Hope Nicholson is a compelling figure of the comic book community. She is the Owner of Bedside Press and current editor of Margaret Atwood’s most recent foray into graphic novels Angel Catbird as well as working for Quirk Books on a history of female characters in comments.
Major Spoilers caught Hope in between her collection of projects to chat about building a creative community, what she is working on and The Secret Loves of Geek Girls.
MAJOR SPOILERS: Standard first question: what was it that brought you to comics?HOPE NICHOLSON: I’ve been reading comics for as long as I’ve been reading anything, pretty much. I mean, my earliest comics were the traditional funny ones like Disney cartoons and things like that and I branched off into superhero stuff as soon as I started going to, basically, flea markets and picking them up for a quarter each. Yeah, I just kept on reading them from there and got really obsessive about collecting them.
MS: And what brought you into the active publishing side of comics?
HN: That’s a bit lengthier story, but mostly, I just wasn’t seeing the things that I wanted to read on the shelves, so I decided to just try and make them instead.
MS: Where did the idea for The Secret Loves of Geek Girls come from? That was your big project in 2015. Did that come from the same impetus of creating the content you wanted to see?
HN: Yeah, absolutely. It basically spun out of a failed documentary project that I was working on when I was in Winnipeg and it was that project that was going to be a miniseries on the lives of fangirls on their way to comic conventions and it didn’t get picked up, which was surprising to me, but during the production of that I met so many different fangirls and, I had known some before while going to conventions and that, but I really got immersed in the community during that film.
It’s really exciting to me to hear all these stories where everyone had these things in common and these exciting moments and, also these big stresses – all of them involving love and dating and anxiety – so, I wanted to make a project where people could share their experiences because I hadn’t heard of any of these stories growing up – or even when I was a bit older – so I figured a lot of other people probably didn’t either and maybe it would help them if they heard other people that were going through the same things they did.
MS: Is there any chance that down the road this documentary will be revisited?
HN: It’s always a possibility. I’m renting space out of my old documentary production studio this summer, so if something happens to come along maybe, but I’m not holding much hope out. The tv industry is, kind of, tough.
MS: When The Secret Loves of Geek Girls crowdfunding campaign launched it received an incredible amount of support from the geek girl community. Was this something you expected? What was it like to receive that much positivity online and in the press? Did you ever expect that you would be doing a signing for The Secret Loves of Geek Girls in Los Angeles?
HN: Well, the signings I set up myself. Mostly because the Toronto signing was so good because so many of the contributors were there. I noticed that a lot of the contributors who live in other areas really don’t have access to that kind of experience, so I really want to travel around a bit and, at least, give people who are located in some other areas that experience too.
There was a bunch of people in New York and San Francisco and LA, so I set up launches there, so people could have an event that celebrates the book locally.
The positive press, yeah, that has been really amazing. I think I expected a certain percentage of negative press – or negative reactions – and the fact that there was pretty much almost nothing has been really, really nice and everyone saying how much the stories touch them, how much they related to them, how much they cried during reading it was really overwhelming and that was the point of the project, but it’s really – it feels very good to see that actually happen ever.
MS: Switching gears a little bit, you are working with renowned author Margaret Atwood now, how did that come about and how did you get in touch with her?
HN: (laughs) This is probably not great advice, but through Twitter, actually. Yeah. People who are in the arts – even if they’re higher up – they do pay attention to their Twitter feeds, which is nice and Margaret is one of those people. She uses Twitter a lot and one day when I was doing the Nelvana of the Northern Lights Kickstarter I thought, “You know who might like this? Margaret Atwood.”
I’d been reading some of her essays on Canadian cultural identity and I noticed that she talked about comics during her essays quite a bit, so I thought maybe she’d be interested and, so I sent her just a tweet. I sent her a few tweets, I think. She wasn’t always online, so it had to be while she was actually tweeting.
She saw one of them eventually and was like, “Oh, yeah, Nelvana! I know her. I read some of her stuff growing up and my friend was a huge fan.” Then we followed each other on Twitter and we talked about comics a bit and we met up a few times and, then one day, she said that she wanted to make a comic. I said, “Okay. I can help you make that happen.” At first we were going to do it through Kickstarter, but when I talked to her she really had a passion for making it as widespread a project as possible, not necessarily that it would make a lot of money at all. She didn’t care about that, but she just wanted it to be as accessible as possible and I thought, “Well, Kickstarter won’t really give you that.”
We decided to approach a publisher and that’s how Angel Catbird happened and after that I asked if she wanted to contribute any cartoons for The Secret Loves of Geek Girls – stuff she’d already printed, maybe, in the 70s – and she said she’d draw some new cartoons for the book. That was a great experience.
MS: Based on your experiences, what advice would you have for anybody – but, female creators specifically – for getting involved in comics?
HN: To break into? Well, basically, read a lot. Write a lot. Follow people, see what they’re talking about. Follow a lot of articles that are about the business – that’s a huge thing. I’ve learned a lot about the colouring/lettering side of the business just by following colourists and letterers who talk about it and that was a huge thing that a lot of people don’t know about.
If you want to do a project, basically, just ask advice of people who’ve already been there. Maybe pitch in, in some small way, on other projects that are already established either contribute a story – if you have a story – for an anthology or pitch one. Same thing for writing ‘cause they are good ways of getting ways of getting paid for your work and also recognition and definitely release things online and talk to people and network – although that word’s awful.
Basically, make things with your friends – which you should be doing. Just be good to people, talk to them and learn from them.
MS: Do you have different advice for people interested in curating and creating anthologies as you have done?
HN: Find out if there’s an audience first because if you say, “Well, me and my buddies just want to do a book about trees.” you know, that might not be a bad idea, but reach out to arboreal groups and things like that and try to figure out if you can actually make people interested in it.
On the technical side of things, I definitely recommend talking to someone who is a publisher in some way. There’s a lot of small press publishers around various big cities that are more than happy to answer a few questions and, also a few people like Erika Moen who did Oh Joy Sex Toy who release a lot of their information online to help other people.
I’m never as confident in how I run a business to release my tips online, but I’m more than happy to answer a few questions here and there as well.
Oh, and budget! Budget, budget, budget! Go over your budget. Double check it. Check everything, especially with shipping and materials and everything. It can be a huge, huge make-or-break thing for a Kickstarter.
MS: I know you’re doing a lot of things, but what does a normal day in Hope Nicholson’s life look like?
HN: Yeah, it varies. Right now, I guess, I have more of a normal schedule than I usually do because I’m working on one project fairly consistently each day. In the beginning of the day I get up and check over my emails, see if there’s anything to deliver, see if there’s anything that needs to be answered, see if anything needs to be checked up on and, then I go to do research for my project and do a bit of writing for it as well and, usually, more emails pop up during the day. A lot of what I do is just waiting and in between that I do research.
MS: Do you have a specific place that you like to work from?
HN: I work out of my home office most of the time, but I do find it harder to concentrate on some of my research materials on there, so sometimes I do cuddle up on the couch in order to delve into the materials more in depth. For the most part I like having structure and I like having an office and coffee. I have a pot on right now.