by Deanna Destito

Liana Kangas (Mine, Where We Live) has been popping up in a lot of exciting projects lately. Her art has been featured in comic anthologies for Image and 2000 AD, and at the end of this year her style will grace the pages of Black Mask Studio’s latest mini-series Black AF Devil’s Dye written by Vita Ayala (The Wilds, Supergirl). She also gets to live out a teenage dream as one of the featured artists on an upcoming Gwar book with writer Matt Miner. The Beat sat down and chatted with Kangas at NYCC to get to know the up and comer better.

Deanna Destito: So how did you get into comics?

Liana Kangas: I started helping out at a comic shop (Famous Faces & Funnies) back in Florida when I was a teenager, and the owner was really kind to me. He let me work for back issues. Eventually when the shop started having signings, I started meeting pros in person before I was old enough to go to conventions. I was like ‘oh man, it’s a real job!’ But what escalated from there was, I moved away from Florida to Canada, and Canada is the mecca of comics. It’s pretty crazy how many comic artists are up there. There are a couple of colleges up there that are huge on sequential art and animation. So I met a lot of my heroes. I worked at a comic shop there as well and met a lot of artists. I thought, ‘I feel like this is a feasible job.’

Destito: Did you always draw as a kid?

Kangas: Yeah, friends would ask me for commissions essentially. I got into fine art painting. I worked as a graphic designer in marketing for a while. And eventually when I was in Canada I took a couple of fine art classes again and then just started going at it. It spiraled from there. And now here I am.

Destito: Who are your most influential artists or mentors?

Kangas: Morry Hollowell, who was the colorist on [Marvel’s] Civil War. He was one of the guys who came to Famous Faces & Funnies and had a signing. He was so nice, talked to me, and he was like, ‘I went to school here and this is how I did it.’ We’ve actually kept in touch and he’s always been really kind and talked to me about some stuff.

One of my favorite artists, Jim Mahfood, has always been a huge inspiration to me. When I met him at conventions, it was like your view of a hero who never lets you down.

Now, my list of favorite artists is just too much. It makes me buy too many books.

Destito: What about writers?

Kangas: Gail Simone, Vita Ayala. Brian K. Vaughan [are in the] top five. Y: The Last Man was one of those series that I really got into that I finally understood the concept of indie comics. The series in its entirety. So indie stories can be continuous and lengthy. It doesn’t have to be a one-shot. He does magic with words.

Destito: Do you use live models for your art or do you use other sources?

Kangas: Depending on the script. Some people are like, ‘oh I want this person to kind of vaguely resemble this actor or a loose representation of them.’ In terms of drawing, what’s funny is I actually ask my best friend to model for me a lot. I asked her to help me model some stuff for 2000 AD. And I use myself. I won’t lie. Sometimes I ask my husband. ‘Can you just stand there? Take a quick picture?’

Destito: What is your pet peeve when you receive a script?

Kangas: If the dialogue doesn’t give me enough room to draw what the direction is. So if there’s heavy direction, but a ton of dialogue, and for me to try and mentally prepare myself to visualize and move it all around for it to still make sense and for the story to still work between the panels. I enjoy working with writers who are collaborative. I love when writers give me the ability to put panels together or get rid of one. Rearrange it a little.

Destito: What is your dream book?

Kangas: I would love to work with Chip Zdarsky. I want to do a funny book. And he’s one of my favorite writers. I am currently doing a book with another writer I’ve always wanted to work with, Vita. And as far as properties, any of the Batman titles. I love creator-owned stuff but I really like the 2000 AD universe. I’d love to do a Dredd character. Any of the Judges.

Destito: What is your advice for someone who wants to draw comics?

Kangas: Draw all the time. Go to your comic shop all the time. Twitter. Follow all your favorite writers and artists. You’ll find so much new material. Go to school if you want to. Go to conventions and meet people. As long as you be you. It’s scary to put yourself out there, but the internet is a fantastic tool.

Check out Liana Kangas’ work in 2000 AD, Mine, Image’s Where We Live, and the upcoming Black AF Devil’s Dye.