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 Marissa Louise, an immensely talented colorist who has worked with Dark Horse Comics, Black Mask Comics, BOOM!, and Image Comics, and on projects like Galaktikon, The Wilds, and Spell on Wheels. A geek through and through, Marissa “sat down” for a quick virtual chat with us to discuss how she discovered coloring as a career, how she got her feet off the ground in the industry, and the advice she has for those just getting started.
Geek Bomb: First off, when did you realize that you were, in essence, a geek? What geeky things are you up to now?
Marissa Louise: In true geek fashion, my dad explained the genetics of geekdom to me at an early age. I was born to a doctor and a marine biologist, made in a test tube. I didn’t really have much choice! I was never really immersed in mainstream American culture, so I didn’t get much [of]a chance to learn all the subtle social graces many people have. It’s still a thing I goof up with. But I was fortunate enough to learn to make a joke of it and that usually diffuses most situations.
Growing up, biology was always a very strong interest of mine. I’d catch animals in the river near us and study them. I would save any dead animal I found to dissect or look at the skeleton. My mom tells me I figured out meat production around six and turned the whole family off meat for quite a while. I’d climb up into trees to stare at tent caterpillar nests. Catch and draw all kinds of un-ladylike animals.
My family used to volunteer with the Mattaponi Museum in Virginia before we moved to Oregon. I was very obsessed with the museum. Ted Custalow used to tell me stories about Matoaka and teach me how to maintain the museum or use the tools in the museum. There is video of me getting upset because the museum had bones from a burial ground that was dug up to build an apartment complex; I was only 8 or so, but livid that these people would be disturbed then thrown away. Luckily, Ted’s dad stopped by and was at least able to save the bones. He wasn’t able to stop the excavation.
As I got older I became obsessed with death and funeral homes, bleeding into what is acceptable in culture and what is considered deviant. I once made Adam Warren laugh so hard about cannibalism, he scared a waitress.
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?
ML: I [have]read comics since I was little, but it wasn’t until I was 30 and working in a cafe that I knew coloring was a job. Even my friends I met at SVA, who are very excellent comics creators now, didn’t tell me it was a job! I had to hear it from the mouth of Dave Stewart when he came into a cafe I where was working. After he told me that, then I had specific questions to take to my friends. I taught myself Photoshop while flatting for Nolan Woodward. Then I hustled my butt off, showing portfolios at cons and getting critiques and taking any job I could.
My advice for breaking in is, in retrospect, don’t take any job you can. It’s better to create some stability for yourself, practice, and make sure you are working on the best art possible! Other than that, be polite, be timely, try your best, and go to comic conventions!
GB: What is the most difficult obstacle that you’ve had to overcome in your industry or maybe even still overcoming?
ML: Any art is hard and any freelance is hard. You’re battling burnout, small budgets, tight deadlines, self-doubt, boredom, [and]aspirations. It’s a tough life and definitely not for everyone! I’m still working on balance. It seems to be feast or famine still, but I know I’ll get there!
GB: Picture yourself at ten years old. What advice would you give her? What would she love to know about present-day you?
ML: Ten-year-old Marissa was pretty unflappable; adult Marissa had to learn to be flappable to appear human! I don’t know what I’d tell little Marissa; she was pretty great. She’d be slightly disappointed I’m not a mortician, but I think she’d understand. She’d be really hype [that]I am a comics colorist. She’d also be really happy to know I still try my best to help people and not take garbage.
GB: Who are your female role models and/or inspirations?
ML: It’s pretty corny, but honestly it’s the women in my life. My cousin does policy development for the UN. My grandma was just a wild woman. In 1989, she was in her 70s and had moved to Yugoslavia, but when the war and genocide broke out, her visa was denied. From then she moved to Poland. There are stories of her helping people escape the genocide. She also cracked her head open more times then a person ought to be able to handle. One story is in Yugoslavia she was running to catch a train. But she hadn’t been very timely, so she ran and jumped off the platform to catch the train. She just barely missed, and was in the hospital for a week. That is the most cinematic one by far, but not the only time.
But I have smaller roll models, too. I have a friend Leslie who amazes me. We went to high school together, and now she is a mother of five children and getting a law degree. She is just a wonderful mother and such a warm-hearted person. I have another friend, Lisa, who is a mycologist, and she is brilliant and sweet and hilarious. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by women like that.
GB: Who are some of your favourite fictional female characters of all time?
ML: I absolutely adore OG Jessica Drew; I love how she helped people for her day job and helped people at night. She was, in the comics I own, very understanding that circumstances can often lead people astray.
I love Mattie Ross from True Grit. She’s so stubborn, smart, funny and great at math! I also really love what they are doing with Selena Kyle on Gotham. That actress is stellar and the character is so beautifully realized.
GB: How would you like to see this industry grow for not only women, but within the entertainment space?
ML: Ha! My ideal entertainment industry requires a complete restructuring of culture. While I’m not going to see that in my lifetime, I am fortunate enough to witness the rise of talented youth. There are a lot of incredible young people coming up, and hopefully I can help ensure there are better protections for them than there were for the preceding generations.
GB: Where can people discover more about you? Socials/website/podcast or channel links.
ML: My twitter is @marissadraws, I have a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Maris
Thanks again to the lovely Marissa Louise for joining us to celebrate the magic of women in the nerd world!