Moriah Hummer 00:00
Strong or cool or quirky. There’s so much more that you can do once you’ve stopped just honing in on this one thing, on this one way to draw women.
Nick Armstrong 00:11
I’m Nick Armstrong, the lead organizer of Fort Collins Comic Con. On this episode of the Fort Collins Comic Con podcast. We get to hear from Moriah Hummer, who is the creator of Flat Track Furries. She’s had her artwork on display at the Lory Student Center at CSU. Let’s hear directly from Moriah.
Moriah Hummer 00:27
Hi, everybody. I’m Moriah Hummer. I am the writer, illustrator, creator – I just do it all – for a comic called Flat Track Furies. It’s a series that centers around a group of women who play roller derby and they fight monsters and crime in their strange town. They’re just a bunch of really cool, strong ladies. All of my main characters are women and girls, because I think that that’s super important. That’s basically me in a nutshell.
Nick Armstrong 01:00
You’re in roller derby in real life, right?
Moriah Hummer 01:03
That is true. It is autobiographical. I definitely play roller derby and I fight monsters and crime.
Nick Armstrong 01:10
I was gonna ask. That was my next question.
Nick Armstrong 01:15
No, I don’t fight monsters and crime. But yes, I am a roller derby player. And I’ve played roller derby for about six years.
Nick Armstrong 01:23
What has been the biggest influence on your comic?
Moriah Hummer 01:27
Honestly, this is gonna sound super vapid. But, my biggest influence is myself. And I know that that sounds weird. But if I think about who I was before I started playing: I was very insecure, I was very quiet, I didn’t speak my mind, I just wasn’t very confident. And after I started playing, I really started to get that confidence. I became a much stronger person. I became more courageous. I was willing to try new things. It opened up this new world to me. When I think about the journey that my characters are going through, I feel like each one of them is a little piece of myself. I don’t know if that’s a crazy answer. It’s very reflective of just being being a young woman and growing into yourself.
Nick Armstrong 02:31
It’s an honest answer. Are your characters based on other people that you know in your life? Or are they more just reflections of you?
Moriah Hummer 02:44
There’s probably truth in both of those things. It’s definitely reflective of me and issues that I’ve had, things that I’ve learned growing up, and those are some of the important lessons that I have in the comic or, things that I have learned and struggles that I’ve gone through, that some of my characters go through.
Moriah Hummer 03:05
I do remember, when I was thinking about Volupciraptor – about Val – I really had this certain person in mind. As I was drawing her, she’s very reflective of somebody that I know that I wish had a stronger voice, but who hasn’t really grown into that yet and really does take take her cues from other people. Val is definitely based off of somebody that I that I know and love.
Nick Armstrong 03:43
When it comes to your art: it’s been shown in galleries, you have local shows, how did you get started?
Moriah Hummer 03:54
First of all, you’re making me sound like I have my stuff together, which I definitely do not. Honestly I just got started by, and this is how everybody has to get started, you start drawing in your basement. That’s as simple as it as it gets.
Nick Armstrong 04:14
Does it have to be a basement?
Moriah Hummer 04:17
It doesn’t have to be a basement. You really do just start drawing at home or in coffee shops and by yourself. The craziest thing is that people have been doing this for a few years and they think, “Why haven’t I made it yet?”
Moriah Hummer 04:38
You really have to grind at it for a decade or more in order to get a foothold and for your work to be the quality that it needs to be. Getting started really just means drawing every day. If you aren’t willing to do that, if you aren’t willing to do the grind, the really hard stuff, then you’re really just going to struggle the entire time. Drawing by yourself is really important. The biggest step that I made into actually making a comic is after I was done drawing the whole thing I did seek out some self-publishing, self-printing avenues, and I paid for it to get printed. Then I signed up for a con and I showed up and I started selling my comics. So I did have to save up that money to print my comics and really put some personal investment in there. And that’s how I got started.
Nick Armstrong 05:46
Did you go the crowdfunding route? Or did you just pay for it out of pocket?
Moriah Hummer 05:49
I just paid for it out of pocket. If I’m being honest, I didn’t think anybody would contribute to a crowdfunding effort. I really enjoy my artwork, but I still feel like I have a lot of skill to develop and a lot of things to learn. I also didn’t have the social network to really support a crowdfunding effort. So I just saved up and paid for it myself.
Nick Armstrong 06:18
When you were looking at other comics to sort of emulate or to learn from where did you look?
Moriah Hummer 06:25
Oh, my gosh, there are so many amazing female artists out there.
Moriah Hummer 06:30
Babs Tarr. She’s super famous in the comic book world, but I really love Babs Tarr because she’s super animated in her drawing. She’s emotive and she draws a lot of women from different backgrounds and different body types. And that’s very exciting to me.
Moriah Hummer 06:53
Becky Cloonan is just a phenomenal artist. Babs Tarr did Batgirl of Burnside, which is one of the most gorgeous comics I’ve ever seen, her and Cameron Stewart. Then Becky Cloonan did Gotham Academy. That is one that I love looking at and reading.
Moriah Hummer 06:54
Fiona Staples – if I could grow up to be anybody in the whole world, it would be Fiona Staples. She really did start on her own by drawing and posting her artwork and making it easy for you to share her artwork and connect with her online. She just did that for years and years and years and years and years. She has this amazing following of people. She didn’t rely on a big publishing house to to make her famous, she just did that on her own. I really love Fiona Staples.
Moriah Hummer 07:57
Also, Joelle Jones is a great artist. I definitely gravitate more towards female artists. But Rafael Albuquerque is one of my favorite artists as well, he’s phenomenal.
Nick Armstrong 08:14
It’s refreshing to hear you list off artists that are of influence to you. One of the cool things about the comic art community, in particular, is how much everybody is willing to help each other. At Fort Collins Comic Con, we hear that a lot. “Oh, you should go meet so and so because you haven’t, and you need to. I love the way you draw hands and they need help drawing hands.” So many artists are connecting well with each other.
Nick Armstrong 08:42
In particular, I love that you were able to bring up so many amazing female artist influences, because it’s traditionally a heavily white-male dominated field. They’re the ones that get prime-time coverage in the covers and other things like that. But where we are seeing a lot of really cool work is in these more representative covers that are coming out and in a lot of independent work that is being published, and in some cases self-published, because it’s harder to get some of that indie comic work out there.
Moriah Hummer 09:20
It’s interesting seeing the shift that’s happening in the comics industry right now. It’s been happening for a while, but it’s been happening slowly. You have seen a shift from really, really over-sexualized female character covers, more towards strong or cool or quirky. There’s so much more that you can do once you’ve stopped honing in on this one thing and this one way to draw women. We’re seeing a very interesting time of more diverse artists coming forth, getting the spotlight, and showcasing what they can do. It’s such a fun time in comics right now.
Nick Armstrong 10:10
I’ve loved the explosion of new characters, too, that are – Squirrel Girl comes to mind and Ms. Marvel as well. Those two were the clear shift in paradigms for superheroes. If you wanted a traditional superhero story from a brand new character, that has representative, responsible writing, those are the places where everybody sort of got started if they didn’t dive head on into indie comics first. Making it accessible to the masses is a key thing for the industry at large. From the perspective of an indie creator, how do you work into your comic some of the cool social dynamic stories that we can tell now?
Moriah Hummer 10:57
Because all of the the main characters are women, there are so many stories that we can derive from women’s experiences in general. It’s important to have a diverse cast. You get this really rich storyline when you have people that are exceptionally different in the same in the same comic together.
Nick Armstrong 11:20
What are some of the storylines that you see are missing from the mainstream comics that indie comics are tackling really well?
Moriah Hummer 11:28
If I can talk about the phrase “strong female characters” for a quick second, I think it’s a pretty good segue. A while ago, people started calling for “strong female characters”. It’s funny that the major publishing houses interpreted that as, “Oh, you want female characters who can like lift a lot of weight, and can fight really well, and who are strong physically.”
Moriah Hummer 11:59
But really, what we meant by saying “strong female characters” is we want well-written characters. A lot of times, in mainstream comics, you see the classic stories being told. But maybe the person has a different skin color, or a different gender, or a different background. And they’re trying to fit that classic hero story around some different trappings. But a lot of indie comics are tackling cool, weird stuff. They’re tackling sexuality issues and commentary in their comics, there’s cultural shifts, they’re talking about racism dynamics, the LBGT community, and they’re talking about poverty. They’re talking about people with different educational backgrounds. There’s just such a rich path of stories they’re drawing from, because a lot of people are writing about their own experiences.
Nick Armstrong 13:24
You can’t just put a new skin on a character and try to tell the exact same story because the character would not respond that way. The character, if that was truly their background, they wouldn’t respond that way. They wouldn’t handle it that same way. They wouldn’t say those same things. So you just can’t copy/paste and shade darker, you have to actually approach the story from a unique and dynamic perspective.
Nick Armstrong 13:50
Taking a story and re-skinning it is a very easy trap for people to fall into. A lot of mainstream houses realize that the hero storyline works, people buy it, people love it, and it resonates with a lot of people. When you don’t really consider where the new character is coming from and what their background is and who they are as a person, it feels inauthentic. It doesn’t feel like something being invested in and it doesn’t seem genuine. When you have indie creators who are thinking about those things, and a lot of them are drawing from their own experiences, you do get this genuine story that people can instantly resonate with.
Nick Armstrong 14:44
Along with that, what has been the best fan interaction that you’ve had at a con so far?
Nick Armstrong 14:48
Oh, my gosh, I’ve had so many cool fan interactions. I honestly thought that I would make this comic and my family would buy it and I would just move on.
Nick Armstrong 15:00
Thanks, Mom. Here’s a signed copy.
Moriah Hummer 15:03
Yep, exactly. I’m definitely not selling comics hand-over-fist. I have a day job so I wouldn’t say that I’m rolling in it or anything like that. Indie publishing is definitely a hard thing to get into. But I will say that I’ve been super, super blessed with a lot of really cool fan interactions. One of the first ones was somebody ordered one of my comics online. Then they sent me a card a few weeks later and it was a picture of them in a roller derby outfit. There was a thank you note saying, “Thank you for making women in your comics that look like me. I’ve never seen this before.” That was such a blessing to read. It was a very humbling moment of someone not seeing their own face in the media and in comics. I thought that was really beautiful.
Moriah Hummer 16:10
There was also a girl at Kansas City Comic Con, she showed me her artwork. The next year, she came back. She had taken a Barbie and had painted the Barbie black, white and gray, which is my color scheme, had also gotten pink clothes and roller skates. She basically made one of the Furies out of a Barbie. That was the coolest thing ever. It’s on my bookshelf. It took a lot of time and a lot of crafting for her to do that, and that made me feel really, really special.
Nick Armstrong 16:50
She’s co-creating with you that is amazing. What con have you been to that has the absolute best fans?
Nick Armstrong 17:00
Oh my gosh, probably all of them. If I’m being honest I’m not sure there’s just one con but they’re all so different. Denver is this really big con with thousands and thousands and thousands of people. They also love when you’re local and they’re so willing to come and talk to you. Fort Collins Comic Con is also a super great one, because it’s managed really well.
Nick Armstrong 17:33
Your check’s in the mail Moriah.
Nick Armstrong 17:37
The thing I like about FoCo con is that it’s local, it’s more intimate. There’s so much attention on the youth and the children that attend, making them feel special and having activities that resonate with them. It’s such a great con. There are a lot of cons that are really great. Each have these little differences that make them really interesting.
Nick Armstrong 18:05
I started out going to Starfest. And that was my very first con and having that opportunity to connect with people who were… “Oh, these are my people. This is my crowd.” That was a really heartening experience. Cons across the board and artists, in particular, are a special part of that. Because even if you’re creating something that is totally unique and totally new, you can find people that need that message and need that representation and need that connection that don’t have it.
Moriah Hummer 18:35
It’s such a great community for that. It’s interesting, because sometimes you have to go to a few cons to figure out who your people are. It’s awesome that you went to Starfest and you were instantly welcome. And you were like, “Yep, this is it. I’m where I’m supposed to be.” I do know some people that have had to go to a couple cons to really find their corner of people
Nick Armstrong 19:01
Cons are popping up left and right. It’s such a cool thing because they’re segmenting really well, and so finding your people is becoming easier than ever. Along with that, now that we’re in a new era of crazy, how do you stay connected to your fans, stay connected to your work, and make it profitable?
Moriah Hummer 19:22
Well, I’m not sure it’s ever been profitable, Nick. We live in this day and age where we can connect through social media. Something I’ve been trying to focus on is continuing to post my art. Everyone has accepted the fact that we’re all stuck at home, which is totally fine. They’re not expecting someone to make the most magnificent post of all time. Really, I’m just trying to schedule that, do digital painting on my iPad, and just post it when I can.
Moriah Hummer 20:00
I am working on issue #4 right now. The problem is, my office is in this crazy windowless room in our basement. I come in here to do all of my work meetings, my day job meetings. At the end of the day, I want to get out of here, I want to get out of this weird room I’m in. It’s been a little harder to work on comics at night. Whereas, normally I go to the office, I come home, and I’m ready to come in here to work on stuff. That’s been a little bit more difficult, but I’m trying to stay disciplined. I did do some promos online for my comics where I offer a discount to people or offer a free print when they order, and I think that’s a good way to continue to sell your inventory. While also posting content and making sure people are visibly seeing what you’re doing. I’ve been trying to do daily sketching and post when I work on my comics as much as I can.
Nick Armstrong 21:06
You’re also a parent-preneur or parent-artist. How has that adapted to your work? You created your comic before you were a parent, and you’re continuing it now as a parent. Has your work style shifted at all?
Moriah Hummer 21:24
I definitely can’t work the same as I used to, it’s really hard for me to grind on a comic for six hours. Normally, when I get to work on a comic, it’s when my son takes a nap, or when he’s going to bed for the night. You really just get these small chunks of time where you have to go in, really quickly get settled into what you’re doing, and get into a groove to just go for it. It doesn’t always work. I came in the other night, and I was like, “Alright, it’s time to get going.” And I just couldn’t find my groove that I normally find. It felt like I was fighting the artwork. That was a difficult night. You just have to get good at getting in the mindset of “I’m doing my artwork. Now I’m going to think about my story. I’m going to do my warm up sketches, and then I’m going to get going.” I really only get these tiny chunks of time.
Nick Armstrong 22:21
Have you found that your stories or writing style or art styles changed as a result of becoming a parent?
Moriah Hummer 22:30
I actually don’t think so quite yet. I took a break while I was pregnant. Then it was very difficult to get going again, once I had the baby, because – you know, babies are like a lot of work or whatever.
Nick Armstrong 22:52
“A lot of work or whatever” is probably the best, most honest assessment of parenthood that I’ve ever heard.
Nick Armstrong 23:01
Mm hmm. Yep. That’s just how it goes. But no, I don’t think that my my style has changed. I’m still really female-focused and body-positive. I’m still trying to focus on my characters. I do think I’ve changed as a person, and so I do think that as I progress in the comic, things will change a little for my characters. Or maybe I’ll add a new character. I haven’t made any official changes yet. I do think that it will change in the future.
Nick Armstrong 23:40
Where can we find your work?
Moriah Hummer 23:41
You can find my work at FlatTrackFuries.com. I sell my issues there. I also post on Instagram a lot. My handle is @MoriahPariah. I also have the same Twitter handle as well. I do have a Facebook page, just facebook.com/FlatTrackFuries and I post all my updates there.