Every year, in the countdown to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October, we bring you a series of interviews with guests at the event. This “Festival Focus” for 2019 is with Emma Price, a multidisciplinary graphic designer and illustrator who, among other things, designs comic books. She's created logos and books with many talented teams including Image Comics' Savage Town and Angelic, Vertigo's Motherlands and Aftershock Comics' Stronghold.
When not working on comics, she has been the creative lead on many digital campaigns for films such as The Incredibles 2, Thor Ragnarok and Atomic Blonde.
She is currently getting to grips with her latest creation, a 13-month old goblin who will hopefully join the family comics business as soon as he can work out how to hold a pen.
What are you working on, comics- or design wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Emma Price: I’m currently designing the incredible grindhouse thriller Coffin Bound for Image Comics, which recently had its first issue go back to the press for a third printing! I’m also working on the early stages of something new which will hopefully be announced soon. In the non-comics world, I’m illustrating and designing a series of science books which I can’t wait to tell everyone out, but won’t be published until Autumn 2020 - keep your eyes peeled!
Which comic project you've worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Emma: I’m really proud of the work I did on my first Image book, Cry Havoc, as I got to not only design the logo, single issues and trades, but I also got to create some great covers. I adapted and coloured artist Ryan Kelly’s incredible inks to create wraparound covers for the whole series, and we did something a bit different with the variants, using a different artist for each issue to show the dual nature of the main characters in the story.
How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Emma: I have a thirteen month old son so I have to be very strict with my time now. I used to work all hours and do long days and weekends but I can’t manage that pace any more, especially as I don’t want to miss my son growing up! On days when he’s not in nursery, I try to keep on top of daily admin and emails so that when he’s away I can jump right back on to my main task.
I tend to focus on one or two projects per day so sometimes that means breaking the back of something new, which means loads of sketching and research, whilst at other times I’ll be in the meaty midst of a project rendering a logo or illustration.
I also have to take in to account what timescale my clients are - are they European or based in the US? So I build my time in a way that’s flexible to account for the different stages and types of work.
What's the best thing about being an artist/designer?
Emma: The sheer range of projects I get to do - I’ve worked on comics, motion graphics for film advertising, illustrations for Doctor Who Magazine, and graphics for green-screen motion capture booths for TV shows at Comic Con. It’s fun to have such a diverse skill-set and projects!
And the worst?
Emma: The time: it can be incredibly draining as the work is often very intensive. I’ve had to turn down quite a few projects this year as I know that I wouldn’t have been able to give them my best work whilst looking after my son. There’s often a need to turn things around very quickly which makes it a bit baby-unfriendly as they’re anything but predictable (babies and projects, hah!).
What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Emma: My son - but before him, it was probably social media. Saying that, I do tend to see it as work to some extent as I’ve been sought out for projects thanks to my online presence. It doesn’t work for everyone but I’ve found it to be pretty useful.
Do you think it's easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Emma: I think on the one hand young creators have an amazing opportunity to get their work in front of the huge audience that exists online as anyone can publish a web-comic provided they have the time to make it. On the other hand, it’s also really difficult to get people to see it as there’s a huge amount of incredible stuff out there to read so it can get a bit lost. There are loads of zines being made and printed by people around the world, and the ability to
self-publish really polished looking comics with not very much money is easier now that it ever has been.
Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it? If you haven't, what are you expecting?
Emma: I was lucky enough to visit Ullswater earlier in the year and thought that it was stunning. I can’t wait to see more of the area.
Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Emma: I would love to meet Joe Sacco - I wrote my dissertation on some of his work for my Fine Art degree over a decade ago and love what he does with his hard-hitting comics journalism. His book, Palestine, has some of the most inventive use of space I’ve ever seen in comics, allowing for the swift changes of pacing and perfectly framing the stifling nature of the intense subject matter. It made a world that was utterly alien to me incredibly accessible and for that I’m immeasurably grateful.
How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Emma: Making comics can be a very lonely job, I know a lot of people who work to punishing deadlines without access to a communal studio, and comic shows give creators access to a wealth of social activity with our peers that we may not otherwise get. It also allows creators to meet readers face to face and see how our work actually affects people and brings them joy. Festivals and events also allow a younger audience to find new things and it’s amazing for us to see them having their minds blown when they discover this mad, exciting world.
What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Emma: As with any industry: work hard, be kind and enjoy yourself. When you meet other creators be respectful and they’ll respect you back. If you ask for advice make sure you thank people who respond. Meet your deadlines but be realistic. I know that’s not one piece, sorry, but it all goes hand-in-hand.
What's your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Emma: I’ve found it a bit difficult to keep up with new comics since my son came along, so I’ve found myself picking up older books that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time.
One I love and would recommend for older readers is Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour. I love how they evoke the dry heat of the American Deep South and challenge the entrenched bigotry with a snarling cast and the hideous things they do. Latour draws in this utterly grotesque, but infinitely beautiful way and everything seems tinged with an angry, dirty veneer.
Emma, thank you very much for your time. Looking forward to seeing you again in Kendal!