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Comics Collective Helioscope Reopening Public Mentorship Program

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By Manon Hume

Baggywrinkles: a Lubber’s Guide to Life at Sea creator Lucy Bellwood announced in ECCC’s Mastering Mentorships panel today that Helioscope, a Portland-based collective of cartoonists, illustrators, writers, and more, has reopened its mentorship program for public application. Bellwood, who is a former mentee of Helioscope herself, now serves as the head of the program. “Not enough people know how important mentorships can be,” she explained, adding that she hopes the return of the public application will draw more attention to mentoring in the comics industry.

Danielle Corsetto, creator of Girls With Slingshots, agreed. She described how mentoring her intern, Laeluu – who was later hired as the colorist of Girls With Slingshots after her internship ended – provided learning opportunities for both her mentee and herself. Laeluu colored two strips a week for Corsetto, who would then email back corrections and notes as needed. While giving feedback on Laeluu’s coloring, Corsetto learned the vocabulary for color theory in order to better articulate the reasoning behind her changes or suggestions. She stressed that this kind of communication is crucial in mentoring, a sentiment that was echoed by her fellow panelists.

Erika Moen of Oh Joy Sex Toy, another member of Helioscope, pointed out that mentees can also be a valuable source of help for small studios or independent artists. Interns who are skilled in areas a creator is not, such as administrative tasks, business savvy, social media, coloring, and so on, are a welcome addition to a comics team, though she emphasized the need to ensure they are not being exploited and are being fairly rewarded with knowledge and experience if unpaid. Alissa Sallah, an administrative assistant at Oni Press who is also a former mentee of Helioscope, cited business-related skills as some of the most valuable in the industry. She also noted how the Helioscope mentorship gave her access to the comics industry in a way that wasn’t available to her in the Midwest, further underlining its impact on her career.

Bellwood summed up the panel by repeating the nature of indie comics as an industry where creators and mentees can meet each other and make connections, leading to future employment opportunities because creators trust the mentees they have trained and can recommend them to others in the industry if they can’t hire them themselves. She described it as an ongoing network of support, an attitude that was reflected in all of the women’s words and experiences.

More information about Helioscope’s mentorship program can be found at http://helioscopepdx.com/mentorship/. The application closes on March 31, 2018.

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