There are so many cartoonists that are putting out steady work but deserve a higher profile, and Christine Larsen is definitely one of them. After over a year drawing Cartoon Network titles at BOOM! Studios, she’s collaborating with one of the publisher’s biggest stars John Allison on the 12-issue series By Night. After previously discussing the specifics of working on licensed comics, I was excited to speak to her about By Night, her multitude of other projects, and figuring out how to elevate herself and her work to a wider audience.
How did you connect with John Allison for By Night?
One of the editors I worked with at KaBoom (Whitney Leopard) hooked me up with an editor at BOOM Box (Shannon Watters) and she asked me to do a test page. The rest is, as they say, history. That’s the nice thing about working with good editors, they always know how to pair you.
Do you feel freer to use your natural style on By Night than licensed titles since you’re not following existing character models?
My personal style rears its head any time I am not sent a character bible. For the work I’ve done for BOOM (Adventure Time, Regular Show), they’ve always let me do my own thing. The By Night script came to me with some main character guides, so I did have to filter Jane and Heather through my hand, but when dealing with an original property I always feel like I can take more liberties.
What’s your design process like for original characters?
Well, thankfully, I have sketchbooks full of monsters, so for random creatures, I will sift through those. John and I split the difference on the character design stuff. I’ve designed a few human characters, he’s designed some human characters, I’ve done all of the monsters. Character design is a basic process for me. I’ll draw a thing a few times, settle on a basic concept, and then draw that concept (sometimes with clothing/accessory reference if I need it) a few times to familiarize my hand with the character. This isn’t so different from my process with licensed characters, except that I am working from scratch instead of being handed a character sheet.
Do you collaborate differently with Allison than writers without an artist background?
Not really. In fact, I’d say that I have less reason to contact John than when dealing with scripts in the past. He has a good head for how much can fit on a page, and lets me handle the layout aspect of things. His writing strikes a nice balance between the detail I need to understand what point he wants to get across and the vagueness to let me arrange that in my own way. I think layout style is just as telling of an artist as drawing style, and it’s nice to be able to let that come through.
How has your experience been on both licensed and creator-owned properties at BOOM! Studios?
I like my editors over there. They’re communicative and understanding and if I need an extra day, they’re very accommodating. I have a three-year-old, and my husband works a crazy freelance schedule too, and a sudden case of a toddler fever can throw off my schedule (By Night is not the only project I have every month). It’s nice to know I have support on the editor side of things. So, I really only have good things to say about working with BOOM as a whole. I know there have been complaints about what they pay, but I’ve managed to always get my asking rate, so I can’t ding them about that.
How did you end up painting 100-foot mural at the Philadelphia International Airport?
Very randomly! The woman in charge of the art program at PiA found my work online and contacted me directly, completely out of the blue! I guess it is a good example of why you should have a comprehensive online presence with an easy way for individuals interested in your work to contact you.
Can you speak a little about your minicomic Unicorn Fight Squad, which was part of a recently-wrapped successful Kickstarter?
It’s something I am doing in my spare, spare time to have a little fun artistically (in the sense that I am purposefully keeping the drawing style very loose) and stretch myself in writing (in the sense that this is a talkier comic than work I’ve done before). I wanted to mix indie comic character drama with wacky sci-fi/fantasy elements. Also, it’s just fun drawing non-human, but still “human”, characters. I hope to eventually make it into a little mini-series (6 issues are outlined so far).
You’ve shared a lot of personal projects in addition to Unicorn Fight Squad on Patreon. Have you been pitching them to publishers?
It took me a long time to finally gather the balls to do it, but yes. And yes, some stuff has been picked up. And no, I can’t really talk about that until an announcement is made.
How are you getting the word art for your own comics?
Better than most but probably not as great as some. I’m not a major name, like Becky Cloonan or Noelle Stevenson. When I make an announcement, I really have to rely on fans of my work to spread the word. Thankfully, I have some hella loyal fans. There are names on pre-orders that I recognize from when I began self-publishing, and I’m so, so thankful to those people; and to everyone that reads and enjoys my stuff. That said, I do attend the occasional indie con. I was at MICE this year and unloaded a bunch of books.
Now that you’ve been drawing licensed comics for a few years and are in the midst of a creator-owned maxiseries, what are you hoping comes next in your career as a cartoonist?
It’s original graphic novel time, and my soul is prepared for it. But beyond comics, I am hoping to do more general illustration work, where I can spend a few days on one image. I can’t really say I ever have a five-year plan or anything like that, though. I sort or flail in the darkness and hope everything manages to work itself out.
Matt Chats is an interview series featuring discussions with a creator or player in comics, diving deep into industry, process, and creative topics. Find its author, Matt O’Keefe, on Twitter and Tumblr. Email him with questions, comments, complaints, or whatever else is on your mind at firstname.lastname@example.org.