Women in Comics – JL Straw

How did you get into comics?

A combination of things I guess. As kids my brothers and I would come up with ideas for films, games, cartoons and magazines, never comics though. As with most kids we loved cartoons and games so our art naturally gravitated over to that side. Growing up in Nigeria comics were not easily available but when we did get some it was always about the artwork for me. Having them I would go over the art again and again; it wasn’t so much about the story as the art. I would study the way the artists drew their lines and angles. I never paid much attention to who drew them back then and It has only been recently that I found out the artists I admire the most now were the same artists on the comics I brought as a kid, namely Cary Nord and Chris Bachalo.

Back then I wanted to be a film maker or game designer but personal circumstance meant I left school early. Plus in Nigeria anything artistic isn’t considered as any kind of career. I thought about being a fashion designer before I decided my career choice would be in graphic design/illustration, but again my lack of education made it a difficult choice. I had the talent but looking at prospective universities they wanted A levels I didn’t have.

I still kept on with my drawing and a part of me thought it would be a shame if I never got to share my characters with the world. It wasn’t long after I got back to the UK that I full realised what I was passionate about – Comics felt like home to me.

2007 I went to my first convention where I met mentor and friend Huw-j-. I joined his comic art masterclass and kept going back long after it had finished. It wasn’t long before he said he had a project he wanted me to ink on, The Young Sherlock Holmes Adventures. When the penciller had to go back to China I took over as the artists and in 2010 it was published. I’ve been with his studio ever since and recently was appointed as Art Editor and now Senior Art Editor with a young company that produces comics for kids educating them about medical conditions. It’s exciting as we’ve brought in artist Robert Deas and Dan Boutlwood and some new talent who are taking the comic to a fantastic new level.

Tell us a bit about the projects you’ve worked on.

After the Young Sherlock Holmes Adventure (YSHA), my next project is a graphic novel called Dark Mist (published by Markosia). I’m also working on several projects with studio writer and friend Sara Westrop one of which is an online comic strip called FANgirls. It’s a funny and exaggerated take on our lives in the geeky world of comics and films and everything in between. We’ve just launched the website and have had a great response on Twitter. I’m also working on getting some writing done this year. I have a few stories knocking around in my head which I want to start putting on paper. Writing doesn’t come naturally to me so it will be very challenging.

What is your favourite work that you’ve done so far?

Ask me again in a year. By then I’ll have a lot more works published. I’m looking forward to YSHA 2 as I only finally got to know the character after book 1 was done and dusted! Now I feel I know this Sherlock in the same way I get to know all my own characters. They may be fictional but they still have their own personalities, mannerisms and histories and the more you know the better you draw the character so
book 2 will be so much better.

Did you ever get advice about the field that you’d like to pass on?

The only one that comes readily to mind is ‘you’re only as good as your last drawing’, that and ‘write down your characters’, don’t just draw them. I’m still young in this industry so I have a lot to learn still.

What is your favourite thing to write or draw?

Without a doubt it’s Sci-fi/fantasy with a generous helping of hopelessness. I think unhappy endings can be just as if not more powerful than happy ones. It’s strange because being a Christian you’d expect my endings to be happy, I guess in a way there is some hope in my endings. It’s just the way my stories evolve. I like to let my stories to evolve of themselves. Anyway, I like the fantastical and creating a world that doesn’t exist. It’s great watching or reading stories about the mundane and everyday life but I like to explore beyond the limits of what is real and head into the unlimited realm of our imaginations.

In an ideal world, in what direction would you like to see your project evolve?

Hum, I guess into films, at least some of them. I love the movies; sometimes I’d sit in the audience and imagine it was a film based on one of my ideas about to be shown.

Links to your work:


Any last words?

Watch this space I suppose. ;)

About Chantaal

A book reading, nail polish hoarding, makeup loving, TV marathoning, comic book talking Philosophy major. I want to be Rashida Jones when I grow up.
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