Mira was approached recently by I Love Horror Comics on Facebook to talk about her process, her new comic with Source Point Press, and life in general. The full transcript is below, and you can also read it on Facebook.
In the past few months, clowns have been popular in the news and comic books. If you add zombies to the recent clown scare then I believe you have a kick ass comic book story. Check out Source Point Press‘ Made-Up: Zombie Clown Circus. Written by Mira Mortal and art by John Rodriguez
P.S. How is a mother of two kids who works full time able to write and publish comic books? Find out below.
1. Share three fun facts about yourself.
– I have an orange belt in mixed martial arts and a blue belt in karate
– I speak a passable amount of French and read French novels from time to time
– I have college degrees in English and Graphic Design
2. Why is it that you immersed yourself in writing comics, but not screenwriting or play writing?
– I grew up in Los Angeles. In every social situation I was near someone who wanted to be in show business. I’d written small plays and scripts and poems and short stories all through high school, and directed a play in college. I didn’t meet anyone who read (or admitted to reading) comics until I was an adult. I used to combine visual art with written words all the time, but not a single person ever mentioned it as a career option, or even as a hobby option. Twitter got me introduced to people who do this for a living, and I made some good friends that had to all but convince me to try it on for size. I started making more friends who wanted to create independent comics, and here we are.
3. I am a process junkie, so this question is a two part question. What’s your process in creating a new concept? Which book was the hardest to create and why?
A lot of the time, it starts with the artist. I like to hear about what they want to draw. Then I work from there. We talk about how many pages they want to do. I begin by making notes on the story arc. My personal preference is to make closed, standalone stories, so I think about beginning, middle and end first, though I don’t always work it out all the way through at this point. Then I take a notebook and scribble out an opening, creating a loose outline of what will be on each page to the end. From those notes, I write the script that will go to the artist.
Each project has its own challenges. The hardest part for writing, in general, is smoothing out the arc. The hardest project for me would be the one I did completely on my own… my webcomic, I.D. Six parts released (almost) weekly over two years. Doing that was a personal challenge, mostly to see if I could finish what I started. I did, and it taught me a ton.
Among collaborative work, I don’t have any project in mind that I consider to have been particularly difficult–I work with amazing people, which is an absolute gift.
4. What’s typical writing day for you?
I am a mom to two young, very busy boys, I take martial arts classes, and I have a full time corporate job, so my ability to work quickly saves me. I also work with other independent creators doing art or coloring or lettering for their stories, so I can sometimes have a few projects going at once. The upside is that I’m under pressure; producing is the only option. I really don’t sleep a lot! The direct answer is that there are no typical days, and I write whenever, wherever. On the bus during my commute, on breaks at work, right before bed.
5. In the past few months, clowns have been EVERYWHERE. Stephen King‘s IT is making a comeback, the nation wide clown scare, and ComixTribe Sink #1. So what exactly inspired Zombie Clown Circus?
The artist, John Rodriguez. Here’s a dramatic reenactment:
Mira: So, what do you feel like drawing?
JAR (no pause): Zombie clowns.
Mira (probably a pause): OK, then.
We started working on this over a year ago; it happens that some things start to show up at the same time in pop culture and entertainment. Right now, it’s a great time to be into clowns! Usually there are enough differences in the execution that there’s room for the different works, even if thematically they may come from a similar place. Zombies and clowns are pretty much always scary/creepy/icky, so this time we went for something fun. And bloody.
7. What’s your greatest moment in creating comic books?
There is no one moment, but every time I turn in a final page of lettering. Such a great feeling.
8. What was your lowest moment in creating comics and what did you do to break out of it?
Actually, it was the thing that made me start creating. I talked a little about having to be convinced to play in this sandbox. The deciding moment was at a comics convention. A professional creator was beyond awful to me (so much for being a fan), that I ultimately decided he needed to be balanced out in some way by a nice person. It took a couple years to get past being on the receiving end of his behavior, and it certainly kept me from talking to known creators. Brutal. Even now, I very, very rarely approach Big 2-type creators at their tables unless we’ve had at least a little direct (pleasant) contact online.
9. What’s your dream team for creating a comic (includes you)?
It’s going to sound like BS, but see above for a reason to believe it… I’m already on my dream teams. Working with JAR, DNS and David Brown of 5d comics, The Wombmates, Dean Stahl, Red Stylo Media, Source Point Press. Good people that I trust and can call friends; we talk comics, we make them together, and we still like each other afterwards. That’s a good dream.
In the truer spirit of your question, I will mention some artists that I love (not even a complete list, some of whom I have met and are lovely). Pencils/inks/maybe even color: Sara Pichelli, David Mack, Sorah Suhng, Eric Canete, Sean G. Murphy, Tula Lotay, Yannick Paquette, Chris DiBari, Skylar Patridge, Kevin Mellon, Amanda Connor, Chris Mitten, Tess Fowler. Colors: Nathan Fairbairn, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Tamra Bonvillain. Letters: Taylor Esposito, Nate Piekos and Clayton Cowles.
10. What makes your stories so unique?
That seems like a question to ask anyone other than me! 🙂) In terms of approach, I see my scripts as a guide rather than a map. I write it out how I see it, the artist gives me notes or says it’s fine as is, then the artist builds the page however he or she thinks it works best. A lot of times, I letter. The final product is a result of give and take within the process that is satisfyingly collaborative.
In scripting, I try to make situations and dialogue that feel natural to the characters, even in weird circumstances. One example is in Zombie Clown Circus. We have a character that never once takes out a zombie. She just doesn’t have it in her to be a warrior, and the other characters know it. Their interactions and dialogue reflect that. I also use as little dialogue as possible while (hopefully) moving the story along at a decent pace, but I truly don’t want to cover up the art with words where I don’t need to. Another thing I focus on in the script is acting in the panels–facial expressions and body language–reinforcing what they say. For these reasons, I prefer to letter my own scripts. I often make edits (even rewrites) on the fly to fit the art better.
11. What are you reading, watching, or listening to right now?
Making a lot of comics in the last year has caused me to read fewer of them, but it’s an ebb and flow. Suggestions are welcome! I was on a huge Japanese horror manga binge for awhile. Works by Junji Ito and Kazuo Umezu. Also Attack on Titan. Deadman Wonderland. Dragon Head. Really anything I could find. Imagery so weird and trippy that it doesn’t leave you for a day or two. That’s my favorite. With the exception of reading past issues of titles I’ve come to work on, I read more books than comics as of late, and I started researching for a new project in development.
As you know, I don’t have a ton of free time for entertainment. I watch hockey as much as I can, but a lot of the time I have to look at social media for game updates. For movies, I love way too many from over the course my lifetime, but relatively recent favorites are Goon, John Wick and Drive. Adventure Time is a favorite. Teen Titans Go kills me. My favorite comic book movies are in the Captain America series. I still need to see the John Wick sequel and I’m pretty excited about Goon 2. I did go see SPLIT a few weeks ago, partially because JAR and I did our first book together in 2014 using that title. And it had to do with split personalities. (I enjoyed the movie, but really: James McAvoy was amazing.)
Music! With the boys, there is a lot of top 40 in the car. On my own, I consistently listen to Deftones, Crosses, any band with Thom Yorke or Maynard James Keenan, Maître Gims, Hotline Miami OSTs, Frank Ocean, PJ Harvey, 80s music, 90s music; really, this list doesn’t even scratch the surface. It’s a mood thing. I own and will listen to music from the 40s if the mood strikes. Also a fair amount of French music.