Creator's Corner: Amy Chu and Craig Yeung
There she was. Amy Chu: co-founder of Alpha Girl Comics. Smiling and chatting amiably amongst her neighbours and fans at the Toronto Comic Con. I walked by her setup a few times only to get the case of the butterflies every time I passed but eventually I racked up the courage to approach her. Smart, down to earth and passionate - her demeanour was comforting. Sitting on her left was talented artist Craig Yeung, who worked on one of Amy's stories in Girls Night Out #1 and who's works have appeared in Runaways and Xmen Legacy. Throughout our comversation, Amy and Craig were able to give some insight into their lives as a comic book writer and artist. Though, Amy admits that her artwork is nothing compared to Craig's.
Officially established in 2011, Alpha Girl Comics was Amy's and close friend, Gloria Lee's way of developing more and more stronger females in an industry that was and still is mostly male dominate. When asked how, it was a case of serendipity for Amy or as she likes to recall "a freak accident."
"I was not inspired by comic books at all. Well I mean, I read just as many comic books as any kid would read but I got into making comics completely by accident," as she thinks back to her business school days. "Don’t get me wrong I did read comic books in college. I went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology and it had a fairly healthy comic book reading community. I read my boyfriends comics but I never bought my own comics at that time. I thought it was pretty cool that there was Dark Horse and all that stuff that wasn’t kid stuff. More adult comics. But it was one of those things that was just at the back of my brain. I graduated, started working and never really went back to comics."
It was when Amy started attending Harvard business school and met Gloria Lee that her inner comic book writer began to emerge.
"Gloria was a writer too. A film writer and we became really good friends. She came back to me at some point with an idea and we started brainstorming one night. She said she really wanted to start a comic book company because she loved to write but it’s so hard to get enough financing for a film. Producing a comic book is lower budget than a film and she had all this creative stuff that she really wanted to see. I did some publishing startups back in the day and so she thought I would be a natural partner because I was the only person that she knows that has no aspirations to write," she laughs. "So you see where this is going. She said 'Since I’m building the company and putting together the infrastructure and the business stuff ' that I should understand how the creative side works so why not take this comic book writing class that she took the previous year? Like I said, a total freak accident cause I wouldn’t have said one way or the other that I would even take that class. I was just like 'Yeah, it could be interesting. Why not?' I could’ve easily gone the other way. And so I took the class as an online class called Comics Experience. The teacher was ex Marvel editor named Andy Schmidt. The first script I wrote was the Saving Abby script and people really liked the story, which surprised me. But then, it’s like crack. Because then you get an artist to do the artwork, it comes out and people start reading it and liking it. The next thing you know the ball starts rolling. And so I started thinking, 'I’m no worse than anyone else. I can’t see why I can’t write!'"
Since then and with that why not attitude, Amy has written some impressive works. Girls Night Out #1, a collection of short stories, was a huge hit with readers. She followed that success with Girls Night Out: Tales from New York. Most recently, Amy has taken a dive into the horror/mystery genre with The VIP Room, a story about three strangers trapped within a mysterious room and is reminiscent of the Twilight Zone. And already she's thinking of writing the next Girls Night Out issue. With so much on her plate and a family at home, Amy says she manages and is grateful for how supportive her husband and kids are but she admits it's not easy.
"My house is a mess – it’s completely over run by comics. Honestly, you just kind of manage. And I’m sure that’s true for anyone else who’s in the comic book industry. It’s not like a vacation. It’s not a 9-5. I’m learning more and more as I go. The more organized I can get the better off I am but the thing is, anytime you’re doing anything creative it fills a vacuum so once I get a handle on one particular book it’s like 'Ah I gotta move onto the next one!'"
"I learnt I have to," she explains on always trying to be one step ahead of herself. "Because first of all people get really excited about the story and then I feel like I need to continue. And once it gets to the printers you need to gang it up so that you’re promoting the next book. Also, I like to think about the artist because artists they need to eat too. So I try to give as much work as possible to artists that I like and enjoy working with."
Artists like Cabbral and Craig Yeung, who was already very busy with other work when Amy approached him with Girls Night Out #1.
"Craig got into X-Men Legacy so I’m lucky to have gotten into his window at all. And honestly that’s how and why I structure my stories - to be short enough so I can get the artists that I want to work on the stories because if you give them a 20 page it’s going to be very hard for them to commit. But if they see that it’s a 5-8 page story then they’re more excited that they can squeeze that into their schedule."
Craig shares the same sentiment as it does work better for the artist; especially since a lot of them are trying to do other work at the same time. "I’ve seen a lot of writers approach artists and say 'Let’s do a 4 issue series'. Now, that’s almost 100 pages you’re asking someone to invest time in which is completely fine but it is a big commitment. Amy does 2-3 pages maybe 8 pages – that’s manageable. And then you put an anthology together with several artists and the reader actually gets a taste of different artists and styles. It benefits everyone I think."
In Girls Night Out #1, there's something for everyone since each story is particularly unique to the assigned artist. It's this uniqueness that Craig liked and it's what ultimately made him stray away from science when he decided to pursue becoming a comic book artist.
"I was into Spiderman as a kid. And then later on, the Image stuff – there were a lot of new artists and people pushing the envelope and they did start to focus on pushing the art around the 90’s. When you see that kind of art, it’s inspiring. I remember when I picked up Wildcats by Jim Lee, I looked at his artwork and thought it was amazing. They got to do their own stuff. And I guess that’s where and why a lot of aspirations are to create something that’s yours – just go with it because you’ll have more fun doing it. That’s kind of the inspiration for a lot of comic book artists. I mean obviously you want to do the Marvel and DC stuff because they’re icons."
Both Amy and Craig agree that any creator who’s doing comic book work now is doing it for the love of it. It's a passion. And this passion exudes from the both of them. Craig especially lights up when he talks about sitting down with his artists tools at hand often thinking, "Yeah, I'm inking Wolverine. Awesome. Yeah that's Spider-Man, awesome!" And even when he's doing his own thing he's content. He loves to illustrate. Simple as that.
For Amy, it's like releasing a demon. "Every day I’m absolutely thrilled when someone says they like my writing because then I’m like, 'That is so cool because I was writing power point presentations for the last 10 years!' I had no idea I could take them and make them into something far more creative. Which is nice and I’m really enjoying it."
So what superpowers do Amy and Craig wish for? Craig was quick to answer with teleportation but quickly reconsidered in case he accidentally teleported himself into something like a wall. Amy likes the idea of invisibility. "But again what if I get run over by a car? Because you’re invisible no one could see you if you’re not careful..." And with a satisfied smile she decided, "It’d be kind of cool though because you can just hang out and not have the kids bother you."
Amy and Craig may not have superpowers but they definitely have a talent for what they do. For all things Amy Chu visit www.amychu.com and www.csyeung.tumblr.com or www.csyeung.devientart.com for Craig Yeung's illustrations and works.