I had the recent pleasure of exchanging emails with Jersey Shore native, now-Chicagoan zinester Meghan Ansbach. I came across her zine “Everything is Better in Chicago” and adored her way of sharing her thought process on the page.
Was “Everything is Better in Chicago” your first foray into zine creation?
I have four printed titles right now, two of them were made for the web first and then formatted for print later, while “Everything is Better in Chicago” was one of the two that were made specifically to be a zine.
How often do you draw?
I draw in cycles. I have a monthly “work night” with friends in which I do a decent amount of sketching, but working two jobs keeps me from being productive on a regular basis. When I am motivated and actively working on a project, though, I will be drawing for three to four hours every evening.
How much revision do you do before publishing/uploading?
Very little. After scanning them I will do a bit of photoshop clean up on any stray lines or obvious errors that I had blacked out on the original artwork, but that is about it. A few years ago I accepted that I can’t focus too much on making everything perfect otherwise I would never finish anything, so while some panels may be a little inconsistent in quality, I decided it’s best to leave them as they are. Otherwise I would do a patch for that panel, realize that the patch panel is better than the rest of the page, then want to patch in additional panels to make the page better, the new patches are better than the original patch so I redo that one, etc. One month will go by and I’m still unhappy.
I love your website! I feel like I’m following this wonderful story-line from “Everything is Better in Chicago” straight through your work up until what you’re putting out now. What is your favorite part of drawing for the internet? What’s the hardest part?
Posting comics on the internet is great because you have that instant gratification anytime it gets a like, reblog, favorite or whatever, but it will never beat the feeling of holding a completed zine in your hands after several weeks of hard work and being able to give it to someone and say “I made this.” But at the same time, not everything you do is something you are happy enough with that you want to put it into print, so the internet is great at just allowing you to create a lot of work and share that work without having to second guess if it’s good enough.
What is the best compliment you’ve received on your work?
I’ve gotten my share of emails from people who have read Everything is Better in Chicago telling me that they related to it, one even said that it had helped them make the decision to finally make a move they had been debating. Being able to relate to others through comics is a big part of why I love autobio comics so much, so being on the other end of these emails really warmed my heart.
Most of what I have seen of your art is autobiographical. Do you think you will do more fictional work at some point?
I’m honestly not sure. Drawing autobio helps me both process my life and helps me to relate to other people. Though not all of my stories have been actual things that have happened, they at least started out as true. I have a long standing joke with one of my coworkers at the comic shop about a favorite X-Men character of mine who was brought back from the dead after 20 years and is barely being used that I want to bring into my own comic as kind of a side kick character, so I guess when that happens I will be officially creating Meghan FanFiction, but maybe it’ll be a stepping stone into actual fiction starring characters that are not myself.
What do you want to work on next?
I recently had a breast reduction and I want to explore it in my next comic. Only a handful of my most trusted friends knew about it and I want to look at all of the weird feelings I had going into the procedure, recovering from the procedure, and then getting on with my life. This will take me awhile to write since I am still going through the recovery phase, but I already have a fun anecdote to throw in there from this past weekend when I literally got dressed in the dark and did not realize that my t-shirt had stretched-out boobs until I was already wearing it at the comic shop. With all of the emotional drama involved, it never occurred to me that my basic t-shirts wouldn’t fit anymore. I don’t know if I am successful with this, but I try to find things in my life that are difficult and find the humorous elements in them.
Who are the artists you most admire?
There are so many! I’ve been reading comics for so long and I admire lots of different artists for lots of different reasons. The artists that are the biggest influence to me are the ones who have simple lines but can still convey emotions and motion. Being introduced to the work of the Hernandez Brothers was a big game changer for me in deciding to start making my own comics, so they are probably my biggest influence.
If your art was an animal, what would it be?
A sea otter! Because I love sea otters and I don’t really know how else to answer this question so I am answering it with my favorite animal. My art does not have an interest in baby seals, though.
What is it like to work at a comic store while creating comics?? Do customers recognize you from the internet?
Not so far. My shop does sell zines and mini comics, but our main business is superhero comics. Which I love. Most of my time at the shop is spent talking about mainstream comic book gossip and sharing my favorite fan art finds from tumblr (I MEAN STOCKING SHELVES AND ENGAGING CUSTOMERS OMG HI BOSS!). Occasionally a customer will purchase one of my comics and one of my coworkers will point out to the customer that I am the creator, and then I will be embarrassed. I’m much better about talking to people about my comics at zine fest than while working.
Is everything still better in Chicago?
Absolutely! I love this city! I went through a rough patch after the move where I couldn’t find a job and spent my days watching Netflix or playing Final Fantasy and questioning every decision I had ever made in my life that brought me to that point, but then things started falling in place with work and friends and all my regrets melted away. I do plan to make a #2 issue that focuses more on the culture clash of Midwest life vs East Coast life that I grew up with, but the idea is currently on the backburner.
Do you have any advice for people who want to get into drawing comics?
Just do it. That sounds kind of lame and trite, but the important thing to know is that there is nothing stopping you from getting started, there is no magical invitation that anyone is going to send you to invite you into the comics club. Never worry that you are not good enough, if you love it and stick with it you will get better. Share your comics with your friends and people whose comics you admire, accept constructive feedback, I have never met someone who will ever discourage you from making comics with the exception of maybe an old fashioned relative who wants to know why you aren’t in the process of making a family instead.
Thanks so much for the interview!