Seeing Stephanie Gladden was one of the highlights for me during this past weekends 27th annual Heroes Convention in Charlotte, NC. I had seen her a couple of times before in Atlanta, but it had been a few years back. After graduating from the Atlanta College of Art, Stephanie immediately got her feet wet in the world of animation and soon began her prolific (but vastly under-rated) comics career which has seen her handling the likes of Tex Avery's Wolf & Red, Ren & Stimpy, Pepper Ann, Looney Tunes, The Flintstones, The Power Puff Girls and The Simpsons. And that's nothing to sneeze at!
She also created her own wonderful funny animal comic, Hopster's Tracks (which sadly only lasted for two issues from Bongo Comics), of which she is justifiably proud. Hopster's terrific cast (Melba, Alky, Jake and Terry, etc.) had alot of potential. Stephanie has an incredibly versatile art-style that hearkens back to the days of classic animation, yet at the same time adapts easily to more modern sensibilities. She does awesome sketches at her convention appearances and her rates are dirt cheap for the beautiful quality of the work. This lady is a class act. Stephanie agreed to answer a few post-con questions for me in a "de facto" interview via email (thanks, Stephanie!):
What's the best thing about working in comics (or animation) from your perspective?
Doing what I love and getting paid for it.
Do you feel that women are making greater headway into the field these days or are barriers still preventing a woman from breaking in?
Every year I see more women entering the comics business and fandom,which I view as good and healthy for comics in general. While I personally have had very few "glass ceiling" scenarios, I still hear some horror stories about women trying to succeed in comics and some of the sexist behavior they must endure from their male counterparts. Fortunately as time goes on, those stories become fewer. I really look forward to the day when I hear no horror stories at all.
What type of "tools" do you prefer to use in creating your artwork?
I pencil with a Staedtler mechanical pencil with non-photo blue leads.I ink my work with a Faber Castell brush pen and/or Pigma Micron pens. I tend to work on Strathmore acid-free bristol board, vellum finish (unless paper is supplied to me by my editor). And, like everyone else, I color in Photoshop.
Who do you consider as influences for your career?
My personal cartooning trinity is Chuck Jones, Charles Schulz, and Berkeley Breathed. I was influenced by these three for years. But as I entered high school and college, I found myself reading a lot of Mark Martin, Walt Kelly, Peter Bagge and Robert Crumb. In my 20s, I discovered the EC artists, particularly Wally Wood. Nowadays, I'm re-discovering Johnny Hart and Paul Coker, Jr.
Do you have any cool "war stories" to share?
Here's one my favorites and it sort of correlates with question #2:Shortly after completing some Ren & Stimpy test pages for Marvel Comics, I received a call that my letter of approval and page rate would come to me by mail. A few days later a letter arrived for "Stephen Gladden".Ignoring the mistake because it's happened to me before, I opened it,delighted to see a rather generous page rate (at the time). The next day, I received a call from some assistant editor, telling me to please disregard that letter; a letter of my REAL page rate would appear shortly. And indeed, a letter for "Stephanie Gladden" arrived. Imagine my shock upon reading the letter to discover my page rate cut by 40%!
After a few months of snarky letter writing on my part, Marvel finally upped my page rate (though I never quite made what "Stephen" would have)!
By the way, my guy buddies in the industry were REALLY mad about that!
What career goals or aspirations do you still have ahead of you or that have gone unfulfilled thus far?
I hope someday to make a decent living drawing my own comic creations.
What project has been the most fun for you so far?
Oh, there's been a few! By far, working on my own stuff ("Hopster'sTracks" and "Monster Paradise") gives me the most satisfaction. But I really enjoyed working on Peter Bagge's "Sweatshop" and Paul Dini's "Jingle Belle".
Are you a Georgia native or have you lived elsewhere?
I was born in Athens, GA, but raised in Hattiesburg, MS from the ages of two to seventeen. In 1987, I left Hattiesburg for art school in Atlanta, GA and have been living there ever since. I generally consider myself a Georgia native.
What’s your favorite non-comics thing to do?
Reading (when I have time), movies, lurking around antique shops looking for cool 50s furniture and tiki mugs, discussing comics, cartoons and pop culture while eating at diners and dives. And just walking around.
What food is your guilty pleasure?
Little Debbie snack cakes. Especially Swiss Cake Rolls.