Friday, November 25, 2011
Malta Comic Con Interview with Renee Witterstaetter
Back with my friends at the Malta Comic Con! The Original Post appears here:
WC: You're not just a creator. You're also a publisher, editor, writer, agent and producer! For someone who is as ambitious as you, what do you think, are the characteristics needed to break and work into such an industry?
Renee: I think blind luck. Luck has a lot to do with any endeavour. But I know I'm over simplifying things when I say that. You do need luck. But you also need to believe in yourself and being willing to move forward with some sort of blind faith. I don't know if you are familiar with the Tarot Deck. I've studied many for the art. And the "Fool" card most often than not shows a blindfolded man, stepping off the edge of a cliff. You may think that the card is a bad omen, but it's not. What it really represents is stepping forward with that "blind faith." I never once think to myself that something is impossible. I come up with an idea, and my first thought is "Okay, how can I make this happen." When I'm at the top of my game and true to myself, often times, it does happen. It's not a skill. It's something in all of us. I guess if I'm saying anything is that the main skill you need is to condition yourself to take chances and practice being unafraid. When a door opens, walk through it. You don't know what will happen. But guess what, if you "don't," then "nothing will."
WC: Some feel the comic industry is male-dominated but when it comes to noticeable females in the industry your name stands out. How hard was it to establish yourself in the industry?
RW: That's a good question, and of course the industry is much different now in so many ways than when I started, and there are so many more opportunities. Frankly, when I landed my first job at DC Comics around 1987, there were not many women in the field, as you say. But I think one of the things that helped me the most was that I was completely oblivious to that fact. Didn't event think about it. I grew up a tomboy, did more fishing than dancing, learned to shoot a gun when I was 10, etc. etc. so stepping into a "man's world," or being intimidated by that was not something that even crossed my mind as a concern. I found out what the job was, and said "Hey, I can do that."
My background in college was journalism, and my first job after college was doing the public relations and guest relations for a convention called The Dallas Fantasy Faire. From there, a door opened to that job at DC Comics, then Marvel, then Topps, then to film production, to being an artist agent and publisher. That's what I mean by watching for the doors. One thing leads to another.
And I also found that my journalistic background aided me as a comic book editor, and conversely, the stints as a comic book editor aided me in my film production career. The tasks of organizing story elements were very much the same.
WC: You've worked as a colourist on hundreds of comics featuring classic characters such as Captain America and Superman. Do you still like colouring? Would you consider doing it again?
RW: I love colouring, although I sort of just fell into it. When I was an assistant editor at Marvel, the pay was pretty low for having to live in New York City. Around 18K, and all the assistants on staff were encouraged to do freelance. I got a set of Dr. Martin's dyes and started colouring away. My friend, Spidey editor Jim Salicrup threw a lot of work my way, and I also wrote a lot of letter columns for $50 a shot for editors like Bobbie Chase. At that time, I think my friend Marie Javins and I were called to colour a lot of stories, some overnight. I remember many nights when I'd work at the office 9-5, then go home and colour from 5pm to 7 am before going to work again. You did what you had to do.
We coloured by hand. Now colouring is done digitally. I have not started digitally colouring. I've just been too busy with my writing, editing, publishing, producing, etc.
I did however, colour my recent children's book, "Kerry and the Scary Things." It's meant to have a crayon like look, so hand colouring worked well with that. I'll have some of these for sale at the convention. I first started colouring it while in Malta last year in fact.
WC: As a story boarder you've worked on famous movies such as Rush Hour II and Drunken Master II. What is it that made you venture into such an aspect of the entertainment industry?
RW: I wasn't a story boarder. I've worked production on numerous movies, commercials and music videos such as "Rush Hour 2," "Red Dragon," "To Ease the Lose," and music videos for Madonna, Seal, Usher, etc. My various jobs have included Inventory Coordinator, Production Assistant, First Team, Production Coordinator... whatever the job called for at any given time. Working on a crew, it's funny, it's like a little living entity, and teaming ant colony that comes together for 3 to 6 months, working for a common goal, and then disperses when it's over. If you are part of a good colony, you really feel a sense of sadness when a production is over.
WC: You're an avid Blogger and Facebook user. Do you think that social media communication is an asset for someone like yourself? Why?
RW: Sure! I have reconnected with so many friends via facebook. And I find that I use it a great deal for my press releases and business announcements. Being a blogger, I get to post about my work of course, but also about events or issues that are important to me. You have to monitor yourself. You can't be on it all the time and let it take over your life. I see people doing that, and I don't want to be one of them. Everything in moderation, right? But if used correctly it is a valuable tool. It's a great way to get the word out and express yourself as well. And also a great way for clients to contact me about convention appearances for both myself and the artists I work with. (hint). My public page is under "Eva Renee Witterstaetter," and our company page is "Eva Ink Artist Group." For those who want to follow my blog, it's at Blogspot under "WitterstaetterWrites." I had a column in a lot of the comics I edited called "Witterstaetter's Witticisms," but since I'm not always that witty, I decided to change the name for the blog. (laughs)
WC: You've recently made a new breakthrough in your life by writing a children's book; 'Kerry and the Scary Things'. What prompted you to work on such a project?
RW: I have three new children's books in the pipeline now! On "Kerry and the Scary Things," the original story and concept was created years ago, with character designs by artist Keith Wilson. The idea of a little boy that loved monsters and puts together a monster fighting back pack in case he ever finds any... was a story we've wanted to tell for a long time. We were lucky enough to make it happen last year. I plan to write more. In fact, "Kerry and the Dreadful Dragon," which was also plotted all those years ago, is now in development.
WC: Your company 'Eva Ink' has various branches and must keep you very busy throughout the year. What is your biggest satisfaction related to 'Eva Ink'?
RW: Doing projects I love, such as my recent book "Nick Cardy: The Artist at War." This is a story of one man's journey through World War 2 as told through sketches he did while in the war. Very powerful. It meant a lot to me to get this book out for Nick. I'll also have this book at the Malta show.
So, to answer your question, what I love about having my own company is working on whatever project I want to. Nobody can say, "Eh, nobody wants to read a comic on dinosaurs," as someone actually did when I pitched the idea of buying the Jurassic Park rights many years ago, before another smart company, Topps under the leadership of Jim Salicrup, did indeed buy the rights. (I moved to Topps and was an editor there later on those books!)
WC: One of your closest friends and collaborators is creator Michael Golden. What can you tell us about your past and future collaborations?
RW: Michael is amazing. A true genius in the comics field and in any creative field. He is an amazing storyteller, designer, artist, you name it. And a nice guy. We co-created the comic series "Spartan X" together and are working on some joint stories and book right now for this next year. I have nothing admiration for Michael's creative abilities. Which is obvious since when I was at Marvel and Topps, I hired him for any projects as he could possibly do.
WC: This is the second time you're attending the Malta Comic Convention. What attracted you to this convention? What makes it different to the other conventions you visit throughout the year?
RW: The first time I attended, last year, I wanted to come because I'd never been there before. I like seeing new places. I also love ancient sites, and Malta has sites that are 5,000 BC. That's truly amazing. So in addition to just meeting new fans and having new experiences, seeing Malta itself was a big factor. Now, for my second trip, what made me want to come back was just the warmth and generosity of the people that I met last year, who really made me feel at home. I'm glad to have the opportunity to take part in the event again and see it grow.
WC: What projects do you have in the pipeline and what can you tell us about them?
RW: So many.... a new Joe Jusko sketchbook to follow up his book from last year, "Joe Jusko: Savage Beauty," a new Mark Texeira sketchbook, a new Michael Golden sketchbook, a new Nick Cardy book, new children's books, some limited edition giclees, and also two new additions to the DVD series on creators to go with the ones already done on Golden, Jusko, Bill Sienkiewcz, Matt Wagner and George Perez. I'll also be promoting Michael's intellectual projects for animation etc.
WC: Is there anything else you would like to add?
RW: Thanks so much for the great questions. And again, look for me on facebook and follow my blog. That's the best way to keep updated on Eva Ink Artist Group and Eva Ink Publishing.