Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Womanthology started with a single tweet asking if there were any female creators who would be interested in creating a collection of work. How did you become involved with the project?
Mary Bellamy: I can say that I honestly did not see the initial tweet that Renae De Liz had posted, but I did see a post on Facebook calling for artists for this new project. I had been talking to Renae about other artwork opportunities when she asked me about self publishing. I publish my own line of graphic novels with female leads, she mentioned that she would need someone to help lead the Womanthology Sketchbook project, and I became one of the leading editors on the book. Some time passed and some space opened up in the main Womanthology book. I was able to have my own page, so I opted to illustrate a picture of my characters from my Zorilita™ universe. I work fairly quickly and there were some artists that were going to be unable to complete their projects without a colorist, so Renae asked if I could volunteer to help them out. So, it wasn't long before I took on the coloring duties for the four other stories I worked on.
BD: Over 150 writers and artists were paired together to work on collaborative projects. What can you tell us about the individuals on your team, and what was the creative experience like for you?
MB: This project was my first experience with coloring other artists' work for a professional project. Up until recently, I was a one woman army doing all penciling, inks, and colors myself. Working with these other artists on work that had, for the most part, been completed allowed me to focus on the one aspect, besides drawing, that I love the most: coloring. I was pretty much given carte blanche to do what I thought was best color wise. The first story, Margarite and Leopold, written by Joamette Gil and drawn by Katie Shanahan, gave me some advice on coloring style with cues to characters' designs, but, for the most part, I was allowed to choose my own style for it. For the next story, Rocket's Red Glare, written by Samantha J. Mathis and drawn by Caytlin Villabrandt, I was given free reign over the color scheme and was very happy to try out more monochromatic backgrounds to enhance the impact of the characters and plot points. Normally, I color with a wider palette than this, but it was a nice change. I also played with a more controlled color scheme with the story written by Katie Bernard and drawn by Heidi Arnhold. The final story, Super Teen Slumber Party, written by Gail Simone and drawn by the Ladd sisters, was a bit challenging as there were two distinct styles between the pages, so it was a lesson on using a consistent style of coloring between the pages. Overall, it was a very pleasant experience. I was able to do something I'd never done with some great people that were very supportive, and I'd love to do more collaborative projects in the future.
BD: In addition to the stories that you colored in the book, you created your own gorgeous page in Womanthology. What can you tell us about your art style, and when you first adopted it?
MB: Oh, thank you! My art style is a hybrid of many things, that has been in development for many years, the most dominant of them being 1980s girls cartoons like Lady Lovely Locks, My Little Pony, Rainbow Brite, Rose Petal Palace, and more. I loved the bright colors and fauvist sort of color design. Only in cartoons did characters have rainbow colored hair! I loved Disney Afternoon and the general Saturday morning cartoon line up. It wasn't until later that I heard about Sailor Moon and anime/manga, but with bright colors and female leads I began to love it. Lately, my style has come full circle, back to a more western-influenced style. I've been told it's quite recognizable now. And, it's always quite flattering when people can find you in a convention just based on your style of artwork.
BD: The theme of Womanthology is being heroic, and all of the stories and art in the book are different interpretations of that idea. How does your contribution represent heroism?
MB: I always see being heroic as someone that defends the defenseless. There are so many people that need our protection from hostile forces. So, for my pin up I chose to take on an illustration that shows my main characters from my Zorilita™ universe, Zorilita and Somia, defending a defenseless girl from the looming threat of danger from a much darker force, my villain, White Rein.
BD: You also acted as an editor and graphic designer for the Womanthology Heroic Sketchbook. How do you feel that the sketchbook compliments, and stands apart from, the anthology?
MB: I worked in tandem with Jessica Hickman on the sketchbook. She had gathered all the original sketches, story excerpts, and concept artwork. Since I also have a graphic design background, I offered to do some design work on the cover, title pages and did the final compilation for pre-press and handled the printing. While the actual graphic novel focuses heavily on completed works, the sketchbook allows the reader to see the rough concepts, story development, and layouts that the normal person would never see. It's always a nice peek into the creative process that can help the aspiring artist or writer to see how others work. I think that is always beneficial.
BD: One of the many amazing features of Womanthology is a section of the book devoted to recognizing female creators in the past. Are there any specific female creators that have inspired your work?
MB: Well, classically speaking, I always loved the impressionist movement with Mary Cassatt. I love her color usage, but the more modern illustrators and creators would have to include: Mary Blair, Muriel Fahrion, Strawberry Shortcake illustrator, G. G. Santiago, creator of Rainbow Brite designs, Elena Kucharik, creator of the original Care Bears illustrations, Kazuko Tadano, character designer of Sailor Moon and Wedding Peach animes, Atsuko Ishida, illustrator of Shamanic Princess, Megumi Tachikawa of Saint Tail and the female comic group, Clamp.
BD: What impact do you hope that Womanthology will have on today’s comic book industry and its readers?
MB: I think, at least I really hope, that there will be an examination of talented female writers and artists, and that it would lead to more opportunities for those female creators to break into or advance in the comics field. I would love to see more stories with female characters that are as well developed as their male counter parts, and I'd love to see more stories written from a female slant. It would also be nice to see more companies opening up to stories that are less about super heroes and being more accessible to female audiences. I think the success of the Womanthology projects shows that there is a demand for these things and that female artists and writers and content are also in demand.
BD: Can you give us the inside scoop on any upcoming projects in the works, or your plans for attending conventions in 2012?
MB: Well, I'm always working on my girls graphic novel series, Faux Facts - The Truth Can Be Strange!™ and Ah Heck!! - The Angel Chronicles™, both of which will be available at San Diego Comic Con 2012 in the small press section table N04 Zorilita-Mary Bellamy. Faux Facts is a full color, four volume series so far, and Ah Heck!! is currently at two volumes. I'm also working on various sketchbooks and professional artist trading card sets via Rittenhouse Archives, Upperdeck, and 5finity.
San Diego Comic Con is currently the only show that I have an official presence at, but I do walk the floors of local Southern California conventions like Comikaze Expo and Long Beach Comic Con where I've done a few Womanthology panels.
BD: What is the most important piece of advice that you can offer to female artists who aspire to work in the comic book industry?
MB: As for advice, I would emphasize these things:
- Don’t take critiques personally. Most editors are only trying to help you to improve your skills. Everyone can improve something in their own works.
- Ask yourself, honestly, where you’d like to go with your work and make a plan to find a way to make that possible. If looking to be published, find a publisher that has a style that you’d fit into.
- Put your heart into your work. If your heart isn’t in it – it will show.
- Have faith in yourself and skills. Don’t put yourself down, because if you start to believe it, your work will reflect that attitude.
- Challenge yourself to draw things outside of what you normally want to draw – it will help you grow.
- And, finally, just keep drawing.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for Fanboy Comics fans to find out more about you and your artwork?
MB: You can find more about me and my artwork my personal website: www.marybellamy.com . If you'd like to follow me on my social media sites, you can find me on:
Twitter: www.twitter.com/zorilita or www.twitter.com/Mary_Bellamy
*Don't miss Emerald Knight's Womanthology signing on Sunday, March 25th, 2012, at 1:00 p.m. Several Womanthology contributors will be in attendance, and proceeds from the sale of the hard cover book will be donated to Global Giving!
Fanboy Comics will continue to post all of its interviews with the Womanthology creators throughout the week. Click here for the latest interviews.