We combed through Artist’s Alley at Comicon and were disappointed that there were so few women in that area. There were gals behind tables, but most of them were wives or girlfriends or friends brought in to help with sales and holding down the fort. At the end of the last aisle near the wall, we were thrilled to find Sandra Hope. Sandra had a lot to say about inks versus pencils and the challenges of women in the comics industry.
Pink Raygun: I see you have some sequentials on your table. What are some of the properties you’ve worked on?
Sandra Hope: I mainly work on DC and Wildstorm comics. Currently, I’m working on Justice League of America. I will be starting on a new Wildstorm book based on World of Warcraft and that comes out later this November.
PRG: How did you crack into the industry as an artist?
SH: I’ve been in comics for about 12 years. This an industry where you have to constantly show your work, come to the shows, and take any opportunity you can to give a sample of your work to everyone. You have to cast out a big net and, hopefully, someone will show interest. Do small projects at the beginning and work towards larger projects one book at a time. That’s how I started – by coming to the San Diego show and showing some samples.
PRG: [regarding the sequentials on Hope's table] Are you doing pencils and inks on these pages?
SH: I do just the inks. Often times the books will have all different pencils, inkers, color artists, letterers and it’s very rare to get one book by one person.
PRG: Were you aiming to be a penciller, or was inking your goal?
SH: Inking is what I truly enjoy and people often ask why I chose inking instead of penciling. They’re two very different types of work. With pencils, you’re concentrating on telling the story visually and making it interesting and dynamic from the script.
With inking what you’re doing is finishing what the penciller has started, doing the details. Pencils may be loose, but to go to print everything has to be clean, finished and clear. Pencillers are really strong with laying things out, but the inker finishes it in terms of details and textures and cleanliness. The analogy we often make is one person bakes the cake and then another person comes in and decorates it.
PRG: Your line work is very fine and delicate.
SH: This is where the distinction between pencils and inking come in. The penciller may have the energy to give you the dynamic drawing with all the basic, correct drawing structures, but the inkers will focus on the little details and making things feel like they should feel, whether it’s grass or concrete or nice, flowing hair.
The finer, intricate little details take patience to do, whereas the penciler may not have the patience or the interest to do that. So, I think the inking is the more technical aspect and the penciling is the more creative aspect.
PRG: If I think of male inkers, I think of Frank Miller’s angry slashes of ink all over the place or Scott Williams, who may do a lot of noodling and stuff, but doesn’t seem to use that delicate hand. Do you think that those finer, more delicate lines are characteristic of a female or feminine hand?
SH: People ask that and say that all the time, but I don’t see it. I actually work with another inker who is even more intricate than me. Most of us will ink by intuition, but sometimes it is fun to just go in there and throw down those heavier, messier lines. That’s another inking style entirely, so maybe the difference is a style thing. There are a lot of guys that do amazing detail that I don’t have the patience to do.
PRG: What do you feel has been the biggest challenge for you in your career, besides breaking in?
SH: I think at times there are lots of distractions that would be very discouraging. It’s a tough business and it can be very discouraging because with anything creative, you put a lot of yourself into it and it becomes more personal. So, if your work isn’t received well you tend to want to take it personally. But, it’s important to remember that it isn’t anything personal.
I have to say, normally I don’t like to focus on the whole female issue because I don’t believe it matters. Whatever you want to do, regardless of what gender dominates the field, if you want to do it badly enough, I think you can be very successful. In the end, it’s your work, not your gender, your age or anything else that should play a factor.
PRG: You started with Wildstorm when they were still with Image. It was a young, upstart company at that time and it seemed like there were more female faces in that company.
SH: I didn’t see too many actually. When I started it was myself, one female editor, a lot of female colorists.
I think sometimes it’s really difficult because you would think it’s the men that would discourage you, but a lot times you get a lot of women who aren’t very supportive, whether it’s a guy’s wife or girlfriend or even support staff. I’ve encountered women who don’t want their husbands or boyfriends to work with me. They would rather have them work with a male inker. I think it’s a security thing, but it’s unfortunate because the guys see me as just another inker. Just because I’m working with someone’s husband or boyfriend does not mean I want to steal them! I just want to do the inking. It’s tough to hear someone say “My wife doesn’t want me to work with you.”
PRG: I can understand because you’re working closely with someone. A creative meeting of minds can be intimate and it can be threatening to somebody on the outside looking in.
SH: I think that maybe women should have a little more faith in one another. And it’s not just wives and girlfriends, but it can be administration and support staff, too. There have been times when women would treat me differently than they treated the guys or would lose my work. There have also been times when I wouldn’t get my messages or notices that a meeting time changed. Unfortunately, that cattiness happens, even from women who aren’t competing in the same field. That is the most discouraging part of this.