Ming Doyle sat behind a long table near the front of Acme Comics on Lawndale Drive in Greensboro, slowly sketching one of the fans, who was standing in a line snaking through the store, as Bat Woman holding a bouquet. Fellow comic book artist Chrissie Zullo, sitting to her right, drew the fan’s fiancé as Captain America wearing a suit and bowtie for the wedding.
Acme Comics flew Zullo, Doyle and Janet Lee to Greensboro for two signing and sketching sessions sandwiching a panel discussion at Bennett College Feb. 18 to discuss their work — including their participation in the forthcoming Heroic: A Womanthology, an anthology of work by 150 different female writers and comic book artists.
“The only thing that unites this thematically is heroism and the fact that we’re all women,” said Doyle, adding that there was an open submission process. “Think about how amazing that is to be someone who hasn’t even started a career in this and to be given this opportunity.”
Doyle is far from a newcomer to the game, with a wide array of experience under her belt including Fantastic Four #600, but like Zullo and Lee, she aspires to write more of the work she is illustrating, and for her twopage piece called “Spinster” in the anthology, she was able to do just that.
“The collaborative process allows you to create something better than you would have come up with on your own,” Lee said.
“It’s really an adventure with every project because you never know how a writer is going to operate,” Doyle said.
Each of the three found their way into the industry differently, but said drawing every day and being persistent about circulating your art was the best way to be noticed and find work. They agreed art school wasn’t necessary, but Lee — the only one of the three without a degree in the field, said she wished she had taken more art classes.
Zullo, who went to high school in Charlotte, majored in illustration at UNC Charlotte and now lives in New York, was discovered in a talent search at a San Diego comic convention, but said very few artists are selected the same way.
Like the other artists, Zullo said she often draws for 10 to 12 hours a day, working from home with a roommate who can’t understand why she can’t have more of a social life.
“This is my work; I know it looks like fun,” “You have to learn how to let your friends down and still have them be your friends,” Doyle said.
Zullo finds the greatest satisfaction in designing the interior — rather than the cover — of a comic.
“Doing the interior is more fulfilling because you’ve told a story, and I really like that feeling,” Zullo said. “It’s harder with interiors to catch people because you have to be good with your consistency and layout.”
The panel, sponsored by the Africana Women’s Studies department at Bennett, focused in part on their roles in a male-dominated industry. The artists said they enjoyed working with male editors, but spoke about the lack of women employed by DC and Marvel Comics and the portrayal of women in the medium. The panel’s audience included a mix of people, yet men asked almost every question during the Q&A.
“Comics are so overwhelmingly white and male,” Doyle said. “Isn’t it great to have a broader spectrum of voices contributing to this medium? Women can also get [presentation] wrong but I think women overall are more apt to see the nuances.”
The artists spoke of writers they’d like to work with and things they’d like to draw in addition to writing their own pieces. Zullo hasn’t drawn superheroes much and would like to; she was disappointed when she wasn’t picked to illustrate a comic version of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but said, “You just have to keep showing your stuff and trying.”
Between the constant stream of fans waiting for autographs, Zullo and Doyle were happy to take a break in the back of the comic store for an interview, but both spoke highly of Acme Comics — not just their extensive collection but also what good hosts the store owners had been how thankful they were that Acme was celebrating the book release and their work.
Visit www.acmecomics.com/ and check out Heroic: A Womanthology once it is released March 6.