This week marks the release of Giant Days #2, following on the delightful first issue of Lissa Treiman and John Allison’s story of wacky life at college. I had a great time talking animation, comics, college and more with Lissa at Emerald City Comic Con, and I think you will too.
Jason Sacks for Comics Bulletin: Thanks for joining me.
Lissa Treiman: Thank you. It’s good to be here.
CB: Are you enjoying your first Emerald City?
Treiman: I am. It’s really busy, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s exciting and I’m meeting a lot of people. And that’s awesome.
CB: Are you in the artist’s alley?
Treiman: No. I’m at the Boom! Studios booth on the Sky Bridge.
CB: Oh, so you aet from Disney Studios to the comic world?
Treiman: Well, I have always loved comics and animation. I kind of grew up with both of them. Animation is where I wound up as a career, but I have always been interested in comics. For Giant Days, I’ve been a fan of John Allison, who’s the writer. I’ve been a fan of his web comics for a really long time. We kind of got to know each other on the Internet a little bit.
One day he mentioned that he had a story that he had written, but didn’t have time to draw. He’s like, “If I could find the right artist, then maybe I could pitch it to a publisher.” I sent him a message and I’m like, “I’m an artist.” I was half-serious; I didn’t think he would reply. But then he did and he’s like, “Yeah, that would be great.” I was like, “Oh. Oh, really? Okay.” That’s how I got this job.
CB: How has it been different working in comics versus film?
Treiman: Well, for animation I do storyboards, which a lot of people do compare to comics. They are kind of distant cousins. They aren’t too different; they are pretty similar. They are still both visual storytelling mediums. Still kind of composing within still frames, kind of economy of drawings, getting very expressive drawings. You have to understand character. You have to understand storytelling. A lot of that stuff crosses over. The format is what is a little different.
With storyboarding, it’s like you have set panel sizes so you kind of get used to composing for the screen. But with comics, compositions are a little more free and open. You have different panel shapes and sizes. You have full pages to convey information. It’s an extra layer of visual storytelling to think about. So that has been a little bit different. Also, you have a little bit less page space to work with. With storyboarding, it’s like I could use three panels to have a character express an idea. But in comics, I might just have one panel to convey the same idea. So it’s a little bit of problem solving, which I like.
CB: Yeah, you get to use different muscles, think about things in different ways.
CB: It’s interesting how you said the economy of drawing. Is that because you are conscious of only having twenty-two pages or so to tell the story in?
Treiman: It’s partly that. Even with storyboarding, where there is not really a set panel limit, usually less is more is kind of a philosophy that can be applied to both mediums. You want to tell something as simply and as clearly as possible. So the fewer drawings that you can use to convey the same idea, the better. So I am kind of used to that. Then comics definitely is page length and space on a page that become factors.
CB: When you are drawing for the comic, how does your approach different than drawing for the storyboard? Does storyboard tend to be quicker more?
Treiman: They are quicker.
CB: More speed oriented, so to speak.
Treiman: Definitely. Storyboarding is less about finished, pretty drawings; it usually is a rough drawing. It’s like, “That looks like what it is supposed to be. It is good enough. Onto the next one” because you have to do so many of them and half of them get thrown away anyway. But with comics, I do start out similarly; they’re quick, rough drawings just to get the idea down. But then I have to go in and I have to ink them and I have to make them look nice. That is something where I definitely had to refine my process working on a six-issue comic. But it’s nice. There is a feeling of accomplishment putting finished drawings out there that people are actually going to see.
CB: Sure, and also you don’t have to put it through committee and having this whole larger process around things.
CB: I know that animation has become a lot freer now than it was in the past. I have reading about Pixar and how they kind of start the movies in the middle and work out in a way.
CB: I may be completely misinterpreting what I have been reading. But in comics you have a lot more freedom, obviously.
Treiman: It is. If you are both writer and artist, it’s probably a little bit different. Working with a writer, it’s actually a very similar collaborative process. I wouldn’t say it’s less free; I would definitely describe it as healthy collaboration, which is actually a pretty close parallel to what I do storyboarding working with a writers and a director. And as a story artist, I’m in a room with the board artists and we give feedback. It’s a collaborative process. Like you said, it’s definitely a good time to be in animation. We are not just a body with a wrist attached to it. They respect our opinions as artists and as creative people. I feel like this very similar. I am working with John Allison. He is a good collaborator as well.
CB: How much of you is in Giant Days? Did you co-plot it?
Treiman: No, he is definitely one hundred percent the writer, but he gives me a lot of freedom as far as how I interpret that visually. He draws his own comics. He is a very visual thinker and it comes through in his scripts. But I do still feel like the drawings are mine.
CB: So you are able to bring your own kind of sense to things? You can change things as necessary and all that?
Treiman: Yeah. I can’t think of much where I’ve read it and been like, “I can’t draw this” or “This feels wrong.” He is an amazing writer and everything that he has written, it feels right and I am able to translate it very naturally.
CB: Are there are certain scenes that are in the mini-series that you particularly love drawing?
Treiman: There has been a couple in the first one. The scenes that I gravitate towards are weird little things that I can’t even describe why I liked it so much. It’s usually little character interactions that I read and I can just see particularly clearly in my head. Anything that is really just characters interacting, that is the fun stuff for me to draw.
CB: Okay. So that is opposite of a lot of comic artists. They want to draw the big action scenes.
Treiman: I guess. It depends on the comic obviously. The comic scene has changed so much in the last few years and it has broadened. So there are so many different types of comics. It’s not just all action/superhero comics. Even the action/superhero comics, you are seeing a lot that there is action in there, but there is a lot of good character stuff in there, too, which is really appealing.
CB: That is actually something that has been really interesting to watch from my perspective. Especially with Boom! as there is a lot more focus on broadening the range of what is being done in comics, but not in a way where people are doing these great, innovative things. Just more like they are more human-type stories.
Treiman: Yeah, absolutely.
CB: Almost smaller, but they feel bigger in a way.
Treiman: Yeah, it’s like finding ways to tell big stories in a small, relatable way. I like it. I like it a lot. I think it is great.
CB: Something like Lumberjanes, which has kind of shown there is a possibility to do so many other things.
Treiman: Yeah. And it has obviously tapped into this huge market. People want that. It’s great that people are able to make it and get it to a wider audience.
CB: And you are a part of that, right?
Treiman: I am. That’s exciting.
CB: How does that feel to be on this side of it now?
Treiman: It’s very exciting. I walk into my local comic book shop and usually I am just there to buy comics, but now I am like, “Here’s one that I made. I made this!” And they are cool; they are excited.
CB: I was just showing my friend my book that I wrote like, “Yes, I am a little bit of an insider. I’ve done my thing, too.”
Treiman: That’s awesome.
CB: What’s next for you in comics? Do you have more plans coming up?
Treiman: Nothing immediately. I would like to do more stuff. I would like to maintain a relationship with Boom!. They’ve been a really great publisher to work with. I’ve still got animation as a day job, but this has been such a great experience. I would love to do more comics.
CB: Have you worked on any animated films that I would know?
Treiman: My Disney career spans Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and Big Hero 6.