Q: Let’s start with the Granite State Comicon itself. What do you hope to do and see while at the convention?
Jackie Musto: I hope to be able to get up and look around! All joking aside, I do tend to spend most of the day behind the table, but I always love seeing other indie comic artists and writers out there. It’s my favorite comic genre, and I love discovering new things to read. Cosplayers are always so great to see come out as well – they do an amazing job with their costumes and are always super spirited and excited to be there. Talking to people who are excited about the convention are the thing that keeps me running all weekend! (Well, that and iced coffee.)
Q: Speaking of “the Granite State”, if you had to create a “state superhero” for New Hampshire, who would it be?
Jackie M.: The Purple Finch. She’d be a suburban girl who got bored and created herself a super-hero persona with purple tights, running around Mines Falls and fighting crime.
Q: Lets move to your own work. It seems as though your main focus right now is Kay and P Comics, which can be read both online or the old fashioned way, on paper. How might you introduce your comic to someone who has never seen it before? What’s it like?
Jackie: I’d call Kay and P a “modern fantasy” – it definitely has mystical, magical things going on, but Kay also just goes to school and works like a normal person. It’s surreal in a way, but I think it’s really approachable. I think it’s really useful for the comic to be available in multiple formats – it can reach such a broad audience online, but I know many readers still love the feel of a book in their hands. The nice part of being a new fan now is that you can catch up on the whole story at once, as opposed to the lovely folks who have been reading the whole time and had to wait for their two pages each week!
Q: Kay and P is- in some ways- a very realistic coming-of-age comic. A story about a young college student and artist (Kay) who is finding her way in terms of family, relationships and society, but there certainly is a surreal undertow of almost magical realism. The most prominent element of which is P (short for Peaches!) the Skeleton, Kay’s mostly real “skele-friend”. Which part of the comic came to you first, or did the two sides (the realistic and magical) emerge as a package?
Jackie: It’s always been a package deal. I knew that if Kay had a skeleton friend something weird had to be going on – it just became a matter of packaging that in a new way that I thought was fun and entertaining. While I’ve read traditional fantasy pretty much all my life, some of my favorite books growing up were the Xanth series because they often featured characters from the “real world”, thrust into this wild alternate reality. I really love fantasy elements that could very well be happening right out my window. Also – there is sometime comforting about the world being more magical than you thought it was. Sometimes it’s rough and dark out there, but to think something truly amazing and beautiful could be going on right under your nose is such an uplifting thought.
Q: Was P at all inspired by Harvey, the invisible 6-foot-tall pooka, of the movie by the same name?
Jackie: Not really, though I am familiar with the movie. P is sort of the friend/family member I would really love to have. He’s really supportive but will kick Kay’s butt when she needs it. He is there to help her out, hear her vent or have fun with her – but it does go both ways. Kay is really protective of P – I mean, she’s been told all her life to get rid of him but has stood by him in the face of ridicule and loss of connections with other people. They are fiercely loyal to one another, and I think that’s what makes their bond so strong even when they get angry with each other.
Q: I noticed that your drawing and coloring style is both vibrant and detail-oriented. A lot of energy has gone into creating character outfits (unlike most superheroes, Kay is constantly changing her clothes), background details, and even incorporating musical elements (for example: song lyrics or just bass riffs) into the comic. How did you come to this style of illustration? Were you influenced by any illustrators?
Jackie: I like Kay’s world to seem real, so I try to pull from things around me. A lot of the things Kay wears are things I own or have seen on other people and liked – and her coffee cups and things are totally mine! I think that it’s all right for a superhero to run around in the same costume all the time, but if you saw your friend wearing the same outfit everyday, that’d be a little weird. I think P would get on her case if she wore the same thing everyday. I’ve always been really detail-oriented in my work – I think it stems from drawing roleplaying characters for my friends growing up – they’d want to see all the cool gear their character carries around, so I became really tuned into what people carry around with them on a daily basis. It can tell you a lot about a person by what they hang on their walls or carry in their pockets. As far as my personal style goes, it’s something that’s just developed slowly over time. There is actually a striking difference if you look at the early pages and the newest ones – you just learn new techniques and styles as time goes on. Some of my influences (in no particular order) are: Mucha, Frida Kahlo, Dave McKean, Craig Thompson and Marjane Satrapi.
Q: And how did you come to writing comics? Has this always been part of a plan, or was it more of a surprise?
Jackie: Little from column A, little from column B. I knew I wanted to go to school for art in high school, but I didn’t really narrow my scope down until about senior year in college. I had so many stories to tell, and they just started pouring out in my sketchbooks. A lot of my early bits and pieces look like movie storyboards, and I just learned how to make comics to be able to tell the whole thing. When I was a kid, I honestly didn’t read many comics. I didn’t like the art styles too much and I was hard pressed to find an enthralling comic book with a character who I could get into the shoes of. I liked cartoons and animated films a lot more, and ate those up constantly. There is a part of me that would really love to do animation, but I just didn’t think I could do that myself. I think comics are kin to animated features in that way – it’s something I could produce myself to tell a really great story like I’d loved growing up.
Q: For the online art, the colors and are so rich. How do you achieve that slightly glossy look that I see on my PC monitor?
Jackie: Ha, well – a lot of good color choices and painting I guess! I don’t really create comics in a traditional way (pencils, inks and flat colors) – I treat each page like an illustration and finish it in the same way. I like rich colors, and they are fun to paint so they persist in my comics. Kay also wears some weird stuff, so that helps. I have a background in illustration, so I bring a lot of the color theory and techniques I learned to the table when I’m making my choices.
Q: I also really like the partially transparent dialogue balloons. How did you come up with that?
Jackie: I was working on early pages and I found the solid white balloons really distracting, being these big white blobs on the page. I played around with having colored word balloons, but didn’t really like the outcomes either. I ended up just playing with sliders and found it looked really excellent with the transparency. It lets the viewer see what’s going on behind the balloon, and keeps it from interfering with the flow too much. A lot of how I do my work is experimentation until I find something I like.
Q: Is any of the story of Kay and P tied to your own real life? Did you have invisible friends growing up? Any particular fascination with skeletons?
Jackie: Well I didn’t have an invisible skeleton friend growing up, but I had a imaginary friend that was a cat for a while. Being an only child you end up making up whole worlds and stories to entertain yourself when all your friends are at summer camp. I used to draw whole books of characters doing things and having adventures! My fascination with skeletons is really a college thing – my professor had a Wunderkammer with a ton of animal bones and skulls, and I just found them beautiful. I’m not fascinated with death so much as the beauty of the forms of the body. At this point I have my own collection of shells, bones, skulls, feathers, rocks – nature is so complex and beautiful. As far as Kay’s life mirroring my own – not entirely. I have included my own experiences in some of the things that happen to her because I think it adds an element of “truth” to her story, and also lets me maybe tell a story or teach a lesson I’ve learned in my life. I think some of the things that happened to Kay have happened to a lot of other people too – kids often get ostracized for oddities about their behavior, or have to deal with aspects of themselves when their friends or family confront them.
Q: Another aspect of your comic is that it has a left-of-center feel to it- with a very multicultural cast and a refreshing lack of judgement when it comes to sexual exploration. While most artists don’t want to preach to us, do you feel like you are perhaps reporting to the rest of us from that political perspective, or am I reading too much into the story?
Jackie: I include women, people of color and folks of various sexual representations because those people are out there. I don’t believe that it has anything to do with politics, or even a perspective. It’s just a fact – there are so many diverse peoples in the world, to not include them would just be inaccurate. The comic genre (as many entertainment genres) has had this habit of being inclusive to only a small sub-section of humanity, and I want to help change that. Growing up I know I often found myself seemingly excluded from certain parts of geekery because of my gender. I didn’t see anyone who looked like me or could represent me, so I didn’t feel like I was welcomed. I think that happens to a lot of people who view not only comics, but television, movies and video games. If someone doesn’t feel like they are wanted, they probably won’t make an effort to become part of that movement, and we all miss out on not having many other voices telling their stories to us. Imagine all the fantastic perspectives and insights we might miss out on because a wide variety of people are just vacant from the pages of our books. I hope that I can encourage a wide variety of people to express themselves in whatever way they feel passionate about.
Q: In reviewing the series, my two favorite side-characters are the spooky psychiatrist (possible villain?) in Issue 5 and the sad looking younger cousin who says “My mom said you had your head shrunk” (Issue 8, page 7). Any chance that we’ll see more of those two?
Jackie: Well goodness knows you can’t get away from your family, so all of Kay’s will certainly be showing up as time goes on. Other than that, I don’t want to give too much away. I like to bring characters in and out, as people move in and out of Kay’s life. Just because a character may have made their way in a certain direction don’t mean their path may not cross Kay’s again.
Q: For bonus points: If you were a supervillain, what would your powers be, and which hero would defeat you?
Jackie: I think I’d want to be a villain ala Cat Woman – bad but not evil. I would want the power to show up just in the nick of time to mess up the super hero and get away with some sweet loot before she could catch me. Something like really good luck. My hero would so be another woman who was just as clever and tough as I was, so we could have quippy remarks and maybe even like each other and want to hang out if I wasn’t such a total bad guy.
Jackie Musto will be a featured artist at Granite State Comicon which takes place Sep 28-29 in Manchester New Hampshire, where you should be able to find her in the “Artist Alley”.