Emily Swan is the artist behind “Gabrielle,” a short comic written by Erica Schultz and lettered by Cardinal Rae, which appeared in Oneshi Press Quarterly Anthology #05. We spoke to Emily about her background in animation, her eclectic musical taste, and why comics is such an important storytelling medium.
Tell us about yourself, Emily! What’s your background, and how did you get into making comics?
Hey everyone! Like many, I’ve been drawing and creating since I was little. Well, I’m still little, so since I was young. My first love was animation and I sought out as much Disney and anime as I could find.
I was lucky enough to have the support of my family and was able to pursue an art degree. I graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a Media Arts and Animation degree…right around the time the animation industry was laying off huge numbers of their staff!
After moving back home and finding work, I reconnected with the local comic shop. The owner was looking for an artist to work on a story he wanted to self-publish. Up until that point I hadn’t realized that the elements I loved most about animation, character design and storyboarding, were exactly what I could do in comics. This was in 2011, and I’ve been creating comics ever since.
How did you end up creating “Gabrielle” with Erica Schultz?
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be seated next to Erica at Baltimore Comic-Con. I was very new to displaying my artwork, and I was blown away by her ease and confidence while selling her books to customers. Lucky for me, she was willing to introduce me to some of her fellow creators. After I had worked on the art for a story in Red Stylo Media‘s 27 Club Anthology, Erica asked if I would be interested in doing pencils for “Gabrielle.” I’m so thrilled to see it now, all inked and colored!
Who are your comics heroes? Who inspires you?
Oh man, there are so many. I have to begin with Erica, and most likely sound very corny as I do. She inspired me from the first convention where I met her, to recent conventions where I’ve had the pleasure of listening to her speak on panels.
There are some insanely talented people creating art right now: Sara Pichelli, Amy Reeder, Gurihiru, Skottie Young , Phil Noto, Loish, James Jean, Fiona Staples, Ryan Ottley, Mingjue Helen Chen, Phil Bourassa, Brian Kesinger, Sean Gordon Murphy, Meghan Hetrick, Rafael Albuquerque, Takeshi Miyazawa, Bengal, Pepe Larraz, Katie Cook, Stjepan Šejić, G. Willow Wilson, Brian K. Vaughan.
There’s so many more, but that would make this answer even longer.
What are you currently reading, listening to, and watching?
I just finished a great book by Joe Hill and am now about halfway through Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. I’m also working my way through Hickman’s Fantastic Four/FF run, while a Ms. Marvel trade and some Motor Crush are patiently waiting once I’m finished with the previous two.
Listening varies greatly day to day. I was on a huge Hamilton kick recently, with some Rammstein, Frank Turner, Sia, Moody Blues, and Post Modern Jukebox peppered in. If I’m choreographing for a dance routine, any genre is fair game, but when I need to work on comics, I usually have to stick to instrumental scores so the lyrics of the music don’t interrupt the story I’m drawing.
I have a ton currently in my Netflix/Amazon Prime queue, but I’ve slowly been catching up on Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, Glow, Arrested Development, and the new Voltron (which is gorgeous).
Who’s your favorite comic book hero/heroine? Villain? Morally ambiguous anti-hero?
Oooh, favorite is tough. I love my leading ladies, especially when they are written and illustrated well. Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Squirrel Girl and the new Batgirl series have been hilarious and a pleasure to read. The kick-butt ladies of Saga and Rat Queens. ALL the amazing characters in Fables and Fairest. I will always have a soft spot for Belldandy, Urd, and Skuld from Oh My Goddess, as it was the first manga I read.
Aside from “Gabrielle,” what are some other projects you’re working on?
Right now it’s commissions! After I catch up on those, I have a set of oversized playing cards that I’m working on adding new cards to. I also have an idea for a Dr. Who deck—but we’ll see if there’s enough time for all those cards! I have a steampunk comic that has been on the back burner as I worked on anthologies. I’d like to get that fully illustrated.
How do you make your work immersive and progressive (the Oneshi Press themes)?
I try to push the emotional reactions of my characters. I want the audience to not only be along for the ride but to be in the moment reacting to how the characters are feeling and connecting with them. I have been lucky to work with writers who are consciously creating characters that have depth and dimension. I try to build from that idea and have the people in my stories have purpose, whether they are the main character, or in the background of one panel.
What does the world need that comics, or art more generally, can provide?
Presentation of different viewpoints, and ideas. Art can inspire such insight and conversation, all without using words. You don’t need to enter a fantasy realm. You can experience something completely alien to you, simply by opening yourself up to another person’s journey. While that can be uncomfortable at times, it is important to be challenged. I’m partial to the storytelling method of comics for this reason. It presents images and words to surround you with the story.
Who are you dying to collaborate with, now that you’ve checked the amazing Erica Schultz off your list?
That’s intimidating! I find it a bit daunting to approach a collaboration with an author, knowing they are trusting [me] to bring their vision to life. I would love to work with Erica again if the opportunity presented itself. The same goes for Jennie Wood, who wrote the story I illustrated in the 27 Club Anthology and has her own ongoing story Flutter. Brandon Montclare, who currently writes and works with Amy Reeder on Rocket Girl. I had the chance to have a portfolio review with him and there are pointers he gave me that I still utilize. I would be over the moon to sit in on one of Sean Gordon Murphy’s classes that led to the Cafe Racer collection. Or to just chat with him about motorcycles—that would be insanely cool.
Where can our readers find you online?
Get your own print or digital copy of Oneshi Press Anthology #05, featuring “Gabrielle” by Emily Swan, Erica Schultz, and Cardinal Rae!