Anyone that visits this website or is a fan of one of its network of podcasts must appreciate some form of art. Sure, we focus on film, TV, comic books, video games, board games, and its not what you would find hanging in your local gallery, but it is still art. It takes a lot of time and talent and is worthy of admiration. I decided I wanted to know more about the people who are responsible for the art forms we enjoy and that I wanted to have a conversation with a comic book artist. I got lucky when I contacted a great young artist that is actually from right here in Indianapolis. Her name is Jackie Crofts. Jackie has a day job doing artwork for games, and at night, she is the artist behind a great independent comic called Nutmeg. I bought the three collections that are currently available on Comixology and couldn’t put it down. The comic is 1 part Nancy Drew, 1 part Betty and Veronica 1 part Breaking Bad and 1 part Girl Scouts. Mix it all together and you have a delicious recipe for intrigue. It’s a mystery featuring two teenage girls that quickly become best friends, and a plot for revenge involving laced brownies. Who can’t get into that? I am a big fan of the soft color palate she chose for the book and the level of expression she gives each of her characters. Nutmeg is also very well written. It will get you hooked quickly and if you enjoy a good pun, this is easily the puniest book I have ever read.
I wanted to break the interview down into three areas; I wanted to learn a little about Jackie herself, then I wanted to know more about Nutmeg and lastly about her experiences in the comic book industry. Even if you are not interested in learning about her, check out her recommendations because she has some seriously good books on her pull list. In addition, I found one of her blog posts that is a great read for an aspiring artist and if that’s you, I suggest you give it a read if and when you feel discouraged.
Could you tell me a little about your background, things like, what artists inspired you as a child, what current artists work that you really enjoy, and anything else you are willing to share that you believe shaped you into the artist you are today?
When I was younger, I was always drawing. I mostly looked at things I loved like manga, anime, cartoons, and video games and tried to replicate the art. I read Ren & Stimpy, Sailor Moon, Cardcaptors, stuff like that. When I was a kid, I’m not sure how much I paid attention to specific names of artists. I knew what things I liked or what I thought was funny or looked really weird. I think I started paying more attention to that kind of thing when I got really obsessed with game art in elementary school, then I sort of worked in reverse and started paying more attention to painters, illustrators, and at other art that didn’t come from comics or games. It sounds kind of corny, but I think everything you like, do or believe kind of shapes your art.
What will ruin a comic for you more quickly, below average writing or art?
I think below average writing. I’ve dropped books before because the story just started to make me really bored.
If you could work on any title, what character, or group like the X-Men, would you want to draw the most?
I don’t really have any specific thing I’d want to work on. I’ve never had a goal to do work for Marvel or DC, but I think it would be fun to do a story for something like Lumberjanes.
What is on your pull list, if you have one, and is there anything on it people might be surprised by?
My pull list right now has been pared down so that I’m not spending insane amounts of money! Let’s see, there are a few titles that are on my pull list but just haven’t come out in a while. The Fade Out, Rocket Girl, Kaptara, Paper Girls. Some others are Giant Days, Lumberjanes, Autumnlands, Southern Bastards, Saga, Ody-C, Bitch Planet. I think that’s most of it, but I might be forgetting one or two things.
I noticed on your website that you and your partner James attended several conventions last year to promote Nutmeg, what has been your best and worst moment at a con? Have you set your schedule for the 2017 cons yet?
I think one of my best moments that I can remember is when two parents came up to my table this past year. They said that they had been to my table another year before and they had their daughter with them, and their daughter liked Nutmeg so much that it inspired her to go to art school and they just wanted to come back around and say thanks. Also, whenever someone tells us that it’s the first comic their kid ever read and they loved it, that’s always a great feeling!
The worst is when a dad passed by our booth with his little daughter. She stopped by and was really excited about our book and kept trying to get him to come over and he wouldn’t let her look at it. He told her that she wasn’t allowed to look for comics and she needed to find real books to read. Why bring her to a comic convention! She looked really sad.
We do have a schedule for 2017, you have to be really early anymore if you want to get in so I almost know what I’m going to do already by the second half of the year before. We will be at Emerald City out in Seattle, I’ll be at Indy PopCon, Indy Comic Con, C2E2, and then we’re both going to Heroes Con in North Carolina. We’re both trying to make it out to San Diego Comic Con again too.
In the notes at the end of an issue of Nutmeg, you mentioned being a fan of Twin Peaks, how excited are you for the show to return later this year?
I am SO excited! I really hope it turns out well, but I’ll probably keep watching it even if it’s going downhill. Haha. Me and a friend of mine have been re-watching the original run to get ourselves excited and refreshed for the new stuff. The first time I went to Emerald City Comic Con out in Seattle I took an extra half of a day before I left to come back home and rented a car with a couple friends to go out into the mountains and visit the town that parts of it were filmed in. We went to the Double R and to Snoqualmie Falls where the outside of the Great Northern and the waterfall are filmed. It was so pretty!
I really love the vintage look of Nutmeg, how its soft colors and wholesome setting contrast with the story. What was the inspiration for choosing this art style?
It started off with not wanting to do the line work in black. It felt too harsh so I went another route and the colors kind of fell into place after that once I thought about the story more. I thought about a perfect town like Pleasantville and how it looks but how those perfect towns are never really all that perfect underneath.
How hard was it to come up with all of the food related names?
That is almost always James and I don’t know how he does it! Really look at those signs for the stores and shops in the towns too, they’re so good. He is a master with puns.
Is there a character that you identify with the most, or feel is the most like you when you were in junior high?
Hmm, I’m not sure. Maybe Poppy but not really to the extremes where her character goes. I’m thinking in the way where she kind of knows when something is wrong and If she still does it she ends up feeling really guilty. I wasn’t really much of a trouble maker when I was little, so I’d feel really bad if I did things I knew I shouldn’t be. I was also pretty friendly with most people and kind of a tomboy, but there were a couple kids that would just find anything in anyone to make fun of, so they’d poke fun at me for reading manga or comics.
How long does it take you to complete all of the art for an issue? Have you gotten faster as you became more familiar and comfortable with the characters?
I think I’ve gotten much faster, but life has also gotten much busier as time has gone on since we’ve been working on the book. When we first started I was only working 3 days a week at a newspaper job doing graphic design so I had 4 day weekends to work on stuff. Now I also have a full time job and all that good stuff. Maybe two or three months depending on how consistently I’m working on it.
I was surprised by Poppy being the one to insist on them trying their product and then being hooked. Once you see why, I totally understood her continued use, but I was initially taken aback. Has James been able to surprise you when he’s sent you his writing?
I’m always surprised at where it goes! When I start a new issue or when I see that he drops a new one into the drop box, I’m so excited because it’s really like reading the next issue for me. I still don’t know what happens In the end.
Without giving anything away, what can you tell us about where the story is going, or where you are hoping to see it go?
Well in the first issue we give a really small snippet of the direction it’s going, and I know really general broad strokes of the story, but I don’t know the small details so I’m excited to find out just like everyone else.
What has been the most surprising or frustrating aspect of producing an independent comic? What is something you know now that would have made the process much easier if you knew it beforehand?
It’s really hard to promote your own work and get more people to read the book. Especially since we don’t know which stores order the book, so when people ask where they can pick it up I’m not always sure what to tell them, especially since we’re out of state. I usually have to tell them to check and see at their shop and if they don’t have it to ask to get it on their pull list. It’s easier to get the trades now at this point I think.
I wish I would have known a little more about the business side of things, been more organized with promotion, and also a little better with keeping track of expenses and income and all of the things that aren’t much fun.
What was your reaction to Wonder Woman losing her status as an honorary ambassador for the United Nations? The biggest complaints centered on her outfit being too revealing\ diagnostic and because people say that she promotes violence. Do you think having her in that role actually distracted from the struggles real women face in our country and around the world?
This might sound terrible but this is news to me! I guess this flew over my head. I normally see people in the comics circle talking about this kind of thing too on Twitter or whatever but I didn’t. Huh. I’ll have to read a little more about it later.
Race and gender permeate every aspect of our lives in good and bad ways, how do you think it has affected the success of Nutmeg? Do you think that if you and James were both white men, the book would be receiving more recognition for how great it is?
It’s hard to say. We’re both pretty unknown in the comics’ world. I’d like to think that the work would speak for itself so it’s difficult to speculate. I think if we were both white men, we would be making a totally different story though. I doubt Nutmeg would be what it is.
If you are able to have a full time career as a comic book artist, do you think you would prefer to be the main artist on a couple of long running series or helping new titles get started?
If I had a full time career as a comic artist, in a dream world it would be drawing stories for James or creating my own stuff and making enough money to live off of it. Realistically though, I wouldn’t mind doing long running or new series as long as I could eat and still have a place to live. Though I will say that as a reader I prefer stories that have a definite end!
Fiona Staples, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Marjorie Liu and Becky Cloonan are some of the biggest names of female creators in the comic book industry today; and I believe you have the talent to be part of the next wave. Is there anything you would like to tell girls that are the same age as Poppy and Cassia, that love to draw or write, about this industry or pursuing a passion?
If you love to draw or write don’t stop, and don’t let anyone prevent you from telling the stories you want to tell! It isn’t the easiest industry but if you really love storytelling, drawing, and have a passion for it, keep pursuing it. If you can, find comic book meetups with artists, free workshops at libraries or other places. Do anything that can get you around other people that enjoy the same thing you do. And if you’re too young to go out and do those things on your own you can always try to start them yourself! Create a comic book club at school or organize a meetup for artists. I wish I would have done that when I was younger but I didn’t realize the opportunity to take the initiative. Someone out there will always be a fan of your work so don’t be afraid to open up and draw/write your stories and share with other people!