“I’m Helen, sometimes known online as Jabbage. I’m an educational technologist and illustrator from the UK who loves creating short(ish) webcomics. I love archaeology and the material culture of the past often features in my work.”
What do you do? (Write, draw, edit, publish, promote etc.) How did you get started doing that?
I write and illustrate comics. It’s something I’ve done as long as I remember, probably inspired by my love of Tintin, Asterix and the Beano as a child. Sometimes I’ll still find lovingly stapled sheets of printer paper at my parents’ house covered in difficult to decipher comic panels!
How did you get your start in comics? What was your first project and how did it come about?
Although I’d been a prolific creator as a child/teenager, by my early 20s I’d managed to psych myself out of finishing anything. I got into a mindset where if I wasn’t creating to a perfect, professional standard, my work wasn’t ready to share.
After getting myself into a better place emotionally, I made a new year’s resolution that I was going to create (and FINISH) a 50 page long comic in 2015. At the time I was reading the famous Chinese novel Journey to the West so I wrote a fantasy story set in a similar fantastical Tang Dynasty China, called The Art of Monsters.
Turns out that crafting and finishing short(ish) stories is very addictive, because I’ve been doing it ever since!
(The Art of Monsters even has its own TV Tropes page.)
Any current or upcoming projects we can find you on?
I’m currently working on a comic called Earth in a Pocket. It’s a hopeful sci-fi story about an astronaut who crash lands on a strange alien planet and has to teach the local alien denizens about humanity, armed only with the contents of her pockets.
(Earth in a Pocket is on hiatus until January ’19 but there are still guest posts going live, including this mini-game!)
Do you work solo or do you collaborate with others? If so, what are some of your favorite types of collaboration? (People you’ve worked with, style of creators you get along with etc.)
I’ve generally worked solo on my comics, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a large circle of supporting comics-friends who are ready to give advice, technical help and pictures of cats doing funny things. I recently joined the webcomic collective SpiderForest and I feel so welcome there.
Anyone you’d like to collaborate with some day? Why?
I really love the Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales series which retells folk tales from around the world, I’d love to be involved with a future volume. I’d also love to collaborate with a museum on a project someday, because that would be joining together several of my passions.
What are your favorite genres/styles of comics to work in? Are there any you definitely will not do?
Most of my comics are fantasy, with roots in a time/place which gives me an excuse to research a historical period I’m interested in! I think it won’t be too long before I do a pure historical story.
I’m open to pretty much any genre, but I prefer to make stories that leave the reader feeling hopeful about the future, even in the face of tragedy.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? What is it you hope to accomplish with the works you help foster?
I try to take time to get outside and do things – visit new places, explore new places. This often inspires me to research new topics, and you never know when the spark of a new story will form along the way!
Ultimately I went to leave people entertained, a little bit informed and feeling a tiny bit better about the world than they did before they read the comic – for a short time, at least.
How do you feel about the current comics industry’s state? What gives you hope for the future of comics?
The indie comics scene in the UK is incredibly exciting right now, with so many exciting titles being released by an increasing number of small presses. I went to Thought Bubble (a massive comic convention), for the first time this year and it was incredible to see so much talent finding a home.
Who are some of your favorite/most inspirational characters to read? What about in other media (novels, TV, movies, pop culture)? Why?
I like characters who feel like real, flawed people, but who have deep inner strength. As someone who is small and shrimpy, I get a lot out of seeing characters who look like me being heroic. One of my favourite female characters is Orual from Till We Have Faces, CS Lewis’ most underrated book. She is ugly (disfigured, even) and her life is a maze of mistakes and missteps, but she possesses incredibly tenacity through it all.
Do you have any advice to aspiring creators?
Don’t worry about creating something perfect, or having the most original idea. Just create, and take joy in creating. One day you’ll look back and see things you can be proud of.
What do comics mean to you?
Comics are an exciting, relatively new and fresh way of telling stories. They’re my main creative outlet, so I find creating and reading them really relaxing (except if I’m on a deadline…)