Megan Kearney is a Toronto-based cartoonist. Megan’s work has appeared in publications from Dark Horse, Bedside Press, Fairylogue Press and in various anthologies. She currently manages Comic Book Embassy, a cheerful co-work studio based in Toronto’s Chinatown, and writes for Disney Princess.
Kearney contributed to Beside Press’ (Fashion in Action, Window Horses), The Secret Loves of Geek Girls anthology and recently juggled writing and art duties for their Comixology Originals series: Hit Reblog: Comics That Caught Fire.
Hit Reblog showcases the viral sensations of the webcomics world and the true stories behind their creators. Follow the ups and downs of internet fame, from IP theft to book deals, and all the trials of becoming an overnight sensation after gaining 10,000 reblogs in a single night. Learn about the origins behind the hit comic strips “This is Fine”, “All Houses Matter”, “No Take, Only Throw”, and frequently-viral webcomics such as Owlturd, Cyanide and Happiness, False Knees, and Poorly Drawn Lines.
Major Spoilers caught up with Kearney to talk about working on Hit Reblog.
You can read Major Spoiler’s previous interview with Bedside Press founder Hope Nicholson here!
MAJOR SPOILERS: What was the genesis of your involvement with Hit Reblog? It’s the first story in the book and I want to know if real life was as hilarious as it is on the page?
MEG KEARNEY: Hope contacted me at some point in 2017 to talk about working on a project for Comixology. She’d been given a lot of creative freedom to come up with a concept for their new line and wanted to talk to me about memes, because I had a background in them. That sounds like a lie, but before I became a full-time comic artist I worked for a very tiny mobile game company and sunk far too much time into developing a meme trivia game that never saw the light of day. I condensed the better part of a year into five or six pages, so a lot of it is presented in a pretty glib fashion, but all of the beats did happen — making our lists, vetting creators, running the razor’s edge with deadlines… I had a new baby, and so I was limited to nap-time and nights as my only work time. I did actually draw a portion of the book with an infant literally strapped to me, because it was the only way he wouldn’t cry. What the book would actually look like morphed a lot over this period, and I learned quite a bit about what processes work best and which ones are less than ideal! Hope kept things running and on track with spreadsheets and handling correspondence with creators and our research team, for which I will be forever grateful.
MS: How much autonomy did you have shaping Hit Reblog and how much was a collaboration with Bedside Press?
MK: Hope more or less came to me with the concept and said “Run with it”. We bounced ideas back and forth, tried out a few angles, and sort of settled into it as we developed test pages and scripts. The feedback we got from our first handful of creators is what really gelled things — Dami Lee and Brandon Sheffield, KC Green, and Fran Krause all had input to offer that wound up setting the tone for the rest of the book. Bedside Press kept things on schedule and handled all the back and forth so I could focus on putting things on the page. I’m really grateful for that.
MS: Were there any webcomics that you wanted to be included right off the bat?
MK: We each came up with wish lists for what we wanted in the book. We knew from the start we wanted about twenty comics showcased, but we must have had forty or so on our spreadsheet. Right from the get-go I was excited about the idea of including Nick Franco, who created the Nuzlocke phenomenon but who rarely is credited with it. Hope had a whole selection of comics about dogs. Enough that we discussed whether we could do a spin-off.
MS: How exactly does one go about curating memes?
MK: I think mostly, we wanted the iconic — Everyone recognizes Wondermark, everyone knows Cyanide and Happiness— the important — Equity vs Equality is everywhere now — and what made us laugh. We wanted to showcase major memes, but also to touch on comics that had sort of set the tone for how a viral comic or comic meme functioned. Some of these we couldn’t get the rights to due to media deals or we were unable to contact the creator. Others we researched and found that we just didn’t feel good about featuring them, and so in spite of meme status we decided against including. Essentially we aimed for iconic, important, funny and ethical.
MS: Which do you, personally, find more fascinating – the meme or the truth behind it?
I love memes. I love the little jolt of recognition, the feeling of being involved in an in-joke, the curious way
things evolve and become almost abstract… But I think it’s important that people do get credit for their work. Some of these comics wind up so divorced from their origin that people assume nobody owns them and they get monetized or repurposed in ways their creators would never approve of. Sometimes people wind up being the butt of a joke, and that’s well and good if they’re on board for it, but the internet can be pretty cruel. I hope we’ve humanized the creators behind these comics and that people who read the book will remember them the next time a meme crosses their dash.
MS: Your art is prominently featured in Hit Reblog. Was your artistic process different for the historian’s tone than on some of your more narrative projects?
MK: I’d done a couple of out semi-auto-bio/semi-academic comics for Bedside books in the past, most notably Regards to The Goblin King, a short piece about the appeal of gothic bad boys, in Secret Loves of Geek Girls. Hope liked the tone and style I’d used there and wanted something similar for Hit Reblog. We wound up taking a slightly different approach narratively, but the cartoony compressed art style remained. My narrative work is much less cartoony, with more realistically proportioned designs, and generally in black and white rather than colour. But my background is animation, so a lot go the structure and hallmarks are the same even if the style is a bit different.
MS: Does being part of the first wave of Comixology Originals put an added pressure on the building of Hit Reblog?
MK: I don’t think I fully appreciated the prestige of being invited to contribute to the first wave of Comixology’s originals line. I was just thinking, ah, yes, I’ve worked with Hope before, sure, let’s do this, without really realizing what a big deal it was.
MS: I always like to end by asking: what advice do you have for aspiring comic creators?
MK: Aspiring comic creators! Stop waiting until you are “Good Enough” and start right now! Pick a short and simple concept that feels exciting to you and make it to the best of your ability. Done is better than perfect! A complete story, even a short one, shows that you can finish things. You’ll learn more actually making a comic than you ever could reading how-to books or drawing concept art. I believe in you!