Monday, February 07, 2011

Questions 27: Jenn Manley Lee

Jenn Manley Lee has over 15+ years in the graphics and design field and currently works for Ziba Design as a Senior Production Designer.  She was a founding member of Stumptown Comics Foundation.  She describes some of her influences as "Trina Schart Hyman, Tom Waits, Ivan Bilibin, Marina Warner, Pamela Coleman Smith, Fritz Eichenberg, Octavia Butler, Boris Artzybasheff, K.M. Briggs, and the artisans of the Edwardian era.”

Her webcomic, Dicebox, is a science-fiction graphic novel of epic scale. It is set in the distant future, the story of an eventful year in the lives of two middle-aged women; itinerant workers who are traveling across the galaxy.  The Oregonian calls Dicebox the "gravitational center" of Oregon's vibrant Web-comic scene.  Comics scholar, Scott McCloud, listed Dicebox as one of his “Personal Top Twenty” webcomics.

The first book of Dicebox is being solicited on the Jenn Manley Lee website and it looks amazing.

Doug Dorr:   What projects are you working on currently?
There is, of course, my own comic Dicebox, ( I have just recently completed the Book 1 : Wander and am in the midst of stumping for pre-orders so that I can do the print collection for this first of four books. (

I'm a currently a colorist on a few other comic projects including Hope Larson's adaption of Wrinkle in Time and working with Bill Mudron on the colors for Carla Speed McNeil's Finder stories for "Dark Horse Presents."

DD:   What is your artistic Process?
I have a web page outlining my basic approach when it comes to comics right here:

DD:   What Comic/ Trade would you recommend?
It's a long list, but the current top three would be Hereville by Barry Deutsch, Ooku: The Inner Chambers by Fumi Yoshinaga and the Dungeon books by Joann Sfar and lewis Trondhiem

DD:   What Comic/ Trade would you recommend to someone new to comics?
American Born Chinese by Gene Yang. It's one of the most satisfying stories I've read, comics or pros. It shows the value of telling a story through comics and yet is very user friendly to the new comics reader. Also the art is just lovely and engaging.

DD:   What skill would you like to learn?
A grounding in animation and 3D modeling would be swell.

DD:   What's the most important thing you've learned?
Pick your battles. Be aware of the limitations of a piece or project--time, space, production, etc.--and decide what you want to focus on and what will be sacrificed. For example, with a comic page, I've learned to accept that every panel can't be perfect, but I can make one shine and let the other be acceptable.

DD:   Do you have a collection? If so, what is one of the items you're most proud of?
I collect original comic page art and, wow, I really can't pick an absolute favorite. Some pieces I gleefully brag about are the two page spread form Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks where Grace overlooks Hicksville at night from the cliff, the candy shop scene from Rania Telgemeier 's adaption of The Baby-sitter's Club, the key page from Scott McCloud's DESTROY!, a Howard Cruise Wendel strip and a six page sequence from Alison Bechel's Dykes to Watch Out For where Sidney and Mo first hook-up. I also am the proud owner of many originals from kris dresen and Christopher Baldwin, here are two examples are page 7 from Christopher Baldwin's Vava ( and page 8 from kris dresen's she's in the trees (

DD:   What is your favorite genre of Comics?
There isn't a genre I don't have a favorite story in, I reckon. Even the current pariah "Superhero" as Grant Morrison's Flex Mentallo miniseries is one of my all time favorite comic story.

DD:   Do you have an Ipad? If so what do use it for the most.
I don't but I plan to as soon as Apple releases version 2 later this month. I plan to use it primarily for digital sketching, writing and as a tool for when I exhibit at cons.

DD:  What is your favorite TV show/ movie?
In terms TV currently being produced, I'm most enrapt with the Steven Moffat/Matt Smith run on Doctor Who.

DD:   How does the Portland comics culture shapes your work?
It provides me with a lot of cartoonists to hang out and geek out with, swapping ideas and theories and techniques on the fly. It's great.

DD:  What was your first comic convention?
A small one in Philadelphia that I'm afraid I don't recall the name of. That's as an attendee, not an exhibitor.

DD:   What is your favorite part of comic conventions?
Discovering artists and work I was previously unaware of.

DD:  If you weren’t doing comics what would you do?
Book design. Or play the fiddle.

DD:  Do you have a favorite restaurant that you would recommend?
It's a tie between Bamboo Sushi and the Screen Door.

DD:   How long have you lived in Portland, what made you choose Portland?
I've lived in Portland a little over 15 years now. I developed a crush on the city when visiting friends, and moved soon after.

What with the strong book and art culture, good food, all the green spaces, easy walkability and excellent public transportation it felt a very livable city. Not to mention the cost of living; I'm originally from new Jersey, about an hour out of New York City. And being a little over an hour to the ocean, mountains, forest and desert and even less to the Gorge made it kinda perfect for me.

DD:   Where in Portland/ Oregon would you most like to visit?
Crater lake. I've been meaning to go for over ten years now.

DD:   Would you like to write/Illustrate in another media? Or would you like illustrating a character from a different media, for example, Dr. Who, James Bond? What would you explore?
I'd love to do a heavily illustrated novel along the lines of The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It would combine many interests and disciplines for me: book design, formal illustration, visual storytelling, etc.

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