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Indie Comics Spotlight: Artist Liana Kangas loves Jim Mahfood, Final Fantasy, and Aggretsuko
For March, in honor of Women's History Month, Indie Comics Spotlight is dedicated to women creators in indie comics.
A huge fan of manga, anime, sci-fi, and Final Fantasy, artist Liana Kangas published her first official comic in the 2018 anthology Mine!: A celebration of liberty and freedom for all benefitting Planned Parenthood from Com!csMix. She collaborated with writer Pat Shand on a short piece that was edited by Joe Corallo, the co-creator of the award-winning project. She went on to pencil, ink, and color Black AF: Devil's Dye along with writer Vita Ayala. She is now collaborating with Corallo again on She Said Destroy for Vault Comics, a story about a war between Brigid and The Morrigan and the solar system of inhabitants caught in between.
SYFY WIRE recently spoke to Kangas at Emerald City Comic Con 2019 but circled back to get a more in-depth look at what inspires her and her process.
When you were growing up, what were you into more, comics or manga?
I actually read a lot of manga. I read a lot of Clamp stuff. A great art style. I read a lot of free comics that I could get my hands on or really cheap back issues. I was primarily a Marvel kid up until my teenage years. I found Identity Crisis and the Teen Titans runs and I switched completely to DC for quite some time. And then I worked my way through a little bit of anime and horror, and then I found Image and just bought everything they had.
Who was somebody who really influenced you in terms of your creativity?
It was actually Jim Mahfood. I had met him at a con and I'm really in love with his line work. The way he kind of has this very kinetic way of inking. When I met him, he was super-kind to me and he always was super-receptive to people supporting his work. He always inspired me to work in comics in general and [encouraged] a couple of other female artists, too.
Gail Simone was also an influence through her runs of Batgirl and stuff like that.
After the Mine! anthology, did Black Mask Studios come calling right away?
Yeah, kind of. At one of the signings that I was at, I met Sarah Litt, who became my editor on Black AF. She was really cool and we bonded immediately over our hate for Jersey commuting and '80s goth music. I always found her to be a really cool person and when she reached out to me about the project, I was like, "Oh my God, I know you. This is awesome!"
What was it like going from an anthology with one small story to a full comic and working with Vita?
Luckily I had the comfort of knowing Sarah and was already actually friends with Vita so I could ask them for advice. Vita was shepherding me during this entire process and I really got to get comfortable reaching out to other artists, too. Sarah kind of helped me learn a lot of stuff along the way. I think she knew that I was new and that she would help me.
One of the greatest things is we created this really good relationship inside comics and outside, like a friendship. She really mentored me a lot. I should really give her some huge props because I love her. I love you, Sarah.
You have two very distinct color palettes on Devil's Dye vs. She Said Destroy. Did you color both of them? How did you choose your colors?
Even though I color the covers for She Said Destroy, Rebecca Nalty is actually on colors for our interiors — she's incredible (I think she's currently working on GLOW and Xena at the moment, as well!). It's given me a lot more time to focus on my layouts and create more intricate pages, to choreograph more complex scenes, whereas [with] Devil's Dye, I was constantly in a mindset of developing a noir/crime-like setting while keeping in mind that I was inking and coloring my work all the time. Different steps of the process, and just as much fun either way!
Besides your friendship with Joe Corallo, what drew you to She Said Destroy?
I think the challenge of a sci-fi/fantasy book was one of the first things to draw me to the pitch. I love both genres, so it was fun to hash out with Joe what types of approaches we could use to make the book look fluid and organic in that way.
Corallo compared the comic to a war between gods that's a little bit Star Wars and a little Final Fantasy.
Which is your favorite Final Fantasy that's reflected in the book?
We've argued about this a lot. My favorites are Final Fantasy X and XII.
What's your favorite scene in the book so far?
Joe gave me some very fun splash and double-page spreads that allowed me to have a lot of fun playing around with some action scenes that I think a lot of people will enjoy!
What advice do you have for other young artists or writers who are trying to get published in comics? Where should they start?
I think the best way is [to] put yourself out there on social media. Build a little bit of a portfolio for yourself. If you don't know where to start drawing, draw fan art and reach out to creators.
I know my DMs are always open. I'll always be willing to help anyone in terms of questions if they need advice. If I can give any of it, I'll give it, because that's what people did for me. So I want to pass that along as much as possible. But Twitter is such a really cool, very relaxed way to have access to people. Everything's very casual. It's not a professional setting. So it's a great way to connect.
If you had to give 17-year-old Liana some advice, what would you tell her?
I would say stop drinking energy drinks and maybe keep drawing because there was a little bit there where I didn't draw and I just tried to focus on a career and I think that I'm happy with where I'm at and how my life turned out. Even if you're not feeling like you can draw, if you have an art block or anything like that, just draw, just put something out on paper because what you put on paper doesn't have to be the best thing you've ever done. Just put it out there and later you can throw it away if you want, but at least you did it.
What career were you in before?
I worked at a university for about eight years doing student admissions and then I worked in the field of applied behavior analysis. So I did a lot of outreach to teachers and things like that and I was in meetings all the time.
So you were like Aggretsuko with this hidden talent in an office all the time.
Aggrestsuko was totally 1000 percent me. I have never seen an anime as aggressively relatable as that one.