Interview with Alison Zai a.k.a frenums

Heyyyy. Remember when I wrote a chunk about frenums’ skeleton comics from tumblr? I also interviewed her a little! Then set it aside to ripen, naturally; we definitely did not forget I had it. No sir.

Alison, or frenums, is a cartoonist of great skill. She’s still a minor. Pretty cool. Pay attention. This short interview is centred around last October’s skeleton comics, but I cant help but share this more recent two-pager as an example of frenums being delightful:



Claire Napier: Did you set out to draw a series, when you made your first skeleton comic?

Alison Zai: No I didn’t, I just thought it’d be a one time thing. But then it got a lot of notes and that meant people liked it right?? So I made more and it became a series.

CN: Why did you pick a skeleton?

AZ: It’s really lame actually. I just saw a skeleton pun (Sherlock Bones) online somewhere, and it was almost october and I was feeling spooky so I just decided to go with it.

CN: Do you think of skeleton as having a gender? Do you consider that at all?

AZ: I see them as guys but it doesn’t really matter. People can leave that up to their preferences.

CN: Why did you choose to post your comics on Tumblr? If this is really obvious, “Because… that’s what you do on tumblr…” that’s 100% fine! All we want to hear is: ~the truth

AZ: Yeah, pretty much that’s what you do on Tumblr!

CN: Do you plan to produce printed collections? Or–do you plan to make more ambitious or longer comics? Do you think print or digital comics are ‘better’?

AZ: The skeletons are retired already, but I do make printed collections for them. I’m foreseeing making better comics in the future involving different topics/characters though. If I had to choose print vs. digital I’d have to say digital because it’s just easier keeping track of them. You can’t lose them or anything, you know?

CN: Do you think of yourself as a cartoonist (or comicker? Comic creator?)? Why, or why not? Would you like to?

AZ: I guess I consider myself as a novice comic creator, but hope I can reach a point where I can call myself an actual cartoonist.

CN: Do you do other types of art or creative writing? Do you relate your comic-making process to any other parts of your life?

AZ: No I’m terrible at creating writing but I paint a little. Usually when I’m coming up with ideas for comics I try to relate them to parts of my regular life (i.e how bright the sun was that day) that other people will be able to relate to.

CN: I know you’re sixteen–are you in school? What sort of arts education have you had? Have you had art lessons that appeal to you? Have you had teachers or librarians who take comics seriously?

AZ: Yes I’m a junior currently. The only art education I’ve had is taking art class electives at my school (since freshman year). I haven’t shown my comics to anyone yet, but if I showed my art teacher there’s a 90% chance he’d take them seriously.

CN: How long does a skeleton comic take you? Do you plan them, or wing it–and do you think about what you’re cartooning, while you’re doing it, in the ways that I wrote about in my analysis of the finished strips? Like, are you thinking “yes this will be funniest because…”, or do you run on punk instinct?

AZ: Usually the whole thing would take me around 10 minutes. Most of them are planned. I think of what I’m making in my head and then I plan the frames out/different scenarios/what the skeletons are going to say/etc. I definitely rely on my instinct/gut, whatever you call it, to tell me how funny it’ll be. Like, sometimes I’ll be thinking for a while and a great idea just comes to me, like this is absolutely perfect. And other times I have an idea but it just feels flat, and I get artist’s block which sucks, so I just watch Netflix until something happens.

CN: Finally: who are your art, comedy or storytelling heroes?

AZ: There are lots of artists I look up to, and I’ve mostly found all of them from Tumblr. I really love the stuff that natazilla, gingerhaze, kate beaton, gunshowcomic, hairandglasses, misterhayden, c&h, and choodraws do. Just to name a few.


Claire Napier

Claire Napier

Critic, ex-Editor in Chief at WWAC, independent comics editor; the rock that drops on your head. Find me at and give me lots of money