This feature is part of my Women in Horror Comics series in honor of Women in Horror Month. For more info on WiHM visit www.womeninhorrormonth.com
The Women in Horror Comics series continues with local Chicago area cover artist Jenny Frison as my feature this week. Jenny has done a lot of wonderful covers, working with publishers like Dark Horse, Image, IDW and DC. It was honestly difficult to narrow down my choice of which artwork to show you as an example because it's all so good, but let me first tell you a bit about one of my favorite horror comics that Jenny has worked on.
A little over eight years ago when I started going to horror conventions, I saw the New Millennium Theatre Company perform an adaptation of a little comic called HACK/SLASH at a Chicago area fest called Flashback Weekend. The performance left such an impression on me, I sought out the series and have loved it ever since. HACK/SLASH is about slasher-hunter Cassie Hack and her monstrous companion Vlad. It’s a fun, bloody, eye-popping tribute to slasher horror films and the legends their villains become. Jenny first worked on the series back in 2008 and has done some awesome images of Cassie on their covers.
Both Jenny and fellow Chicagoan, HACK/SLASH creator Tim Seeley, are often at local comic conventions. Despite my terrible shyness I’m happy to say I briefly met both of them at Comic-Con one year, getting an issue of HACK/SLASH signed by Seeley and getting a signed print of the cover for HACK/SLASH volume 2 #5 from Jenny.
In addition to HACK/SLASH, Jenny has done a lot of amazing cover art for titles like ANGEL, SPIKE, I VAMPIRE, TRUE BLOOD, and is the regular artist on Tim Seeley’s current series REVIVAL. Her artwork has a particular style to it, never exactly the same but a unique blend of gothic and ethereal that I think stands out. It’s dark but not bleak, with an element of fantasy in many of her images, depending of course on the title it's for. But she definitely does not shy away from blood and guts.
I was able to ask Jenny a few questions about her art education at NIU, her advice for aspiring artists, how she got involved with Hack/Slash and what other comic series she enjoys reading.
I read that you received your BFA in Illustration at Northern Illinois University, did you know when you started your degree that you wanted to work in comics? If yes, did the curriculum allow you to focus on that medium?
I actually picked NIU because they had an Illustration program. Comics was a pipe-dream at the time and somehow I felt like a specialization in illustration was closer to comics than a painting or drawing degree. However, I didn't really do much comic stuff when I was there. I was pretty all over the place trying to figure out what I could do with an illustration degree but I eventually focused on book cover illustrations. It was a perfect way to combine my love of narrative and art.
After college, I studied for a couple of years at the Joe Kubert School in New Jersey (a comic and animation trade school). I studied sequential art there, but I didn't like it as much as the book cover stuff I had been doing in college. I decided I wanted to work on doing comic covers and left to focus on that.
Was Hack/Slash the first comic you worked on? How did you get involved in that series?
Hack Slash 14 was my first professional comic cover work. I met Tim Seeley at a drink and draw event in Chicago. I gave him my card, he looked up my website and asked if I wanted to do a cover. I didn't realize at the time, but it was one of the best relationships I made in Chicago. Hack Slash turned out to be my favorite book to do covers for. I've done many covers with Tim since then. I'm the regular cover artist on his Image book, "REVIVAL", and I work in a studio with him and 5 other guys I met at that same drink and draw. Four Star Studios: Tim Seeley, Mike Norton, Sean Dove, Josh Emmons, Chris Burnham, and me!)
You've worked on a few comics featuring vampires, do you have an affinity for vampire stories or is it more coincidence?
It's really more of a coincidence. I do have an affinity for vampire stories, but I don't think really more than any other monster (maybe a little bit more). I do have a bit of a horror obsession, but the reoccurrence of vampire gigs wasn't by design (at least not mine). I think it's that my art tends to have a lot of gothic influences and focus on an uneasy, creepy beauty. That lends itself easily to certain kinds of vampire mythology.
What advice would you give to aspiring comic book artists? Especially in regards to building their portfolio.
My first advice to aspiring professionals is always: if you think you are at a level of employability and are trying to get work, put yourself out there. Go to conventions, talk to editors, get your art online so that you can tell people where to view your art. And keep making new art so you have a reason to keep in contact with editors and publishers.
If you are still trying to get yourself to that professional level (and even if you are there already) my advice is: just make art. Be prolific. Don't wait around for an amazing concept to make art. Just keep busy. They aren't all going to be portfolio pieces and they don't have to. When I have the time to spend, sometimes (but not nearly as often as I should) I paint the same picture 4-5 times. It's not great, but its about trying different techniques. I take what I learned from one and apply it to the next. Then I can use all that and apply it to something else.
In regards to putting a portfolio together: only include your strongest pieces. A portfolio usually includes around 10-15, but an editor would much rather see just 5 strong pieces rather than 5 strong and 10 mediocre. And, like I said above, keep creating new pieces. It gives you a reason to keep in touch with editors you meet and you will be amazed how quickly something you once thought was your strongest stuff gets rotated out when it becomes the weakest.
Do you have any favorite comics or graphic novels, or is there something you've read recently that you enjoyed?
Big fan of Hack/Slash. I'm a fan of Tim's writing and I think Cassie is such an interesting and layered character. Plus she's hot and kicks ass and its horror and tongue and cheek...basically everything I like. And this current arc ("Final") is amazing. Elena Casagrande is doing the art and its awesome on every level.
Some other books I read regularly: "Locke and Key", "Fables", "Hoax Hunters", " Batwoman", "Wonder Woman", "American Vampire", and all of Dark Horse's "Buffy" stuff. Also, I really liked "Sandman". And probably a billion others that I can't think of right now!
Are there any current or upcoming projects you're working on that we should check out?
If you aren't reading REVIVAL, you are crazy. It's my new favorite book (and not because I'm doing the covers). It's a perfect mix of creepy horror and crime mystery set in a small town. Tim calls it "rural noir". The story is amazing and the interior art (by my studio mate, Mike Norton) is outstanding. And I absolutely love doing covers on this book, so...it's basically the greatest thing ever.
Thank you so much for the interview, Jenny! You can see more of her work at her website, www.jennyfrison.com, or her DeviantART page. If you're in Chicagoland, you can check out her art collections "Judge Books By Their Covers" Volume 1 and Volume 2 at Challengers Comics, plus be sure to visit her in April at C2E2 or this summer at Wizard World!
Resources for Women in Horror Month