Ashley McCammon is a New Jersey native currently living in Texas. She makes Obelisk – a lesbian romance/gothic horror comic set in 1900s New York.
Synopsis: In 1908 New York City, Evelyn Reuter has inherited her father’s business in the wake of his death. Struggling to balance her new responsibilities with simmering grief and resentment, she finds a companion in Margot- a mysterious antiques shopkeeper with a dark secret of her own
Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I went to Pratt Institute and majored in Illustration! My education was heavily focused on graphic design/advertising, and often discouraged me from treating comics as a job. I’m very thankful for the handful of illustration and sequential art professors that had my back, but it’s definitely fair to say a great deal of my comics knowhow is hard won and self-taught.
What genre(s) apply to Obelisk?
Gothic horror, lesbian romance, historical fiction
What was your inspiration for the story?
Obelisk is heavily inspired by my love of classic film, and Universal Monster movies in particular. I consider the aesthetic of the comic to be a combination of black and white film and the red paint blood of later horror movies, such as the Hammer Horror Dracula series. For a specific event though, in 2015, after doing a great deal of female monster drawing for Inktober, I went looking for a lesbian vampire story and found myself dissatisfied with what was already out there – so I set out to make my own!
How long does it take for you to complete one page?
I work in batches of 2-4 pages at a time, but averaged out, one page takes me roughly 6 hours from start to finish. That doesn’t include thumbnailing or editing time, which are often their own whole days of work!
Do you have any favorite artists who influenced your style?
Petra Nordlund (creator of the webcomic Tiger, Tiger), Emily Carroll and Alexa Sharpe all come to mind! I’m a sucker for black and white and limited palette work, horror elements and compositions full of movement and flow!
I also wouldn’t be making the work I do without a lot of movie influences – Akira Kurosawa is a big one, as was Universal’s Dracula and Todd Browning’s other movie, Freaks. It’s hard to break down just how much film has influenced my whole approach to comic-making!
What is your process like for creating comic pages? What tools do you use?
I’m a traditional media artist to a fault! Obelisk is drawn on bristol paper with colored pencil (I find them easier to parse against black ink than regular pencils, so I use colored pencil exclusively these days!) and inked with a combination of brush and fountain pens filled with carbon ink. I tone the comic with Copic markers and the occasional ballpoint pen accent. As mentioned, I work in batches, and typically will sketch all of the pages before moving onto inking them, and so on!
How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
I’m not any good at sitting on projects for long without starting them, so I started creating pages within a couple months of having the idea! I drew the 10-page prologue in late 2015/early 2016 as a submission to Hiveworks – I had been very accustomed to making short horror comics for anthologies at that point, so that first chunk was planned almost as its own miniature scary story.
I began chapter 1 and the comic proper shortly after that. I really only had a core cast of characters, a main goal of lesbian vampire romance, and a few vague scenes and aesthetic cues at the back of my mind. I spent a full year drawing the comic before launching it in February of 2017!
I’d like to think I’m a little better at looking before I leap now – I work with a rough, flexible story outline, writing each chapter more specifically as I come to it, and I keep certain vital emotional beats and themes in mind as I go. I feel like webcomics are bound to change and grow as you work on them, they take so long – so I don’t try to hammer out every last detail far ahead of time.
How long do you plan on Obelisk being? Do you have a definitive ending in mind or do you plan on going for as long as you have ideas?
I don’t have a specific page count in mind, but the comic does have definitive ending in its future!
What was the biggest hurdle you faced during the course of making Obelisk? If you could go back in time to the point where you just started making it and give yourself a pep talk, what would you say?
Honestly, figuring out my own pacing and workflow has been the most difficult thing! It’s easy to dive headlong into a project and think you can hit updates every week, but making a webcomic is an intense marathon, and life often gets in the way. I would probably tell myself to slow down, be more willing to ask for help, and worry less about analytics (and maybe make that buffer a little bit longer, to start with…)
What is your favorite part about working on Obelisk?
Beyond the parts I love about my process (inking is my favorite, surprising no one), I love introducing people to this historical setting and showing that queer people existed and found joy in older times. The comic may have its surreal elements, but I still fully intend for it to take place in the real world, and I’ve done a great deal of research to maintain that feeling, and to represent what I’ve learned about real LGBT people who were around in the 1900s. Connecting to readers through that, and sharing my passion for historical detail is really important to me.
What is your LEAST favorite part about working on Obelisk?
I try to love the whole process, because I’m pretty stuck with it, but I’d love to have someone else do all my editing and post production for me one day…
Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
Both Margot and Eve are fascinating to write and bounce off of each other – which is great, because they’re the main focus of the comic! As much as they may seem at odds initially – and Margot of course has the whole secret monster thing going on – they have some really intense similarities that will surprise both of them.
In her own right, too, Eve is a character I relate to immensely – she’s been thrust into responsibilities she has to figure out how to handle, all while dealing with grief and her own emotional/mental issues. Figuring out how to get her to take action instead of stewing internally is a constant challenge to meet, and often a fun one!
Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
On the other side of the coin, Margot can be really difficult to write. Getting into her head and empathizing with her feelings is a whole process for me. She’s a character that’s hiding a great deal from the audience for the early half of the comic, which makes her sort of a mystery even to me at times.
She has different priorities and a very different view of herself and her place in the world than any other character, being a vampire with all her lived experiences – it makes her more distant to me, as the author. Making sure she can be scary and inhuman, while also being human *enough* to be relatable, is constant a balancing act!
Do you have a favorite character to draw?
I love all of them, but Margot gets the coolest atmospheric scenes, and is a great excuse to draw spooky vampire art!
Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
Dean always feels a little inconsistent whenever he turns up. I’m sorry, Dean! I’ll do right by you one day…
Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
If Obelisk’s world and its details interest you, I share a lot of my research and cool historical finds with Patrons on our Discord server! I’m also pretty active on social media, so don’t be afraid to say hi!
Have you read Obelisk yet? Let us know what you think in the comments! Or, hey, go to the creator’s site and show some love ?
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