Comic Artist Cori Walters Discusses Current Projects
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I am incredibly excited, as this is my first interview; I’m also lucky enough that it just so happens to be with a friend! Cori Walters is an amazingly talented and incredibly distinctive artist. Their first professional work as a comic artist was published in November 2016 for Wrong Way: An American Punk Story (Which you can find on Comixology) written by Martin Dunn, The story is about a guy who’s in a bit of a rut in his life, he’s a cartoonist that has some family problems and he longs for the days of his rebellious youth.
Prior to this Cori has been working on personal projects for a number of years. In addition to being fantastically talented, Cori is also a really nice person who advocates for social rights and equality. Personally, they’ve taught me so much about feminism, privilege, gender identities, and even my own identity, and I am still constantly learning new things from them. I truly believe they’ve helped shape me into the person I am today.
I’d initially found them on deviantArt through a piece of Chrono Trigger fanart about 6 or 7 years ago, began chatting over common interests, and eventually became mutuals on tumblr (which, as you may know, means that when you stick with each other for that long –through all the fandom switches, personal drama, and shit-posting– you are truly bros.) So, without further fanfare: Cori Walters.
Mama Michine: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview with me!
Cori Walters: Thanks for talking with me!
MM: So, let’s start off with talking about your work on “Wrong Way”. You met Martin at Megacon 2016, right? So how did that play out?
CW: I was tabling there and Martin was hosting a couple panels on how to break into comics. I make it a point to go to as many of those as I can, just to network. But it actually wasn’t until Sunday after the show that me and him got to really talk. I’d been showing my portfolio around to all the indie publishers and I’d heard his critique was really harsh, so I wanted to impress him, ha-ha. He liked my stuff so we started spitballing about what sort of role I could play at CAE Studios. I noticed he had a Rise Against tattoo on his arm so we started talking about punk music, and next thing I know he’s pitching me Wrong Way.
MM: That’s great! So, he started telling you about it at the convention at first? I know he also sent you a folder with a bunch of script ideas, right?
CW: Yeah, and after looking through it I was debating taking a comic featuring kids fighting zombies, but at the end of the day I just love having an excuse to draw punk stuff.
MM: Always good to have an excuse to let your punk rock on through! In the post that Martin wrote, he said that you actually had to bug him for more of the script. That’s amazing, honestly! How fast after getting started was the whole comic finished? What was the process like between start and finish?
CW: Well it’s actually a mini-series so we’ve got more coming down the pipe, but the first issue was wrapped up between the two of us by around September of last year? I started drawing it in July, but real life and other projects kept getting in the way for both of us, unfortunately. The process pretty much centered around Martin having a central manuscript that he wrote years ago, that he was then adapting and updating into the script as it is now. Since he’s freelancing alongside this, how it’d usually turn out is, he’d script out a few pages and then I’d draw them. I also have a day job so being able to break it up into manageable chunks worked well for me, ha-ha.
MM: I’ve heard that the way writers write scripts can vary in format, some write the contents and dialog of the page and leave rest of it up to the artist, while others write panel by panel with how they want everything laid out. Which method did Martin Use, and what was it like?
CW: Martin has a background in drawing comics and it really shows in his scripts, they’re some of the easiest to draw from that I’ve seen. A lot of the time he’ll specify the angle he wants or the expression he wants, and sometimes he’ll drop in images off google to show me how he wants something to look. Little staging things like that. I like it because it gives me the opportunity to not spend so much time puzzling out how a panel is going to be put together, and more time figuring out the kinds of minutiae that make it look good and read impactfully. More writers could definitely learn from his approach, ha-ha.
MM: That’s really awesome, and totally answered my next question ha-ha. Okay! So, now I want to focus a bit more on you. Do you have a flavour of ice cream that is so good to you, that you would K.O. someone for it? What flavour?
CW: I really, really like Superman flavor. The kind with the primary colors all swirled together? I have no idea what they are, but I love that stuff.
MM: I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that kind before [further research post-interview deduces that the flavour is blue moon, lemon and cherry] Back when you were working in childcare, what is the strangest or funniest thing a kid said to you?
CW: There was this one kid who was really into comics, so naturally he kinda gravitated to me when he realized that I would absolutely talk to him about superheroes for an hour. One day we were discussing our favorite Batman villains and he kinda pauses, squints up at me, strokes his chin, and tells me I have a chin that looks like the Joker’s. That’s the harshest, most brutal thing anyone has ever said to me and it didn’t come from my mortal enemy, it came from a 10 year old.
MM: That is absolutely brutal, and kind of hilarious. Your style is so unique and distinctly you, do you have any artists that you have drawn inspiration from and adapted to create your style? Who are they, and in what ways did they influence you?
CW: Oh wow, that’s a tough question. I draw from a lot of different sources, my art is such a mashup it’s hard to whittle it down. Purely in terms of just what I’m bringing to comics, I always try to aim for things like Osamu Tezuka’s simplification of form, Frank Quitely’s sense of expression through body language, Craig Thompson’s contemplativeness, Natsume Ono’s playful linework….Disney’s Hercules’ swirly elbows, you know. I’m a kleptomaniac of art, if someone draws something in a cool way I’ve gotta try it for myself. It always surprises me when people say my art is unique; I always feel like I’m two seconds away from having how many organs I’ve stolen discovered. Maybe that metaphor’s a bit dark…
MM: Well, I can tell you from an outsider’s perspective, you’ve melded it all so beautifully together that it is 100% Cori, no matter how many inspirations you’ve drawn from. Now you do most of your art digitally, right? Which is your program of choice, and why do you like working in it? Are there other programs that you use for more speciality purposes?
CW: Aw shucks, thank you! You’re right about the digital, though I do like to bust out my dip pens now and again. The end of last year I actually upgraded to Clip Studio and I absolutely adore it. It’s designed for comicking, and streamlines the process so much more than back when I was porting between Paint Tool SAI and Photoshop CS2 (this upgrade was a long time coming). I downloaded Frenden’s inking brushes for it and I love how uniquely suited it is to inking and just generally making black and white images in general. I still color in SAI though; I have too many custom brushes in there, ha-ha. When I’m working on my webcomic, Spectra, I usually do the actual lettering in Photoshop since Clip Studio can’t quite get the sizing right, but that’s about it.
MM: Do you do lettering by hand or do you have a custom font you use for it? I know Photoshop can be a bit of a pain too, when it comes to using fonts, sometimes.
CW: I’d love to hand letter but I can never get it to look right on a tablet, and somehow it always ends up aggravating my hand problems way worse than doing it pen on paper. No, I usually just use Blambot fonts, that guy is a saint. Photoshop’s a little tricky, but I’ve been using it for that for ten years now, it’s pretty much second nature to me now.
MM: So, you brought up Spectra, how many years have you been working on that now? Are there any other projects that you’re working on in addition to Spectra and Wrong Way that you can tell us about?
CW: It’s actually been almost exactly four years since I started Spectra. Time flies! I’m also working on a series about teenage girls piloting giant robots that’s going through some rebranding, and is pretty much shelved until I finish Wrong Way. I’m excited to get back to it though! It was originally titled Chicks Dig Giant Robots but I’m gonna be relaunching it as Youth Battle Nitro Punch here at… some point! And, that’s pretty much it for the big stuff, though I do have some mini-comics and anthology work with some other writers that will surface eventually.
MM: That’s a lot of stuff! Kudos! Next question. When it’s the middle of the night, and you can’t sleep, what is it that claws at your brain?
CW: Oh god, everything ha-ha. Mostly when I’m going to be able to finish the next set of comic pages.
MM: Workflow demons eh? I gotcha. What was it that first got you into reading comics, what was the first comic you ever fell in love with, and why did you love it?
CW: When I was in sixth grade, my best friend’s mom accidentally bought her two copies of the same issue of Shonen Jump, so she gave one to me. I liked watching the Shaman King anime whenever it came on so I was excited when it was in the magazine. I still have that issue, the papers all gray and the inks faded from how many times I’ve reread it, ha-ha. It was in the middle of the fight between Yoh and Faust XIII, and I remember being blown away by the depth of the emotions it sparked in my 12 year old brain and how good the drawings you could arrange on a page to do that could be. I’d always loved drawing and had played around with drawing longer-format comics before that, but never thought it would ever be something that could be taken seriously. Seeing that comic was a wake-up call for me; I was so excited, I was like, “I can do this! I can make this!!”
MM: That’s so awesome! I love when there’s just a big spark that ignites your passions. Do you have any words for other dreamers out there wanting to chase their ambitions?
CW: Doing what you want to do is hard, but if you’re just finding your footing don’t fixate on that. Just start doing it and developing your skills, and pretty soon you’ll find you want to spend more time on it, you want to work harder to achieve your next arbitrary goal you’ve set. Or you don’t and you’ve found yourself a really cool new downtime hobby, there are no downsides here. It kills me to see people holding themselves back by second guessing themselves. If you want to draw comics, make a webcomic and update it when you feel like it. If you wanna make music, get a SoundCloud, post whatever little music idea you have. There’s no bar you have to clear to be good enough to do something, you get good at things by doing them.
Big shout out to Cori Walters for taking the time to allow me to interview them, and being a very fun person to interview!
You can find Cori on Twitter @CoriWalters666, or follow their Art Blog, or their Main Account on Tumblr. Read their webcomic on Smackjeeves or Taptastic or you can support them on Patreon and get exclusive content.
Liked the interview? Thought I should do something different? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!