Interview: Women of BOOM! – Whitney Leopard

Whitney LeopardWe’re at lucky seven when it comes to our “Women of BOOM!” features, spotlighting the many kick-ass women that work at BOOM!, Archaia and KaBOOM! We’re focusing on everyone, editors, designers, writers, artists, you name it! We’re making sure to include the hard-working folks whose contributions are often overlooked in the process.

BOOM! (and KaBOOM! and Archaia) has given us unprecedented access and the chance to ask questions to their staff, and creative teams, to find out why the publisher is so successful in hiring women and their experiences in the comic industry as women.

Up this week is Whitney Leopard, an assistant editor for the company.

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

Whitney Leopard: I was majoring in Psychology at UNC Charlotte when I realized the error of my ways and transferred colleges. I ended up majoring in Sequential Art at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA. It was there that I realized I wanted to be an editor and it was there that I made a great network of friends that helped me push my way into the industry.

GP: Did you read comics growing up? Do you read them now?

WL: Sort of. I would steal my brother’s X-Men and Spider-Man comics whenever I was stuck at home but I never really got into comics until high school when I started buying manga and discovered indie graphic novels like White Out. I definitely read comics now, between my pull-list at my comic shop and keeping an eye on new graphic novels, I’m pretty sure most of my free time is spent reading comics.

GP: How did you come to work with BOOM!/Archaia?

WL: I actually interned for Archaia last summer! They were my first inside look into the industry from a publisher’s point of view and I just fell in love. I worked a lot of odd jobs afterwards from being an extra on tv shows to freelance editing, the latter of which ended with me learning about BOOM! from an artist that I worked with at the time, sent in my resume and after lots of prayer and luck, I now work for one of the best companies in the industry!

GP: How would you describe your job for people?

WL: I get to work with amazing creators who all want to do comics. I get to work at a place where I can have a Die Hard action figure next to a LSP pop doll, and that’s not weird. My desk is probably the least interesting one in the office. At work I read comics, talk to amazing people about comics, and then I get to make sure more comics happen. I kind of live the dream. The way I describe it to my grandparents? I publish funny books.

GP: For people who want to pursue a career in what you do, what advice would you give them?

WL: Don’t give up! I thought I was going to be a psychologist when I was 18, a designer when I was 20, and then an editor when I was 22. Give yourself time to figure out what you really want to do without being too hard on yourself and then pursue it with passion. If you want to be an editor, figure out ways to get the experience. Put together an anthology, get an internship, go out there and make connections. Connections will always be important.

GP: Did you have a mentor to help you break into the industry? Do you mentor anyone yourself?

WL: Since I went to school for a degree in comics, I had several people to help me but the one who pushed me the hardest was my professor Tom Lyle. He’s the one who asked me if I had ever thought about being an editor, the one that showed me that I didn’t have to be a writer or an artist to be passionate and have a career in comics. He was and still is a great help and a great person to talk to. I’ve had a few people email me to ask questions about becoming an editor and I’m happy to give anyone advice but the fact remains that everyone ends up here in a completely unique way, they’ll just have to find their own path.

GP: Do you think women have a more difficult time breaking in and making it in the comic industry, if so why? And if yes, how do you think that can be overcome?

WL: I’ve heard crazy stories about women being turned away from portfolio reviews because they were “dressed too cute”. I have a friend who was turned down for a job when she met the people in person, a month later at a convention her boyfriend was setting up her table and the same people came up and wanted to hire him based off her art. He impersonated her, got the job and then they didn’t inform the company of the mix up until after she had been paid. That said, I also know a lot of women who are currently in the industry and aren’t going to be leaving anytime soon. Maybe I’m just really lucky to be surrounded by a company that judges people on their talent and personality and not their gender, but I would like to think that it’s being overcome everyday.

GP: We notice that when it comes to women in the comic industry, BOOM!/Archaia has a lot of diversity present. Why do you think have they succeeded when so many other publishers struggle with this?

WL: I think it’s because BOOM! is constantly thinking ahead instead of being stuck in the past. We’re not trying to relive some sort of golden age, we’re trying to create a new one and that means creating a team that will be able to handle whatever the world throws at us. I think BOOM! has a great team. (I might be biased.)

GP: We’ve heard horror stories concerning women in the industry, have you ever seen or been discriminated/harassed and if so, how did you handle it?

WL: My sister was told that she couldn’t pick up the new Static Shock comic because she was neither black nor a dude and therefore she wouldn’t be able to relate to the character. She handled it like a boss and continued buying the series while it was still going. I know there are worse stories out there and I’m thankful that I’ve never had anything like that happen to me, but when I think about it happening to all the amazing women out there who just love comics, it’s depressing. I’m not sure how I would handle in person, but I hope I never have to.

GP: What advice do you have for women looking to break into the comic book industry?

WL: You can do it! It will take a lot of time and patience, but it’s definitely worth it. I hope when you get here that you’re surrounded by amazing and encouraging people and that when you get here, you’re here to stay.