Raging a fierce storm in downtown Atlanta this weekend is the annual Dragon-Con. Featuring a diverse and impressive lineup of celebrities, screen stars, and artists, there’s something for almost everyone, one of the very rare conventions that can claim that title. Our very own Samyukta Iyer sat down with Erica Henderson: the award-winning artist from both comics and animation.
Samyukta Iyer: Ok great, thank you so much for the interview.
Erica Henderson: No problem.
Samyukta Iyer: So, first of all, I’m a really big fan of your work.
Erica Henderson: Thank you.
Samyukta Iyer: Could you talk a little bit about your artistic journey, how like different influences have impacted your style and storytelling?
Erica Henderson: Sure, so…I guess, starting really early, we always had comics in the house, like my Dad had a lot of books, and it was never just one type of comic, so I never grew up thinking comics were one thing. It was weird finding out later that Americans had this viewpoint because I grew up with a ton of stuff, a lot of Miyazaki, movies that were dubbed into Cantonese. So cartoons and comics were this thing that could look like anything and could also be any number of things. They could be funny; they could be serious, and growing up with that and being open to all of that other stuff and having all these other influences come in because people were suddenly importing more things. I think it was nice having all this stuff out there that was suddenly available to us, and I liked a lot of people as a teen that were Americans who were influenced by Japanese stuff. So yeah, I liked a lot of simpler styles that weren’t too busy because they were a stark contrast from the stuff that was coming out in the 90s that were all about hyper detail, and so seeing things that had these epic stories but also cleaner lenses, for example Dragon-Ball.
Samyukta Iyer: So basically, your goal was to have these different influences but also be open about it?
Erica Henderson: Yeah, at least with art, I was never in this place where I thought there was a right way to do it and there is a wrong way to do it, unless it was really ugly or something like that.
Samyukta Iyer: With the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s somewhat homogeneous in terms of diversity, and it has been getting better for the past few years. So, in your opinion, as someone who was worked in comics for quite a few years, what do you think is the importance of diversity in characters especially in fandom?
Erica Henderson: It’s literally just about seeing yourself. I didn’t truly understand for a long time that feeling of needing that, until I really saw it and felt it. Seeing the stuff that was made for Americans and seeing yourself represented as an American with all those ideas was really impactful.
Samyukta Iyer: I can definitely relate to that.
Erica Henderson: And it’s nice seeing that exact thing. For example, I read every single one of the Crazy Rich Asians books in one big row. Each one took less than a day to read because it was so nice seeing an Asian American dealing with a bunch of crazy Asians.
Samyukta Iyer: So portraying people as multi-faceted is like the defining area?
Erica Henderson: Yeah, it’s just about knowing that other people are not too different from us. Being able to share that with people who don’t know that is really great, and showing them as not just special but just normal people. I don’t need it to be special because it’s not special. It’s just my regular life.
Samyukta Iyer: So, in your opinion as a woman, in this crazy industry, what do you say would be your biggest challenge in the whole process of becoming well-known and creating work that impacts so many people?
Erica Henderson: I think things are more open for women now, but I also think at the same time you’re often pushed more towards female-specific things. Especially if it’s a larger company. Whether they’re doing it for a good reason because they feel should have a woman writing women or corporate seedy reasons. Either way, you wind up on those female-specific things. Plenty of men write women but not many women are actually able to write men, and I think that’s what’s really lacking these days.
Thanks to Erica Henderson for agreeing to do the interview and Dragon-Con Media Relations for setting it all up!
Dragon Con is the internationally known pop culture convention held each Labor Day in Atlanta. Organized for fans, Dragon Con features more than about 3,500 hours of comics, film, television, costuming, art, music and gaming over four days. For more information, please visit www.dragoncon.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.