Job Title & Description: Illustrator, Comic & Storyboard Artist, Creator & Writer
Jamie: How long have you been working in comics?
Ashley: Independently, 11 years… “NIOBE: She is Life” is my first commercial comic project which is being published by Stranger Comics and was written by Sebastian A. Jones and Amandla Stenberg.
Jamie: Describe why you chose the comics industry and the path you took to get there (education, internships, etc.).
Ashley: I chose comics because it was all I knew and loved since childhood. It all started when my mom gave me a few Marvel comics that she collected from her youth as well as turned me into an anime fan and gamer when I was small. In addition, after she discovered that I had an affinity for the arts, she began to bring home stacks of paper and utensils for me to use for my art on a daily basis. By the time I was 15, I started to seriously consider the steps to realize my dreams to work in comics and animation. I chose a career in the arts because I rather suffer and slave away countless hours doing something I love, instead of balancing 3, 4 part-time jobs… because sadly finding stability in a steady 9-5 just isn’t the norm anymore. I don’t want that kind of future for myself, nor do I deserve that kind of lifestyle; especially after earning my degree. So I chose to believe and invest in myself and forge my own way. What I’ve learned through it all is there is no “one” surefire path to follow. The main trait you need is consistency. Just keep pushing and things will start lining up… but even when that begins to happen, you still have to follow through on your end. By then, you should have already developed some good time management habits and work ethic.
Jamie: What have been some of the highlights of your career/current job or project so far?
Ashley: Kicking off this year by speaking on a panel with LeSean Thomas (Boondocks, Legend of Korra, Black Dynamite) at BCAF (Black Comics Arts Festival located in San Francisco) was really cool since he’s someone I’ve respected for a while.
This year has been really good so far but one particular good month was July… that’s when everything started coming together. Months prior, I started consolidating all of the contacts I had made over the years and then I just cast this really big net, changing my tactics and becoming more aggressive about getting my work out there hoping that I’d get a big return… Finally in July, I booked a storyboard gig with Toyota, I was brought on to the “Niobe” book as the interior artist (and not just for covers or pin-ups like originally planned) and I was contacted by both Marvel & DC comics.
None of that had happened to me before, let alone all at once; I had been getting by with freelance and part-time jobs up until then. I felt that everything I had believed and planned was finally validated. My future had finally presented itself. It has been a very long journey but those opportunities could not have blossomed any sooner, as I was not as mentally prepared for it as I am now. I’ve had to grow and mature quite a bit. I feel very proud but also more focused than ever.
Jamie: Any lessons learned you like to share about your time in the business so far?
Ashley: Just do your work. Ignore any useless chatter inside – or outside – your person.
Jamie: Any links to past/upcoming projects or a portfolio you’d like to share?
Ashley: Yes, late last year I fully illustrated the 2nd issue to an ongoing indy series called, “Dziva Jones”, which was created and written by Aminah Armour.
Dziva tackles her vigilante agenda with a unique blend of both ancient and contemporary African fighting techniques coupled with telepathic and telekinetic powers. Along with her friend/partner, Detective John Khang, Dziva hunts down the scum of Chicago.
Both issues #1 and #2 are available on indlyplanet.com
My work can be viewed on my website, ashleyawoods.com, and my social media connected to it.
Jamie: What are your thoughts about diversity and its lack thereof in staffing at comic publishing companies? Is it getting better?
Ashley: I believe it’s getting better, the only thing I would nitpick at if I had to would be more original Black and female characters rather than having them being based on something that already exists. Examples are the female Thor and Miles Morales.
Jamie: Are you making any upcoming con appearances soon?
Ashley: Yes!!! I will be presenting and selling work at Sol-Con: The Brown & Black Comix Expo at Ohio State University, October 1st – 4th (Sol-Con will be free and open to the public! Check out go.osu.edu/SolCon for more details), and then New York Comic Con October 8th – 12th and Comikaze October 30th – November 1st to promote “Niobe” with Stranger Comics.
If you are at any of these shows, please stop by! I will be selling “Niobe” goodies prior to the book’s launch in addition to my personal work.
Jamie: Any advice you’d like to pass along to someone interested in the comics industry?
Ashley: It can be a long and difficult road to realize your dreams so make sure to be patient with yourself. Stay focused, keep positive people around you and keep your spirit right. No time for pessimism or negativity. There was a time where I had to cut myself off and become a lone wolf because people’s energy in my immediate vicinity was less than appealing. It was very difficult at first… not because I don’t appreciate alone time because I do, but I still had to get used to the transition. My biggest piece of advice is to not let anyone hold you back. You are not responsible for someone else’s happiness. Go out and become the best version of you you can be. When your mind and spirit are healthy, the work will flow easier.
Regarding you portfolio, study what the current trends are, as well as keep your portfolio updated with only your best work. I’ve been told that 15 pieces were enough, someone else told me 25… in any case, an editor can judge where you are in the growing process just based on the first 2 or 3 pieces, so make sure to put your best first. Also, don’t hover over people when they are reviewing your work, haha… Take the advice you are given and implement it into your future pieces… This is stuff many of us have heard time and time again, but it’s still relevant. Something else I’d like to add is to sell your work at as many shows – big and small – as you can because that’s a really good way to beef up your network relatively quickly. I can be a pretty shy person but I’ve had to shed a lot of that so that I could do what must be done. Oh! And maintain an online presence via social media and a personal site or blog.
Jamie: Any last notes or information you’d like to include?
It’s been plastered pretty much everywhere by now haha…. but please make sure to PRE-ORDER your copy of “Niobe: She Is Life” before it releases on November 4th! It would be wise to pre-order because the book has been projected to be sold out by then. The pre-order link is available in my bio link on my Instagram (ninjatrip) and right here within this paragraph (in case you don’t have IG…):
Also, keep a look out for another comic that I’m currently providing line work for: a psychedelic
sci-fi action comedy aptly named, “BAAAAAD MUTHAZ”, which will be released by Rosarium Publishing. “BM” was written and created by the super chill, Bill Campbell, and the always wonderful John Jennings will be providing the colors. I’m excited for this project, we’ve been bouncing some wild ideas back and forth over time. “BAAAAAD MUTHAZ” is unapologetic and fun and definitely not for the prudish.
I would like to thank EEEEVEEEERYONE for all of the mad love and support over the years and especially now! I can feel your power! Keep it up! I’m going to need it! Comics is hard work! Haha!!! For real, though, thank you. I am filled with gratitude. I have quite a few other projects in the works so keep your eyes on me.