Saturday, October 30, 2010

Questions 11: Dylan Meconis

Dylan Meconis graduated from Wesleyan University, where she studied in the College of Letters.  After that she lived in Paris.     She was an original contributor to the Flight anthology series and a nominee for the Friends of Lulu Kim Yale award.  She has published  Bite Me,  Wire Mothers: Harry Harlow and the Science of Love, and Family Man.  
She's a member of Periscope Studio and serves the Stumptown Comics Fest

Doug Dorr:   What projects are you working on currently?

My main project is the graphic novel Family Man.  It's historical fiction, set in a university in 1768 (and in the surrounding forest).  I just printed the first volume this summer, and the second volume is going up page by page online at

I also recently completed a script for a young adult fantasy comic that's looking for a publisher, and I'm working on a choose-your-own-adventure book for Lerner featuring the Three Musketeers.
DD:   What is your artistic Process?

It depends on the project.  Ideally I write the script, then do very rough thumbnails, then dive straight into penciling, inking, and digital colors or toning.  I really love variety, though. I've never done any two comics the same way.

DD:   What Comic/ Trade would you recommend?

There's something out there for everybody!  The books I end up recommending the most are probably the mind-bending, anthropological sci-fi series Finder, by Carla Speed McNeil.  I also love Berlin by Jason Lutes and Isaac the Pirate by Christophe Blaine.  For a younger audience I will be soon be recommending Barry Deutsch's upcoming book Hereville;  I got to see some of Barry's early process (and pose for reference photos!). There hasn't been a kid's book this great since Rachel Hartman stopped drawing Amy Unbounded.

And there are dozens of really wonderful comics online as well.  Octopus Pie, The Meek, Dicebox, Dresden Codak...

DD:   What Comic/ Trade would you recommend to someone new to comics?

I try to ask what prose books, movies, or shows a person is into before I recommend their Very First Comic.  With the right recommendation you can open up a whole world of new reading to somebody; with the wrong one, a person can walk off believing that comics are a waste of time. 

Can you tell I almost went to library school?   

DD:   How involved are you with the illustration, the look and feel, of the books you write?

I'm almost always the artist.  I've written a few short pieces for other people, which is fun; I compare it to taking somebody else's hot car out for a drive.  I've never written for an Artist To Be Named Later.  I either want to write for myself (where I know what I'm getting), or write to take advantage of somebody's particular gifts. 

I love to draw in a variety of styles, so in a way I get to write for a different artist with each project.
DD:   What skill would you like to learn?

I'd like to become better at carving out time for writing.  When you do freelance, sell and ship merchandise online, attend conventions, and update with new pages of finished art, it's hard to clear out your brain and switch to the engaged focus that writing requires. 
DD:   What's the most important thing you've learned?

Don't let the cats near the drafting table.  Also, 6x9 is not actually the same proportion as 9x12.

Hard-won knowledge.
DD:   Do you have a collection?   If so, what is one of the items you're most proud of?

I have a LOT of books  - prose and comics both - but I treasure them for the content and the reading they represent, not for their supposed rarity or market value. 

I also have several pages of original art by Carla Speed McNeil.  I have one particularly lovely wordless page from her book Dream Sequence.  That would definitely be one of the things I'd grab from the house in event of a fire.

DD:   What is your favorite genre of Comics?

The good ones.

No, really.  I lean towards the more brainiac kinds of comics - historical fiction, smart young adult novels, picky fantasy epics like Sandman, memoirs like Fun Home.  But I will read and probably enjoy just about anything you put in front of me so long as it's written and drawn intelligently and with passion and humor.  I can't handle anything too self-consciously experimental or morose, and lazily banged-out pulp irritates me just as much. 

But yeah, there's room on my shelf for both Next Wave: Agents of H.A.T.E. and Persepolis.
DD:   Do you have an Ipad?   If so what do use it for the most.

Nope. I try not to buy anything first-generation from Apple.   It's tempting, but I can't afford to pay a premium to look cool for a year.
DD:   What is your favorite TV show/ movie?

I love Deep Space 9, Slings & Arrows, 30 Rock, Modern Family...all character-focused shows. 
I have a lot of favorite movies, but for some reason the movie I put on most compulsively for comfort purposes is High Fidelity.  Something about it feels grounding and true. 

DD:   How does the Portland comics culture shapes your work

I work at Periscope Studio in downtown Portland, so I live inside the Portland comics culture every day.  One big submarine full of my fellow artists.  If there's an evening event - a book signing or a party - we all trek out to it together. 

I can't imagine doing this alone.  I moved here because I had friends in comics who were well-established in town.  Portland is the first place where I've feel I completely fit in.
DD:   What was your first comic convention?

Probably the Emerald City Comic-Con circa 1998 or so.  I grew up in Seattle.  It was a tiny show those days, spread out over a few rooms, mostly dealers with a few creators stuffed into a side area.   These days it's a really lovely, full-scale convention with a great variety of exhibitors and attendees. 

My first serious con experience was San Diego, though.  I still haven't recovered from that first sensory deluge, even though it's gotten three times as crazy since.
DD:   What is your favorite part of comic conventions?

Talking to readers in person.  I get good feedback online, but there's still nothing as cool as having a live person in front of you speaking in detail about your work.  
DD:   If you weren’t doing comics what would you do?

Probably writing, teaching, theater, or some combination of those.  Storytelling is my favorite thing on earth.

I was a designer for a visual consulting firm for awhile - I liked the illustration parts and turning dry concepts into fun visual metaphors, but I'm not cut out for the corporate world.  Too dreary, and too much self-delusion from middle managers about the deep meaningfulness of their obscure business products.  Very nice people, hard workers, all contributing to the economy more than I!  Just not my scene.

As a kid I also considered becoming a pastor, a therapist, or a marine biologist.  You grow up in the Pacific Northwest, you want to study whales.
DD:   Do you have a favorite restaurant that you would recommend?

Pok Pok.  Always Pok Pok.  If the world were ending tomorrow morning, I'd go there for dinner tonight.  Even the water tastes good. If they were booked, I'd try Navarre or Bamboo Sushi. 
DD:   How long have you lived in Portland, what made you choose Portland?

I moved here after graduating from college in 2005.  This was the city I had the most friends in - comics folks I'd initially met online.  I went to school in Connecticut and didn't like being so far away from my family in Seattle - at the same time, I didn't want to just go back to my life at 17.  So Portland was the perfect distance away.  A place I could make my own, that felt like home, was fun and affordable, and already had people I knew I could depend on.
DD:   What is your favorite part of Portland?

I love many parts of Portland, even if on some days the inevitable provincial ticks, self-absorption, and squabbles make me want to give the city a time-out.  But when I try to think of something representative... it's the fact that everybody thanks their bus driver.  Most of the time the driver replies "You're welcome!" or "Have a great day."  I'm sure that seems corny to some, but it's very genuine.
DD:   Where in Portland/ Oregon would you most like to visit?

I'd like to visit Powell's Books with a thousand dollars.
DD:   Would you like to write/Illustrate for another media? or conversely, how would you feel about writing a comic of a character from a different media, for example, Dr. Who, James Bond?  What would you explore?

I'd like to try playwriting.  My scripts tend to look like plays before I break them up into panels, and I love live theater.  I'd have to get over the scariness of ceding interpretation to actors and a director, though.  (Plays directed by the playwright don't often work.) 

Film is full of too many compromises, even though the results can be immersive and stunning.  I don't have any confidence that I could participate in the making of a movie and not feel drowned out by so many other voices, unless it was a tiny indie flick.

If I could write for an established  Tell you what, I'd love to write for the long-promised, never-delivered TV show starring Tony Stewart Head as Rupert "Ripper" Giles, his character from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.  A middle-aged British librarian with a violent youth in his past and the power to call demons?  I could go places with that. 

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