An interview with panel moderator and comic book writer/publisher Regine Sawyer
By Brent E. Beltrán
Comic-Con is here and, as usual, Barrio Logan has been left out of the official fun stuff. But we don’t fret around here. We do things for ourselves, like Chicano-Con and MARVEL vs DC.
But there is also something else taking place in San Diego’s favorite barrio. On Sunday, July 12 from 12:30pm to 1:45pm there will be a panel discussion at the Logan Heights Library called Women of Color in Comics: Race, Gender & The Comic Book Medium.
The panel is free to all and will be moderated by Lockett Down Productions Publications owner Regine Sawyer. There will also be some free giveaways to audience members from the panelists as well as free superhero comics for kids and parents donated by an anonymous friend of mine.
I have never met Ms. Sawyer before but I had to reach out to her after finding out about the panel at the Logan Library. I contacted her through Facebook to get a quote for last week’s column. I liked her answers so much that I felt she deserved a full interview. So here it is.
Tell me a little about your background. Where are you from? What is your world view?
I’m from New York City; born and raised in Queens to be exact. I have four siblings; my mother is a painter and my father was a WWII veteran, upholstery business owner, and train operator. My life with my family has always revolved around food, art and literature. Although, I studied to be a chef and have my Bachelors in Technology in Hospitality Management, I’ve always wanted to be able to combine all the things I loved to do, or at least have an outlet to do them all. With that said, my world view is to always be true to yourself and strive to become the best person that you can be; and above all else have faith in whatever path you choose to take, just know that you have to work hard at it in order to maintain and keep it.
When did your interest in the comic arts begin? And what was the catalyst that set you along the path of becoming a writer?
My family played a big role in my love for comics. Between my mother making up stories for me at bedtime, to my father reading the Sunday funnies to me cover to cover every weekend, to my older brother and I watching TV shows like the Hulk, the Greatest American Hero, Batman, and Wonder Woman together; my upbringing was surrounded by the fantastical and the creative at all times. It wasn’t long before my father and brother started taking me to the comic book store; I just fell in love with the medium from there. I began with Archie Comics then graduated to X-Men. I collected comic book cards, books, and all sorts of memorabilia; a collection that I still have and won’t part with anytime soon. The writing started as my mother began buying me more and more books to read when I was a kid. She’d get dictionaries, novels, reference books, the whole gamut. I would read everything, and soon started writing my own characters and stories; both for comics and fiction.
You run Lockett Down Productions Publications. What lead you to create your own small publishing company?
While working in the Food Industry as a manager for a few years, I had put my comic book creating aside and focused on my career. It wasn’t until I saw Superman Returns in 2006 that I was jolted into wanting to create comics again. I was in a comic book store one day and told a friend that I was considering getting a second Bachelors Degree in Cartooning at a local college. A man over heard me and told me that he owned a small press comic book company and to send him whatever work I had. After that I began helping him with his business; transcribing and editing his comic book scripts, screening artists’ submissions, and booking conventions. After a year there I decided that I could do the same for myself and started Lockett Down Productions at the end of 2007.
You’re the creator and writer of the independent comic series’ The Rippers and Ice Witch. What are these works about?
The Rippers is my oldest book, I created it in high school and gradually built the story over the years. It’s about an intergalactic bounty hunter named Rhiannon who works for a confederation of planets. She is apart of a militarized department of ‘Hunters’ that are commissioned to dismantle a large criminal organization. In the midst of this ongoing war, she is accused of killing a superior officer; a crime she has no memory of doing. Ice Witch is a spin off of ‘The Rippers’, she makes her debut in issue 2. She is the lead assassin within this same criminal organization; however, she decides to leave that life behind to her employers’ dismay; getting married and having a child- a child that the company now wants. I have a third series that debuted this year: ‘Eating Vamipres’, my fellow panelist Delia Gable did all the artwork on the book. It’s a about a young girl named Evelyn and her guardian, Rigel. Evelyn is the last of an eradicated people; The Purifiers who possessed the ability to cure most sicknesses, including vampirism. Rigel, who is an actual vampire eater, must do all that she can to make sure Evelyn survives the second wave of an enormous vampire virus outbreak.
You’re a big part of the Women in Comics NYC Collective International. What is this group and why was it created? Who are some of the members and what projects does it create?
WinC (pronounced Wink) NYC, was created after the organizer of the Bronx Heroes Comic Con, Ray Felix asked me to moderate a Women in Comics panel at his show in 2012. I had never done that before, but was willing to try. It was really successful and after that people began requesting us to host panels at various shows. It wasn’t too long before I figured that we should actually name our group and Women in Comics NYC Collective was born.
I added the ‘International’ earlier this year because women in the industry across the country and the world asked for membership. We currently have 65 members and counting. The more that I think about it, the group was inadvertantly created because a safe space was needed for women in our industry to be not only heard, but free to be candid in their experiences and work. It was also born out of the need for our various communities to see that women, especially women of color were working and contributing to the comic book medium. It is something that they often don’t know exist and therefore believe that they cannot be apart of. The range of our membership is vast; we have artists, writers, educators, librarians, web series creators, cosplayers, toy makers, convention producers, art gallery directors, bloggers, software designers, and gamers.
To name of few members, we have Alitha E. Martinez who is 15 year veteran in the mainstream comic book industry; penciling books like Marvel’s Iron Man and DC’s New 52’s Bat Girl, Barbara Brandon-Croft who was the first Black Female cartoonist to become syndicated in the mainstream press, Karen Green; Columbia University’s Head Librarian and Founder of their vast Graphic Novel and Comics Collection, Vanessa Verduga; Writer/Creator/Director/Producer of the webseries Justice Woman, Marlene Bonnelly; renowned Coslayer, the creator of IlikeComicsToo.com and the Editor-in-Chief at Comics.tumblr, and Tara Nakashima-Donahue the Assistant Director of the Medalia Rack Hamper Gallery in New York City.
As I said before, we host a panel discussion series on Women in Comics and Diversity throughout the country. We also conduct writing, art, and publishing workshops at various events, in addition to art installations; we have several gallery exhibitions coming up over the next 8 months.
Why is it important for more women and specifically women of color to get involved in the comic book industry? And what are the challenges?
It is important for women of color to be involved in comics because there are already so many young women in our community that are fans, aspiring artists, and writers that are looking for representation in the medium as well as in the books they are fans of. The biggest challenge is not seeing accurate representation and diversity in the industry as a whole. It can be a turn off, in the sense that these young women are looking for a reflection of themselves in both the books that they love and in the people that help to shape this industry. I have met many a parent while at shows that will rush and bring their daughters and sometimes sons over to say, ‘Look she makes comics!’ or ‘My daughter thought that black women don’t make comics and it made her afraid that no one who looks like her were artists or writers’. This happens at almost every show I do, it is a constant reminder of the need we fill as members of Women in Comics NYC.
This is your first time organizing a panel at Comic-Con. What are your expectations? [This panel is separate from the one at the Logan Library]
I just hope everyone who attends enjoys it and gets a lot of information from it. We do panels and workshops all over the country, however, one never knows how they might be received, but I am really excited and optimistic on the turn out. It’s also a special one because it’s our 15th panel to date!
It’s great that a panel like this is taking place in a Latina/o, working class community. For the most part we’re left out of Comic-Con, though Barrio Logan is only a mile from the convention center. Why was it decided to do the panel at the Logan Library? Was the decision a conscious one? What was the reason behind doing something in the community as opposed to just staying at the convention center like most people do?
I have submitted this panel to SDCC several times and every time it has been rejected. This year, I decided to reach out to the San Diego Public Library because our organization has partnerships with library systems across the country. It just seemed like the natural thing for us to do. We were initially going to host the panel at the Central Library across from the Convention Center, but due to a scheduling conflict with Comic-Con, we had to change venues and the Program Director suggested the Logan Heights Library. What I like most about hosting our panels at libraries within is that since we are a community-based organization, we believe in everyone having open access to us as industry professionals. It’s important that our events are free to the public; a public that is often not catered to, acknowledged, or has access to large conventions. We tend to bring the convention to diverse communities for that reason. We need more people of color and other diverse peoples in this industry in order to make it broader and brighter, and hopefully our organization can help facilitate that!
What would you say to aspiring girls and young women that want to get into the comic book field?
Learn as much as you can about the industry. If you’re an artist or writer, take classes if you can, many are free; hone your craft. Read books on art, writing, as well as some on contract law. Reach out to professionals at conventions or at community events such as ours; get business cards and keep in touch. It’s also important to not get discouraged, continue to work hard towards your goals and go out and meet people that are interested in the same thing you are so you can support each other.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about yourself and/or your work?
Creating comics is one of my biggest passions; the process is a true labor of love that isn’t for the faint of heart, it’s something that I was just built for. And it’s such a pleasure to work with other women in the industry that feel the same way… we were made for this.
The Women of Color in Comics panel takes place this Sunday, July 12 at 12:30pm at the Logan Heights Library located at 567 S. 28th St. The panel is free and comics and other goodies will be given away to attendees. Chicano-Con continues this Friday, July 10 and Saturday, July 11 at Border X Brewing located at 2181 Logan Ave and MARVEL vs DC takes place Saturday night, July 11 at La Bodega Gallery & Studios at 2196 Logan Ave, both in Barrio Logan. And if you like Frida Kahlo there will be an exhibit honoring her at Chicano Art Gallery (2117 Logan Ave.) on Saturday night as well.