Comic’Gone 2015 : Interview with Jordie Bellaire


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How did you start out as a colorist?

I began my career as a colorist when I met Declan Shalvey—he is the artist right now on Injection and Moon Knight. He and I met each other in New York City, and we were walking down the street, I had just graduated art school, and he asked me what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted to be happy. He said, “that means you’re aimless”, and I was like, “what ?” I had no money, I was very poor, and I wanted to work in comics, but I used to draw, I majored in illustration… but I didn’t feel good enough, especially after meeting Declan Shalvey. When you see what sequential artists really have to do—I was like, I can’t draw a bike at the drop of a hat, I can’t draw a house, just because someone’s like “draw a house”. So he said, “have you considered coloring ?” and I thought, “you can color comics?” I never even thought that was… you just don’t consider sometimes the whole process it takes, like lettering, coloring, penciling, inking… So I thought, “I’ll try it”, and so I sent some test pages in, and I actually had my first job with Stephen Mooney, who draws Half Past Danger, and we did a very short small story together for Angel, the Whedonverse comic, and that was my first. And after that, I just kept getting more and more job offers—because of my illustration background, I knew a lot of great illustrators, like Chris Samnee, Tom Fowler, Ramon Perez… I knew them from when I was in college, and they liked my drawings, and they thought “your coloring now? Hey! We should work together!” And that was how I took off! I was very lucky, but I think it came from an illustration background first.

What’s a day in the life of Jordie Bellaire like? What are the different steps in your working process?

The process of my work is usually… Of course, first I get the line art from the artist, and usually I like to read the script and see the line art at the same time—so that way I have an idea of what both of their visions were, all together, rather than viewing one separate, or reading the script first, without the artwork; I like to see it all together. I like to ask the artist and the writer for any inspirational photos they might have; any kind of thoughts, comments, movies they’re thinking about—I like movies a lot, so if someone can tell me “I was watching Kill Bill everyday when I drew this”, I’ll be “oh, maybe I should watch Kill Bill before I color this.”

So after that, after I have my brain moving, I like to send all of the artwork to a flatter—a flatter is someone who separates all the line art into different color shapes—and then when I get it back from my flatter, I take it and I color-correct it to basically look like—because flatters normally are just basic separations, so it’ll be like… one time—you know who Rocketeer is, right?—Rocketeer, I once sent it to my flatter and when they sent it back, they had him all wearing black, like he looked like Darth Vader. Obviously Rocketeer doesn’t wear all black. So I color-correct it, and then I color it and I render it, and then I flatten it, and I send it off for approvals—approvals are very important to me! I think some colorists don’t care whether their artists like it, but it’s very important to me, that an artist is happy… I mean, maybe probably because of course my boyfriend is an artist, then also I was an artist, I care a lot about an artist being happy. Then after the artist gives me their approval, and the writer also gives me their approval, then it’s done, and then it gets lettered, and it’s basically that!

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Do you work the same way with all publishers, or do you have to adapt?

Definitely, each project is a bit different, I would say by publisher? With Image it’s kind of  all Wild Wild West, because no one has an editor really, and everybody is a bit different, so collaborative processes are kind of just different… I would say some are more… choppy. Some are like a well-oiled machine—me and Declan, we work together on Injection: well-oiled machine at this point, because we did all of Moon Knight with Warren [Ellis], and now… my goodness, I think me and Declan have done… because we also did Deadpool… so Injection is just a breeze. Something like They’re Not Like Us, with Simon Gane, written by Eric Stephenson—also a total breeze, I think because we all just click, when we came together, none of us had worked together before, but that first issue just liked clicked, right into place.

But then there’s other things that, maybe at a publisher I’ll do, and you have to work through the editor, so I’ll send the colors separately to the editor, and then the editor has to separately send it to an artist—I don’t usually like such a weird interruption in communication, because, again, I like to speak directly to the artist—so that’s probably the worst way I have to adapt, that’s the weirdest hurdle in the way of different editorial teams, the way it works.

Can’t think—I’m trying to think of another book that’s breezy… Pretty Deadly as well, Pretty Deadly is super-breezy, we’re working on the second volume, coming out this fall, and we just did some preview pages together, and we haven’t worked together in like, a year—I was a little worried, because now we do have an editor, so I was kind of like… well we have two editors, sort of, now, we actually did have one [Sigrid Ellis] before… but I was like, “oh, I’m so nervous, I hope that it doesn’t, like, gunk up the process!” But it was amazing, it was just, like, organic again. I sent all the pages, I’m approved, she’s happy, I’m happy, we’re all happy—it’s done. That’s magic. When comics work like magic, it’s the best.

Sorry, long answer, sorry!

Any idea how many books you’ve colored so far? How do keep working on so many books simultaneously?

06-journey-into-mysteryIn my career, I’ve been coloring for about… four years, I think, now? I would say too many. I don’t know how many. I don’t—I honestly can’t count off the top—a lot. Um… I’d say at least a hundred, maybe more, two… maybe two hundred, I’m not sure different appearances—I mean especially if you count my cover work separately from interiors, I mean, it’s just a lot, I’m sure it’s a lot. Each month, I normally color between ten and twelve titles—which I don’t normally tell people, I normally keep it a secret, but… it’s hard, but some books are easier than others, and some books are so… I-I just don’t have a life. I sit at home and I color, this is pretty much my life, like every day of the week, but that’s worth it, because I love all my books I’m on right now, I’m very passionate about, like, Injection and Pretty Deadly and They’re Not Like Us, stuff like that.

But yeah, I’d say, if you take twelve books a month, maybe, and multiply that by twenty-four, that’s what I do in a year. On a good year—like, sometimes it’s worse, because I do even more, so… Never less. So, it’s busy.

What can you say about the “Comics are for everybody” initiative, which you started? Any idea how well it was received?

03-maraI’m not sure how well it was received. I think it did pretty well off Twitter, and we sold a lot of shirts, that all went to charity—V-day, a charity for women…

The way it happen was, I don’t know if you saw it here, in France, there was this shirt that went out that said the thing about the coffee, what was it… “I take my fangirls the way I take my coffee… I fucking hate coffee” And I saw that—and I was already planning this shirt, well in advance, actually, me and Steven Finch [aka Fonographiks], he designed it, he also does the design for Saga, Nowhere Men, They’re Not Like Us, Injection, he’s great—him and I were talking about making this shirt, just because I was getting so down on women feeling pushed out of the industry, and young children, transgender people, it was just… I’m over it, but when that shirt came out, I, like, threw a table over, I went like Liz Lemon from 30 Rock, I got very upset. We posted the shirt, it immediately, I think, did very well online, people were excited to get their hands on it—I’m very happy to see writers like Kieron Gillen, and Scott Snyder, and Fred Van Lente, I think also Greg Pak… they make a very good effort to wear the shirt when they go to conventions and panels, where they know they’re going to be seen—and I think it’s nice that, you know, white men, of course, are doing that, because of course we all like to make the joke that the only people who are heard are white men, and I think it’s nice that they’re standing up, as white men, and saying, like, “we support this”, like everyone else should too… so I think it’s doing well, and I’m very excited…

I don’t know if I should be saying this, but I’m going to: I recently was speaking with Eric Stephenson, the writer of They’re Not Like Us and Nowhere Men [and Executive Director at Image Comics], about Comics Are For Everybody, because Image was a great supporter as well—even though it’s its own thing, we wanted to make sure it wasn’t linked to any particular person, it was just meant to be a message—Image will be adopting it for the future. So that’s great; so Image will now be in charge of distributing it, and it’s also still going to have some charity linked to it as well—we’re not sure of the charity yet. But I’m very excited, because I think Image is a really happening publisher, they really know what’s up, and with them backing up that message, I just think it’s going to be great, I’m really looking forward to Image putting that in their issues, and having it at shows, and… who knows where it will go now. So, I’m excited, I think it’s going to have a life of its own. So it’s cool.

There have been other movements to promote diversity in comics, like “We are comics”, or “Women read comics in public too”. Do you feel like, someday, this diversity will be acknowledged within the comic industry?

tumblr_nkad1ssLrw1u5shugo2_500I certainly would like to hope so; I think right now, we saw the problem. I’m not going to get any of my statistics, here, correctly, so I’m not going to pretend I know them off the top my head, but all I know is that it is an embarrassingly small amount of black creators, I know it’s an embarrassingly small amount of Asian creators, I know it’s a very stupid, small amount of transgender creators, and I think our gay creators are even, like… I mean, the transgender and gay community in comics hardly exists, in terms of—I mean, there’s a lot of indie artists, and people out there who are hitting the bricks, as hard as they can, to put their work out themselves—but in the way of, like, Marvel or DC getting behind these talents, or hiring talents like that regularly… except for small things like Women anthology, which, I really like Women anthology, and I like annuals where they highlight women, but I’ve seen women get hired just for these anthologies at Marvel and never hired to do a book at Marvel, you know… So I appreciate—I think it’s a good intention, but I would still… I don’t understand why a transgender woman or man, or a gay woman or man, or just an Asian woman, hasn’t been given her own title yet, to go on for a whole year. So… I’d like to say it’s getting better, and I think, like the Eisner’s list this past year was embarrassingly lovely, it was just full of women talent, which was, I mean, huge, it’s great, um… so I think it’s slowly changing, but you still have a lot of men who are… and I feel, if you’re like one of these men, saying things like “I don’t see what the big deal is”, or “why are they so upset, if women don’t like it they should go do their own comics”, like, that’s not helpful to the discussion. It should be for everybody, because comics are for everybody, and… I hope it’s getting better.

I found out—I can tend to be a bit depressing—there was a very sad story, with a very huge name, I won’t say her name, but she was very annoyed, she was recently asked something along the lines of “I won’t ask you what it’s like, to be a woman in comics, but what’s it like being a woman?” And she was a huge name, huge, like, I can’t even list her achievements, there’s just too many, and she was like, “when is this not… this is 2015, when is this not gonna be a thing?” I mean, do you think it would be appropriate if someone said “what is it like to be a black person in comics?” You just don’t ask that shit! So I’d like to think—and if you do… you just— [laughs] just please don’t! Just support them, and be happy that we’re getting diversity involved! So, I don’t know, I can be very negative. I see it changing, but I also see a lot of pushback, and unfortunately I think a lot of the pushback is mostly just ignorance, because people have been living one way for so long, they don’t see the need for a change—which is perfectly sweet and innocent, but it’s a little naïve, and we can’t have progress with naïve people hanging around and bringing us all down; we all need to be radical, we need to be excited… If you feel like you have a place of power as a writer, then hire a lady artist, you know; if you feel like you’re a white writer, and maybe you’re writing too many white people, just branch out a bit, right? Another race, it’s not that hard. Like people who are like “how do you write women?”—it’s not hard, they have all the same basic elements as a regular person! [laughs]

So I’d like to see people stretching out their comfort zones, because I think the sooner we have more books like Ms. Marvel, which was really out of left field, and was a huge, huge success for a reason… Saga, out of left field, huge success, and er… what’s the other one… what’s that book? The Wicked and the Divine! WicDiv celebrates a lot of diverse people—and these books are huge successes… and Kieron Gillen doesn’t just write the same people over and over… you know, G. Willow Wilson is writing something maybe close to her home, but it’s not something that we have ever seen before, and I think that’s very important. The more we see out there that’s not just the white man on a hero’s journey, not just that same concept over and over again, we’ll draw more and more people, and the industry will change, hopefully, behind it, you know?

Again, sorry for a long answer, I get very excited!

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Any female writers whose work you’re following at the moment?

 I’ll be honest and say I’m extremely busy right now, so I don’t have a whole lot of time to read, but some of my favorite lady authors would probably be… Kelly Sue DeConnick, of course, cause she’s great; G. Willow Wilson, of course, cause she’s also great; they’re like the two faves… Kate Leth, right now, she’s coming up in a big way, she’s writing Edward Scissorhands and Bravest Warriors, I think it is, she’s very young and bubbly, and I really like her writing style; um… oh, goodness, there’s… I’m blanking, I’m sorry, cause these are like my three favorites, but there’s this one lady… I-I know Emma Rios is starting to write—I’ve never read Emma’s writing, so I’m very excited, cause she’s got a really cool—Ming Doyle! my bestest friend in the whole entire industry, she’s—probably not—really, I love her though, I love her dearly—she’s writing Constantine and it’s fucking awesome, she’s great, I know she’s partner-writing it with someone [James Tynion IV], but I think she has every bit of the ability to write things on her own, I’m very excited for Ming, Ming has a big, juicy brain. She’s, oh, she’s just brilliant. Becky Cloonan, of course, I would love to see Becky, also, write on her own, I know she partner-writes with Brenden Fletcher, who’s awesome—but that’s another thing, like, these books with lady titles, or lady leads, or just women who are writing alongside men—I kind of like, I like all of the women and all of the men who are doing this, but part of me is like, “women don’t need to hold anyone’s fucking hands… just give them the fucking book!” Like, I promise you, they can do it—but I get it, I do get it. But hopefully we won’t need hand-holding so much down the line, but…

Yeah, I think those are the ladies that really rev my engines, at least I get really psyched… but I’m often learning about new ones, too… anybody. And again—I want to see every type of minority out there, so that it’s no longer a minority, I want to see more… I wish I could name a gay writer, but I don’t know if I even can, cause there’s just so few of them in the industry… I wish I could just name a transgender writer, but I don’t know if I can. It’s… that makes me mad. Same with female directors, you can’t even name a whole lot of lady directors—I know Kathryn Bigelow is the biggest one, she’s my favorite, but it’s um… I want more. I would love for you to be able to say, “Jordie, who’s your fave…?”—I mean, not what we should be asking those questions hopefully in ten years, but like, you know, I would like to be able to name so many women, that we’d have gay women, and black women, gay black women, and like, all these different types… but right now, it’s like we have ten really great white lady writers. I want more. Just give me more! That’s it. More.

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