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10 Questions: The Gathering Edition – Cassandra James

We continue our interview series with members of The Gathering and GrayHaven Comics. We’ve put out the same questions to numerous individuals and can compare their responses. A hopefully intriguing interview series.

Check out our previous interviews.

George Amaru Victor Gischler Nathan Lee James James O’Callaghan
Elena Andrews Ray Goldfield Sean Leonard Chris Page
Arcadio Bolaños Andrew Goletz William Levert Amanda Rachels
John M. Coker Doug Hahner Marc Lombardi Jason Snyder
Marc Deschamps Erica J. Heflin Glenn Matchett Sam Tung
Donal DeLay Gary Hogan Brad Nelson Leigh Walls
Nick Francis Travis M. Holyfield

Up next is artist Cassandra James.

Graphic Policy: How did you get started in the comic book industry?

Cassandra James: I mostly got started through places online like DeviantART and Digital Webbing. By talking with people and learning about the behind-the-scenes production of comics I was able to not only network but really become serious about getting a career penciling comics.

Despite wanting to be a penciller my first professional gig was a small coloring job for Devil’s Due Publishing that I got through a friend on DeviantART, Tim Seeley.

GP: Were you a fan of comic books before?

CJ: Yes! When I was little I used to read the Disney and Sonic the Hedgehog comics and as I got older I became obsessed with the X-Men and Justice League cartoons. It was natural for me to then move onto cape comics as I got older. Characters like Wonder Woman and Professor X have been with me all my life.

GP: Do you read comics now? If so, what are some of your current picks?

CJ: Sadly I don’t have as much time to read comics as I used to but I have a stack of trade paperbacks next to my bed and am constantly buying things on ComiXology. I’m currently really enjoying Dark Horse’s new Conan the Barbarian series, DC’s Ame Comi line, Image Comics’ reboot of Glory and the new Captain Marvel from Marvel comics.

GP: How did you get involved with The Gathering?

CJ: I love this story. One morning I woke up, sit down at my desk with a cup of tea to start my morning email checking and what-not and see that I had a private message over on the Bendis boards, it was from Gail Simone. I opened it and burst into tears; my husband (who’s sitting next to me) panics and asks me what is wrong. I can only smile and point at my screen; Gail was asking if I’d like to illustrate a story she’s written for the next Gathering anthology.

At this stage I haven’t had much comic work and was still very green, so to be asked by one of my favorite writers to draw one of their stories was a pretty big deal. Since then I’ve been able to work with some amazing creators on various Gathering anthologies, it’s been so much fun and I’m so honored!

GP: Each issue of The Gathering has a theme, how did that factor into the comic creation?

CJ: For me it doesn’t factor in too much, mostly because the writer already has the story written by the time it reaches my hands. Although obviously I try and match the style the writer is going for with my art.

GP: What advice would you give to independent creators just breaking into the business?

CJ: Network, network, network! Every gig I’ve gotten has been from posting on a forum or through a friend or creator I’ve previously worked with. People in the industry are very cautious about working with people they don’t know, but one glowing recommendation from someone already in the business will go a long way. (This is why it’s also not a good idea to burn bridges and be a total jerk to an industry pro. The comic business is small and word travels fast, don’t cost yourself a career by acting like a jerk.)

Even if you’re an artist there is a lot you can learn from an editor or a writer and vice versa. Posting your work online is a great way to not only get it seen but to get feedback you may not get anywhere else.

GP: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned through your experiences?

CJ: Deadlines are important. You may look at a comic and think, ‘I can draw better than this, why did this artist get hired?’ The answer to that is usually because said artist could deliver the work in a timely manner. You may produce work that looks like Da Vinci but if it takes you a week to draw a comic page, you’ll never be hired because companies don’t want late books.

The hardest thing for me as a professional was upping my page rate, but with practice and hard work it did happen. I went from one page a month to being able to knock out 6 rough penciled pages a day for my latest Image book.

GP: Do you think it’s easier today for creators to get published?

CJ: I think so. With websites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo it’s been possible for independent creators to self-publish their own books. Not to mention the success of web comics as a publishing medium.

GP:  How do you think technology like social networking or crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo or Kickstarter are impacting comic book publishing?

CJ: I think they’re a great way of getting books that may not be looked at by the bigger publishing houses out there printed. I was also a part of the successfully funded Womanthology Kickstarter campaign, we had no idea when we started that we’d end up raising over $100,000 in a month.

I think Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are great places to garner support not just from a monetary standpoint but from a market research standpoint. I can only hope that places like Marvel and DC are taking notice of the comics that not only do well, but outstanding well and try and emulate that success for themselves. I feel that many of the bigger comic publishers like the Big Two don’t really take risks with their books, they pander to the same 18 – 30 year old male demographic and I think that successfully funded projects on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo prove that comics are for everyone and can be sold to anyone if you do it right. Comic fans have a lot of money that they’re willing to hand over if you’re willing to produce top quality, original books.

GP: What can we expect from you next?

CJ: I have two more Gathering issues to do (one is an erotic issue, reowr!), the Valentine TPB from Image is coming out in September and the Sparks one-shot written by Glenn Matchett sometime next year.

But besides that no big plans, fingers crossed that I’ll have some big works to lead me into the New Year!

Almost American