At its heart, Geek Bomb is fundamentally about celebrating, inspiring, and getting to know women in geek. Founded by our Boss Bomb Maude Garrett and featuring a Bomb Squad filled with diverse, talented, and totally badass ladies, Geek Bomb has a mindset much like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Females are strong as hell. And it’s about time we start celebrating that again. So, we’ve decided to relaunch Women in Geek, our interview series that spotlights, shows off, and talks about the wonderful ladies who are leading the geek entertainment field.
Joining us this week is Ariela Kristantina, a comic artist originally from Jakarta, Indonesia who is pursuing her passion in the States, working as with BOOM! Studio on Deep State, Marvel on The Logan Legacy and Wolverines, and AfterShock on InSeXts. We “sat down” with Ariela to chat about her biggest inspirations, how she got started in the industry, and what advice she’d give to those hoping to forge their own path in the comic book world.
Geek Bomb: First off, when did you realize that you were, in essence, a geek? What geeky things are you up to now?
Ariela Kristantina: Born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, I don’t think I’ve ever realized that I am a geek. It seems like that term was never in used when I grew up. I had tons of friends making/drawing doujinshi, [and] liking and drawing manga during my elementary to high school time. I am sure there were some who like those activities more than others, but [I’m] pretty sure I’ve never heard anyone labelled as a “geek” around me. “Otaku” maybe, but mostly it’s for those who were REALLY into anime, socially awkward, and or retracted themselves from social activities. When my friends from my childhood up to my undergraduate time in Jakarta meet me again, they only remember me as a person who DREW a lot and now live my dream as a comic artist.
“Geek” is honestly a term I encountered when I went to get my MFA in Sequential Art in SCAD from a fellow grad student. My geeky things are probably collecting artbooks, playing video games (I finally have my first PlayStation after 32 years!), and gawking at pro comic artists in conventions [laughs]. Mind you, coming from outside the States, it’s still a treat for me to ACTUALLY be in the same convention hall (on rare occasions, on the same stage) with seasoned pro creators whom I look up to so much.
GB: Let’s get our foot in the door by asking how you got your foot in the door. What’s your industry origin story – how did you get started? What advice can you give to those looking to break into your industry?
AK: This question always makes me cringe because my answer would be luck — I was in the right place, at the right time. I was about to leave Savannah, Georgia, because my student visa was up. Mike Marts (at that time he was the X-Men group editor), I believe, was in town. My former professor met him and showed him and Chip Mosher my portfolio. He was interested, and here I am now. Also, at around the same time, Justin Jordan wanted to work with me under BOOM! Studio for Deep State. Eric Harburn was my editor at that time. So I guess it’s fair to say that all these people helped me get my foot in the door at almost the same time.
After working with Mike Marts for several titles in Marvel, he became the EIC in Aftershock and asked me if I’d like to work with Marguerite Bennett on InSeXts.
My advice would be first and foremost, have an updated portfolio, online and offline, and be “seen” in social media to promote your art in any way possible. Lots of writers/editors are scouting Twitter and IG these days. If you’re a person who loves your cats so much, that’s great, but separate their photos from your works online. Editors and writers should be able to see our artworks right away the second they open our IG. Tumblr is NOT the best place to store portfolio. My next advice would be networking in conventions and asking editors to do sample pages, BUT don’t nag them. They have lots of things on their plate already. Send them an updated portfolio every two months or so and post your works EVERYWHERE, but no need to tag them. In fact, avoid tagging anyone to see your works at all. It’s kind of rude.
GB: What is the most difficult obstacle that you’ve had to overcome in your industry or maybe even still overcoming?
AK: [Off the] top of my head right now, it’s deadline and being pigeonholed.
As we all know, life happens: your parents get sick, you get sick, your computer blows up, your internet goes down, etc. I will be lying if I say I am on time every time, but when I am late, it’s never because I’m just lazy. I always try my best to reply messages as soon as possible to let the editors know if something happens. You don’t get a lot of wiggle room when you’re on monthly schedule, but that’s just how it is.
Being pigeonholed is an obstacle because then people keep coming to me with a certain kind of story — people will only know me from doing one kind of story and it bothers me. I don’t only have one trick up my sleeves. Overall, in the future, I hope I can see more women drawing (and writing) The Punisher, Captain America, Judge Dredd, Batman, etc., not mini series, not male lead characters in “other universe,” but as the main story. Don’t only go to female/femme creators when you need someone to draw or write stories about female/femme characters. Women can draw mech and bulky dudes as well as they can draw women. Also, I’ve seen people coming to some artists just because they have a POC character in their story so they want to have a POC creator as part of it. It’s good AND bad at the same time, I think.
GB: Picture yourself at ten years old. What advice would you give her? What would she love to know about present-day you?
AK: I didn’t grow up rich at all; I was not starved and my family is/was in middle class category but being middle class family in a developing country 30+ years ago is very different than being a middle class family in America.
Going to America to get my MFA in comics then actually working in the industry will probably send my 10-year-old me into a SHOCK. It’s something I didn’t dare to even dream of growing up. I owed everything to both my parents and my father, especially. He always believes in me; doesn’t matter how ridiculous I must have sounded when I told him I only wanted to be a comic artist 20 something years ago. I would tell myself to keep believing in myself, to keep pushing, to learn, and to draw even more, [and] probably to pick up American comics a bit earlier [laugh]. Being a kid in the ’90s in Indonesia [meant] I mostly read manga until I got to the states in 2011.
GB: Who are your female role models and/or inspirations
AK: This is a tough question. I’ve never looked up to someone in particular and told myself that I want to be her or to be LIKE HER. I do have some female mangaka whose work(s) I admire so, so much.
Some of them are Yoko Matsumoto, Yuuho Ashibe, Suzue Miuchi, and Yukari Kawachi. I mean of course I like Naoko Takeuchi for her Sailor Moon, but I have wanted to be a storyteller like the first four names I mentioned more than anything else. Also, I remember telling people that I want to have a female group like CLAMP one day. I did, actually, for five years before I went to SCAD.
GB: Who are some of your favourite fictional female characters of all time?
AK: Aryanrod (translated to Indonesian) or Arianrhod from Crystal Dragon (Yuuho Ashibe), Aoi from Milky Magic (Yukari Kawachi), and Maya from The Glass Mask (Suzue Miuchi). I want to be all three of these women at the same time haha. Also, I have to say, Lara Croft from Tomb Raider (before the reboot!). I was a bit busty growing up and I really didn’t mind seeing a busty woman being a badass, climbing cliffs, and shooting ancient dinosaurs.
GB: How would you like to see this industry grow for not only women, but within the entertainment space?
AK: Is it weird that I never actually think about this? I get worked up time to time whenever I read about articles which discuss about the latest injustice experienced by minority creators or how females/femmes are not treated equally in the industry, but other than that, I REALLY only want to tell great stories and I’d just love to see creators to be given the same, equal pay and chance to grow, by everybody in the industry — from fans to publishers.
GB: Where can people discover more about you? Socials/website/podcast or channel links.
AK: My online portfolio is http://be.net/arielakris. My IG and Twitter handle is ArielaKRIS — I make it easy for everybody 😉
Thanks again to the lovely Ariela Kristantina for joining us to celebrate the magic of women in the nerd world!