I must admit I’m not a pro comic book collector, though I’ve always had a fascination for their stories and, most especially, the talent and craft involved in creating such works of art. It was no surprise that, when I stumbled upon a very gracious and talented graphic novel artist on Twitter—Paul Taylor—I immediately fell in love with his work Wapsi Square. Paul describes his books as “cute and macabre,” and though they are humorous and somewhat dark and fantastical, what I love the most is Paul’s understanding and depiction of women. They’re role models. They’re fun. They’re smart. They’re fearless. They’re sexy. And yes, they’re badass.
Here’s my interview with Paul Taylor (who is pretty badass himself).
So, you are the creator of the Wapsi Square comic. How did that get started?
Originally, Monica and Dietzel were going to be the characters in a short stop-action film that I wanted to make. I had the simple story, the 16mm film equipment, and I was in the process of making the stop-action puppets. It was a very labor-intensive process for just myself and in the process; the characters began growing more and more in complexity and background. Beyond my control, Monica and Dietzel were taking on a larger life as well as a circle of friends that were growing well beyond the scope of me ever being able to do in animation. My wife was the one who suggested to me to do my stories as a graphic novel as well as publishing them online.
What made you decide to use strong, central female characters, and how has that impacted you and your audience?
Most of my friends growing up were female. For some reason, I seemed to connect better with girls/women than boys/men and just being so comfortable around them, I got to hear their side of things, their complaints, insecurities, etc, and I believe that give the foundation for my writing. Also, I knew all too well about being picked on for being skinny, something that I really had no control over, so I wasn’t the one to pick on others. In jr. high, with some of the gals being early bloomers, I wasn’t throwing the taunts at them like other boys and girls were doing. In turn, it seemed like I ended up with busty female friends.
I feel that my relationship and understanding with my female friends carries over in my writing and characters and female Wapsi readers appreciate this. At conventions, it seems that better than half the folks coming to my table tend to be gals.
Tell us more about the Wapsi Girl Project and what inspired you to set that up?
The Wapsi Girl Project cam about after receiving several emails from female readers and talking with female fans at conventions and how much the girls of Wapsi Square meant to them. They would see something of themselves in one or more of the cast, feel a connection from something a character was going though, or just feeling inspired by how a character had overcome an obstacle. I felt that each of the fans’ stories were every bit as relevant, if not more-so, as anything that the cast members were going through, and it seemed appropriate to give them their own venue to help inspire one another.
What made you decide to be an artist?
It wasn’t as much of a decision as it has always felt like the right path. As early as I can remember, I was interested in drawing to express myself.
Describe your style and the materials you use, and how you found your nitch.
I do as much work as I can analog until preparing the image for the digital realm. I do a lot of sketching on newsprint with soft-lead pencils, when I get images that I like, these are scanned into Photoshop, arranged, re-sized, and formed to be like the finished comic. I print this out and then on to the light box where I transfer the image to Bristol with blue pencil. After that step the comic is inked and scanned back into Photoshop where tone is added, backgrounds are layered in and a font of my own handwriting goes into the word balloons.
As for my nitch, be it the style of my work, how I work, or the nitch of the story, I have to say it was completely organic.
What artists or people have inspired you throughout your career, and how?
Frank Frazetta is one of the main inspirations for combining my love of the cartoony with the realm of the macabre.
What words of advice would you give a comic book artist that’s just starting out?
Oh goodness, that is a tough one. First and foremost, you need to enter into the world of comics and graphic novels because you have a story to tell. Not because you think it’ll be cool or you want to strike it rich. You’ll come out with a derivative work that will soon suck all the energy from you and eventually you’ll give up. One has to be a bit nuts to do this for a living and also have the discipline to keep going. The main reason you keep moving forward is because if you stopped, the stories and characters would be nagging at you so bad, you’d have to write and draw just to quiet them for a moment.
Time to brag! You won an award – what was it for and what went through your mind when you found out?
That’s the weird part, I hadn’t even known that I was nominated and several of my readers emailed me to congratulate me for being in the running for the 2009 Lulu Award for Best Female Character. Needless to say, I was dumbfounded. Here there were, what felt to me, much more established graphic novel characters and then my odd little creation Monica. Her fans really pulled together and she did indeed win. I was equally humbled and floored at the same time.
If you could have a dream skill or superhero power, what would it be and why?
I think that I’d love to have the ability to teleport and take whatever or whoever that I’m touching, minus taking the ground, with me. I think it would make visiting other places quite fun.
What do you do for fun (besides art)?
I am a huge scary movie fan, not gory slasher films where all those idiot college kids do everything in the book one shouldn’t do when in whatever situation they end up in. I still think that the original b&w “The Haunting” is one of the scarier films made and the South Korean film “Janghwa, Hongryeon” (“A Tale of Two Sisters”) is by far the creepiest. Give me a nice dark theater and a good scary movie and that is my roller coaster.
Did anyone ever give you a piece of advice that, looking back, helped shape your career or life?
“Duck!” No, seriously, I’d have to say it was a bit of advice regarding characters, unfortunately, I don’t remember who said it. “Learn to listen to your characters and don‘t try to speak for them. Let them tell the story, they‘re the ones that know it best.”.
Where were you born?
On an Air Force base in Texas.
Where did you grow up?
Dubuque, Iowa. This was a town that held importance as to whether or not you were born there, who you knew and if you were involved in sports. Needless to say for multiple reasons, I didn’t fit in there.
What’s your favorite color?
What food do you dislike the most?
That’s easy. Meatloaf.
Where you can find Paul
He’s also selling his books here!