Women in Comics Month: Interview with Sally Jane Thompson

In honor of Women in Comics Month this March, PREVIEWSworld talks with cartoonist Sally Jane Thompson!


PREVIEWSworld: Who is your current comics employer? 

Sally Jane Thompson: Self-employed (right now working on comics for Emet Comics and Dark Horse.)

PREVIEWSworld: What is your primary job title? In a quick phrase or two, could you define your job’s key responsibility?

Sally Jane Thompson: 
Cartoonist – I write and draw on some projects (like ‘Under the Oak Trees’ for Emet’s Fresh Romance Vol 2), and do pencils & inks on others (like ‘The Ruby Equation’ for Fresh Romance Vol 1!)

PREVIEWSworld: Could you please explain how your work helps make comics a reality? (Connect the dots for us. Where are you in the flow of getting a book into reader hands?)

Sally Jane Thompson: If I’m working with a team, I’ll probably discuss story elements with the writer and editor, then wait for the writer to do their script magic. From there, I’ll do roughs (sort of halfway between thumbnails and pencils – legible enough for other people to understand, but rough enough that I can still make drawing decisions in the inking stage and avoid losing too much visual energy). I do the initial lettering at this stage too if not working with a separate letterer – it’s a visual element on the page, so I’d rather integrate it from the start. Editor & writer will go over those so we can adjust anything that could be stronger and get it looking it’s best, and I’ll make adjustments and ink from there.

If it’s a writer/artist project, I may go through rounds of outlines with the editor, gradually getting the story into the right shape, and then do a script or just page breakdowns, then roughs from there – or I may have roughed the book already when it’s submitted, in which case we can go straight to edits. If it’s a color work, that can be a bit much for one person to hit deadlines on, so I’ll get some help with flats, and often full colors. (Colorists are absolute heroes!)

PREVIEWSworld: What’s the part of your job you enjoy the most?

Sally Jane Thompson: The part where, now and then, you surprise yourself with something you’ve drawn, and get to briefly be full of pride and happiness about your work.
The part where you have a finished book in your hands, and can look back over the mountain of work you conquered to get it there.  And the occasional time when someone tells you your work affected or meant something to them, which is like rocket fuel!

PREVIEWSworld: What comic titles have you worked on?

Sally Jane Thompson:  -Under the Oak Trees (Fresh Romance Vol 2, Emet Comics – with colour assistant Nathan Ashworth)
-The Ruby Equation (Fresh Romance Vol 1, Oni Press – with writer Sarah Kuhn, colourist Savanna Ganucheau, and letterer Steve Wands)
-Great Artists (Oxford University Press, with writer Isabel Thomas)
-Red Jack (The Phoenix, David Fickling Comics, with writer John Dickinson and colour assistant Nathan Ashworth)
-Short stories for Gene Ha’s ‘Mae’ (Dark Horse), the ‘Thought Bubble Anthology’ (Image Comics), My So Called Secret Identity, Cinema Journal, and others

I also consider myself lucky that my work allows me to bring comics, illustration and sketch reportage into non-comics fields, especially the museum and heritage sector (for clients like the City of London, the Crafts Council, the National Trust, national parks, and others).

PREVIEWSworld: While there are loads of professionals in the comics industry, there are only so many folks who get to do what you do! How did you get started? How did you learn all the skills you needed for your position?

Sally Jane Thompson:  While I studied art in university to MA level, the programs were very fine arts leaning, so I had to augment that with constant sketching and comic-making on the side. I think a lot of people come into comics sideways though (my first real comic was made as an essay for an English lit class on the Canadian long poem!), and while that can mean it takes time for your draughtsmanship to catch up to your illustration-program-educated peers, it also brings a variety of perspectives which I think is really valuable. There are so many great, affordable online resources nowadays – and the further you go into your own work, the better understanding you have of what skill gaps you need to fill. It’s an ongoing process! This applies to freelance business skills as well, which are woefully undertaught in art programs – luckily, people are really willing to share their experiences, so you can get contracts in place, understand licensing and value, negotiate – even if you are the only person in your business!

PREVIEWSworld: If you had one comics-related wish—no limits—what would it be?

Sally Jane Thompson: For comics in general, it would be for them to be seen in society and media as just a format (I want to see middle-aged businessmen in the UK reading non-fic comics about wine-making on the tube! People in cafes reading comics about sociology and knitting and first kisses and fairy tales!)

For myself, I’d love to pursue my love of comics’ ability to create a sense of place by drawing comics in the environments they’re set in – doing a series, travelling to new or familiar places and trying to catch a whisper of that place and pursue the stories that arise out of being there.

PREVIEWSworld: Do you have an online presence we can link to and share with our readers?

Sally Jane Thompson:  sallyjanethompson.co.uk , @sallythompson on Twitter, @sallyjanethompson on Instagram.

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