ComicsVerse: Hey everybody this is Brian from ComicsVerse, we’re coming to you today from FlameCon and I’m sitting down today with artist Sophie Campbell. You may know her work from books like GLORY, from various TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES books, including the main line and some of the spin-off mini-series. You may also know her original graphic novels WET MOON and SHADOWEYES, and you may, of course, know her from her work on JEM.

Sophie, how are you doing today?

Sophie Campbell: Good, thanks for having me.

CV: No problem, no problem. How’s the convention been for you so far?

Campbell: Good, I’m sold out of almost all my stuff already.

CV: Nice, always a good feeling.

Campbell: Yeah, that’s awesome.

CV: I feel like right now licensed comics are having something of a renaissance, and I think your work on books like JEM are a good example of that. I say to people you come in, you take pre-existing characters, and you kinda sprinkle Sophie Campbell magic on them, and you reinvent them for a new generation.

So I wanted to start out by asking, how do you make original properties that already exist your own and put your own unique spin on them?

Campbell: I don’t really have a particular process, like, I just kind of like do my thing, I guess, and whatever, like, strikes me in the moment…or a core idea about the character, like Glory. Which is like, she’s like…an Amazon alien or something so she should be gigantic.

CV: That’s one of my favorite things about your design of Glory is that, in the first issue, she literally punches a tank, and the way you draw her she looks like “oh yeah, she could punch a tank.” So I think that’s really spectacular. And when you started out as an artist, when you were young, were you doing what you do now, which is reinvent characters, or were you doing more of your own original work and it just kind of evolved to where you are now.

Campbell: Yeah, mostly original. GLORY was in 2011,I think, and that was the first licensed thing I ever did. Yeah, so it was like…six years of my original stuff and then GLORY.

CV: When you are doing your original stuff one of the things I really like about them is, and you do this in JEM as well, and it’s part of the reason why I think JEM became so popular, is you do a really great job with body diversity.

Campbell: Yeah.

Truly Outrageous: Sophie Campbell’s redesigns for IDW’s JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS

CV: Which seems like it should be something that everybody does, but when you come in and do it, it’s something a lot of people take notice of. Is that something that just comes to you naturally as an artist, or is that something that you really sat down one day and said “you know what, I really need to make a push for this in my art.”

Campbell: I think both. When I was first starting out, I was trying to do different body types and, like, I don’t think I was very good at it at first, and it’s just one of those things, like I just wanted to push body types and faces and make each character different, y’know. And it’s, like, partly like a social thing and partly so I don’t get bored. Y’know? If I’m just drawing the same—

CV: Drawing the same body over and over—

Campbell: Right, same body, same face, it’s just like [groans].

CV: So when you got the job for JEM was that something that they said “we want you to do this” or were you like “well, I’m going to have to do this because this is what I do.”

Campbell: Yeah, yeah like they just hired me and I was just like…I don’t even remember…we had some brief talks with our editor, and then I just kinda like went to the drawing board, and y’know, like here are the designs and they didn’t have any changes or anything.

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CV: It’s great to hear there was no push back.

Campbell: Yeah, and that was it.

CV: It’s funny because when you got the job on JEM, I mostly knew you mostly from GLORY. So when they were like “Sophie Campbell’s working on JEM.” I’m like “Is JEM gonna get super violent now?” Like the Misfits are really going to go all out on Jem. So I wanted to talk to you a little about that because one of the pages that really stands out to me in GLORY is a fight scene between Glory and her sister-

Campbell: [laughs] That’s a good one.

CV: -and they’re both about to punch each other and their arms just explode on impact.

Campbell: [laughs] Yeah.

Campbell’s incredible fight scene from GLORY

CV: And it’s funny talking to you because you’re such a nice person it’s like “how could you come up with that?” But I want to know, when you [draw] a scene like that, how much of it is stuff you get from the script and how much is your own imagination going crazy?

Campbell: It’s both. The arm thing was Joe [Keatinge, writer of GLORY]. Joe wrote that in. So, y’know, yeah, I just drew that. But there’s some other stuff, like, one of my favorite panels, I can’t remember which issue that it’s in, but they’re fighting, like, a bunch of monsters or whatever, and there’s a panel where Glory’s got this, like, werewolf guy or something. And she’s, like, biting his face off.

CV: I remember that [laughs]

Campbell: That was all me.

CV: That’s incredible. Do you ever find it challenging to…draw action and motion? Because you are working in a medium that is all static images. Do you ever find it really challenging to convey motion? I think you do a really good job at it, but I’m always impressed when artists are able to do that because essentially you’re just looking at a series of still pictures.

Campbell: Yeah, I struggle with action a lot. I feel like it’s weird, like, the kind of like bombastic stuff is, like, easier for me…like Glory like punching and crazy stuff…but a lot of the stuff you don’t really think about like walking.

CV: Really?

Campbell: Or just like running.

CV: It’s not enough to just put the two legs in front of the other for you?

Campbell: Yeah, it has to look, like, a certain way or it just looks like stiff or you don’t know what you’re doing or like you don’t know how legs go.

Campbell’s creator-owned SHADOW EYES

CV: Well, with characters like the Ninja Turtles or like the various monsters you’ve drawn over your career do you find it’s easier to draw motion with them because there’s really no frame of reference?

Campbell: Yeah, like I can draw the Turtles in my sleep. I can draw them walking. I can draw them walking. I can draw whatever you need and, yeah, because you can fudge it a little bit because they don’t have to look totally real.

CV: Was it kind of surreal to you to go from doing books like SHADOWEYES and WET MOON which have fantastical elements to them, but also have a lot slice of life elements to them, to doing huge things like Ninja Turtles and Glory?

Campbell: Well, Ninja Turtles was pretty easy.

CV: [laughs] There are so many artists out there who are probably very envious of your ability to say “yeah I just kinda sit down and do it.”

Campbell: Yeah, well I’ve been drawing Turtles since I was, like, nine, so I had a lot of practice.

CV: Touché, touché.

Campbell: But yeah, with GLORY, when they first approached me to do it…I was like, “Are you sure you want me to do this?”

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CV: What was your hesitation?

Campbell: Because like…okay so I’m friends with Brandon Graham [writer/artist of KING CITY and PROPHET] and he’s…like built my career. All the biggest jobs I’ve gotten were because of him. And so…they were putting together the new Extreme stuff. And apparently, y’know, he suggested me to Joe Keatinge and Eric Stephenson, and then he and Joe emailed me and…I had this moment where I thought it was a joke. Like, why are you coming to me with this?

CV: Because before that you had primarily done your creator-owned stuff.

Campbell: Yeah, GLORY was my first licensed thing ever, and y’know, like, I had never read the original comics, but I kinda knew what they were about…I was just like, yeah, I’ve never really done an action comic—

CV: And I don’t think there’s anyone with more different styles than you and Rob Liefeld [original artist and creator of GLORY]. No offense to Rob Liefeld, but you have very different styles.

Campbell: Yeah, it’s very different. And y’know I’d done some self-published stuff. My comic MOUNTAIN GIRL, which is, like, bombastic, like heavy metal fantasy kind of action…not the magazine, like the music, kind of action. So I was like, “Well, I can draw muscles but it just seems like I’m not the right artist for this.” But 2010 was my worst year financially…so I basically had no choice to take GLORY or get a regular job.

CV: And now looking back on it…definitely worth it.

Campbell: Yeah, Rob Liefeld, y’know, saved me from financial ruin. I remember getting the first script from Joe and it was like “Panel 1: A gigantic battle,” and was like, “Oh my God, what am I doing?”

CV: [laughs] Here we go.

Campbell: One of the first things that I asked Joe to put in the script was Glory punching a tank.

CV: So that was your idea?

Campbell: Yeah, that was my idea.

CV: I feel like that sets the tone for everything that’s going to come.

Campbell: But then, like, when I got to it, to draw it, I was just like “I don’t know how to draw a tank!” I had never drawn a tank before. I’ve never drawn any military stuff.

I like it when Glory punches the tank (panel from GLORY #1)

CV: Do you have to do a lot of research for that kind of thing or do you just kind of draw what you imagine a tank would be?

Campbell: Well, I looked up a lot of World War 2 stuff, and I found…I use SketchUp a lot, and so, like, I found a tank model for this…I can’t remember what type of tank it was, but like this specific type of German tank. And I took the model in SketchUp and I, like, cut it up…to make it all smashed up or whatever—

CV: Because she just punched it.

Campbell: And I just bring it into Photoshop and I just trace it…and I’ll change stuff where I need to.

CV: So, you’ve done work now as both an artist and a writer, what do you find is the most challenging process between those two? Do you prefer writing or do you prefer drawing? Do you feel there’s one that comes easier to you?

Campbell: Usually I prefer writing…but I think most people say that I’m a better artist than a writer.

CV: Why do you say that?

Campbell: Well, I’ve heard that from people before…my writing is kind of meandering. It’s not really very plot heavy—

CV: That’s okay though.

Campbell: Yeah, that’s my favorite thing. To, like, come up with the characters and, like, figure out who they are and, like, what they say and how they talk and all that stuff. When I do licensed stuff, I really try…to get my fingers into the story or script stuff like that.

CV: And give flourishes like she’s gonna punch a tank.

Campbell: Right, yeah, and sometimes there’s clashes or whatever, but like most of the time it’s been pretty good with writers letting kinda, like, letting me get in there.

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CV: Do you think being both a writer and an artist gives you something of an advantage when you’re doing your own work because you can visualize…”I know exactly how this is going to look on the page as I’m writing it?”

Campbell: Maybe. I mean, when I write scripts for myself there’s, like, no description because I know what it looks like in my head—

CV: So you can probably get through it a little bit quicker.

Campbell: Yeah…no panel descriptions for the artist…my script is pretty much just dialogue, almost. Or, like, y’know, “shot of so-and-so’s head” or like “so-and-so walking” or something. It’s, like, really simple…I don’t know if I have a particular advantage…maybe there is, but, like, I’ve never not been a writer so I don’t know if, like, just artists, like, struggle with things or if…they kinda balance it out so they’re perfectly fine.

CV: Well, speaking of your work as a writer, your graphic novels WET MOON are getting reprinted, is that correct?

Campbell: Yep.

Cover for Sophie Campbell’s WET MOON Vol. 1

CV: And I was wondering, you did those back in 2004, 2005?

Campbell: It started in 2005, yeah.

CV: That’s more than ten years ago now. So as the reprints are being made, have you had a hard time looking at them since you’ve evolved as an artist.

Campbell: [Groans] Oh yeah, absolutely…I try not to edit. I try not to edit things.

CV: You don’t want to be like George Lucas and, like, do a “special edition.”

Campbell: Well, not so much that, it’s because it’s like a rabbit hole…y’know George Lucas’ edits on the STAR WARS stuff is terrible and stupid, but, like…I totally get where he’s coming from. I totally get it. Y’know, he thinks that stuff is great, which is fine. And I’m sure if I…edited a bunch of stuff, like, there’d be fans who are like “why did you change that? The old one was better.” I feel like they’re always going to say the old one is better.

CV: That’s what you know.

Campbell: Right. I try to avoid that stuff, stick to mistakes that were made the first time around…I am doing some edits on volume three though, so we’ll see how it goes.

CV: As long as someone doesn’t shoot first…

Campbell: Yeah, it’s nothing huge, just like artwork stuff.

CV: How would you sell WET MOON to people who maybe only know your work from, say, a book like JEM?

Campbell: I usually say it’s like TWIN PEAKS with teenagers…and if they don’t know TWIN PEAKS…it’s like slice-of-life, college town, sleepy South, kinda stuff like that. With this seething underbelly.

CV: So I have two final questions for you. One is like a serious question, one is a little bit more of a light question. Which one do you want first?

Campbell: Let’s do serious first.

CV: Okay, serious, so we’re at FlameCon right now. This is a convention that is specifically catered to the LGBTQ community aspect of comic book fandom. What do you feel like is the state of gay representation in comics right now…or I should say LGBTQ representation in general.

Campbell: I feel like the mainstream/indie divide has been, like, blurring over the years a little bit.

CV: What do you mean by that, if you don’t mind me asking.

Campbell: I remember there was always, like, “well, the mainstream does this and the indie does this,” like [publishers] Oni and Slave Labor…but I feel like Image has kind of blurred it a little bit. There’s a lot of creators who go back and forth between these two groups…there’s a lot more mingling. I feel like webcomics are the “new indie.” And I feel like you almost can’t talk about them in the same conversation because they’re so different…I think gay and LGBT and trans representation is, like, dynamite in webcomics, but, like…on the other side of the spectrum, it’s…still kinda, slowly catching up, I guess. I don’t really read, like, Big Two comics [Marvel and DC Comics], but I’ll catch wind of things. It still seems pretty bad to me.

CV: It’s definitely not as good as it could be.

Campbell: Yeah, or…I’ll hear stuff like…I’m trying to think of something recent…I can’t even think of anything.

CV: Well, there tends to be issues where characters who are implied to be gay suddenly get erasure by people in the higher-ups…like I remember there was a controversy with Hercules at Marvel—

Campbell: Yeah, I remember that.

CV: Yeah, where it was implied in one issue that he might be bisexual and then someone in the higher ups was like “no, that’s not the case” and that caused an uproar.

Campbell: And y’know, they never headline their own books. They’re always like “Batgirl’s gay friend,” “Batgirl’s trans friend.” It’s always like that.

CV: Do you think that, in order to get us moving forward, we need to have those kinds of characters in the forefront more?

Campbell: Yeah, definitely. I think there just needs…I was on this diversity panel yesterday, and, like, one thing I was talking about, there just needs to be more. Like, good or bad,  just more. Because…with, like, straight, cis, white characters it’s like you can make, like, a bad comic, or, like, a bad movie-

CV: And it’ll probably still make money, unfortunately-

Campbell: Or, like, if it fails, nobody’s gonna be like “oh no we couldn’t make white guy characters anymore.” And…y’know, queer characters…it’s not there yet.

CV: It’s like an entire community rides on one character.

Campbell: Right, yeah, and, like, they’re all, like under a microscope…there needs to be more. There needs to be… enough queer characters where we can get, like, a queer comic that’s just, like, “Man that was garbage…but then there’s this one which is really good.” Yeah, just more of everything.

CV: I think that’s a very good observation. More of everything.

Campbell: Yeah, more of everything.

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CV: Okay, so now the less serious question. And I follow your tumblr, so I think this might be a tough one for you. So who wins in a fight? Glory or Gamera?

Campbell: Well, why do they have to fight?

CV: [Laughs]

Campbell: Because they’re both good guys!

CV: I don’t know. Something happened. One’s under mind control. Something happened.

Campbell: Well…I’m going to have to say Gamera because, like, Glory was kinda my baby or whatever, but Gamera was my first love before Glory, so…

CV: Great! This was wonderful, thank you so much for taking the time-

Campbell: Yeah, thank you so much.

CV: Before we go, do you have any things you wanna let people know about that you’ve got coming out soon that you want to plug?

Campbell: I don’t think I have anything coming out until January, so that’s kind of a ways…

CV: Is it top-secret? We’re not allowed to talk about it yet?

Campbell: No, it’s [TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES] #66, of the ongoing for IDW.

CV: You’re back on the main series for a little bit?

Campbell: Yeah, just for one issue.

CV: Oh cool, can you tell us a little about it?

Campbell: Yeah, it’s about Alopex, the fox character and she leaves the city, she was, like, brain washed in the last story. And she leaves the city to kinda, like, overcome this, like, magical brain washing or whatever and she goes back up to Alaska. Should be pretty cool.


CV: That sounds like it’ll be awesome. Where can people find you on social media if they want to follow you?

Campbell: I’m at mooncalfe1 at Twitter, mooncalfe.tumblr.com, mooncalfe-art at tumblr.com.

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