[DISPATCH] An Interview with MAPS Artist Meghan Hetrick
The acclaimed artist talks about her love of sci-fi, working with different media, and much more.
Welcome to the latest edition of the [DISPATCH], a weekly direct report from us to you, with news, recaps, exclusive content and more.
Tomorrow will see the debut of an all-new comic drawn by Meghan Hetrick and colored by Nick Filardi. We’re making it available exclusively for our paid subscribers. If you haven’t yet, be sure to sign up ahead of the story’s release:
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Tomorrow, we’ll be releasing THE NORTH, the latest comic from the upcoming [MAPS] Graphic Novel Sourcebook. Before it arrives, we spoke with artist Meghan Hetrick about how she approaches each assignment, wanting to do more sci-fi stories, and the tutorial she thinks will end up on her tombstone.
Enjoy the conversation below, then return tomorrow to read THE NORTH.
3W/3M: Your comics track record runs a pretty wide gamut, but there’s not much in the way of sci-fi work. Was that what drew you to doing a story in [MAPS], or did something else entice you?
Meghan Hetrick: That’s exactly it. I adore sci-fi, but I’ve never had a chance to really do anything in that realm, because I’ve basically been locked in with superhero work from the beginning (with a brief foray into urban fantasy).
Considering this story has everything from soldiers to mechs to fantastic architecture, did you have to do anything other than getting familiar with the world and reference material to find the right visual approach?
I asked Molly [Mahan] about a thousand questions I think, just to make sure I had the “vibe” correct, but aside from that, no. I’m a huge fan of more “hard” sci-fi works, so I just sort of pulled on that general knowledge for this.
How was your experience translating the designs from Huddleston and del Mundo into your style? Was that freeing, challenging, or something else?
Intimidating, because those guys are absolute masters of the craft. My personal style is so, so different from theirs, and I definitely had a moment of being scared to mess it up because their work so gorgeous.
And speaking of style, even if someone hasn’t read any of the books you’ve drawn, there’s a very good chance they’ve seen your cover work, which runs the gamut from traditional comic art to fully painted. You also seem to work in a variety of ways, ranging from traditional pencil and ink to copics, pastels, gouache, and acrylics, and when we first reached out about this interview you were in the midst of finishing up some oil paintings. How did you become so versatile, and with so many tools at your disposal, how you decide what medium is best for each cover / project?
The honest answer is boredom. [Laughs] I love learning, and I love the challenge of learning new mediums. Some I take to more than others, but my current love is oil painting. As for how I decide on which medium, many times the editor or project manager has a specific idea or request or, bluntly… deadline timeline. Things like digital work take probably 1/10th the amount of time as an oil painting (when done properly). [Laughs]
Given how many different ways you get to the end result in color on your covers, what’s it like having someone color your line work, like you did with Nick Filardi for this story? I can imagine it would be freeing to hand over part of the process, but at the same time you’re giving up control over the finished product.
It can be a bit like handing off a baby to someone at times, but Nick and I have worked on past projects together, and I was absolutely honored that he agreed to team up again. I trust him completely with my work.
You mentioned Molly, our Editrix Maxima, and both of you share Vertigo Comics DNA. She was an editor, and you co-created Red Thorn for the imprint. First, did you two have any overlap during your time there? And second, do you find yourself drawn to more mature stories with complex themes like Vertigo, or what is it that entices you about being part of a project?
You know… I honestly can’t remember? That period of working on Red Thorn was a bit of whirlwind, and I want to say that there was some overlap, even if it was on a finite basis, but I genuinely can’t remember. I am definitely drawn to more mature and complex storylines though. The Vertigo books, specifically Lucifer, are the reason I stayed with comics, once my own personal interests had outgrown the spandex and capes stories.
It's interesting that you talk about your tastes shifting over time, because you also mentioned being "locked in with superhero work" since the start of your career. Do you find there's a disconnect between the type of material you'd be gravitating toward as a reader vs. what you draw as an artist for hire?
I absolutely do. No disparagement to those who enjoy the Caped Comics, I just find it very hard to enjoy them anymore, both due to the soap opera style of the work, as well as a few other reasons. As mercenary as it sounds, a lot of times I just have to view them as a paycheck, be thankful for the work, and then do something that I want to do on the side. So, typical adult working life setup. [Laughs]
I do try to challenge myself with storytelling and such, though, or sometimes I’ll put some fun little stuff in the background to keep myself entertained.
Are there genres (or personal projects) you're itching to explore more given the righting opportunity and circumstances?
The story I did for you guys. [Laughs] I’ve always wanted to do a more sci-fi story, and this just fits right into that niche. Some of my biggest influences are Star Wars, Dune, Battlestar Galactica (the 2000s revamp), and especially Farscape, and I’ve just never been able to play in that realm. I also love fantasy and horror – “beautiful horror,” as I call it. Not ultra-gory, but creepy as hell – and would love to play in that realm as well one day.
I definitely hope you get the chance to scratch those itches creatively in the future.
Turning back to the superhero side of things, you were part of both RWBY/Justice League and DC/RWBY, where the heroes of the DC Universe crossed over with the world of Rooster Teeth’s RWBY animated series. Did a story like that present any unique challenges because of either the former’s digital-first release and format, the sheer number of characters, etc.?
Yes, the number of characters was overwhelming, to be completely honest. The show and the comics are very group oriented, and chatty, and it was a struggle at times to make everything work. The digital format wasn’t an issue though, DC’s team is pretty crack at making standard pages work for it.
You’re known for drawing beautiful women, and given that it’s in your Instagram bio, I have to ask – what’s the origin story of that boob tutorial, and are you surprised at its ongoing popularity and relevance?
Oh my god… that thing will be on my headstone [Laughs]. The origin of it was me just being a general smartass and getting tired of seeing the grossly inaccurate anatomy that was above and beyond a stylistic choice. [Laughs] I am definitely surprised by the popularity, though I should probably do an updated, higher res version of it, since the original is almost a decade old now.
Beyond being home to Dragon Con each year, Atlanta has a sizable comics community and has featured a murderer’s row of artists passing through the halls of Gaijin Studios, Studio Revolver, and others. What drew you to Atlanta, and is there still much of an in-person community following the pandemic?
I came to Atlanta post-divorce, due to the lower cost of living, and the fact that I had two large dogs and two cats at the time. Some of us keep in touch, but we rarely get to meet up very often due to deadlines and the Atlanta’s nightmarish traffic (seriously, LA has nothing on this nonsense).
The traffic there has gotten horrendous, and the thousand streets named Peachtree certainly don’t help anyone navigate.
Finally, you have three incredibly cute Boxers that you train and show. I don’t know if they can read or not, so I’m going to ask this just for our readers – who’s your favorite, and why?
[Laughs] Blue, the oldest, might be able to read. I wouldn’t put it past him at this point. All three have their own special bits about them, and each has a piece of my heart. But Blue is definitely the most “present” of them. Friends and I joke that he “thinks he’s a people,” and that is frighteningly accurate.
Thanks to Meghan Hetrick for carving out some time to speak with us. We’ll be releasing THE NORTH for all paid subscribers tomorrow.
And now, let’s look back at the week that was…
[Q&A] We sat down with veteran comic book artist Peter Krause to discuss his new [MAPS] story, SINGURAIL, trains, his career, and digital comics.
[COMICS] The latest [MAPS] release has left the station. SINGURAIL is drawn by Peter Krause and colored by Ellie Wright, and it’s available now for all paid subscribers.
[PROCESS] It was a double-dose of making-of material last week:
3W/3M’s Mike Huddleston shared his approach to creating the train and station for SINGURAIL.
Peter Krause delivered a special guest post covering his approach to the characters and joining our concept universe.
As mentioned up top, we have an all-new comic coming your way tomorrow courtesy of the art team of Meghan Hetrick and Nick Filardi, and even more after that. Stay tuned!