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Indy PopCon artist Q&A

Illustrators, animators and writers share thoughts about their work, diversity and community

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This year Indy PopCon is making trading cards of all the artists in Artist Alley. This is one of them. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted photo
  • This year Indy PopCon is making trading cards of all the artists in Artist Alley. This is one of them.

Steven Ray Bro

Best known for: His YouTube animation channel with over 137,000 subscribers.

NUVO: In a Tweet or less, what is your channel about?

Bro: It's an art and animation channel where people can go and watch me draw; where I record my screen so you can see me draw stuff, then I speed it up and put it to catchy music. People who are into art get to see the piece come to life.

NUVO: What are you currently working on?

Bro: Right now I am branding myself — which sounds really egotistical — but YouTube has the 'You' in the tittle. Most cartoon animators have a character that is themselves. For the first year I didn't have a lot of me on the channel. It was just my work. ... So I am trying to brand my and my pet bearded dragon as characters in the YouTube channel.

Kathryn Steele

Best known for: Character designs in Pathfinder. To-be-nationally-released board game that she created called Windfall. It made its debut at Indy PopCon last year.

NUVO: What is your process like for creating a character?

Kathryn Steele - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted photo
  • Kathryn Steele

Steele: I am a little bit different than most artists when creating a character. If I am doing my own personal work I tend to fill out what I call a character profile sheet... I see a lot of people who look at people's characters and say 'well why did you do that' and the artist really has no explanation of why besides 'well, I thought it looked cool.' I don't accept that answer. If you are going to be a character designer you need to be able to explain every single inch of that character.

*When she draws she often puts on something for background noise. One of her picks is Stev Bro's YouTube videos.

Kathryn Steele's handiwork. Seriously, the level of detail in these characters is unreal. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted photo
  • Kathryn Steele's handiwork. Seriously, the level of detail in these characters is unreal.

NUVO: What has your experience been with the art community in Indy?

Steele: When I was actually looking to go back to school I was going to go to Herron for my MFA. An MFA is a terminal degree; it's like having a Ph.D. They literally looked at my portfolio and said 'you are really accomplished, but we don't teach digital here and even if you had your own equipment we wouldn't have the staff to support it.' ... I was really upset about that. In my experience the digital community in Indianapolis as gotten humongous in the past years and I was flabbergasted that Herron, an art school, didn't teach digital. ... They were stuck in the traditional oil and acrylic painting, and they had a graphic design department that had digital tablets but they didn't teach digital painting. Now, because of losing students over the course of the years they started teaching digital painting. ... I think our community is really starting to see that and be more respective and receptive of the art form.

NUVO: People often say that gaming and comics are male dominated. Is that true behind the scenes?

Steele: I do not think that's true at all. I think that people automatically assume that any field is dominated by men... But I have literally never had any kind of issue or anyone saying 'do you feel like you are being overrun by men?' Do I have a lot of male artist friends? Yeah. But I have just as many female artist friends. Most of my friends who are digital artists, or just artists in general are female. As far as Indianapolis goes I think it is equally populated.

This year Indy PopCon is making trading cards of all the artists in Artist Alley. This is one of them. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted photo
  • This year Indy PopCon is making trading cards of all the artists in Artist Alley. This is one of them.

Brooke A Allen

Best known for: Lumberjanes artwork

NUVO: How did Lumberjanes come to be?

Allen: I liken it always to the Avengers. Shannon Waters at BOOM! — she is kind of like Nick Furry. She's like, 'I'm putting together a team,' she grabbed Grace — who I always say is Thor. ... They started putting together the idea of Lumberjanes. ... They brought me in to do character designs early on. They brought in Noelle to redesign my shitty designs ... Noelle resents this, but I always say she is Tony Stark. I think she would be happier if I said she was the Hulk. ... But after seeing the new one, I mean I'll take the Vision if no one's going to grab it.

NUVO: How do you feel about Lumberjanes becoming a movie?

Allen: I am in the same boat as anyone who likes the comic. I am excited to see what they do. ... We as a team are going to be talking to all of the movie guys to figure out what kind of input we have. I don't know one way or another right now. I am just excited to see what that would even look like — a Lumberjanes movie, a live action Lumberjanes movie! I have the obvious concern that, well, it's a little scary someone is adapting it. You see Hollywood adaptations all the time that miss the mark. That is always a fear but I am more excited than scared at this point.

NUVO: What would you do to make the comic industry better? Let's pick two things.

Allen: If I could snap fingers it would be fair pay rates and more diversity for sure, not just a bunch of white dudes both making comics and in comics. The comics community in general is becoming a more welcoming place, just within the last couple of years. So that's promising. There's a lot of work to do, for sure.

A page from book 15 of the Lumberjanes series. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted photo
  • A page from book 15 of the Lumberjanes series.
This year Indy PopCon is making trading cards of all the artists in Artist Alley. This is one of them. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted photo
  • This year Indy PopCon is making trading cards of all the artists in Artist Alley. This is one of them.

Tony Isabella

Best known for: Creating Black Lightning, the first black superhero for DC Comics. He was on staff there and with Marvel for a few years.

NUVO: You knew pretty early on what you wanted to do.

Isabella: Oh yeah. It was 1963. ... I didn't know for sure if I could get that job [writing comic books] but my fall back position was to be Clark Kent and work for a newspaper.

NUVO: What was the story behind Black Lightning?

Isabella: I created Black Lightning and turned it into a partnership with DC comics. The first black friends I ever made were comic fans. Very early on it struck me as odd that there weren't more comic characters that my friends could relate to. So while I was working at Marvel I worked on a number of their Black characters... Black Lightning was the process I was working toward. He was created because I wanted a very positive character, someone the younger readers could get into. ... In Black Lightning I was able to address some of my own political and social issues involving inner city communities and racism and things like that.

We are living a very diverse age. Comic book characters don't have to be all white. More and more we are getting a whole range of comic book characters who are all nationalities, all sexual persuasions. The comic books in America are beginning to reflect the diversity of our country. I am proud to be somebody who was involved in that very early on. I am very happy to be continuing that kind of work. Originally when I was first asked to come to this convention I turned them down because of your asshole governor and representatives. Then I became convinced that I could do more.

Black Lightning, one of the first black characters created by DC Comics and Tony Isabella. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted photo
  • Black Lightning, one of the first black characters created by DC Comics and Tony Isabella.

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