Exclusive Interview: Nicola Scott
If you follow DC comics you’ve encountered Nicola Scott’s work at some point. Her work drawing Birds of Prey and Earth 2 is only the tip of her career as an artist. We had the chance to sit down and talk with Nicola while she working on commissions at Supanova Perth this past weekend. Audio below, and the transcript follows.
G-Funk: We’re at Supanova 2014, Perth, and we’re with comic artist Nicola Scott. Hello.
Nicola Scott: Hello, how are you?
G: I’m doing well, how are you?
NS: Excellent, thanks.
G: I see you at so many conventions. Do you enjoy coming out?
NS: I do because it gets me out of the house, it gives me a break from drawing the things I’m working on and I get to talk for a while. I get to talk a lot at shows.
G: We see that you talk to everyone who comes up (to the booth) for a long time. It’s good to see a comic artist coming out and interacting on that level.
NS: I try to engage when people start asking questions. I’m a big waffler anyway. When people have questions it tends to be the same three or four questions about getting in to the industry and a lot of them tend to be people who aspire to get in to the industry at some point and there just aren’t that many of us local talent doing what it is they think they want to do. And you know, I’m one of those people. And I like talking a lot. I think they tend to find me to ask me those questions.
G: When I look around – we’re in the ‘comic book alley’ right now with a lot of other artists and writers – you don’t look like the rest of the people sitting here. Do you feel like you stand out a bit in the industry?
NS: Yeeeah, a little bit. I certainly felt it when I was breaking in to the industry. But there are a lot of girls in the industry now, my only difference is that I don’t come from a ‘geek’ background. I was personally a bit geeky because I loved superheroes growing up and I loved science fiction growing up but I didn’t have anyone to share it with. I was my own personal thing. It wasn’t until I got in to comic books that I found my like minded friends. Even to this day I have my comic book friends and I have my other friends.
G: ‘Normal’ friends?
NS: My normal friends, yes. They kinda get what I do but they don’t really get what I do.
G: You’re just an ‘artist’?
NS: Yeah. Well, you know, some of them have kids and some of the kids are geeky and they’re like ‘Ah, right, I’m starting to understand now.’
Hedgie: They knew what you did but they didn’t quite get what you did.
NS: Yeah, completely.
G: The entire shape of what a ‘geek’ is has changed so much in the past decade. Have you seen it change?
NS: Oh, unbelievably. Unbelievably. Even going to somewhere like these Australian shows. Ten years ago there were I think 2 or 3 Supanovas. Now there’s Supanova and Armageddon and Oz Comic Con and there has got to be in total at least a dozen shows a year in Australia. And they’re all ten times the size they were ten years ago.
NS: Yeah, they’re enormous. In spite of there being so many shows they’re all huge, they’re all doing well. I’ve seen San Diego Comic Con, which I’ve gone to every year for over a decade…that has evolved to, partly because of all the media and gaming stuff that has taken over. But the female audience, I think the internet has galvanised this disperate female fans. They’ve all found each other and don’t feel so alone any more and now they’re coming out. I’d say the audience at Comic-Con is almost 50/50.
G: I think it’s more today. We’ve been around the floor and just looking around now I think we’re seeing more girls than boys.
NS: That’s fantastic.
G: It’s brilliant.
NS: I love it.
Hedgie: Particularly the cosplayers.
G: The Cosplayers have done a lot of work.
NS: The cosplay is a great entry point for girls to get into geek culture. They love all the toys and shit. Sorry, I’m swearing now…
G: No, go ahead.
NS: Certainly at San Diego – and people are going to boo and hiss this but it really did change the landscape in a more mainstream balancing way – was when Twilight became a big thing. When Twilight became a big thing it brought in a non-geek girl audience and some of them were only there for Twilight and they didn’t understand anything else. But I would say 20% of that audience, at least 20% of that audience, has started picking up on all this other geek stuff. Now that Twilight has come and gone they’ve found so much more and I feel like that was a really amazing entry point for mainstream girls to find geek interests that they didn’t know existed.
G: They’ve kinda moved on from Twilight to things like Sherlock.
NS: Yeah! And they’ve found fandom as a really fun and exciting social interaction space. I think that is part of what makes the girl numbers so big these days. It’s fantastic.
G: You said that you yourself didn’t come from a geeky background much like some of these new fans. You started out as an actress…
G: What happened there?
NS: It didn’t happen!
G: It just didn’t happen? How did you seque in to comics?
NS: It kinda wasn’t really a seque, it was a total 180. I was training as an actress from quite a young age and my biggest problem was that I always looked about 10 years older than I was. When I was 13 I looked 18…when I was 18 I looked 25…when I was 21 I looked 28 and I was never age appropriate. I never looked like the roles I needed to go for. I would be competing with 28 year olds but I didn’t have the life experience of a 28 year old. Or I’d be competing with 21 year olds for 21 year old parts, but I look like 28 year old…it was just not a great experience. Around about 25…26…27, which is probably when I should have actually been focused on my acting career…I was getting a lot of advertising gigs but that isn’t really acting, it’s more modelling…that’s probably been when I should have knuckled in and taken it seriously but by that stage I felt burned out. I kinda let it die down and I put it in a box and I said ‘I need to rescue my self-esteem, this is a really demoralising business, I need to do something else’. Like all actresses do at the time I was working in hospitality. That was going pretty well but I realised I didn’t want to be doing that the rest of my life and it came down to ‘Ok, I can draw and I can sew, what can I do with those? What can I do with drawing?’ I love drawing but I don’t want to work as a a commercial artist if I have to draw buildings or how to put on floaties for manuals and I didn’t know what I could do that I would enjoy with drawing. I was thinking in my head ‘if I could draw all day, every day, what would I enjoy drawing’. And I thought it would be fun to draw superheroes. As soon as I thought that it was like ‘holy shit there’s a whole industry that’s all about drawing superheroes, it’s drawing comic books. I kinda know what that is – I’m going to do that!’ That was how the decision was made and that decision, literally from that second, propelled me like a bullet out of a gun.
I literally, straight away, jumped in my car and drove to a comic book store. For the first time said ‘I don’t give a shit that I don’t feel comfortable in here, I’m going to make myself comfortable’. I bought a whole lot of books and started asking questions and chatting with the guy behind the desk, and he’s now one of my best friends, and just asking really dumb but beginners questions. Questions I needed to ask just to get to the question. Before a year was out I was going off to Comic-Con in San Diego with the dumbest portfolio ever and still no idea really…
G: I think it paid off!
NS: It has! But that was the thing: I wasn’t going to let myself be beaten down. I was going to treat everything as a learning experience. Just treat the whole thing like an apprenticeship. I had my sights set on DC comics because they had the characters I was familiar with from TV and movies and eventually they became aware of me wanting in. After a few years and a number of other jobs and the small press or the indie press…smaller than DC and Marvel companies…I got my big break.
G: That’s brilliant.
G: I’ve looked at your Birds of Prey work…I’ve got those books…and I’ve seen what you’re doing for commissions. You’ve got Batwoman and you do Wonder Woman quite often. Do feel like you’ve got a bit of a niche there, drawing the strong women?
NS: When it comes to commissions that is more often than not what I get asked to do, I draw a lot of female characters. And that’s fine, I feel like I’m possibly your go-to artist for commissions of non-sexualised female characters. So though most of these commissions are for guys they’re guys who aren’t necessarily looking for the cheesecake. If they were they’d go to a cheesecake artist, they’d go to someone who’s producing that kind of art.
G: Or deviantArt.
NS: Yeah, or deviantArt. I find that tends to be what my commissions are regardless of what book I’m working on. I don’t think I’ve drawn anyone from Earth 2 in a commission for a while. I find myself doing a lot of Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Supergirl and Batgirl and lots of female characters.
G: They’re characters who are performing well right now.
G: Now Earth 2: are you working with Tom (Taylor, writer on Earth 2)?
NS: I am.
G: How’s that going?
NS: Fantastic. I’m currently on issue #26, which is the final issue of the Evil Superman arc. I’m two thirds of the way through. I’m just about to draw…the whole point of the story comes down to 3 or 4 pages. Superman against Superman, and I’m drawing that right now.
G: Any spoilers?
G: I never get spoilers. When you’re done with this, what would be your dream job? If you could do anything you wanted after this book.
G: Retire rich?
NS: That would be nice. I have the opportunity…DC Digital First have started up a new series, or is about to start up a new series called ‘Sensation Comics’, which is a out-of-continuity Wonder Woman story. I’ve been approved to write and draw my own one of those. So I’m plotting out a few ideas to submit. At some point in time, they haven’t announced it yet because they’re a way off yet and they’ll slot me in somewhere, where ever’s appropriate. At some point in the next year or so I’ll do that. It will just be a short thing. And that’s a little bit of a dream project, to do my own Wonder Woman story.
G: And having a lot of control over it?
NS: And having a lot of control over it. Otherwise there’s a few things kinda brewing that smell like they could be dream projects if they come to fruition.
G: If you had total free choice is there one character…
NS: Total absolute free choice my absolute dream project, which I’m hoping to pitch some time…not soon, but some time in the past ten years…is a Wonder Woman origin story. I feel like Batman and Superman get their origins retold on a regular basis. I’ve got one that could be applied to I think almost any continuity or it could stand alone, because it’s about everything before she comes to man’s world.
G: I think fans would jump on that. There’s a real feeling right now that we’re getting Batman and Superman again and again and Wonder Woman’s been put on the sidelines.
NS: A little bit. She’s getting a little bit more play now. She and Superman have a book together. Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette are working on Wonder Woman Earth One, God knows when that’s going to come out. What I’ve seen of it is unbelievably beautiful. That’s currently on the board. Sensation, the Digital First comic, is coming out. There’s another Wonder Woman project that I know about that will be announced, I don’t know, presumably in the next six months. So there’s already a number of specific Wonder Woman things happening, so I don’t want to be pitching this thing when there’s already to much on the slate because they’ll just say no. I’ve kinda gotta pick my time. I’ve gotta be sufficiently entrenched at a particular status in the industry before I’d get a yes.
G: I think we’re on the way.
NS: At some point, yes. Hopefully in the nest ten years I’ll pick my time and I’ll pitch it and they’ll say yes.
G: We’ll start an online campaign for it.
G: I think that if you got a twitter hashtag going it would happen.
NS: Maybe, let’s hope.
G: There’s a crowd forming here, I’m starting to feel bad about it.
NS: That’s OK.
G: We’ll let you get back to your group and thanks for talking to us!
NS: No worries! Thank you, take care.