Women In Comics Month: Interview with Carolyn Belefski
Mar 15, 2015
In honor of Women in Comics this March, PREVIEWSworld talks with artist Carolyn Belefski!
PREVIEWSworld: Tell us a little bit about yourself! What are you currently working on?
Carolyn Belefski: I'm a cartoonist and designer based out of the Washington, DC area. I have just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a print run of all the "Curls" comic strips I've ever done collected into one book. I'm working on comic anthologies—I have a story in RISE #2 (MAR151438) from Northwest Press—and other activities with Curls Studio. I also produce a blood drive with the American Red Cross called "Cartoonists Draw Blood" and we'll be having a drive later this year on Halloween day. It's the perfect mix of blood and comics! Check out my portfolio online at www.CarolynBelefski.com to keep up with the latest news and view my creations.
PREVIEWSworld: How long have you been working with sequential art? What titles, companies, and creators have you worked with over your time in comics?
Carolyn Belefski: I've been creating comics professionally for about 6 years, but I knew I wanted to be involved with the arts from a young age. I write and draw the comic strip, Curls. I also work with writer Joe Carabeo on the comic books Kid Roxy, Black Magic Tales, and The Legettes. Outside of self-publishing, I do freelance work and have completed projects with Clorox, Gannett, National Geographic, and more. Jimmy Palmiotti asked me to draw a pin-up for his book, Queen Crab (DEC110483), published by Image Comics. I also did a cover for Cartoon Network's Adventure Time book, published by BOOM! Studios. Recently, I was asked by The White House to do a series of comics for HealthCare.gov. I'm really excited to have had the opportunity to work with these people to create great experiences.
PREVIEWSworld: Did you have a mentor or hero in the industry that inspired you to pursue a career in comics?
Carolyn Belefski: David Evelyn, my high school art teacher, inspired me to pursue art as a career. While I was a student in college, I discovered the works of Elizabeth Watasin (Charm School) and James Kochalka (American Elf) at the local comic book store. Around this time Joe Carabeo and I developed our first comics together. My friend suggested I attend Small Press Expo, which happens every fall in Maryland. I signed up as an event volunteer and that show opened my eyes to realizing being a cartoonist is possible. After graduation, I emailed Elizabeth Watasin and although we have never met, we have communicated online. She contributed to an anthology I put together called Carnival. I've been exhibiting at several comic conventions along the east coast and have met many other creators who are supportive.
PREVIEWSworld: In your opinion, how has the comic book industry evolved in terms of gender?
Carolyn Belefski: In my limited time as a professional creator, I have noticed a shift of women fitting into the comic creator landscape. If you attend shows like Small Press Expo, it seems like women and men are equally balanced. I've been accepted to exhibit in Artist Alley at New York Comic-Con for several years and never had a problem with being a woman there (however, I now exhibit in the Small Press section at NYCC). Occasionally I do meet people who are impressed to see a female artist – almost as if they have never met one before. There are more women participating every year – attendees and exhibitors. This past year at NYCC there were several women, men, and families of all races and ages. It was truly the most diverse show I've ever been to.
PREVIEWSworld: What stereotypes do you see surrounding women in comics? How could people of all genders go about breaking those stereotypes?
Carolyn Belefski: I've had people ask me if I'm the artist's girlfriend behind the table at shows and when I tell them that I'm the artist they look surprised! I think a lot of people are more familiar with the famous men who create comics. There are many women who draw comics, but they are not household names yet. Over the course of time, hopefully the people who are most proficient and talented will rise to the top. The stereotypes will break if the work speaks for itself. I have noticed a lot of women getting more exposure in comics, especially in the past year.
PREVIEWSworld: How do you want to see women represented in comic books 10 years from now?
Carolyn Belefski: I think there is a market for stories about smart women who don't need to use sex appeal as a crutch. It's appealing to be beautiful, but it's also beautiful to be confident. Of course with superhero comics, the muscles and figures are presented in the most iconic way possible because they are Superheroes! As much as people complain about how big a female's chest looks, it makes sense to me because she is a superhero! That's why the men are all bodybuilders. They are active and strive for the ideal body. In the future, I do see artists drawing various body shapes and sizes, along with different races to show diversity in character. Sometimes fantasy is more fun than being realistic, especially in the medium of comics.
PREVIEWSworld: If you could give advice to any aspiring editors, executives, writers, or artists, what would you tell them?
Carolyn Belefski: My advice is to put the work in. Nobody is going to hand you a golden key to unlock your career but yourself. It is an uphill battle and in comics there are not many instant success stories. The work we do takes time, effort, and determination. Try to write or draw something everyday and build an online audience. This discipline will also help build up the tolerance and increase productivity. It is also important for creators to get out and meet other people with similar interests. Don't be a hermit and share your talents with the world. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, make a deadline because otherwise your work may never get done.
PREVIEWSworld: And lastly, are there any up-and-coming women creators who you would recommend readers check out?
Carolyn Belefski: Well, I would not call her up-and-coming, but I hope everyone discovers Raina Telgemeier if they have not already. I also suggest Teresa Roberts Logan, Liz Reed, Amber Love, and Dawn Griffin. All of these creators I have met doing comic cons on the east coast.
Check out more Women In Comics Month interviews in our special section on PREVIEWSworld!