Monday, January 23, 2012

Revisiting the Bleed: Ming Doyle Interview

Me: Hi Ming. Welcome to Surfing the Bleed.

Ming: Thanks for having me, Brett!

Me: Why don't you give the folks reading at home a quick rundown of who you are and what sort of work it is that you do in the industry?

Ming: Well, I'm a freelance illustrator and comic book artist. I usually do my own pencils and inks, and sometimes my own colors as well, and I will draw pretty much any kind of comic. My career hasn't been long yet by any means, but it's certainly been wide-ranging. I've 
drawn ghostly middle-schoolers, ex-Confederate cowboys, dysfunctional playwrights and one supremely zombie-plagued superhero.

Me: Can you tell me how it was you first got into art? Were you interested in it from an early age and if so, were your parents fairly supportive of your gift?

Ming: I've loved art since I got to fingerpaint for the first time in pre-kindergarten, and my parents have been unfailingly encouraging in all my creative endeavors since. My mom used to draw with me in a kind of interactive form of simultaneous story-telling and world-building, and my dad was always up for helping me decal jetpacks made from shoeboxes or glue-gunning popsicle planks together to make model ships. Even my grandparents, who are Chinese and come from a very strict and traditional "education first" background, always thought art was the right road for me. I don't know how to account for all this luck, but I couldn't be more grateful for it.

Me: Do you remember your first comic book?

I'm not sure if this was exactly my first comic book or not, but the one that sticks out most in my mind was an issue of X-Men dealing with the "Phalanx Saga." I must've been 9 or so at the time, and the sociopolitical parallels were fairly lost on me. I believe I bought it mainly for the awesome silver holographic cover. I carried it everywhere for months and lovingly copied most its panels in the margins of my math homework. I remember lots of tiny pouches and tinier feet.
Me: Can you talk a little about your education? Did you go to school for art and did you take any classes pertaining to comics layout and design in college?

Ming: I've never formally studied comics, but comics have found their way into most of my studies. I had an art teacher in high school who taught me what panel gutters were when he caught me trying to draw my own shoddy "Blade of the Immortal" fancomic during class. Around that time I also took an illustration summer course at RISD where Lucy Knisley was my only pal and very sympathetic to my new-found preoccupation with Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. A couple years ago I graduated from Cornell University with a BFA in painting and drawing, and all the required life drawing classes have proven indispensably valuable to my subsequent work in funny books.

Me: You've done a lot of design and illustration throughout your career, working for firms such as Amalgamated and publications such as Weird Tales, but your main focus seems to be on comics. Do you prefer comic work to regular design and illustration work? Why?

Ming: If anything, I actually usually enjoy illustration work a bit more over comics because it allows me more time to linger on the little details, which are really my passion. The rushed nature of comics deadlines can sometimes be almost too harrowing to handle, but I stick with them for the challenge and the thrill. And I do enjoy storytelling. My ideal career would eventually reach a perfect work distribution balance between both pursuits, so let's hope I can swing it!

Me: You have a very beautiful, very unique style of illustration. Did you take any inspiration from specific artists when you were building your own style?

Ming: Thank you so much! People have been telling me that my work looks like Paul Pope's, even before I knew who Paul Pope was. I didn't check out his stuff until my senior year of college, and though I'm definitely a fan now I can only think that any comic artist who's a proponent of heavy inking and draws in anything even a bit different from the mainstream style is inevitably going to be filed under the Pulp Hopester category, at least for a while yet. But my formative inky heroes were Leonardo da Vinci and Egon Schiele. I don't know how much their influence shows in my style, but their prolific and stylized sketches were what inspired me enough to even want to form a style of my own in the first place.

Me: You drew a lot of attention for the DC fanfic comics on your website (which are fabulous by the way). Our mutual friend Dean Trippe mentioned to me once that what he likes about working in that universe is that it just feels like home. Working in the DC universe is a very organic experience, you just sort of let the story take you where it wants to go. Would you agree with that? What do you enjoy about working with DC characters?

Ming: I'd definitely agree with that. What I love most about the DC universe is how expansively archetypal it is. It has a character for almost every plight and aspiration mankind's been struggling with or towards in verse since the early days of story, and each DC character is just waiting for the next reinterpretation. It's like a playground in there, an epic, mythic, everyman sandbox with a toy to fit any scenario.

Me: One of the comics on your site that really sticks out to me is Lady Gotham. You give some much deserved attention to a young Martha Wayne, a character most often forced to the background of the daddy issue heavy Batman universe. Being a female creator in an often male-dominated industry, how do you feel personally about the portrayal of women throughout the vast market that is superhero comics?

Ming: "Lady Gotham" is very dear to my heart precisely because there have historically been so few fully realized portrayals of female characters in mainstream comics. There are huge exceptions and that number is only growing, and I love that, but we'd still benefit from more passionate and talented ladies both on the pages and behind the scenes.

That's why I had such fun on "Lady Gotham." I took one of the oldest, most looming ciphers of the feminine in comics and for a few pages, gave her nothing but her own voice. A pretty rare thing!

If seven decades from now there's a fictional woman with as many beloved stories and talented hands behind her as Batman, and with as many female creators propelling her story forward as there have been male creators furthering Superman's adventures, I think that would be lovely. Wonder Woman comes so close that it's easy to just lay everything at her feet and walk away feeling like women have been adequately represented in comics, but she could do with a fair few sister titles for solidarity.

Me: Can you talk a little bit about the projects you're currently working on and what we can expect from Ming Doyle in the near future?

Ming: I'm working on illustrations for a couple of book projects at the moment. I also just finished up the art for a chapter in the "Jennifer's Body" graphic novel, published by Boom! in conjunction with Fox Atomic. The movie, a horror film written by Diablo Cody and starring Megan Fox, won't be coming out until September, but the comic should be in stores in a few months. It's written by Rick Spears, and the other artists involved are Jim Mahfood, Nikki Cook and Tim Seeley. I'm honored to be among such company!

Me: I assume the Jennifer's Body graphic novel will have some pretty gruesome imagery. How do you prepare yourself to draw the kind of over the top imagery so often required for horror storytelling?

Ming: For me it's no stretch at all, since my default subject matter is usually some grotesque assemblage of nightmare images. I do enjoy drawing pretty things as well, but there's something a little more alluring to me about the darker stuff. Maybe it's just because I can go crazier with my linework without giving any serious thought to golden ratios or pleasing proportions. Over the top imagery is playtime!

Me: Could you speak a bit about your journey into comic books and how difficult it's been to break into the industry and find serious, steady work?

Ming: I still haven't found steady work, but my entrance into comics was fairly easy. Straight out of art school I drew a couple of Batman fan comics purely because I wanted to, and posted them online. That put me in touch with a lot of other Batman enthusiasts who also happened to be comic artists and editors. After doing a few anthology pieces for free to get my feet wet, the paid work started coming along in addition to my freelance illustration gigs. Now each project I do seems a little bigger and a lot more daunting than the last, but that's exactly what I signed up for! It's been a couple years already, and I know it might be many more until the work is steady, but I've enjoyed the slow progression. It's given me time to acclimate to each step!

Me: Do you have any advice for young illustrators trying to make their way into this wild and amazing industry?

Ming: Never turn an opportunity down in the beginning unless you absolutely cannot bear to bring yourself to take it, especially when you're only just starting out. Do as many things as you can, even unpaid stuff just to get your name out there and hone your craft. And definitely have both passion and patience! The paying gigs are few and far between in this field and they rarely pay enough for even half your bills, so you have to really love what you're doing and have the fortitude to stick with it to get anywhere.

Me: Okay, last question. If you could work with any collaborator in the industry, who would it be? If you say me I'll give you a cookie. *Wink wink, nudge nudge.*

Ming: Ha, okay. You. It better be chunky chocolate chip! But in all seriousness, even though there are so many talented people in comics and people who I deeply admire, collaboration is a tricky and highly personal variable. You never know who you're going to like working with until you've worked with them. That being said, my career to date has been nothing but nonstop collaboration, and I'm sure there are even more exciting people and ideas around the corner.

Me: Thanks for the time today Ming. We look forward to seeing a whole lot more from you in the near future!

Ming: Thank you Brett, and likewise!

Want to hire the awesomeness that is Ming Doyle? Get in touch with her at

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