We spend a lot of time focusing on mainstream media here at the Fandomentals, with good cause. The importance of storytelling and representation demands that we dissect those pieces of media that are influential in shaping cultural conversations.
The other side of this coin, though, is the importance of original content created by members of marginalized communities. And that’s something we value here just as much, if not more, because of how under-represented many minority communities are in mainstream media. We’ve covered original web series that prioritize LGBT+ stories like Inconceivable, Couple-ish, and Pot Luck. Two of our very own writers, Jess and Shailyn, have created their own web series, After Oil, that’s well worth checking out.
Web series aren’t the only original content out there being created with a view toward representation of the LGBT+ community. A whole host of amazing visual artists, writers, and budding directors/producers produce content for us to enjoy. Artists like Foley.
Foley, aka Foleypdx, is a visual artist whose probably best known around the interwebs for fan works in the Supergirl fandom. I have two, no three, of her Supercorp/Sanvers posters hanging on my wall because they’re stunning. (I could stare at them all day, only then I wouldn’t get my work done.) She has a unique style and an eye for luscious details (and some freaking gorgeous love and sex scenes). So, when I found out she’d be producing her own webcomic entitled The Widow and The Wolf, I knew I had to read it. Vikings and werewolves and wlw protagonists and butch representation? Yes please!
I actually got to meet her at ClexaCon, and was thrilled when she agreed to sit down and talk with me about her art.
How long have you been drawing?
Foley: I can’t really remember a time growing up when I wasn’t drawing. I was always kind of up in my head as a child. Not distant, just daydreaming. A little shy. I was always coming up with new stories. I grew up around comic books. My dad used to hand over comics that, in retrospect, were well above my age level; like Iron Man during the alcoholism storyline, Frank Miller’s run on Swamp Thing, and lots of Conan and Red Sonja. I remember being really excited to see other people (grown ups) using art as a way to tell stories. It seemed like a good way to get all the things rattling around in my head out.
So I drew. A lot. To keep myself company.
Did you start primarily drawing fanart? Or, did you get your start doing original work and then branch into fanart when you found a character or relationship particularly compelling?
F: I’ve drawn fan art for Hannibal, How To Get Away With Murder, The Good Wife, Mad Max… I did a really lovely ink wash piece of Regina from Once upon a Time. And besides those, I’ve done a little video game fan art here and there because my wife is big into games. I think if you search the tags on my tumblr you’d find fanart for Uncharted and Mass Effect… maybe a little Overwatch. But it was never anything self sustaining. I feel like I was very late to fandom, and kind of late to the internet in general. I’m sure I drew fanart growing up—I remember drawing my favorite Marvel and DC superheroes all the time, but I didn’t really have a way to share it with anyone, or access to computers.
I’ve enjoyed plenty of fanart. I’ve met some truly amazing people through being a fanart appreciator, but there was never really a show or pairing that sparked my imagination to the point where I just HAD to draw those characters, where I had to make up my own comics and fanwork to articulate my perception of that particular world. I’ve watched plenty of shows that I have loved a lot, but it just never clicked. I was always percolating my own ideas and trying to figure out how to tell my own stories.
You draw a lot of Supergirl fanart, what is it about Supercorp and Sanvers that inspires you to make fanart?
F: I do draw a lot of Supergirl fanart, don’t I? Truth is, I was really deeply depressed last year. And I remember it was around my birthday and I had taken some time off from work, I mainlined Supergirl and just kind of fell in love with the characters. Alex is so strong and stoic. Kara tries so hard to be kind and good. Their dynamic is so lovely and supportive.
That love and support really hit me.
When season two started and they introduced Maggie, I was intrigued. And then the Sanvers storyline picked up, and you had Alex struggling with figuring herself out. Digging into all the things she kept buried. It resonated. I wanted her to be happy, because in some small way this fictional character finding happiness meant there was hope for me, too. Huge plus that I got to see two strong willed, smart, no-nonsense dames fall for each other. That was great. What’s not to love?
And then there’s Supercorp. I never expected to be this enamored with two fictional characters. The chemistry between the two actresses is just… undeniable. They are so electric together. And there are a lot of things about Lena Luthor that I can really connect with. This iteration of her feels very real to me. And the idea that someone like Kara would see the good in someone like Lena… it just hits me right in the core of my being.
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Any other favorite subjects for fanart?
F: Not at the moment. Folks have commissioned me for lots of other ships, so I’ll try to do those commissions justice… but mostly I really enjoy the Supergirl fandom and I’m always working on my own material.
Did you always intend to draw a webcomic? If not, what inspired you to go that direction with your art?
F: I did intend for The Widow and The Wolf to be a webcomic. It really played into how I paced the pages, trying to fit cohesive information into each post. So the idea was in my head during the scripting and thumbnailing process.
I’m always trying to find ways to do a narrative justice. Will this be better as prose? Will it work better as a long format novel? Do I have the energy to do this as a comic? What challenges am I going to face making this happen? Those are all valuable questions to ask yourself.
In the case of tW&tW, I wanted people to SEE someone like Fen. To see a female lead who was physically imposing and masculine of center. Butch. I needed to put that out there because positive representation of butch women in media is seriously lacking.
Amen! So tell me a bit more about your inspiration for the story. What was it about the setting or other elements that really drew you?
F: I am a HUGE history nerd. I have always had a soft spot for medieval and Viking Age Europe. I’ve read an obscene amount of books and watched a ton of documentaries and BBC specials. It’s a fascinating time in human history: cultures colliding, ideologies colliding. It’s all still so relevant.
I had been co-hosting a podcast reviewing lesbian romance novels with my wife and some pals. We were throwing around basic genres we wish we could find. Mashing them up. Making each other laugh with the results. But lesbian viking/werewolf was a concept that stuck in my head. I couldn’t let it go.
I started sketching and plotting and ended up with a loosely historically based fairytale about two women, each possessing great strength, who find each other by chance and fall for one another.
I was hooked. I had to tell it. Even if no one read it but me.
How long did it take you to complete everything for The Widow and The Wolf?
F: I’ve been working on it for three years, more or less. Maybe a little bit longer. From concept to script to thumbnails to pencils to digital color.
I’m very lucky I’m in a position where I have great tools to help make it all happen. I had originally intended for all the pages to be hand painted and lettered. Instead, I opted for digital watercolor on my Cintiq. There are great resources for brushes out there, and I was able to easily make a handful of different fonts from my handwriting so letter has been a lot easier than hand-painting each letter.
It’s a long process. But so worth it.
How would you describe the importance of representation for your art generally and specifically with regard to this webcomic?
F: I grew up consuming media where I didn’t see myself in anyone. I could most easily relate to male characters, but not to their ease and privileges. And I found it hard to connect with female characters… I found them lovely and stunning… but they weren’t me.
So I felt lost for a really long time. Othered.
And all I wanted to see, all I wanted to know, was that it was okay to be myself.
I wanted heroes that looked like me.
People tend to comment that all my women are “solid and strong”, even when they are feminine. Because I recognize those factors are not mutually exclusive.
That’s amazing, and so needed these days. Any ideas/inspiration for any other original art after you’re done with The Widow and The Wolf?
F: There are lots of things I’m working on. The trouble is carving out time. But there’s a queer rom-com centering around open relationships brewing. A Sci/Fi piece about a butch mercenary. A WWI era lesbian romance set in the Australian outback. The follow up to my action/adventure novel, Against the Tide. And I am currently writing a long format dystopian Supergirl fanwork that’s about Lena Luthor going full vigilante to save Kara.
After the election last year, I’ve really reassessed my personal agenda when it comes to my work. It’s become increasingly more gay. So now, when asked, I can tell people “Yes. I do in fact, have a Gay Agenda. Let me tell you about it…”
HA! I love it. What would you say to other artists who want to write/draw original content?
F: Get out there. Tell your story. Tell it your way. Create!
Trying is the only way you grow. If you’re concerned your art isn’t good enough… the only way it gets better is if you keep trying. My art is very different from when I started tW&tW. I learned a lot drawing it. Comics and illustration are a language. The more you speak it, the more fluent you become.
And as far as storytelling and queer representation are concerned, no one is going to tell your story for you. You have a voice that deserves to be heard. Speak. Write. Draw. Figure out the format that suits the work and go for it. Maybe you scrap it. Maybe you move on. But at least you tried.
Create characters that you relate to, worlds that mean something to you, stories that inspire you… I guarantee your work will resonate with someone. Using art and writing as a way to help marginalized folks feel less alone is really beautiful and worthwhile.
So, what is the best way that we, as readers, can support you and other original content creators?
F: For me, following @foleypdx and @thewidowandthewolf on Tumblr is always appreciated. I’m also on Instagram and Twitter as @foleypdx, but those are predominantly causal accounts… Meaning I post a lot of pics of my cats.
I run art prints in-home, so please don’t be shy, and contact me if you’re interested in a print of an existing work. Commissions are also available, but are currently closed. I’ll let folks know when they are open again.
You can always speak with your wallet and support a creator via services like Patreon and other crowdfunding services. Though I’ll be honest, even simple things like just letting a creator know that you appreciate the effort they put in means the world.
It’s meant so much to get messages on Tumblr or Twitter, to interact with people who are touched or excited by my art. That’s why conventions like ClexaCon are so important. Going there and being able to meet people face to face… to give folks a hug and enthuse about our shared fandom or experiences. I am stronger because of the support I have been lucky enough to receive.
Letting people know you value their work, even in small ways, matters. Commission them. Contribute to that creator’s Patreon. Support their Indie Go-Go or Kickstarter. Leave them a message. Reblog and comment. Or leave those sweet, charming, and sometimes, hilarious tags.
Those gestures of kindness and support are fuel to creators… It is noticed. It is appreciated.
Thanks again to Foley for the interview. You can check out her work (and support her by buying art!) via the links above.
Oh, and go read The Widow and The Wolf!
It updates every week Tuesdays and Thursdays, and let me tell you, it’s so good. I devour it every week. Did I mention the main character, Fen, is a butch Viking wlw and the other, Eleanor, is an elegant lady wlw who rules her own land and shuts down sexists douchebags? Seriously, go read it. You will not regret it.