Dee Fish wasn’t a writer/artist I was familiar with when I set up this interview, but I’m glad I did. I honestly feel she has a unique voice in this biz and a fantastic art style that harkens back to 90’s indie comics and self-published works. Plus, she’s a big fan of black and white comics so that puts her up there in my book and hopefully, you will feel the same way after reading this interview I had with her at MegaCon Tampa Bay.
Marco: What is it you love about comic books and how did you get your start in the industry?
Dee: I don’t know of any period in my life where I didn’t love comics, that I wasn’t involved and absorbed in the characters and the ideas. As a little kid, I started making my own comic books as early as eight years old and I think what draws me to the medium now is the fact that it’s the only kind of medium where you can tell the kinds of stories like this by yourself. You can be the complete master of the story from start to finish and it’s completely your idea that goes to the page if you put your effort into doing it that way and to me, by this point now it’s kind of a requirement. I can’t not tell stories.
Marco: Something that you and I both share is a love for black and white comics. We talked about it a little bit on Facebook. But why do you love black and white comics, why is it the medium that you prefer?
Dee: Part of it I think is as an artist, when I first started discovering the early Ninja Turtles books, back in the eighties Marvel used to publish black and white reprint magazines, like Punisher, and I would see those regular comic books and then I would see those black and white versions and as an artist I could see the lines, I could see the artists thoughts better and there was less distraction of all the extraneous color that kind of sometimes gets in the way, there’s such a purity to it to me now artistically. You can see the thought process in the art, when it’s black and white, to me anyways.
Marco: One of the things I love about black and white comics is the simplicity of it all and at least for me it’s seeing like you said that purity.
Dee: I remember reading Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud where he was talking about how with black and white art its art and when it’s color those things now, oh there’s a car, oh there’s Spiderman and it becomes a little bit more abstract, it’s now more representational of what it’s supposed to be and with the black and white you see the art more, that’s my opinion anyway.
Marco: It’s interesting how in film or other mediums black and white is still a choice. And people accept it because it’s art but for comics these days you don’t see it so much except for more of a budget choice instead of an artistic choice.
Dee: It’s a factor, in both production, it takes so much longer to do it in color, it costs more to get it colored and then it costs more to print it in color. So, those are factors but they’re not the primary factor for me, I do just love the books in black and white.
Marco: I agree and I feel more of the industry (fans, publishers and retailers) should be open to more black and white comics. It’s very popular when it comes to manga and I think that’s one of the many reasons manga is so popular because of it being in black and white you have this simplicity that makes it easier to follow the story.
Dee: Arguably, you might have to engage more of your brain because the color is not doing a lot of the work for you.
Marco: I read the first issue of the Wellkeeper and I like it a lot and I wanted to ask you there’s a dog named Buffy in it. Where did that name come from? Was it from the show?
Dee: Technically it came from Buffy the Vampire Slayer but not directly. A very good friend of mine, a woman named Denise Manera, she had a dog named Buffy that the dog was based on who had passed away recently. Also, because I wanted the dog represented as fierce when you first see it and it’s a scary dog throughout the rest of the series so I thought, I’m going to give it the least assuming name possible, which is the rationale behind why Buffy was named Buffy because it’s not what you would expect.
Marco: So, to follow that same train of thought. One of the main characters is named Sebastian and it too made me wonder, was The Never Ending Story an influence at all?
Dee: The Never-Ending Story was an influence in certain storytelling elements, not the name. Originally the character was going to be named Duncan and there’s even promo art I did where his name is written on the back of his backpack and then I realized that the main character’s name is Zoe and there used to be a sitcom called Zoe, Duncan, Jack and Jane so I was trying to think of another name that still felt a little bit old world and Sebastian, I don’t remember if there was any inspiration for that to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t till after the fact that I thought of the Never Ending Story.
Marco: For those who will be reading this interview could you tell them a little bit about what the book is about?
Dee: The Wellkeeper is the story of a young woman named Zoe who upon turning sixteen, inherits a power from mother to daughter. This power connects her to the life energy of the planet and enables her to communicate and control the forces of life and death, communicate with animals and plant life and control them. The problem is her grandmother had a son, not a daughter and the power skipped a generation and her family tried to shield her from this inheritance thinking they would save her from drama and it didn’t work that way. So, she’s inheriting these powers, not knowing where they are coming from and now she’s being hunted by dark forces trying to destroy her and the lineage of Wellkeepers.
Marco: You also have your online comic strip called Dandy and Company. What was the influence behind that comic strip and the characters? Now, unfortunately, I only got to read one strip before this con but the one I read was the one that was an homage to all these other famous newspaper strips.
Dee: I started drawing Dandy when I was eight years old. When I was in grade school I created the character, I was heavily inspired by Looney Tunes, Peanuts, and Garfield at the time and I wanted to make my own thing like that so I came up with these characters and started drawing them and I kind of never stopped. They’ve evolved over the years but I wanted to do something that felt a little bit like everything I liked about Looney Tunes mixed with Peanuts, kind of like a boy and his dog story but it gets way wackier, the dog talks and all kinds of craziness happens.
When I came back to do the strip, because I take minor hiatuses on occasion to work on other projects and when I came back to doing that I decided I wanted to do each panel in the inspiration of specific artists that inspired me, so Walt Kelly from Pogo, Berkley Breathe from Bloom County, Jim Davis from Garfield, Charles Schultz from Peanuts. So, that’s my love letter to all the comic strips and cartoons I grew up with and it’s also the story that I can do literally anything in. There’s no boundary on what kind of story I can tell with that.
Marco: Out of all your stuff I checked out I must say my favorite was the preview for Marjorie and the Weirdlings. Probably because I’m such a big fan of characters that can transform into monsters. But also because of how natural and fantastic it was and that it was a kid who is transgender. Cause I’m also big on making comics that everyone can enjoy and that reflects them. Could you (for the audience) describe what Marjorie of the Weirdlings is about and when can we expect to see it come out and what does this comic book mean to you?
Dee: Well, Marjorie of the Weirdlings is a story of a young transgender girl named Marjorie who, like a lot of kids who are finding themselves in that way is very marginalized, very pushed aside and she has got a lot of anger issues about her identity and those problems and very much drawn from my own childhood if I could do then what I have done now as an adult. I’ve discovered a lot of my stories have transformation elements to them, like Sebastian becoming a raccoon in the Wellkeeper and that was always me putting that in a fantasy version, like the way Star Trek would handle racial issues, it’s handled through a fantasy element that makes it a bit more accessible to someone who isn’t specifically in that scenario but can also understand the idea.
So, with Marjorie, she’s got a lot of issues with her home life, a lot of stuff she wants to escape to and then she discovers this ring that transports her to this dark mirror version of reality called the Weirdworld where she is transformed into this cool, purple monster creature that to her, it’s the greatest thing ever. So, the challenge for Marjorie as a character is going to be she’s discovered this amazing new reality and she doesn’t want to take the ring off and go home I mean, why would you? You get to be this cool purple monster that kicks everyone’s butt and, everyone there appreciates you for exactly who you are and no one’s challenging that, so that was a big factor in the creation of that character, I realized that was something I needed to represent with her.
The twelve-page preview is out right now of the first issue, it’s going to be a one shot initially, kind of gauge the market, see what the interests are and I’m hoping to have that out by January or February. The preview is in black and white but it might end up being in full color, just trying to gauge interest in it. There’s so much color in the concept, she’s bright purple with pink hair so there’s so much color I might just have to suck it up and do it.
That’s all folks! I hope you all enjoyed this interview. Let us know how you feel below. And don’t forget to check out Dee Fish’s work via your local comic shops, her blog page or the CAE/Big Pond comics website and Comixology page. You can also follow Dee Fish on twitter and Facebook.
Her books are fantastic and worth your time and she draws a hell of a Scrooge McDuck.
Marco Lopez is the co-owner of the website Atomic Rex Entertainment. Where you can find the ongoing weekly webcomic Massively Effective, that Marco describes as Abbott and Costello in tights. Also hosted on the site is Marco’s web strip series Orion’s Belt that follows an Afro-Latino family of adventurers in space and his anthology series A Shot of Whiskey. Marco has also written for Zenescope Entertainment and Lion Forge Comics.