By Michele Brittany, a West Coast Bleeding Cool Correspondent
I met Paige Halsey Warren at the 2012 Long Beach Comic Con and I was immediately drawn to her table. No, it wasn't pinkish hair or the warm inviting smile (but that does always help!), but her books! I could relate to her series called Busty Girl Comics. She was living back east at the time, but since then, as moved to the wild frontier that is the West Coast. As part of my look at Women in Comics this month, I caught up with Warren for an interview.
Michele Brittany: Paige, can you tell me how you got your start in comics?
Paige Halsey Warren: I've always been interested in comics and sequential storytelling in general. I dabbled on and off with making comics for most of my life, which got me into trouble more than once in the classes that frustrated me, but it wasn't until college when I realized it was actually a career path I was interested in. I was studying costume design at the time but was courting animation and comics seemed like a logical happy medium.
MB: With it being the month to celebrate women, what led you to Busty Girl Comics?
PHW: Usually when I'm asked this in person, I gesture to my chest. Back in January 2012, I was online shopping for t-shirts and was getting more and more frustrated at how all of the designs I liked would be distorted if I put them on. I vented by sketching an angry little comic about it (common habit for me, hence the getting in trouble at school) and posted it on my personal tumblr. People really, REALLY liked it so I figured, "Well, I got more where that came from…" and started the Busty Girl Comics website the next day.
MB: One of the points I distinctly remember when we met was that you portrayed women of all races and religion – can you tell me more about how you came to do so?
PHW: It seemed ridiculous not to. Bustiness is a pretty universal experience. Even if someone doesn't personally consider themselves busty, they undoubtedly know someone who does. Reflecting that universality seemed only natural in this comic.
It also gave me the opportunity to explore more experiences than if I was only drawing a comic with myself as the main character – plus it would have been boring as all-get-out to draw myself that much.
MB: How was it creating a panel a day of Busty Girl Comics on the web? What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about your readers?
PHW: Yikes. Okay. So. BGC was very much trial-by-fire. Doing a comic 7 days a week is not a good idea unless you've really got a well-planned schedule and can create a solid backlog – two things I'm really very awful at.
As my big sister knows very well, it is very easy to bait me and make me mad. Learning to stay calm and rational whenever I received hate or trolls came far too late in the game for me and I look back and cringe on some of the mistakes I've made throughout the run of BGC. Publicly responding to messages is a very fine line to walk and I stomped around like I owned the place.
That said, the negative messages were VASTLY outnumbered by the wonderful messages of thanks and support for my work and for the busty community. For awhile, I tried writing down all of the most heartwarming messages I received so I could hang them on my wall but I actually ending up running out of room. The loving, supportive community that grew out of BGC is one of my proudest accomplishments.
MB: Did you expect to become a voice for busty girls and boys? Was the support a surprise to you?
PHW: I had no idea. I'm from a very busty family and we've been joking and venting about our chests for as long as I can remember. It had honestly never occurred to me that there were busty folks who didn't have a network of support. I just sort of took my busty support system for granted so when I started getting messages from readers about how they finally felt comfortable in their bodies or how they finally realized they weren't alone, I was legit moved to tears.
It did sort of require more of that trial-by-fire I mentioned before though. I knew about undergarments and fitting from my time studying costumes but there's so much about chests I had no idea about. I ended up doing a LOT of research on underboob rash, binders, bras for scoliosis, breast reductions, bras vs. sagging, "bras causing breast cancer" (it's a myth), bra burning (also a myth), and so many other topics. Obviously, I would refer anyone who asked for medical advice to an actual doctor (Dammit Jim, I'm a cartoonist, not a doctor) but it was a worthwhile challenge connecting people with the resources they needed.
MB: Busty Girl Comics was a webcomic for a year and you have published three volumes. Do you have plans to revisit it?
PHW: Ha. Okay. So. Yes but not as such. I'm not quite ready to announce more details but yeeeeaaaaaahhhhh…
MB: You moved to California from the east coast, what are you doing now? And what are some upcoming projects we can look forward to?
PHW: I'm studying to convert my comics skills to storyboarding skills, primarily, but to pay the bills I'm actually opening my commissions back up (email me if you're interested: email@example.com). I also have a relatively new webcomic called AHTspace (ahtspacecomic.com) which is about 6 artists sharing a warehouse space together in a small town in Massachusetts. Now that I'm freelance again, it will be updating every Thursday from here-on-out.
As for other projects, I got those secret things from the question above and I do post my smaller comics and updates at PaigeOneComics.com.
MB: Since you do the con circuit, what are some of the upcoming events you'll be attending?
PHW: I will definitely be at Long Beach Comic Expo at the end of this month (where I'll be on a panel about Body Positive comics!) and ideally I'll be at Boston Comic Con again this year.
MB: And, of course, where can people find you on the net?
PHW: I'm everywhere…No but really. For all my comic-related projects, PaigeOneComics.com. For my art blog, halseyland.tumblr.com. For my portfolio, PaigeHalseyWarren.com. I'm also @rampaigehalsey on twitter and I have a page on Facebook as Paige "Rampaige" Halsey Warren.
MB: Anything you would like to add?
PHW: I just want to thank my readers for being wonderful and supporting the busty community. Seriously, I can't stress enough how amazing it was to see all those wonderful people helping each other on a daily basis – I think it's what I miss the most about doing BGC.
A warm thank you to Paige for giving of her time for this insightful interview. Check out her various links and look for her at an upcoming con and say 'hi'.
All accompanying photographs were taken by Michele Brittany.
Michele Brittany is an independent popular culture scholar and semi-professional photographer currently editing an upcoming anthology on the influence of James Bond on popular culture. She regularly posts reviews and analysis on the spy/espionage genre on her blog, Spyfi & Superspies.