Lisa K. Weber is an illustrator with a taste for the dark side. Since graduating from New York’s Parsons The New School For Design she has forged a career illustrating comic books, graphic novelizations of classic literature (including Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allen Poe), textiles and character and backgrounds for animated cartoons.
But she has tapped into her fascination with the otherworldly in her latest project Hex11, a graphic novel that is the first outing for Venice-based HexComix, a collaboration between Weber, writer Kelly Sue Milano and producer Lynly Forrest that describes itself as a “100% nerd girl-run operation.”
Hex11, about a young female witch “living in a future society where humans have just discovered that they’re capable of magic,” will be launched this weekend at Comikaze, with a new edition published every six weeks. DnA spoke to Lisa about the market for illustrated children books in a digital age, how the Bradbury Building found its way into Hex11, and about finding magic in surprising corners of Los Angeles.
DnA: How did you wind up in children’s books?
LW: I was influenced by children’s books and animated films growing up, and my style, because I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember, it just kind of developed that way. So when I first started out I was kind of focused on that, that was what I wanted to do. So I presented myself to the children’s books publishers as an option.
DnA: Would you say that despite the digitization of everything, children’s books are alive and well as a traditional print form?
LW: I would say that they are; I think there are a lot of people who want to give their children the tactile sensation of a real book that they can flip through and experience that way. That being said, I see children playing games on and reading stories on iPads and things like that too and I think that it’s a great medium for the future, but no, I don’t think that children’s books, real children’s books are going anywhere currently, any time that soon.
DnA: And do you design for digital books as well?
LW: I do. Mostly in the educational field, I’ve had some educational clients like Scholastic and who have wanted me to do work for iPads, but they haven’t wanted it to be interactive work necessarily. It’s still illustrations just presented on the iPad.
DnA: Give us some of the titles that people might be familiar with, I mean I was certainly intrigued to see that you’ve done drawings for classics like The Picture of Dorian Gray.
LW: Well that was a lot of fun! Some of my earliest work was with a quarterly magazine called Graphic Classics that wanted to harken back to classic novels presented in a graphic novel form, which I loved the idea of. So they asked me to do some of Edgar Allen Poe’s work, and I like doing the darker stuff so I was happy to do that. Their idea is to present these classics to a new generation in this format that people are really responding to lately. I’ve done The Picture of Dorian Gray, I’ve done Hop-Frog by Edgar Allen Poe, and Carmilla by Le Fanu. It’s been a blast, I love it every time.
LW: I have thought about it, but at the time that I was growing up, the time I was taking in, the work that was meant for children had some darker things going on like Jim Henson was doing The Dark Crystal and things like Legend were happening and I was taking all of this kind of dark fantasy stuff in at a very a young age. And I think that I just kind of grew up being attracted to it.
DnA: So now let’s get onto the dark project that you’re currently working on that’s going to be launched this weekend. Tell us about Hex 11.
LW: Hex11 is about a young woman who is a witch. She’s living in a future society where humans have just discovered that they’re capable of magic. So in the world of Hex11, civilization is entering this new era, a magic age. But there are a lot of struggles that are implied with that shift, so there are religious groups that are untrusting of it and governments that are trying to control the information about it and then there are corporations that are seeing it as an opportunity to capitalize on this new kind of energy source. In the middle of all of these bickering organizations are a group of people who live in a depressed area called the Hex. It’s where the have-nots have found themselves, and it’s also where the magically-inclined can stay under the radar, but it’s also an epicenter of this brewing class war.
DnA: The fact that your company is all women is something that you’re making a point of. Does that give a kind of a freedom or a different way to tell the stories?
LW: Well, I didn’t set out to have Hex11 be an all-female endeavor but when it came time to find collaborators for the project it really did just kind of happen that the people I found were women and very dynamic women at that. So that is how it ended up and what we kind of ended up realizing is that it does go to show that there are a lot of women in the industry with a lot to contribute so we do want to celebrate that.
LW: Well it’s changing, it’s an ever-changing proportion but right now it’s still very, there are still less women than men working in comics. But it is evolving, it is changing cause you know more and more people are interested in creating their own content and sharing it with people and so it’s just kind of naturally following that more and more of those people are women.
DnA: One of your images looks like the Bradbury Building, and then I also wondered whether the colorful street scene was inspired by Chung King Road?
LW: Yes, Bradbury is in there, and that last image is a hybrid of Chung King Road. I looked at a lot of night markets, particularly Asian night markets because they’re always so bustling and interesting and full of cool stuff.
DnA: How did the process of creating characters and stories work? It must be like when two people get together and write a song, one of you is doing the writing and one of you is doing the drawing. Are you sitting side-by-side? Or is the story written first and then you go in and do the illustrations?
LW: The process so far has been kind of a hand off where Lynly sets up our deadlines and meeting times and is there as our editor and she’ll direct things. But when Kelly Sue and I get together, we just hash out story ideas and what’s consistent for this character to do and that character to do, she’ll write a rough draft and I’ll start laying out how I envision the scenes to look and then we just go back and forth as far as if I need a scene here I’ll request one. Or if I need some dialogue there I’ll request dialogue and in the end it’s just ends up being a very side-by-side process; the art and the words.
LW: Oh yes, it’s been a ton of fun. I like to go very saturated, because I like to create these lush worlds that are really kind of deep that you can fall into a little bit. So I really like using rich color palettes for that. It’s been a complete blast to create all of these worlds and decide this scene and this character and how we should relate it with this color or that color and so it’s been fun to kind of figure all that stuff out.
DnA: And have you already sort of finished the series in advance or is it unfolding, creatively?
LW: It’s unfolding, we are planning it, we’ve built a world here that is very big so we kind of want to take the time to explore it fully and you know, spend time with the characters and how they each develop and how the world develops with them so it’s definitely not finished, it’s not a short series, it’s a long way out.
DnA: Do you feel a sort of connection to magic?
LW: Actually yeah I do kind of, there’s a lot of things in the world that I identify as magic. Not that it’s any kind of organized belief system but just that a lot of, there a lot of things in the world that are greater than the sum of their parts and I do feel like that’s magic so I do kind of relate to that.
LW: Oh absolutely not. I find it beautiful.
DnA: Can you give us an example?
LW: I feel like it’s all around me every day. When I first moved to LA a couple years ago, I went to LACMA and walked into the room with that Richard Serra wave sculpture, and I spent some time just walking inside and out of it and all around it and I started feeling like I was having a little bit of a body change ,almost like a high, like I was getting high on art. And it felt like magic and it wasn’t frightening at all. It was beautiful.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.