The Secret Origin of MEGAN HUTCHISON

Megan Hutchison
Credit: Megan Hutchison

Rockstars artist Megan Hutchison is returning with a new creator-owned series later this year that she describes as a “stone-cold bummer” – and she’s working with writer Donny Cates, whom she recently married.

Hutchison, who joined the comics industry after years in the TV industry, has spent the two years since Rockstars‘ end developing her skillset. She’s drawn covers for Valiant, band posters for Metallica, and has been developing her creator-owned project with Cates.

Ahead of this series’ impending announcement, Newsarama caught up with Hutchison to talk about her background, how she’s adjusted to comics, and teases her and Donny’s upcoming project.

Credit: Megan Hutchison

Newsarama: Megan, let’s start out slow – what are you working on today? What’s on your art table?

Megan Hutchison: I’ve been working on some of my own art and doing some workshops – taking some time for myself to grow as an artist. I’ve also been working on some covers – my favorite involves a very sexy lady fighting vampires. I’ve also had fun designing a tour poster for one of my favorite metal bands, Metallica.

Nrama: What’s your mediums like – physical versus digital, but also in physical like paints?

Hutchison: I like both physical and digital – they both have their pros and cons. My ideal way of working is to digitally draw up my pencils so I can mess with them and be a little more loose. Then I print them out and ink over them usually via light box.

For comics I do just black and white ink and washes but like to use guache for my personal work. I also love using oil paints when I have time for personal work. I think it’s important for artists to switch things up.

Nrama: Right now you’re between projects after Rockstars wrapped up in 2017. Rockstars was your longest work in comics to date, at 8 issues. What do you think you learned from that project?

Hutchison: We ended at 10, but printing has been held up. Going from graphic novels to ongoing was a steep learning curve but also taught me a lot, both in drawing on a deadline and also how to narratively construct a short story on an ongoing bases. Being on a monthly schedule forces you to grow as an artist – you have to work though creative blocks, bad drawing days, etc. so that you can hit your deadlines.

Credit: Megan Hutchison (Image Comics)

Nrama: As you mentioned, before Rockstars you primarily did OGNs, such as Aurora Grimeon. After doing OGNs and single issues, and even short stories here and there, what do you like about each format?

Hutchison: Every format is different. I love OGNs because I think that’s where my heart is – a long format, tonal piece. I come from film making PI was a production designer for film, tv and music videos for 13 years before going into comics full-time) and I come from the art-house film world of long format, singular-vision format.

That’s what OGN’s feels like to me.

A beautiful, purified, original vision told in a finite timeframe. However there is room for everyone. Short form and anthologies are the snippets of life: the thoughts, the ideas. Like the doodles in the artists sketchbook.

Then you have the monthlies. I worked in syndicated TV — the most arduous of the narrative form. Day in, day out of the same schedule but new sets, new characters and you get to form a family with the people you’re working with. You become better at your job on this day-in-day-out job. You hit your stride. Some days it’s soul sucking but most days it produces the best work you’ve done. There is so much passion there because that’s where you’re investing most of your life. That being said – every story has its best visual format. Some stories are ongoing, some are shorts and some are OGN’s – it depends on what necessitates the story.

Credit: Megan Hutchison (Valiant Entertainment)

Nrama: What led you to segue from TV/film into comics?

Hutchison: TV/film and comics have a lot in common – they’re both visual narrative long-forms. Ive  always wanted to be in comics so when the opportunity arose I took it. In comics you get to be the screenwriter, director, cinematographer, set designer, etc. With less people telling you what to do. [Laughs] Comics are a purer form of storytelling in my opinion. However my experience in the film industry has helped me become a better visual storyteller.

Nrama: What kind of TV/film work did you do?

Hutchison: Oh boy! It’s nice that when you work in the commercial side of production you remain anonymous however, I’ve art directed plenty of cereal and Target commercials (I ended up with a crate of Grapenuts in my apartment after a job). But for my TV and film, I’ve done some “interesting” movies [not porn, I swear] that you can find on Netflix via my IMDB page. I did CSI for a stint, a few pretty watchable horror films and some music videos that were so much fun (one in which I met fellow writer, Amanda Dilbert, who has since become a good friend).

Nrama: And would you ever go back to TV/film, for the right opportunity?

Hutchison: I would but not in the production side, probably in the development end.

Nrama: What lessons from TV/film do you think have been the most helpful to you in comics?

Credit: Megan Hutchison (Valiant Entertainment)

Hutchison: Patience, hard work ethic, knowing the the world is not on fire so relax and get your shit done.

Nrama: Having done all three major comic forms now – shorts, ongoing, OGNs, how early on in coming up with ideas for comics do you denote what the length of it is?

Hutchison: The writer and I usually designate at the beginning of the project the length that it will be. I think certain stories work really well as an OGN while others would do better as ongoing. It depends on the story so I usually take it on a case by case basis — kind of like “this would make a better movie” vs. “this would be a great TV show.”

Nrama: You’ve teased here and there about what your next big project is – can you tell us anything about it here?

Credit: Megan Hutchison

Hutchison: Well, my hubby [Donny Cates] and I have been developing a story together for over a year. I’m probably going to leak you some very early concept sketches of it. I’ve actually been writing a lot more and putting some pitches together, and Donny and I have been branching out into different media. But as for our comic, all I can say is that it’s for Image, it’s a six-issue mini-series and we’ll be announcing it all very soon (it takes place underwater and it’s a stone-cold bummer – think The Road but the kid is already dead.)

Nrama: What’s it like creating a project while being so close, physically, to the other person you’re working with? This isn’t just emails online, or sharing a studio, but you’re sharing your lives together – and doing comics together.

Credit: Megan Hutchison

Hutchison: It’s a balancing act but it really helps that we can very easily communicate with each other. We were given advice from Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner about living and working with your collaborator. They very wisely said, get separate offices and make time for each other outside of work. We’ve devised a system where we email and/or message each other when giving notes and if we have questions, we schedule time to do it. Then at the end of the day we clock off and there’s no more work talk.

Nrama: When do you estimate this will begin being released?

Hutchison: I’ve already started. First issue march-ish.

Nrama: In re-reading your work for this, I notice you continually drawn to music – Rockstars, and doing the Clan of Xymox story for Liberator. What is it about music that draws you to… well, drawing it?

Hutchison: I started playing music when I was 5 (maybe younger?) through singing and piano. Now I sing, play bass and keys with Donny, who also sings and plays guitar and drums (really well). Joe Harris is also a guitarist which I feel is apparent in Rockstars – he is old-school area rock nerd. Donny is into hip-hop and metal and I’m the in-between from Enya to Mayhem. I think at the end of the day, we all love music and want to express it how we can.

Credit: Megan Hutchison

Nrama: Where do you see yourself in five years, professionally?

Hutchison: Are you my mother?!? [Laughs] Honestly, I’m a weirdo goth kid from Cali – I see us with our child making TV shows, writing and drawing weird-ass comics, both indie and Big Two. I want to write and draw the stories that I wanted to read as a girl – I am going to make those stories for our kid.

But in the short term, I’m going to continue growing as an artist as well as write and illustrate a dope-ass, fucked up horror book and make everyone read it.

Nrama: You mention horror – what scares you in fiction? What are your go-tos?

Hutchison: My favorite stories are ghost stories. I listen to ghost podcasts all the time and freak myself out. I also drag Donny on ghost tours whenever we’re visiting a new city (which he is not that keen on). I’m also fascinated with serial killers – I’m working on something involving all of these elements at the moment and will probably be the next thing that I write and draw.

Credit: Megan Hutchison (Valiant Entertainment)

Nrama: What’s one thing you wish you knew five years ago that you know now, in terms of comics – the business or the format?

Hutchison: Well, shit. I didn’t know this was a thing five years ago. Sometimes I want a time machine to go back and go to art school and learn everything I’m learning now. But everyone has their own path – some people went to art school, some people started writing yesterday. I hesitated making my own comic for so long because I thought it was too late, but it’s never too late. That would be my advice.

Nrama: Last question – what excites you about doing comics these days?

Hutchison: All of comics excites me right now. I wanted to draw and write comics my whole life. I found the love of my life thought comics. My best friends are because of comics. They’re fun and challenging and support a community full of wonderful misfits.

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