Thought Bubble 2018 runs 17th – 23rd September!

Minterviews 2013: Pia Guerra by thoughtbubblefestival

Hola amigos!

Hope you’re enjoying the first sprunging of spring sunshine, mixed in with icy death winds, and hyper-condensed snow blizzards. Isn’t global warming wonderful?

We’ve gotten through the avalanche of bookings that arrived last month for this year’s convention, and have started popping up some wonderful exhibitor icons on the website to reflect that – you can see the ones we’ve received so far for New Dock (Octopus) Hall and Royal Armouries (Wars) Hall by clicking on the links!

We’ll be updating the pages throughout the year, and be sure to have a click around on the icons to discover some wonderful creators. We’ve also been updating the guests pages regularly over the last month, so go and have a gander to whet your appetite at some of the awesome talent that’s coming to Leeds this November!

If you’re yet to send over and icon then please do, you can see all the details of what’s needed on this page, and if you missed out on a table, then you can sign up to our reserves list on here.


Every year, we like to have a chat with some of the wonderful creators that we get to meet through the festival, and pop the transcripts up online. We ask the same 5 starting questions to everyone, and then figure out 5 more questions from their answers to those to form a mini-interview, a MINTERVIEW! In an ideal world thunder will crash and lightning will flash as you read that mighty word, but if it doesn’t, just use your imagination.

This week we’re speaking to the awesome Pia Guerra whose artwork in Y – The Last Man is a perennial favourite here at Thought Bubble towers, and we were extremely honoured (and grateful) to be able to auction some of her original art earlier in the year as part of our charity sketch event. You can see our chat below, and for more of Pia’s work, check out her website.

TB: Hi Pia! So, to start off, could you tell us how you got started in comics? Did you get a big break, or was it more gradual?

PG: I was always drawing my own comics and friends told me I should do it for a living. I went to some local comic cons and showed my work to other artists and editors and their feedback convinced me I could make a go of comics as a career. It was a very slow creep upwards, I worked on a lot of indy books, and this being the early 90s, just as the whole industry was about to implode many of those projects never saw the light of day or were so limited no one got to really see it. I did work illustrating role playing game manuals, cards and storyboards for television on top of crappy part time jobs to keep a roof over my head. Every year I went to San Diego Comic Con to show my work and it was there I met Heidi MacDonald who made me her pet project. I tried out for many books over about a three year period, got rejected for each but kept going until 2001 when I got a call about Y. The rest you know.

TB: Are you a tabletop gamer yourself as well as a comic fan then, or were the RPG manual & card illustrations just a job to pay the bills?

PG: I did a lot of tabletop gaming in high school and with friends after that, mostly D&D. I came across White Wolf gaming manuals while hanging out in game shops and really liked the artwork, especially Tim Bradstreet’s pieces. We never played those modules, it seemed complex and a bit too gothy for our group but I always kept an eye out for the manuals when they came in.  Later, after trying out and landing some work on the books some Masquerade gamers tried to explain how the system worked but it didn’t really grab me enough to try it. A lot of it involved LARPing and I wasn’t into that. I enjoyed the work though, I approached it from the perspective of a National Geographic photographer roaming the world of Vampires and Werewolves, I was very happy with how it looked.

TB: Did your working style change much over those three years before Y? Do you markedly tailor the art style to a given project / story, or does it develop more organically?

PG: I spent most of that time just trying to get up to working speed and still making it look right. It was a few months before Y that I was finally comfortable with basic technique and that was when I started experimenting with style.  Also, since I was getting a lot of rejections from Vertigo I figured I’d switch focus to superhero books, my portfolio was starting to loosen up and feel more dynamic, enough so to get me on a waiting list for the Buffy comic (which I was pretty excited about) and then Y came along and I had to pull my style back to a more cinematic realism as fitting to the script.

Artwork by Pia Guerra

TB: What do you think is your proudest moment, in comics or otherwise, to date?

PG: Proudest moment in comics? Wow. Safeword is up there. That arc was fun and different and struck some nice notes. I really like how it came out. And then of course the last issue. I was wreck after that but in a “Holy shit it works!” kind of way. I never feel a hundred percent about any book I’ve done, there’s always a part of me that thinks I could have made this better if I’d done this or maybe if I did that in another way it would have popped more… the last issue could have been better in many ways but it was the strongest I’ve ever managed and I’m proud of that. I hit the marks just the way I wanted to hit and every time I hear how it messed someone up reading it I just feel “yeah, nailed it.” It’s a rare and good feeling.

TB: Would you say that that’s the hardest part of making comic for you – sending them out into the “real world” once you’ve finished working on them?

PG: Working on them. Absolutely. Sending them out, or to put it bluntly, getting them out of my hair so I can spend crazy hours on the next batch, that’s the part you live for.

TB: Do you enjoy attending conventions and other events like Thought Bubble?

PG: Working in comics is very isolating, you work in a studio for most of the year, you don’t get out much to socialize, especially if you’re on deadline. Your main form of communication is electronic, whether it’s with colleagues or readers and there are limits to what comes across. Conventions are fantastic because you just get a face full of interaction. You get to really hear what people think of the work you do and there’s a great back and forth exchange that’s immediate and engaging. There’s also the chance to give advice to new artists and see the enthusiasm that’s just bursting out of them, it makes you want to point them in all these new and, hopefully, helpful directions. Not to mention getting to hang out with other creators, many of them long time friends, who are in very much the same boat and eager to catch up and share all the stuff they’ve found in the time since you saw them last… or you’re meeting new creators who you’ve alternately adored for years or never heard of before and you want to hear everything they have to say, look at everything they have to show. It’s a very exciting time for all involved, very electric and I love it.

TB: So, do you think that that human interaction, and face-to-face criticism/appraisal of work, is an essential part of breaking into the industry for a budding artist or writer then?

PG: It is possible to get work through email and internet networking but I believe it’s a tougher slog. Editors don’t just want to see your work, they want to see YOU. It’s the direct interaction that gives them an idea of how you’ll be to work with, whether you’re good at communicating, whether you’re an easy or difficult personality, whether you’re the type who listens to feedback or gets defensive, whether you behave professionally and most important, whether you’re consistent. Artists rarely get a job after one meeting, it usually takes several follow ups with an editor to get a clear picture, and that’s why going to cons, establishing and building relationships is worth the time and effort to go.

Artwork by Pia Guerra

TB: Which comics are you enjoying at the moment, any all-time favourites?

PG: I am so digging Hawkeye right now. It’s a well written, very funny book with amazing artwork from David Aja (the kind of amazing that makes you SO ANGRY BECAUSE IT’S SO GOOD! ARRR!) Also, Wolverine an the X-Men is fun and Saga which is so damn beautiful. I’ve been getting sucked into manga lately, Bakuman and Drops of God are very good. All time favourites… Uncanny X-Men #205 has mind blowing art from Barry Windsor Smith that made me want to make comics, Sean Phillip’s run on Hellblazer was very inspirational.

TB: Have you been enjoying the recent superhero title upheavals from the ‘big two’?

I’ve never been a big follower of “events” in comics. I have my titles that I read every month, creative teams I prefer and if I suddenly have to read a bunch of other books that never grabbed me before just to stay up to date, I get irked. That being said, I have been impressed with what Marvel has been doing with their big arcs. While it’s helpful to read other titles, it’s not as essential, and the tent-pole books, those mini-series that run separately and tell the bulk of the story, I really like that. The fact those books have brilliant eye popping art helps too.

DC is a bit different. I admire the effort to revamp and streamline EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE but the execution felt really rough and rushed. A lot of creative teams got shuffled about, there was inconsistency in places, a lot of changes made and then all these stories seemed interconnected in that way that I personally can’t stand. It kinda lost me.

TB: Finally, thought bubbles or caption boxes?

PG: Oh that’s a tough one. I was raised on thought bubbles and in a way I miss them, but yeah, caption boxes bring a very different feel to it, a more personal approach, like it’s closer to your ear as you read it, conspiratorial.


We’d like to say a massive thank you to Pia for taking the time to talk to us, and we hope you enjoyed reading – we’ll be bringing you some more comic chats in the coming weeks, and you can check out the archives of previous years’ Minterviews at this page.

Remember, the force will be with you. ALWAYS.


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