Interview by Rachel Beck
We love talking to other storytellers and hearing about their creative process, so we caught up with Melissa Pagluica, creator of “Above the Clouds,” which is a beautifully drawn “silent comic” about a girl, a broken heart, and an unfinished story.
Tell us a little bit about your background in comics. When did you first start reading or become interested in them?
My gateway to comics was really through Sailor Moon. Back in the 90s I was totally entranced with a lady fighting for justice! It was a bit different then watching X-Men, which also has awesome women. But something about Sailor Moon…. She wasn’t about destroying her enemies but healing and I dig that contrast. When I saw illustrations of her in comic format, I wanted to eat it all up. I think I was more into cartoons and books back in the day and it really wasn’t until after college that I got into comics.
Jo Chen was one of my idols though. She was one of the few girls I saw making a living at what she was doing so I did start buying Runaways just because she did the cover art. Even got to meet her once! She totally inspired me.
It wasn’t until after college that I realize that comics didn’t have to be just about spandex super heroes (not that super heroes are less cool, it just didn’t appeal to me as a girl as much, growing up, which is why I went more towards manga.
It’s going to sound simplistic but honestly STARTING a project. Keeping yourself motivated and excited and realizing that instead of trying to jump the mountain in a single leap, it’s about one step at a time. Your brain starts to realize “hey, I can manage that amount. Let’s try that” instead of “I can’t draw EVERYTHING perfect. I shouldn’t start at all until I can,” because you’re never going to get to that point until you build up to it.
I once had this epic comic idea and it was so huge that I realize I “concepted” it for a year and wasn’t getting any closer to actually starting. I realized I made it too precious and that I was afraid to make a mistake. That ‘s why Above the Clouds was born. Needed to level up first before attempting something so big so I gave myself a project with the intention of (1) just learning (2) not making it precious/perfect.
I realized that giving myself those limitations opened myself up to accomplish a lot more. The story I had in my mind on page one of Above the Clouds has changed and evolved and I think that allowing myself room to “fill in the blanks” (instead of trying to nail down EVERY detail) allowed me grow and change with the direction the characters wanted to take to get to the ending I have created.
Along similar lines, what advice would you have to other comic makers who are just starting out?
Researching is awesome; I LOVE reading about comic creators and their process and listening to podcast as I work. But it comes to a point where you are letting research take over the act of doing. You need to start and the best way to apply all the research you have lovingly poured over is to put it into practice. Give yourself small projects that don’t feel overwhelming and let yourself have fun with the process. I told myself before starting “I’m probably going to mess up a lot. That’s okay because I’m learning.” They say those who are successful are not afraid to fail, and I think it’s true. When you worried about failure your not focusing on what is important. Starting!
I know the level of involvement is different for everyone who creates comics. Some do all the writing while others do all the art. But since I do both and writing is still something I am trying to be better at I found that much of my inspiration and guidance has come from reading about the art of storytelling itself from a writers perspective and has help me guide my choices when drawing panels. My number one recommended reading is “Invisible Ink” by Brian McDonald. The craft of storytelling is very important to me and though I can draw pictures it doesn’t mean I can instantly form stories, so I have turned to amazing writers who like to share what makes meaningful and well developed stories that resonate with viewers.
Join us for Part 2 of our interview, where Melissa shares her thoughts on managing an online community and doing the convention circuit. In the mean time, you can read Above the Clouds here: http://atcloudscomic.com.