Fangirls! A couple weeks ago I wrote about how fantastic the comic Henchgirl is, and then I got to interview the amazing creator, Kristen Gudsnuk!
What type of education did you get?
I have a BA in English and Spanish literature, but have always loved making art and have taken lots of art classes on the side. I took a comics class at the New York Art Students’ League for a few months in 2013, and it taught me a lot about making comics: visual storytelling, proper art setup, the right supplies, and (my arch-nemesis) perspective. Seeing how good some of my classmates were at art motivated me to try harder, and I was able to get a lot of feedback about my art. Then, I got sick of waking up really early on Sundays to go to class so I stopped attending.
What made you want to create comics?
I’ve always been torn between art and writing, and comics just seem like the perfect solution to that dilemma.
How did Henchgirl come to be?
I had a few random ideas of weird superhero gags, and I was really into the sitcom New Girl. And I was watching the various Bruce Timm DC animated series over weekend breakfasts with my boyfriend. I borrowed the zany, slice-of-life tone from New Girl (although I like to think I added my own flavor) and used my newly-acquired knowledge of superhero tropes to develop the world of Henchgirl. So, kids, when your parents say that watching television rots your brain… um, they’re wrong!
What do you find to be the most difficult thing about being an independent creator?
Definitely paying to print up the comics. I eventually end up making the money back when I sell them, but it’s kind of scary to see my bank account after ordering the comics. I should probably do a Kickstarter to offset some of the financial burden, but that seems like a lot of work.
I guess the daily grind of making comics is difficult, but it’s also fun so I don’t mind. Another difficulty is letting go of earlier, crappier pages. Readers are very forgiving of bad art when they know better art is on its way, but I waste a lot of mental energy wishing I could just stop and redo earlier pages.
Most rewarding thing?
The idea of random strangers reading and enjoying my stories really makes me happy. When people tell me they read my comic, or put comments on my site, it motivates me to keep going. I think if I were creating Henchgirl in a vacuum, I’d have already given up. I’m basically a machine that runs on compliments.
Who is your biggest influence?
Probably Rumiko Takahashi. I grew up reading Ranma 1/2 and Inu-Yasha, and then rereading the same graphic novels over and over again (manga was pretty hard to come by in the nineties!). I think her work really ingrained in me the idea that facial expressions should be wacky and cute. Her work had a huge impact on my sense of humor, I think. She’s just an incredible genius. Other works that I discovered as an adult, like Scott Pilgrim and Adventure Time, have also impacted my art.
Do you have any creating rituals?
I’m a big fan of brainstorming during long walks. I like to put a song on repeat, a song that fits the scene or character I’m fleshing out, and just walk around and let my brain tell me whatever story I’m figuring out. Then I let my ideas stew, wait a few days, and slowly start writing. No matter how slowly I write, I always draw even slower, so there’s no chance of me running out of script.
For drawing, I’m a lot more lax. I sometimes work while watching TV, but that’s actually terrible because it makes you draw really slowly. Also, after I’m done reading a really good comic— the new She-Hulk by Charles Soule and Javier Pulido is an example—I try to figure out why it works so well. I turn to really good, cutting-edge comics for inspiration, hoping that some of the awesomeness will rub off on me.
Do you have any advice for aspiring creators?
Just do the thing, and keep doing it. Also, ask everyone to give you honest critique. If someone says “It’s perfect! I love it!” then ignore them and find the person who will be honest with you.Don’t waste time getting offended that your work has mistakes. When you get your critique, try to implement it. Photoshop can be your friend here.
Do you consider yourself a Fangirl? If so, what is your biggest fandom?
Oh god. I am a gigantic fangirl. I get cripplingly obsessed with things I like, and I’ve spent my life just zipping from one fandom to the next, usually at the expense of my social life. Currently my biggest fandoms are Captain America: The Winter Soldier (okay, mainly just Sebastian Stan), Supernatural and Game of Thrones.
But throughout my life I’ve had crazy love affairs with Sailor Moon, Pokemon, Inu-Yasha, Les Miserables, Gravitation, Adventure Time, Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter, Arrow… the list goes on. I try not to talk about it too much, because I tend to go on weird rants. I also spend too much time making lists of favorite characters, episodes, books, movies… I just started making another list, oh nooo!
Are you planning on attending any other conventions this year?
I’m going to be at New York Comic Con!!! Other than that, I don’t have anything else set in stone.
Fangirls, this lady is great. She’s probably the sweetest person ever, and her comic is so fun. I’m excited and nervous to see what happens next with Henchgirl. You can keep up with her at her comic’s page, her twitter, and her tumblr!
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