Before heading into the first Comique-Con panel, I sat down to chat (and laugh!) with charming and talented illustrator Marguerite Sauvage (DC Comics Bombshells, 1602: Witch Hunter Angela) to discuss upcoming projects, the comics industry, and what inspires her heart—er, her ART.
You are a multitalented artist with many different creative irons in the fire. Is visual art your favorite medium to work in?
Actually, I love writing, but visual art is what I started with. It’s also a good medium to move from comics to animation to design, so I take advantage of it. Writing, it’s different, especially in English; I write mostly in French, as you may have guessed! (laughs) I love it, but I commit a lot to visual art, so I need to spare time to do more writing. It’s not easy. I have a lot of work!
You grew up in Paris. Was involvement in fine arts automatically part of your upbringing?
Yes, I grew up in the countryside of Paris, in the east; you know the cheese Brie? I grew up amongst the cows that provide you with Brie! (laughs) It’s very different; forests, a lot of agriculture. It’s a nice countryside. Then I moved to Paris to study at the university and stayed for fifteen years. That’s where everything happened; it’s so centralized, so if you want to work in culture and art, move to Paris! I didn’t study art, but in France, the arts are pretty accessible. Lots of museums.
As an illustrator, do you find yourself inspired by other media, such as music or film? What are some of your favorites?
Totally! Every time. David Lynch, Ridley Scott, especially Blade Runner…I love Barbarella; you’ve seen my drawings, everything is very inspired by Barbarella. Alan Parker…I love old US illustration a lot. As far as music, when I was a student it was the trip-hop movement; I love it, it’s so great for the imagination. Very dreamy and dark, but sweet. Music is a big part of my inspiration. For example, I’m currently working on some illustrations inspired by Barbarella, and have been listening to Jefferson Airplane because, you know, it just makes sense!
You’ve stated before that you’ve had no formal artistic training. Do you feel this has allowed you more of a unique/organic perspective as an artist?
I think that I just didn’t have a choice. I didn’t study, so I built my style myself. It’s my own “kitchen,” do you say that? It’s a lot of experimentation. I have been doing it since I was a kid, but sometimes I do miss the fact that I did not attend art school, because in art school you can try different mediums, like graphic art, sculpture…the easiest way to express yourself when you’re a kid is with paper and pencils. Sometimes I think it would have been interesting, and also with art school comes networking with former students, which can be really important. But I have a busy career as an artist, so I can’t complain about not having studied.
With the advent of digital comics and their potential to take comics as a medium to the next level, do you foresee yourself undertaking a digital comic project that could also involve an animated or cinematic bent?
It’s so specific, to be a good animator, and so different. Some people are so gifted that they can do both good illustration and good animation, but I’ve tried to work in animation and for me, I was good at concept design…but I am not an animator. It’s a different job. So I would love to bring sequential art to an upper level thanks to the new media, but I definitely would love to work with some other people to think about the movement and the timing because it is so different. But I think it’s kind of the future of world media. A lot of interesting things are happening.
There are many strong opinions out there regarding variant covers. Some creators and fans feel they are detrimental to the industry. What’s your take?
I’m French, and in France when you do comics it’s mostly creator-owned, and you do your own cover because you are represented. And it took me a lot of time to accept the fact that I’m doing art for someone that is already there as the sequential artist and for me it would have been more legitimate for him to do all of the covers, because he deserves it. But I know that’s not the way it’s working in comics, so I totally accept it; I [make] a point of doing variants because it’s really interesting to [have] some illustrator show their art, because some people are more gifted in color than in sequential, and they are only doing covers. But yeah, for me, it’s still like something coming from outer space! (laughs) So I don’t have that much of an opinion; I’m still thinking about it. I am paid to do variant covers, but each time I’m like, “But why isn’t the current artist doing it?”
Do you prefer to work by digital or more traditional means when drawing?
I miss traditional, but…usually go to digital because time is tight. In comics, I feel like I can go back to traditional, but when I was working in advertising, you have so many iterations to your drawings, and deadlines are so short, so digital was really comfortable…but I am going more and more back to traditional, and would love to do some sequential art in traditional, but I just have to find the time.
2016 marks the emergence of Faith, a new series starring a body-positive, plus-sized super heroine. Can you tell us more about that?
Faith is a new miniseries published by Valiant—I LOVE to work for Valiant! They are so nice and so positive, and so proactive; I love it! The script was written by Jody Houser. I only do the fantasy part [of the art; the upcoming series also features art by Francis Portela], so for me it will only be three pages per issue. It’s Faith’s imagination, because she’s really imaginative, so it’s kind of funny, so I have to draw some kind of crazy scenes with lots of robots! (laughs) I was so happy they asked me to work on this series, because yes, Faith, she’s totally different from this image, she’ s super
positive…totally out of all the cliché. There’s a lot of cliché in the US comics that are accepted. It will be great; it’ll be out in January, five or six issues, I think, but maybe if it’s successful they will keep going.
Do you feel you are partial to taking on projects featuring strong female heroes, or has it just been a happy coincidence?
I’m really happy I work on that, because I know there is a lot of work and progress we have to do— everywhere, not only in comics! (laughs) And it was in part a sort of happy accident…maybe the publisher, they see my heart—my ART—and my characters, they are super sexy and glamorous, but they are not the male gaze cliché. So maybe I would be a good match for a writer like Jody [Houser] or Marguerite Bennett. And there also [seems to] be this movement of putting creative women together to do something. So I got lucky. Bombshells and Faith and Angela are all really, really great.
You mentioned that you’re excited to be part of this movement of women creators. Do you feel that the comics industry is less of a boys’ club now?
Yes, totally. We have a lot of work to do in France as well, in Europe. But I think maybe connections are going to be made between female creators overseas, so it will be nice. Next step: manga! (laughs) Actually, you know, one of the women who pushed me to draw was Rumiko Takahashi…she draws a series you call Lum here in the US. She’s one of the most wealthy manga creators of all time, and she’s a woman! So I think everything comes from her in my heart—in my ART!