorite character in comics that you did NOT create yourself?

Ross: Man, also tough…

Kelly: We ask the tough questions at SHNH!

Ross: Maybe Casey Jones from TMNT.

Kelly: Seriously?  That’s hilarious…so random.  What speaks to you about Casey Jones?  Seriously.  I’m not being snarky…I swear.

Ross: Because he goes out there to fight crime without any impetus other than to help, he doesn’t have a code name, he’s just “I’M CASEY,” he’s a regular guy in sweatpants and stuff. Casey was the original regular-dude-vigilante.  He’s just like “this city is filled with jerks hurting people,” and he goes out and does something.

Kelly: You know…now that you mention it…Casey reminds me a little of Noah from Shadoweyes. Am I crazy?

Noah from Shadoweyes

Noah from Shadoweyes

Ross: No, Noah is definitely inspired by Casey Jones, haha.

Kelly: So that kind of undermines my next question, which was, is that the character you’d most like a crack at writing – but since you’ve already done it in a way in Shadoweyes, maybe not?

Ross: I don’t feel like I’m covering any real Casey ground with Noah though, they’re totally different characters outside of their modus operandi, but I don’t know if I’d want to write Casey.  I love the character but I don’t know if I’d have anything to say with him.  I did almost get to do a story about his daughter, Shadow, for Tales of the TMNT, but that’s as close as I’d ever get.  I think I’d probably want to do an X-Men thing, I really want to do a Feral book.  Or a Domino/Feral team-up.

Kelly: Domino/Feral team up!  Sign me up for ten advance copies!

Ross: Haha, yeah.  It would be sweet.  I think Marvel killed Feral fairly recently but I would bring her back.

Kelly: Well the good news is, there’s a loooooong history of bringing back whoever the hell you want…so you’re covered.  What comics are you reading right now that you’re really digging?

Ross: Man, what am I reading…I really dug Rucka’s and Williams’ Batwoman, and I really liked The Question co-feature drawn by Cully Hamner.  But I think the book that I always look forward to the most is Scott Pilgrim.

Kelly: I just recently read all the Scott Pilgrim books and was pretty impressed.  There was something so fun and sweet and “up” about it.  Pretty infectious.

Ross: I think that’s [Pilgrim] the only book I ever drop everything to read.  That and when All Star Superman was coming out.  Oh you know what else is good? Brandon Graham’s King City.

Kelly: I’ll have to check it out.

Ross: The first King City book came out from Tokyopop back in the day, but now it’s being released through Image and they just got through reprinting the first book in issue format, and now they’re finally putting out what would have been King City Volume 2.

Kelly: Since you are both a writer and an artist…do you have one that you see yourself as more or prefer…like would you rather draw someone else’s story or write a story for someone else to draw?

Ross: I guess it would depend on what the story is, but if I had to pick I’d rather write for somebody else to draw.  Mostly because I like creating the characters.

Kelly: Can we expect any of those in the future?

Ross: I hope so! I’ve been trying to get a few projects going with other artists over the years, one of which is a Wet Moon spin-off, and another is a Japanese-style giant monster book that I’ve had kicking around for several years.  The giant monster one was one of two ideas I pitched to Tokyopop, the other being The Abandoned, but they went with the zombies so the monsters got shelved.  So hopefully I can get those going.  I also really want to write a sci-fi outer space story for somebody, so I don’t have to draw all the spaceships, heh.

Kelly: I know Shadoweyes is releasing in June and you’ve been swamped with that, but do you have any other projects in the pipeline that you’re at liberty to talk about?  Anything you can tease us with?

SHADOWEYES scout and sparkle 3

Scout & Sparkle from Shadoweyes

Ross: I think just Wet Moon 6 right now.

Kelly: Well, if it manages to come out this year, I’d say that’s more than enough!  Two major books in one year.

Ross: Oh yeah, and I’m working on a mini-comic with novelist Nnedi OkoraforThe Legend of Arro-yo.  It’ll be sort of a teaser for a long story Nnedi wants to do, but hopefully we can get it either picked up and expand it, or somehow self-publish it.

Kelly: I just realized…you’ve done (if you get out Wet Moon 6 and the Okorafor book out this year) ten huge books in about six years…that is a massive feat…especially considered the high level of quality.

Ross: Sometimes they go pretty fast, yeah.  I hope I can keep it up.

Kelly: I have no doubt…especially since you’ve discovered digital.

Ross: Somebody pay me more money!

Kelly: I think doing a superhero book can only help, as that’s a lot of the market for American comics.  But I also feel like a lot of people are dissatisfied with superhero books…so something new and different that’s still superhero?  I think people will be excited.  Are you going to be at the San Diego Comic-Con?

Ross: Yep, I will be there.  You’ll be at NYCC, right?  But not SDCC?

Kelly: Yeah, I’m planning on NYCC, but not SDCC.

Ross: You gotta go to SDCC next year.

Kelly: Hopefully next year my book will be out and my life will be wildly different (not)…then I’ll be at SDCC.

Ross: You’ll be there on the movie adaptation panel.  I’ll come up to you and go “Hey, Kelly!” and you’ll totally ignore me.  “Who is this peon.”

Kelly: I think it’s a bit soon to hope for movie adaptation…but if my book gets published I could maybe be there with my book since it’s superhero related…that would be an amazing dream come true.  However, I would never not know you…more likely is that I’ll be following YOU around begging you to do the comic book adaptation of my book…and you’ll be all “I write my OWN stories!”

Ross: Haha.  Whatever, you’ll have your pick, you could get anyone.

Kelly: There’s a short list of artists I’d love to work with…that I think would be a good fit for books that I want to do…but you’ll always be on that list. You’ve got a fantastic style that I really enjoy, and as I’ve said before, your portrayal of women really works for me, and it’s something I’m quite passionate about as you know.

Ross: Thanks!

Kelly: So Ross…thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me…

Ross: No problem, it was great.

Kelly: I also want to thank you in advance for giving me an advance copy of Shadoweyes to review and share with my readers.

Ross: Thanks for reading it.

Kelly: Of course – I was honored! So make sure to come back, readers, for the advance review and exclusive excerpts from Shadoweyes on Monday May 17th.  Thanks Ross – good luck and please come back anytime!

Ross: Thanks for invitation to do this and everything!

Kelly: Anytime.  I hope you’ll come back.

Ross: Definitely.

21 Comments

[…] April 20, 2010 in CSBG, art, artists, awesomeness, comics, comics should be good, feminism, ross campbell, she has no head! A bonus for you SHNH fans this week, as I have a second post up today, a follow up on my Ross Campbell Spotlight post of yesterday.  Today there’s an epic interview of Ross Campbell up.  Check it out! […]

OMG SUPER LONG INTERVIEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!! excessive punctuation to denote enjoyment!!!!!!!!! good, though. tres good.

hmmmmmm BTW Ross (i’m gonna totally call you out on this one) how come your female characters have a wider variety of body types than your male characters? hmmmmmmmmm??????? (sorry, i’ve seen body type mentioned so much in here that i can’t get it out of my brain!!!)

Nick: Yeah, I know it was really on the long side. I tried really hard to cut it down…and you wouldn’t believe how much I already cut. I probably should have gone for cutting even more…but I just liked his answers to so much stuff…it was hard to edit down. Glad you enjoyed it!

Racheal Witten

April 20, 2010 at 1:55 pm

That’s exactly what I’m talking about, WHY DO only the women body types vary but not the men’s? I think it’s a subconscious thing the artist does to subject women. ALL BACK TO MY POINT that Ross Campbell’s work abuses the female form. Because if he truly expressed diversity like you all claim. The men would vary also. The work is very sexual.

I disagree when you say that not all artists experience self reflection, EVERY artist does experience it some degree. To even be able draw you have to ATLEAST be able reflect on the act of drawing and whether or not you like it enough to continue. So to say that not every artist reflects on their work ignores the fundamental process of making art.

I can name plenty of talented female artists, and in fact I am a fan of many of those named artists. I would like to read and learn more about them. One of my arguments is that part of the part of the problem that is the comic media is not trying hard enough to overcome the white male perspectives to give the public some other than THAT. How many articles do I have to read before I actually see something that truly reflects diversity!?

ANYway all of you should be happy I’m speaking out against his work because I’m rising debate and SELF REFLECTION on what is the truly is DEFINITION of minority recognition!

Rachel: I think the male body types in Campbell’s work do have quite a bit of variety – I would say not as MUCH variety – but that might be simply because Campbell has far more female characters than male characters in his books. Just off the top of my head: Noah from Shadoweyes and Ben from The Abaonded are quite fit, but Jon from The Abandoned is pretty average, Martin from Wet Moon is also very “normal/average” and non-buff and Glen is very slender/slight, while Slicer is more beefy…like an ex-football player that’s letting himself go. Jake from Water Baby is tall and slender, not cut. These variations may not be as broad as his female variations, but it’s still more than I see on the regular in comics – especially mainstream stuff.

But I’m honestly not sure what your point is…or how the male body types relate to the point you were trying to make. I’m not trying to be difficult…please explain it to me. What are you wanting? Other than to stir up a dialogue – which I am all for – but I’m not really sure where this dialogue can go if I don’t understand your thesis…or complaint…?

I personally agree with Mariah that ‘not all artists experience self-reflection’ but I respect your right to your own opinion that they do…you say potato, I say potato and all that.

But I continue to not understand what you want me (or others?) to do. You want me to NOT talk about Ross Campbell and his contribution to comics and to the portrayal of women in comics because he’s a man? Because he’s white? Because there are other women out there that I haven’t yet talked about? I’m genuinely not sure what you want.

As to me being happy about you speaking out against Campbell’s work…that’s impossible, because I don’t agree with you. I’m happy for you to try to have a dialogue here…although without more clarity I’m not sure where it can go…but I won’t ever be happy to see you throwing around somewhat incendiary comments like “abuse of the female form for personal gain” on a creator that I know and respect and personally don’t believe is doing that.

LOL If this interview took ths long, we might have to shut the site down for a bigger server if you get one with a Neil Gaiman or Warren Ellis….Very informative and enlightening….

Racheal:

Statements like “the work is very sexual” don’t really do much to further the conversation. Yes, sometimes the women in Ross’s work are sexy. But there’s a difference between characters who have agency over their sexuality and something that is just sexually objectifying. There’s nothing wrong with sexy characters, so long as that’s not ALL they are. None of Ross’s characters are there solely for sexual objectification. They’re full characters with inner lives, motivations, and character arcs. If anything, their level of “sexiness” to the viewer is the least important thing about them.

I said that not all artists experience self-reflection when it comes to specific issues in their work. Especially when it comes to diversity. There’s a big difference between just reflecting on whether you like drawing and considering what your work is saying, what you’re trying to convey, whether that’s reaching your audience, and any number of other things that can be contained in a piece or body of work. I’m a trained artist myself, and I can tell you that sometimes you just draw something to draw it, and sometimes you draw something to express something. A doodle on a piece of paper of a bunch of squiggle lines that you do when you’re bored is not the same as, say, a comic about a group of teenagers figuring out their lives in terms of the level of consideration and thought behind it. So what you mean by “self reflection” here is very different than what we’ve been talking about. We’re not talking about the “fundamental processes” of making art on some kind of “I like to draw” level. We’re specifically talking about the level of consideration a creator gives to diversity in his work. Trying to change the subject to suit your current argument doesn’t really improve things.

You keep using phrases and terms that you don’t fully define, and then change them when you get called on it. Other than saying them, I can’t help but wonder what your point is. If you want to see diversity in comics celebrated, that’s great. Guess what we’re doing? Celebrating diversity in comics! In this case, we’re celebrating the diversity of the DEPICTION of female characters in Ross Campbell’s work. His work does not and cannot fix every problem with diversity in comics (which are many) and to expect that is kind of ridiculous. He’s doing something very few other artists are, and is willing to look at his own work and motivations. That’s it. It’s fine to feel that other creators should be showcased as well. Please suggest them, I’m sure Kelly would be happy to do articles on them.

Unfortunately, what you’re actually doing is belittling one creator because you (possibly?) want to see more diversity discussed. it’s the wrong approach. I’d have a lot more patience for this conversation if you were attempting, even a little, to understand the point of either of these articles instead of making sweeping statements and continuing to say things like “abusing the female form”. I’m sorry, but that’s just wrong. You can think it all you like, but it’s flat out wrong. Go check out Lynda Nead’s book on female nudity in art called The Female Nude: Art, Obscenity, and Sexuality and get back to me. I think you need to do a little more reading up on actual feminist concerns regarding the female body in art and the culture. It would give you a more nuanced perspective on not just Ross’s work, but the entire issue. Just drawing women that can be found sexy is not the same as sexual objectification. And it’s really, really, really important to understand the difference. Otherwise we end up with derailed conversations like this one that are full of assumptions and really problematic generalizations.

By your logic, no one should ever draw anyone who isn’t just like them. So white men should only draw white men, and I should only draw white women. This line of reasoning is just in no way helpful if the goal is to encourage EVERY creator to consider the diversity of their work. The dialog has to stay open, even if it’s critical. And there’s a world of difference between a constructive, critical discussion, and what you’re doing.

If you’d like to see more creators celebrated who do the kind of work you like, please suggest them and actually talk about what kind of diversity you’d like to see. More showcases of diverse creators? More discussion of books that show a diverse range of characters (which Ross’s do)? Because about all I can tell is that maybe what you want is more diverse creators getting attention for their work, which is fine, but Ross isn’t responsible for them not getting the attention they deserve. He’s an indie comics creator whose work is way outside the mainstream of comics. It’s a GOOD thing his work is being recognized and that he’s willing to examine his own motivations. That should be encouraged. Otherwise you aren’t creating a helpful dialog, you’re just concern trolling and soapboxing.

I’d like to see “true” minority representation across the board. One way to do that is to look at artists who are creating diverse characters. Ross is one of them.

Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

I quite enjoyed the interview and am looking forward to the review of Shadoweyes. And seeing more of Wet Moon I think I maybe would like to try it out as well as Water Baby. Though I find it quite hard to check out indy stuff living in a town that only has a single small comic shop (maybe next time I head into Austin?). But I’ll definitely be on the look out.

I agree his Supergirl looks cool. The costume reminds me of Atom Eve from Invincible… or maybe Wonder Woman’s even. Supergirl has really been sucking lately. I was a big fan back with Peter David and Gary Frank was on it. And of course I loved when Turner introduced her a couple years back (huge Turner fan). But then Jeph Loeb went in a direction with the character I did not like. And Churchill took the super skinny look Turner gave her and made it look ugly (Turner was kind of a fitness buff so even though his girls were super skinny they never looked weak to me).

And now the only thing I can think thats even redeeming about the character are the fabulous Joshua Middleton covers (why couldn’t they get him to actually draw the book?). Though maybe the writing’s gotten better when I didn’t notice it. But I doubt it. :(

I’d love if DC gave more indy writers and artists a chance on some of their B and C list characters. Having someone with a fresh take on these characters could be great. Or it could be not so great if they miss what made them iconic in the first place (which is very possible). The mainstream comics world can feel stale at times. Id love to see somebody like Campbell tackle more mainstream stuff. I’m all for new blood.

Racheal Witten

April 20, 2010 at 9:08 pm

What I don’t understand is how is Ross Campbell’s work is not classified as fetish work, so he draws a variety of shapes. How is he any different from say Michael Turner? Campbell is only infatuated with a variety of shapes rather than just one. Big deal. You are still witnessing a male infatuation. Take note how, in every one of his books Campbell casts a young lesbian girl as his main character. That main character arch type is a reoccurring theme throughout his work. What is he promoting SEXUALLY?

and YES I would like to see more variety in your subject matter. I would like if you talked about other minority creators in the field recognizing their work.

Campbell is only infatuated with a variety of shapes rather than just one.

That’s like saying, “My unicycle has four wheels.”

@Racheal: I’m gunna go out and say it. I think you’re being difficult for the sake of being difficult. Kelly writes articles with a narrow focus (female positive) in a medium that is heavily dominated by a specific genre (super heroics). And while Kelly seems to be very open about the subject of minority creators and minority characters, this is not the focus of her blog.

Its all well and good to say that “[you] would like if [she] talked about other minority creators in the field recognizing their work,” that is not what she is specifically interested in writing about. And frankly, if she tried to make her column be about too many things its loses all cohesiveness. It becomes “Kelly’s opinion” and thus looses a lot of what makes it interesting.

Also, I don’t know what you are getting at with the Michael Turner reference. I adore Turner but the artists come from entirely different backgrounds (Turner worked for Top Cow and is very much educated in the Silvestri/image style where as Campbell is clearly an indy guy) and have two entirely different design aesthetics. I could go on but I seriously don’t think I need to.

Anyway. I think criticizing Kelly for choosing to write on the subjects she writes on is getting us into territory that has no bearing to her blog. Because, well, if you want a better spotlight on minority creators go write your own blog.

Though you may be hitting on an interesting point in regards as to Campbell’s character choices. He does seem to write about a certian kind of character. But so do other artist/writers. Frank Miller loves the tough guy stereotype. Gregg Rucka seems to have a tough girl thing going on as well as an affection for minorities and gay/lesbian characters. Is this a bad/good thing? What does it mean. I don’t know. I’m hungry and I want a snack. So maybe I’ll respond better to that latter.

@Brian: lol.

@Rachel : I may be misreading the tone of your comments, but it seems as though you feel Ross Campbell should be ashamed of the fact that he is a male author with a male voice. Attacking his work on the grounds that he isn’t a woman or a minority seems to be hitting below the belt.

Purely for the sake of discussion, how far do you think an artist needs to go toward having a degendered, culturally homogenized visual voice? At what point is the ability to tell a story lost? These aren’t news articles that should lack bias and report the world as-is; they’re graphic novels.

I’m not casting anyone a carte blanche to create page after page of upskirt shots and gravity-free spherical breasts… but from a personal standpoint, I don’t want to look at novels that are all modestly-dressed, middle-weight androgenous women without weaknesses that are drawn from the same eye-level Archie Comics angles. In Campbell’s work, I like that chubby girls or girls with no boobs can still be sexy. I love that the imperfect ladies are not relegated to the roles of nonredeemable fat nerds or beautiful girls in disguise who take off their glasses, let their hair down, and are suddenly the lead love interest.

I would argue that the lack of variety in male body types is because the men are not the focus of the story. Think of pretty much every chick flick you’ve seen – the love interest and her gaggle of competitors, all low on personality, are pretty much variations of the same thing with different outfits and haircolors. Maybe if they’re trying to be progressive, they’ll give them each an archetypical interest – she’s the sporty one, she’s the artist, she’s the high-maintenance bitch. There’s really nothing special about any of them, they’re pretty much only there for the male lead to fall in love with. I am actually somewhat fascinated seeing seeing the men in Campbell’s stories taking this role.

I would like to see some more distinctive male characters in Campbell’s work, but the focus is the author’s choice… and I am actually excited to see that the focus is on women.

What do you mean by “What is he promoting SEXUALLY?” Bisexuality and homosexuality are not a choice, and they are not lifestyles someone is going pick up just because they seem trendy in a comic. Thousands of years of heterosexual art and literature has not obliterated human homosexuality, after all.

Racheal Witten

April 21, 2010 at 9:55 am

I’m all for diversity in sexuality. I ‘m a lesbian myself and YEAH I am tired of seeing men take of the lime light, and I’m sick of reading lesbian comics written by men. SO what? I don’t understand why I’m so terrible for feeling that way! I only compared him to Michael Turner because both of their careers are built on depictions of females. Maybe I’m a little rash my opinions and you all think I’m saying he shouldn’t draw women. But that’s not true He has the right to draw women just as any other person does. I just don’t feel like that this type of work should be featured in this pro-feminism article, THAT’S where i have always disagreed.

I’m tired of reading the same character archetypes. I’m tired of the over sexualized poses he captures of young half naked girls, draped sexually over a bed. The sad thing is I use to enjoy his comics just as much as any other person but after a time the reoccurring themes were BLINDING. The goth/punk/emo lesbian young girl. You’re telling me he’s not into that TYPE of girl? Think about it, The work is a visualization of his male fantasies.

if Jennifer dG did help write shadoweyes like she said, How come i never seen any credits given to her?

@Racheal: Okay…now I have to ask…did you actually READ the interview? I know it’s long, but if you haven’t you really should, because we talked quite a bit about his concern with some of his older work…and his effort to adjust it when he felt like he was sexualizing or fetishizing his characters. Which to me, an artist having that self-realization and working to adjust it because that is not the message he/she wants to send, is actually quite rare. And as I said in both posts…I think that both the diversity and the artistic self-awareness is to be applauded.

You don’t, fine. We don’t agree. I definitely think you should write and draw your OWN book that covers material the way you’d like to see it covered, as that is the best way to get your personal and specific message out there. If you do not possess that ability, then perhaps start a blog talking about the issues that you feel are important and highlighting the non-white non-male creators that you think are doing it well. But this is my column, and this is what I choose to write about and the last thing I’m going to start doing is profiling artists – and finding them unworthy of being talked about if they don’t fit a certain diversity criteria. I respond to the work, period. And I find Campbell’s work incredibly empowering and in general good for both women and for comics. He’s talking to a demographic pretty far outside the mainstream that doesn’t often get acknowledged and he’s doing it well. I can see some aspects of male gaze in his older work, and I talked about that in the spotlight post – how art is a process and when you have to do that process in public, it is not always going to be pretty, but Campbell’s awareness and continued process is one of the things that sets him apart. And that alone makes him notable for this column.

Jennifer DeGuzman did not say she helped write Shadoweyes. She said she has worked with Campbell. Jennifer is Campbell’s editor at SLG as I understand it and she worked with him on Shadoweyes as his editor, that doesn’t mean she wrote it.

Thanks for the lengthy and in depth interview. I appreciate Ross’s willingness to look back, reflect on, and examine his work through different lenses. It’s kind of like when white folks (like me) reflect on the ways they unintentionally contribute to a racism and make the effort to be actively anti-racist.

Rachael, is part of your critique of Ross’s work tied to the trend among some straight guys who find bisexual and lesbian women sexy and acceptable if and only if they have some chance of getting with them? I definitely see that playing out with some of the teen guys and 20-something men I work with. The rules they have around that objectification also usually include the fact that the two women in question have to be “attractive.” If they aren’t pretty enough (like, porn model hot) or not interested in them then they become an object of scorn and ridicule.

Do I see that playing out in Ross’s work? Maybe? It’s hard to tell. It’s so refreshing to see characters of all shapes and sizes and orientations that I want to believe he’s not. The positive thing is that he’s open to feedback, is willing to reflect, and seems to genuinely want to get it right. It seems fair to continue to critique his work but it also might be productive to lift up the things he gets right as well.

Anyway, again great article.

I’m crossing my fingers HARD for Ross’s team-up with Nnedi Okorafor. That’s a match made in African fantasy fan heaven.

Hm, I stopped visiting my comic shop right after Wet Moon, vol. 1 came out. I didn’t know there were more. Besides all the other awesomeness in this interview, I found four more books I need to buy!

the comments on this are insane. i had the pleasure of interviewing ross a while back and he was a super cool guy. Going through alot of his art for the interview i got to see the extremes and progression he seems to execute with ease (be it conscious or not). Hes a real talent and i look forward to seeing how his projects come out now that hes sneaking onto a bigger stage.

Rachael, I never said I helped to write Shadoweyes! I’m Ross’s editor, so when I say I worked with him on the project, I did it in that capacity. Not that Ross really needs much editing — he’s a fantastic self-editor, and really in tune with the themes and arc of his story and how he wants to depict them.

It’s downright self-defeating that you’re being so antagonistic and hostile to a male artist who takes them time to think about his choices, admit to what he perceives as past mistakes in regards to his depictions of girls and women. Ross’s attitude is the kind that should be welcomed and promoted in the comics industry. Constructive criticism can make for a good conversation, but what you are expressing is not constructive.

I do see the sexualization of young women in Ross’s work, Wet Moon particularly. However, what strikes me about it is that it seems to reflect the self-conscious way teenager girls will display and kind of examine their sexuality, as if they’re testing it out, influenced by the very male gaze that Ross has been trying not to draw from. The page from Wet Moon at the Robot 6 link to this column is a good example (http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2010/04/ross-campbell-is-too-sexy-for-his-comics/). It’s a very nuanced depiction of young women and the culture in which they exist. I think you’re looking at his work too on-the-nose, expecting the same thing from it as one would from most comic books that depict sexy women. But Ross plays on this expectation and subverts it at the same time. He is aware of how cultural attitudes toward female sexuality affect him and affect his characters, and that awareness is present in his work, which deconstructs those attitudes.

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