Greetings, Dieselfunkateers! Today we interview comics industry veteran Micheline Hess. Hess is known for many works over the years but most prominently for Malice in Ovenland.
DD: How are you today, Micheline?
MH: Very well, thanks!
DD: I hear you there. So how is the industry going for you right now as a creator?
MH: Right now, pretty good. I've been getting to enjoy making new friends who are also up-and-coming comic creators. I am also looking forward to starting art for the next issue of Malice in Ovenland.
DD: Incredible. Speaking of young creators, how did you start out?
MH: When I was very young and lived in Flatbush, I'd tag along with my brother to the local candy store, where they also sold comics. I typically bought Casper the Friendly Ghost, Wendy the Witch, and things like that, but never really saw books with characters that looked like me and my friends. This was something that I noticed in movies too. As I got older, it became more apparent (and annoying) to me.
During this time, my mom also encouraged my drawing ability by bringing home paper and crayons, and even enrolling me in figure drawing classes at the Art Students' League when I was in middle school. When I graduated from college, I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I started working in retail. Some time later, I heard about Milestone Comics.
DD: One of the things I've noticed in the black comics industry based in New York City is how many creators of color started out at Milestone. How did you get that gig and what was the experience like?
MH: I quit my job with no notice (not recommended) and vigorously pursued a job there as a colorist, and I was successful! I believe I saw a mention of a job opening for colorist somewhere, but honestly I'm not sure. At the time, I owned a Power Mac clone with 120 Mhz with a dial up connection. I used an ancient copy of Photoshop to print some of the illustrations that I'd colored digitally. I also had physical copies that I used for the interview that I carried in a portfolio case.
I met with Derek Dingle as well as Jason Scott Jones and was able to convince them that despite my lack of experience as a colorist, I had a solid understanding of color and would work for them and their lineup of books. I really enjoyed my time there and learned a TON of stuff from many people. Everyone there was always nice and never treated me differently due to my lack of experience in this field. It was really exciting to get to work on books such as Icon, Static, and Shadow Cabinet. It felt really good that people trusted me with coloring their art and that it was published and seen by many people.
DD: How has that experience affected your work today in your present projects? What's the biggest takeaway?
MH: Because I color digitally now, it's a bit different because back then the colors were applied by brush. However, the underlying principals of how colors work next to each other, and how they can be used to affect the mood in different panels is something that I learned a lot about at Milestone, and still apply to my work today. The takeaway, whether it's writing, drawing, or coloring: work hard at always trying to improve your craft and and growth. If you see an opportunity that you think would be a good fit for you, go for it and don't waste time second guessing yourself.
DD: Excellent Advice. Malice in Ovenland is your project that seems to be making waves. What is the premise of Malice, and would you say it correlates to your childhood in Flatbush Brooklyn?
MH: Malice in Ovenland is an adventure comic for kids 8 – 12 that tells the story of Lilly Brown. In the story, she gets more than she bargained for when a summer weekend spent doing chores goes from grimy to downright disastrous in the blink of an eye! During her adventures she encounters the ferocious Oven Frites — the pocket-sized denizens of a subterranean world that have a dino-sized bone to pick with her. There are certain elements of the story (like doing chores) that correlate with my childhood after we moved from Brooklyn to Roosevelt Island.
DD: Well, if it helps, I hated chores and hate them as an adult. You recently stated that now you have gone completely independent. Why the change? I ask because I think its important for aspiring creators, as well as veterans, to know why an author makes such decisions.
MH: Since I have left my publisher, it will change how my book will be distributed online as well as brick-and-mortar shops. For the time being, I'll need to do more of that legwork myself as well as exploring other avenues of distribution and publishing.
DD: That's a very courageous… and necessary step to take for your company and career. Where can Malice in Ovenland be purchased, and where can information on you be found?
MH: Malice in Ovenland can be purchased on Amazon.com and in many comic shops in NYC. That may be changing soon, but folks can stay up to date at:
Insta – @ovenlandcomic
Twitter – @ovenland