I recently had the good fortune to interview E.K. Weaver, creator of the comic series The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal. I’d first met E.K. at Ahn!Con in January 2014 when we were both guests of the convention, and we had met up again at Nijicon this past October. The crowd loved her and her work, as she sold out of books during the first day of the con!
She was gracious to take time out of her schedule to answer some questions, so please enjoy!
— For those are who aren’t aware, can you please introduce yourself and a little about your background?
My name’s E.K. Weaver, and I’m a comic artist and illustrator from Austin, Texas. I’ve been drawing all my life, but just started focusing on comics in 2008.
— What interested you about BL—boy love—and what inspired you to create TJ and Amal?
I used to read a lot of BL manga back around 2005-2006, and got very frustrated with the lack of physical variety in the characters, the lack of humor and joy, and the general stilted feeling of many works in the genre. These characters weren’t anything like the gay men I knew in real life. I understand now that yaoi/BL is more for escapism and fantasy, but… I need to care about and relate to a character to be interested in their story.
I designed TJ almost as a joke, as a character who looked like he’d never appear in a BL manga. I kept coming back to that character design and wondering about who he was, what sort of people he knew… and things just sort of spiraled out of control from there.
— Please give us a little insight into your main characters? What is it about them that is special?
I think their ordinariness makes them stand out. I like that they’re both good people with good intentions, but they still screw up—they’re deeply flawed, often selfish or clueless. I have no interest in writing “heroes” or “villains”, just multifaceted people.
— Do you have a protocol as to how you write and illustrate? Do you create an outline for the story and illustrations, or do you just write out whatever comes to you?
I usually start by just putting ideas out on paper, regardless of whether they make any sense. If something grabs my imagination hard enough, I see what I can spin out of it. When I’m making a comic, though, I’ll have the whole story outlined before I start, to help things stay more cohesive.
— Do you experience writer’s block and if so, how do you alleviate it?
Sometimes, yes. If I’m feeling creatively blocked, I’ll handle some other aspect of comic making that doesn’t require that part of my brain. Like architectural drawing or ballooning, for example. Or I go for a run to clear my head.
— Have your family or friends read TJ and Amal? What do they think?
My parents have read it, and some of my in-laws. My parents don’t really get it, but they’ve been very supportive the whole way. My in-laws are very conservative, and were offended by the gay content. Oh well.
— Shifting gears a bit, what is your most and least favorite thing about being a small business owner?
My favorite is not having to tailor my art or stories to someone else’s preferences. Creating the material I want to create without worrying about marketability. This flexibility is also due to my having a day job. If I depended on comics to pay bills, things would be very different.
My least favorite is handling order fulfillment and self-employment taxes—the dull nitty-gritty of it.
— Have you been recognized by fans outside of a convention?
One of my readers works at a Chinese restaurant that I frequent. It’s nice to see her.
— Is there a convention that you look forward to attending every year? Are there any that you want to attend but haven’t yet?
I’d like to attempt VANCAF, Thought Bubble, or MoCCA at some point, but tables there are quite expensive. I enjoy doing Staple! and Webcomics Rampage here in Austin. SPX and TCAF are great if you can get in. Conventions are enjoyable but also completely exhausting.
— What are you ambitions for your career?
Keep making good comics! I don’t have any particular financial goals. I just want to make good work.
— Are there any writers or artists that inspire you?
Kyle Baker, Carla Speed McNeil, Fumi Yoshinaga, Yusuke Murata, Adam Warren, John Porcellino, Spike Trotman… many more.
— Are you a fan of anime and/or manga? What genres interest you? Do you have any favorite titles?
Not in general, but I like specific titles. My all-time favorite is the film Only Yesterday, directed by Isao Takahata. Favorite manga include Antique, Flower of Life, and Ooku by Fumi Yoshinaga, Appleseed by Masamune Shirow, and Monster by Naoki Urasawa.
— When did you decide to become a professional writer and artist?
Way back when I was a kid. There wasn’t really any other option I could see– I had to be an artist.
— Do you have a day job, or do you write and draw full-time?
I have a day job doing technical illustration for equipment user guides and textbooks.
— How do you relax and take time away from work?
Jogging, working out, video games, gardening, cooking, playing with my dogs, hiking. There’s a lot to do in Austin!
— Are you reading anything now for fun?
I’m plowing through a stack of old National Geographic articles, actually. The full-time/comics combo doesn’t leave much room for leisure reading, so it takes me months to finish a single novel.
— What advice would you give your younger self?
Stop worrying about fitting in; you won’t. Just relax.
— What advice would you give to aspiring artists and writers?
Don’t hold off on making something until you’re “good enough”; don’t worry about making bad drawings—creating work is how you learn! Move forward!
— Are you working on anything now that you can share with us?
I’m currently working with Spike Trotman on a short comic for the upcoming full-color erotic comic anthology My Monster Boyfriend. I hope everyone likes it! It’ll be my first multi-page full color work.
You can purchase The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal directly from E.K.’s webstore at tjandamal.com.