Petaluma comic artist draws on passion
When young fans gather at LumaCON 2015 on Jan. 17, they will get the chance to meet comic authors and illustrators Stephan Pastis of Santa Rosa (“Pearls Before Swine”), Thomas Yeates of Jenner (“Prince Valiant”) and Petaluma’s own Maia Kobabe (“The Thief’s Tale”). They are among the authors and illustrators who will discuss and teach the art at the inaugural youth comic convention.
“It seems like more and more people are getting into comics,” said Kobabe, 25. “Making comics, comic conventions. The whole community feels energized right now.”
She is an active member of the comic world, publishing her own stories while enrolled in the first Master of Fine Arts in Comics program at California College of the Arts. “Very few people have this degree. This is so new,” she said. “I feel like I’m getting in at the right time.”
Kobabe has drawn most of her life and loved “lying on the floor with my dad reading the Sunday comics.” Around the time she was in sixth grade, Japanese manga comics became popular in the United States.
“They blew me away,” she said. “They were beautiful, with elegant line work, panels with background flowers. I really got into it and read tons of manga. So I had this background of loving and reading comics, but never thinking seriously about making them.”
Instead, Kobabe received her undergraduate degree in art from Dominican University.
“After graduating,” she said, “I wanted to go into children’s books. I put together a portfolio but got no responses. I was disappointed but realized I had no experience.”
She began auditing a class at Dominican taught by Matt Silady, a visiting professor from California College of the Arts. “It was the first time I’d studied comics in an academic situation,” she said. “There were exercises on pacing, page layout, transitions. I was so jazzed. I worked really hard, probably harder than students taking the class for credit. For my final, I was supposed to write a script for what I thought would be 10 pages, but when I finished, it was 32 pages.”
“You need to ink this,” she said Silady told her, and he mentored her through the process.
Meanwhile, Kobabe was investigating graduate schools. When she mentioned this to Silady, he said, “Can you keep a secret?” Then he told her he was pitching a comics MFA program to California College of the Arts.
It began in summer 2013, with the otherwise nonresident group gathering each summer in San Francisco to take classes in person, “like a crazy comics boot camp,” Kobabe said.
Her original comic, a medieval fantasy adventure, is called “The Thief’s Tale,” a reference to 14th-century English writer Geoffrey Chaucer. But she realized that it was only Chapter 1, she said. “I have more stories to tell. My goal before graduation is to get to 100 pages. It’ll probably be four or five years. ”
The chapters are hand-stitched, hand-cut and self-published. Unlike the conventional book publishing world, she said, self-publishing comics is “not only accepted, it’s celebrated. Self-publishing is a rite of passage that shows you’re serious.”
When she was considering a career in children’s books, Kobabe said, “I was going to the conventions and hearing stories from people saying, ‘It took me four, five, seven years before I got my first book deal.’ I couldn’t wait that long. I want to be making books now.
“In the comic world, (if) you want to make a book, you make a book. You draw something, fold it in half, staple it, and you’ve got a book.”
And, she said, comic book stores are buying. She walked into San Rafael’s Blue Moon Comics and asked the owner if he bought comics. “He bought four issues,” she said, then laughed. “It was the first time I ever walked out of a bookstore with more money than when I walked in.”
Kobabe said she enjoys being part of the Bay Area comic book community. “It’s one thing that drew me into comics. People are so supportive. Many are artists. They want to support others and help them tell their stories.”
Now is a good time to get into this field, she said. “I’ve heard from people in publishing and bookstores that while some types of book sales might be declining, comic book sales are rising. More and more librarians and booksellers are realizing it’s a good way to get kids into reading.
“People are always going to want stories.”
To learn more about Kobabe, visit redgoldsparks.carbonmade.com. Learn more about LumaCON 2015 on Facebook or at lumacon.weebly.com.