|« Exploring Chicago's Comic Scene||A Taste for Books »|
Feature Tue Mar 09 2010
A relative newcomer to Chicago's comic book scene, Jenny Frison began working locally in mid-2008, making covers for Devil's Due Publishing's Hack/Slash and Voltron. She moved on to various other titles, including webcomic-turned-print The Dreamer and Angel, put out by IDW Publishing. Her success should not come as a surprise: no stranger to adaptability, Jenny has moved from Peoria to New Jersey to Wyoming and back to Illinois again. From her early days with Wonder Woman audiobooks to studying illustration at the esteemed Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, with a brief detour working on a ranch, Jenny's path has wound its back to way to Chicago and professional illustration. An early interest in comics, an eye for cover design, and a desire to incorporate diverse art forms into her craft make her professional and geographic location a natural one. Currently, she is drawing a cover for Marvel's Girl Comics, a three-issue anthology featuring some of the most talented female artists and writers in the industry.
Jenny is unique in that she has a distinctive, Art Noveau-influenced style but is willingly not locked into it, works mainly on covers, and occupies the still relatively rare position of being a female comic book professional. We discussed how these qualities have shaped her career, as well as the portrayal of women in comics, how she makes a cover, and the difficulties inherent in breaking into the professional world of comics.
Name: Jenny Frison
Job: Freelance Comic Book Cover Artist
Location: Albany Park
Hometown: Born in Billings, MT, grew up in Peoria, IL
Favorite place in Chicago: Before I moved here, I was a latchkey adult -- I moved from IL to New Jersey to Wyoming to IL, when I finally moved to Chicago I was sort of indefinitely here. Now that I have my own apartment and I have my own studio, I really like being here. Outside of my own apartment, probably Challengers Comics. I (heart) Challengers.
You're an illustrator -- do you work more with comics or regular book covers?
I mostly do work in comics. I went to college to be an illustrator, I got my specialization in illustration from Northern Illinois and I always sort of loved comics -- this is a very long answer to your very short question...
Go for it.
After Northern Illinois, I went to the Kubert School in New Jersey to study the comic book art trade, and while I was there, I became aware that what I really did love was cover illustration -- doing a story in one drawing rather than doing sequential art, like comic book pages.
Do you do any panel artwork these days?
No, not really. I used to do a webcomic, Chicago: 1968, which is about the Democratic National Convention in 1968 and the riots.
Did you like comics when you were a kid? Did you grow up reading them?
Yes and no. When I was a kid, my parents got me a Fisher Price storybook with tape, called Wonder Woman: Cheetah on the Prowl. I remember just loving it. It either came with a Wonder Woman doll or they bought me a Wonder Woman doll, which neither of my parents were into- they're both hard-working, Middle American like, farm folk.
So how did you get into making comics as a job?
I went out to the San Diego Con, I went to Chicago Con, I sat down with the artists' and graphic designers' marketplace and talked to everybody and made postcards, and sent them out in mailers...no one responded whatsoever. It was terrifying.
And I thought you know what, I know one artist that lives in Chicago, I knew Skottie Young...I e-mailed him and he said well we have sort of a drink and draw that we do together -- so I went to that, and the first time I went I met Tim Seeley, the writer for Hack/Slash with DDP (Devil's Due Publishing), and the next day he called and said hey listen, my cover artist split, is there any way you can do a cover for me in the next 3-4 days? I did a cover for Hack/Slash. Josh Blaylock, the owner of Devil's Due saw it, and asked if I could do a cover for Voltron, and while I wasn't immersed in the industry, it was two professional jobs that I had on my resume.
Do you have any other advice for people that are trying to break into the industry?
It is different than it used to be because conventions were where you could meet editors, and editors would look through your portfolio, and if they liked your work they'd give you a job. Now conventions are big. There are so many people there, so many people trying to get into the industry. When you go to a convention, if you go to the bar afterward, that's usually where they can unwind with the people they work with. Not necessarily surrounded by 50 women wearing catsuits and ears and a tail or whatever.
So I think that the best advice I can give is to keep going to conventions and not just talk to editors, but to talk to other artists and to talk to writers because writers have just as much say in what artist they use, and other artists can give you advice on what can make your art more saleable, and they can put in good words for you.
Kind of returning to ears and tails and catsuits, do you think things have been different, harder or easier, being female and trying to break into the comic book industry?
I don't think that being a woman has necessarily helped or hurt. I work really hard at making deadlines, I try as hard as I can to be as easy to work with and as pleasant as I can. I think that that has helped me get jobs. I don't think that being a woman has necessarily hurt me, because I think I have what it takes to back it up.
Do you feel like people think you have more to back up?
No, not necessarily. You know -- I've always sort of been in the boys' club, I'm comfortable in the boys' club. However, in terms if being a woman has helped me get any jobs, I am doing a Spitfire cover for Marvel. They are celebrating women in Marvel both in comics and behind the scenes, so it definitely helped that I was a girl. And they're kicking it off with Girl Comics.
Girls Comics is women artists and women writers doing Marvel characters. I was reading on the forums, and people were saying, "it's going to be women celebrating women, who wants to read that", and I was like "it's not women celebrating women, it's about a group of people that were like hey, you're really good at what you do, you too, why don't we work together." And it just happened to be all women.
How do you feel about the way women are portrayed in mainstream comics? Does it bug you? Gravity-defying boobs are okay?
Honestly, I don't think that's necessarily a men's view of women thing. People like looking at attractive people. The men are more attractive, the women are more attractive, I don't think it's just the women.
Everyone's more exaggerated.
Right -- it just happens to be more often than not men that are drawing the women. And so they are a man's ideal view of a woman...and that doesn't bother me. Someone doing something that can be construed as offensive but isn't meant to be offensive, I don't find that offensive. I don't think a lot of the sexist things in comics are intended to be offensive.
Going back to your work a bit -- when you make covers, do you have a process for it?
When I do other covers, I usually try to spend more time working on an emotive or evocative pose. Colors -- I spend a lot of time thinking about how I want it to be colored, how I want it to sort of flow. That's why I like covers more than the storytelling part. When it comes to the storytelling part, a much bigger percentage is making people do what the story says they're doing, because that's how you tell a story. When it comes to covers, it's so much more: it can be the design, how it's posed, the colors, stuff like that.
Is there a direction you'd like to go in that you haven't gone in?
In college, comics was a pipe dream. Now that I have the job I wanted to get...I don't know where I would go, this is all I ever really wanted to do. I just want to keep doing it better, not because I want to be famous or be rich, but because I just want to be really good at what I do.