SARI: Well, when we met, Josh was making comics. I always was interested in comics and how they are made. The process is so labor-intensive, and requires this amazing patience and attention to detail. Also, Josh goes through all the parts of the process — from writing scripts, to layouts, to pencils, to inking, to coloring. I immediately loved the rigor and ritual and the attention to detail that is necessary. It helped me organize my own writing process, which in the beginning was much more chaotic. We developed together, working off of each other’s processes.
JOSH: When we met, I had very little confidence as a writer. I had come from this world of genre (superhero) storytelling, but I was no longer interested in those kinds of comics. So I was kind of stuck. Right around that point, Sari and I started living together, and I loved her writing. She was eager for my feedback, and I was eager to learn about the writing process. Over the years, as I edited her writing, and she began to take creative writing more seriously — taking workshops, winning various fellowships, etc. — I learned a lot about story structure from her through osmosis.
We had gone on a long backpacking adventure together — spending 18 months traveling and living abroad — and I think it was when we were living in Prague, the Czech Republic, that we collaborated on a comic for the first time. It was a one-page story about our life in Prague and we actually alternated panels, both doing our own writing, drawing, and coloring! It was the one and only collaboration where we each did the art. The other ones have all been Sari writing and me drawing.
JOSH: I don’t know about that! After all, without the story — even a germ of a story — there’s nothing. You can’t quantify that. But I do agree, given my long history of collaborations, that the actual hours spent at the drawing table far exceed the hours spent at the “word processor.”
Sari & Josh: Well, our process is rather rather simple, if lengthy. We brainstorm a bit about the piece, and maybe some of the “beats” (which are the visual highlights/key moments), and then Sari writes a script, then Josh edits it, and we go back and forth a few times until the script is set. Then, we do the same with the visuals — brainstorm ideas broadly. Finally (and really this is the main part) Josh makes thumbnails, draws & inks by hand the entire comic, scans it into Photoshop, colors it — and then it is published. All of this takes at least several weeks — usually more. Much more. It’s a process of distillation of narrative elements. So it is a collaboration, but also we each work alone on pieces of it.
Josh pencils with a blue Prismacolor, and inks with a Japanese brush pen. He favors 2-ply Bristol paper with a smooth finish. It’s a stubbornly analog process, and very time-consuming — which is one reason why he's recently started experimenting with drawing on a Cintiq graphic tablet, just to see if it could help speed things up a bit…
In addition to our many comics collaborations, we’ve done other projects together, like co-writing a script for a “motion comics” section of a documentary which was eventually aired on ABC. And most recently we co-edited an anthology of linked flash fiction stories that alternates between comics and prose pieces. There are 45 contributors in all, including some big names like Junot Diaz, Lynda Barry, Nick Bertozzi, Jason Little, Jedediah Barry, and Box Brown. Sari worked with the writers and Josh with the cartoonists. And Josh illustrated the cover. It’s called Flashed and it’ll be out this fall from a small press out of Butler University.
Sari & Josh: Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb is the first cartoonist couple that comes to mind. Both are accomplished underground cartoonists in their own right, but there’s something really fun and quirky about their collaborations, which usually take the form of auto-bio snippets from their marriage. Their art styles are wildly different, and they take turns with different panels and so forth. It’s quite unusual. The stories are self-aware, edgy, funny — and you get this real sense of what their unconventional marriage is like!
Jessica Abel & Matt Madden have a couple of notable collaborations, particularly their comics how-to book Drawing Words and Writing Pictures. As with Crumbs, both Matt & Jessica are cartoonists, but unlike the Crumbs, they almost merge their art styles in the book. They did the writing together, and with the various examples of art, it’s often hard to distinguish which of them drew what.
Another creative couple is writer Alan Moore and underground comics artist Melinda Gebbie. They’ve collaborated on a lot of comics over the years, most notably the graphic novel Lost Girls — in which the female protagonists of Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz meet and share sexual encounters!
ArtBlog: Thank you, Sari & Josh, for being so generous and explaining all the hard work that goes into your beautiful creations! For more about them, check out their websites: Sari Wilson. Josh Neufeld.