Noelle Stevenson’s Guide to Blowing Up on Tumblr
Noelle Stevenson, aka gingerhaze, joined Tumblr to share her fan art — comics based on movies like X-Men: First Class and Lord of the Rings. In the summer of 2011, she started posting “The Broship of the Ring,” a modern interpretation of the LoTR characters as hipsters and fratboys, and everything kind of … exploded. Stevenson’s online following shot way up, and since then, she’s landed an internship at a comics publisher and has signed with a literary agent.
She’s also been offered a contract to publish in hard copy her original webcomic project, Nimona — the story of aspiring supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart, who never seems to get anywhere with his evil plots. That is, until he takes on a new sidekick, Nimona, a shapeshifter with poor impulse control who likes to solve problems by blowing things up. Nimona recently won the Cartoonist Studio Prize for Best Webcomic of the Year by Slate Magazine and the Center for Cartoon Studies. It was also named one of io9’s top ten Best New and Short Webcomics of 2012. We had a chance to talk to Stevenson about breaking out and Hulking out.
How long have you been drawing?
I’ve been drawing pretty much as long as I can remember. It was a hobby of mine as a child, and I grew up and that was still what I wanted to do.
Where do you get your ideas?
I take a lot of inspiration from movies. I like going to the movies a lot, and comics are a similar kind of art form. You have to think cinematically when you draw a comic.
Describe your drawing process.
I draw everything digitally. I used to use a Wacom Bamboo tablet, but I recently switched to a Monoprice tablet. I go right into Photoshop. I don’t generally sketch things out beforehand unless it’s a Nimona page or a finished illustration. I find drawing right in Photoshop comes really naturally to me, because I like to draw in as few lines as possible. Drawing on pen and paper, you have to be more committed to your lines because you can’t undo them easily. I like to draw hands all in one line and that’s really easy to mess up when you’re drawing on paper. But in Photoshop, you have Ctrl+Z. I also color my art in Photoshop, and I use a lot of paper and watercolor filters to give it more of a handmade feel.
What are your favorite things to draw?
Well, I really like drawing the Hulk, and I really like drawing Hawkeye, and I really like drawing Hawkeye’s butt. I really like drawing a lot of stuff. I like drawing Nimona. She’s got a lot of really fun shapes. And I like drawing sailors as well.
How did the Tumblr thing happen?
I joined around 2010, I think? It was just me for a while, posting whatever I wanted. 2011 is when I started posting “The Broship of the Ring.” People really liked them, and I got more followers. And then every time I got into a new movie like X-Men: First Class or The Avengers, I posted fan art, and connected with people about the fan art, and kept going and getting more attention for the various things that I drew.
How did you get started doing Nimona?
Nimona started as an assignment for school. I got tired of just being known as a fan artist online. I wanted to get known for my own characters. My friend Amy at school challenged me to do a two-page comic of my own characters for that assignment. So I drew Nimona and Ballister Blackheart and Ambrosius Goldenloin. I took another comics class the next semester, and drew more Nimona, and in summer 2012 decided to make it a webcomic, and kept going from there.
You’ve mentioned that you got an internship in the comics industry through Tumblr. How did that happen?
At my school, we can get class credit for an internship, so I was looking for one for the summer of 2012. I knew I had some industry professionals following me on Tumblr, and I thought they could help, maybe give me some tips and advice on how to get an internship. So I put up a post asking for help. Shannon Waters at BOOM! Studios followed my Tumblr at the time, and she shot me an email saying BOOM! had an internship program. We emailed back and forth for a while, did an interview on Skype, and so I ended up going to BOOM! Studios during the summer for an internship. It was a really cool experience.
You’ve also mentioned you got signed with your agent and got a book contract through Tumblr.
It kind of started with my Avengers fan art comics going viral at the time, and posting Nimona pages, bringing more readers to my Tumblr. Charles Olsen, an agent at InkWell Management, found my blog through my Avengers fan art comics, and then found Nimona through my blog. Charlie then reached out to me, and we emailed back and forth, and talked on the phone, and I visited New York to meet him, and then signed with him as an agent. He shopped Nimona around to various publishers, and HarperCollins signed me for a contract to do the hardcover young adult version of Nimona in Summer 2015.
What projects do you have lined up for the future?
For the next year or so, I’ll be working on finishing up Nimona, and I have a two-book deal with HarperCollins, so I’ll be working on my next book for them. It might be a sequel to Nimona, or something related to Nimona, stylistically. I’m not sure yet. I’ve also done some comics with BOOM! Studios, some backups for Adventure Time, and I’d love to do more of that. I’m also exploring animation opportunities, but everything is unfolding right now and there’s nothing definitive yet.
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