Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Vanessa Bettencourt

by Mike Rhode

Last weekend, I briefly stopped in the Hooray for Books bookstore in Alexandria on Saturday to meet Portuguese cartoonist Vanessa Bettencourt who was doing a drawing workshop for children, and I enjoyed seeing her interact with the kids in the audience. She agreed to answer our usual questions about her journey from Europe to northern Virginia.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

My comics have a lot of humor and fantasy and a mix of manga and Disney styles together. When I'm not working on commissions for business, websites or people who want their portraits as comic characters, I work diligently on my personal projects.

I work daily on my free webcomic series,

It started as an effective way to communicate with Jon, my fiancé in a long-distance relationship, and became a way to share my life with those who stayed behind at home after I moved from Portugal to the USA. Now I share my daily adventures as a freelance artist in the USA.

In 2015 I set a goal of a year to write, illustrate and completely finish a graphic novel on my own. I accomplished the goal. Polly and the Black Ink is 520 full-color pages that I divided into five paperbacks. The first three volumes are already available.

Sometimes I take commissions to do political cartoons (as happened with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence), but between social and political I favor social issues.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

For Polly and the Black Ink, I drew and wrote it all in paper for a few months first, then I scanned it and edited before the digital process of inking, coloring and adding the text. I write the text as I draw the scenes, instead of having a script. This way I have a better sense of space and where the text will fit in each panel.

This is my first graphic novel and I learned a lot, especially about writing short but meaningful sentences when sometimes I feel the character has so much more to say. For I only work digitally. I have my format and I stick to it. Commissions can be digital or traditional. I use Photoshop and I recently upgraded from an Intuos3 to a Cintiq 13HD.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in December, 1979 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?

I moved to the USA in 2015. I met my fiancé in 2012 when he hired me to draw all the covers for his epic fantasy series Heir of Scars, including chapter illustrations and maps. A few years later we started the K1 Visa (fiancée process), which I describe with a lot of humor in He was currently working in DC so we decided to stay. I'm a freelance artist so it's easier to adapt. We live in Alexandria near the Potomac river. As a Portuguese soul, I miss the ocean a lot, so the river is nice to have nearby.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I have a degree in Portuguese and English literature. I became a teacher and worked for publishers as a fantasy illustrator Then, I returned to college for Fine Arts while I worked. I'm self-taught when it comes to comic books and cartoons. I started drawing this style for fun. A simple away to share my day with Jon then it became more serious. I intend to continue to learn, share and create more stories and worlds.

Who are your influences?

For fantasy illustration: William Bouguereau, Larry Elmore (and all D&D art), Luis Royo, Donato Giancola, Prince Valiant by Hal Foster…

For comics and cartooning: Calvin and Hobbes’ Bill Waterson, Bones by Jeff Smith, Asterix, Turma da Monica by Mauricio de Sousa, Hagar the Horrible by Chris Browne, W.I.T.C.H fantasy series, Naoko Takeuchi (Sailor Moon), Akihiro Yamada (Junni Kokki - The Twelve Kingdoms artist), all Disney, many manga, anime and fantasy books.

And for the surreal humor with a lot of nonsense: Mortadelo & Filemon by Francisco Ibanez Talavera, Guillermo Mordillo, Janguru wa Itsumo Hare Nochi Guu manga.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

Sometimes I want to go back and retouch finished work. In the beginning, I wished I had more time to finish a cover or a project, but to get the commission we have to go with the publisher's schedule.

What work are you best-known for?

Notfrombrazil, because for the past two years I’ve been uploading thrice a week online, on the usual social media and in platforms such as tapastic and LINE Webtoon.

What work are you most proud of?

Polly and the Black Ink. I am really happy that I was able to create a compelling world, story and characters with a lot of adventure, action, mystery and fantasy parallel worlds that children, teens and adults feel compelled to read and discover. Also, the new art for the Heir of Scars book series.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

Continue to get as many commissions as possible so I can make my dreams come true. HaHa!
I will focus on finishing my epic novels so there’s not a gap between publishing Polly’s 5th volume and my next project. I will continue to work on the next covers for the Heir of Scars book also. My husband and I decided to agglomerate our projects under the same name, Violet West Entertainment, as we build our brand together.

I want to be proud of my projects, control the outcome as much as possible and be sure it's something memorable. I might return to Polly and the Black Ink for a second arc too later.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

Because I work in so many different projects and styles I got used to having an escape, but there are times that I can't work at all and I need to watch animation, movies, read, learn a new technique, go to a museum or a park, do something completely different from my daily routine and refill my batteries.

What do you think will be the future of your field? 

Things change so quickly now. Everything has an up and down side. The system or the rules change without notice, and we're forced to go with the flow or stay behind. Artists and authors will always create and try to reach their audience.

The Internet allows us to publish our books, to see people engage daily with our process and become part of the process. What we do is starting to be seen more as a job. We are professionals.

Also, the audience is starting to learn how to give back. It balances all the free entertainment or work they've been having access to. That's why it's important to support artists. Kickstarter and Patreon are good examples of making it possible for an artist to work full time on their craft and support themselves.

What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?

I attended Katsucon last February as an artist with Polly and the Black Ink debut. I got a table and it was a great experience. The audience reacted very well to the books. We'll be attending Awesome Con DC again in June with Polly and the Black Ink and the Heir of Scars books and art. I will have book III available at our table.

Next event will be Small Press Expo. We've attended it as visitors before, but this time in September we will be managing a table with our books, including Polly and the Black Ink volume IV. The downside of having a table is to be stuck behind it and miss the panels, the contests, etc.

I also attend local events as much as possible, from bookstores to street art festivals when schedule allows. I had a great opportunity to publish one comic page on the Magic Bullet #14 and I intend to keep going.

I also have an invitation from Alexandria's Duncan Branch Library, where I taught a comic book workshop last year. I will be drawing people's portrait in my cartoonish style on the street and raise money for the library during the Del Ray Street Art Festival next September 7th, 2017.

Polly and I are available to attend schools, libraries and other events to share my experience as an independent author, but also to share my process and give some tips (ages 5 up). You can reach me on my official website or contact me at

What's your favorite thing about DC?

I love the free museums and the food diversity.

Least favorite?

The business, political stiffness and mood of the city.

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?

The Lincoln Memorial. The size of the sculpture helps, but the entire area has soul. There are many good museums. The National Museum of Natural History is my favorite to visit over and over. I get so much inspiration from it to draw and come up with new storylines. And I have to visit the Zoo. I haven't had the chance.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

I love food. It's hard to pick. Each day is a different mood. From Asian to Americana. There are good seafood places in Old Town, but being Portuguese, I also miss some of the fresh and diverse seafood that we don’t have here.

Do you have a website or blog?

I keep two websites. One as an artist and another for the free webcomic series notfrombrazil.
My website has a blog where I share news of my creative process, tutorials, articles with events and book releases.

People are free to subscribe to get news of the next events or book releases.

For those who wish to get a weekly reminder of subscribe to the website I add new episodes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

You can also find the following pages on Facebook: @pollyandtheblackink, @notfrombrazil, @vanessabettencourtart and @heirofscars up to date.

On Instagram: @vanessabettencourtart where I host giveaways.

RM Rhodes on The Adventures of Dieter Lumpen

RM Rhodes of Arlington, aka the Man in the Purple Suit at local cons, writes about the Eurocomic "The Adventures of Dieter Lumpen" here:

Richmond's Adhouse Books' Ethan Rilly's Pope Hats interview

More To Come 261: TCAF 2017 and Scott Snyder Interview

Live from the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF), Calvin interviews Ethan Rilly, creator of the acclaimed 'Pope Hats' series from Ad House; and Heidi interviews Graham Chaffee, creator of the new graphic novel, 'To Have and To Hold' from Fantagraphics. In a separate interview, Calvin talks with writer Scott Snyder about his work on DC's All-Star Batman series and working on 'My Own Worst Enemy' with artist John Romita, Jr., part of DC's Rebirth line.

Mike Thompson accepted the RFK Journalism Award for cartooning last night

Mike Thompson accepted the RFK Journalism Award for cartooning last night. He did a powerful series on the bad water that the citizens of Flint, MI have been subjected to. I was one of the judges so I went to the ceremony and Bruce Guthrie photographed it.

Cartoonist Mike Thompson and Kerry Kennedy pose before the award ceremony.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Teresa Roberts Logan, aka The Laughing Redhead, comes to Go Comics!

We heard today from our buddy and former DC resident -

"It's official! "Laughing Redhead Comics" starts publishing on GoComics, with Andrews McMeel Syndicate, on June 26th! I'm thrilled, y'all!"

"It's a mix of different stuff! Including the Grim Reaper cartoons. I'm gonna be in the "OFFBEAT" genre/section."

Teresa Roberts Logan
Laughing Redhead Studio, Inc.

Colonial Comics 2 reviewed

Graphic Novels: The Latest from Matt Kindt, Margaret Atwood, and More | May 2017 Xpress Reviews

Donate to HeroesCon Drink & Draw to research Parkinson's Disease in Richard Thompson's name

Chris Sparks says, "The Heroescon Drink and Draw is June 16th. Artists, we would love to have some great items donated to put up to have at the beginning of the show to tempt the con attendees with. June 14th is our deadline to receive art. The sooner we get it, the sooner we can share and support you and your kindness to us.

Thank you in advance!"

Please mail it to:
Team Cul de Sac
C/O Chris Sparks
54 Herron Ave
Asheville NC 28806

Monday, May 22, 2017

Comic Riffs on the return of Resist!

As female cartoonists respond to Trump era, a political anthology gains momentum

Washington Post
Comic Riffs blog May 22 2017

Steve Conley on Tall Tale Radio

Artist and writer Steve Conley of the comic "The Middle Age" joins me to talk about his most excellent and varied career in comics and multimedia design! Steve has had several successful independent comics in the past, like "Astounding Space Thrills" that ran for 15 issues and was compiled by IDW in a 10-year anniversary edition back in 2008.

Here in Part 1 of this epic interview, we talk about his early career and the path through indie comics that he's taken, and get into the creation of the 2017 Eisner Award nominated comic, "The Middle Age"  which you can get a copy of right here!

Steve Conley talks about how he uses the iPad Pro almost exclusively for his 2017 Eisner Award nominated comic "The Middle Age," and how it's changed how he approaches his art.  Then we go into more detail about his long history with comic conventions, notably his time as the Executive Director of SPX and his involvement with the excellent  Baltimore Comic Con!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Vanessa Bettencourt on her Hooray for Books appearance

I briefly stopped in the Hooray for Books bookstore in Alexandria on Saturday to meet Portuguese cartoonist Vanessa Bettencourt, and enjoyed seeing her interact with the kids. I bought her two books, and we'll be doing our usual interview with her, but in the meantime, she wrote up her own impressions of her workshop at

That darn Lisa Benson

Democrats aren't mad that Comey was fired. They're mad that Trump did it. [in print as Focus on the firer; Letters to the Editor]

Eric Sorensen, Rockville

Washington Post May 20 2017, p. A15
online at

Friday, May 19, 2017

Comic Riffs talks to Bagieu about Mama Cass

And Michael will be interviewing her at the book festival tomorrow too...

Mama Cass graphic biography 'California Dreamin' ' shows how a Baltimore teen became a rock star

From "California Dreamin': Cass Elliot Before the Mamas and the Papas," by Penelope Bagieu (First Second Books 2017)

Teresa Logan continues to Resist!

Formerly local cartoonist Teresa Logan has a new drawing up on the Resist! blog  at

The Post on the new Wimpy Kid movie

Fourth 'Wimpy Kid' film mixes fitful laughs with frequent groans [in print as In new 'Wimpy' film, a fresh cast and amped-up 'yuck'.

Washington Post May 19 2017, p. Weekend 26
online at

Scoop on Nobleman's project to get Finger's Batman recognition

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Kilgore Books Kickstarter launched


 We wanted to let you know we've launched a Kickstarter to help fund our late spring line of new comics. To simply back us, go here:

We're putting out four incredible new comics, and reprinting two classic Van Sciver titles. We've got rewards at all levels, from $1 to $175, and we hope you'll help us out.

May 20: Comic creators at Gaithersburg Book Festival

Latest Title:

California Dreamin'

Pénélope Bagieu was born in Paris in 1982 to Corsican and Basque parents. Returning for her second time to the Gaithersburg Book Festival, Penelope is a best-selling graphic novel author and her editorial illustrations appear across the French media. "Culottées," her graphic novel of short biographical sketches of daring women throughout history, debuted as the #1 best-selling
Continue Reading

Latest Title:

Noisy Night

Brian Biggs is the illustrator of approximately one bazillion children's books, three of which he also wrote. Brian creates his pictures in an old, one-story garage studio in Philadelphia. He lives with his wife and teenage kids nearby in a three-story house, right next to some very noisy neighbors. Facebook Twitter: @mrbiggsdotcom Vimeo

Latest Title:

Flying Machines: How the Wright Brothers Soared

Molly Brooks grew up in Nashville, Tenn., received her MFA in illustration from the School of Visual Arts, and is currently based in Brooklyn. Her illustrations have appeared in The Village Voice, The Guardian, The Boston Globe, Time Out New York, The Toast, BUST Magazine, Sports Illustrated online, and elsewhere. Twitter: @mollybrooks Tumblr: MollyBrooks

Latest Title:

Hocus Focus

Alexis Frederick-Frost is co-author and illustrator of the critically acclaimed "Adventures in Cartooning" series of graphic novels and picture books. Combining instructional material and an exciting comic, "Adventures in Cartooning: How To Turn Your Doodles into Comics," was named a Top Ten Graphic Novel and Top Ten Art Book for Kids by Booklist. Called "a
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Latest Title:

Samurai Rising

Gareth Hinds is the creator of critically-acclaimed graphic novels based on literary classics, including "Beowulf," "King Lear," "The Merchant of Venice," "The Odyssey," "Romeo & Juliet," "Macbeth" and coming in August 2017, "POE: Stories and Poems." His books have received rave reviews from every major review publication, and most recently he illustrated "Samurai Rising," a
Continue Reading

Latest Title:

Bats: Learning to Fly

Falynn Koch currently lives in old city Philadelphia  with her husband Tucker and her dog Ghost. She has a Masters degree from Savannah College of Art and design in Atlanta, and is a graduate of the International Culinary Center in New York City. She's a former food truck owner and is the writer and illustrator for
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Latest Title:

Juana and Lucas

Juana Medina was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. She won the 2017 Pura Belpre award for her book "Juana & Lucas." She also is the illustrator of "Smick!" by Doreen Cronin and the author-illustrator of "One Big Salad." Juana has studied and taught at the Rhode Island School of Design and now teaches at
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Latest Title:

Astronaut Academy

Dave Roman is the editor and creator of the Science Comics series that will consist of 25 graphic novels. He also is the author/illustrator of the "Astronaut Academy" series (winner of Maryland's Black-Eyed Susan Book Award) and writer of the graphic novels "Teen Boat! Race for Boatlantis" and "Agnes Quill: An Anthology of Mystery." He has contributed stories
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Latest Title:

Science Comics: Flying Machines: How the Wright Brothers Soared

Alison Wilgus is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based best-selling writer for comics and prose. "Flying Machines: How The Wright Brothers Soared " is her latest book. She has upcoming graphic novels – "Chronin" with Tor and non-fiction comics about aviation and human spaceflight for First Second Books. Her previous work has been has been published by Dark Horse, Del
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Latest Title:


Ru Xu grew up in Indianapolis and received a degree in Sequential Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design. She is the creator of the popular webcomic "Saint for Rent." "NewsPrints" is her first graphic novel. Her favorite things include historical fiction, fat birds and coffee-flavored ice cream. Twitter: @ruemxu

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

May 25: S.T.E.A.M. Within the Panels at AAAS Art Gallery

The American Association for the Advancement of Science invites you to a reception celebrating S.T.E.A.M. Within the Panels, a new exhibit in the AAAS Art Gallery that explores the depiction of science in comics and graphic books, at 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 25, 2017. Join several of the exhibiting artists for an evening of talks and exploration of science and comic expressions. 

Complimentary copies of artist Matt Dembicki’s book, Wild Oceans: Sharks, Rays, and other Endangered Sea Creatures, will be available to attendees while supplies last.  (Courtesy of 
Fulcrum Publishing)

This reception is supported by Subaru Loves Learning. RSVP here.

June 14: Comic Superheroines and the Arts @ National Museum of Women in the Arts

**Media Advisory—Fresh Talk: Who are the new superwomen of the universe?, Wed., June 14**
FRESH TALK: Who are the new superwomen of the universe?
For much of comics history, women characters were introduced as plot devices for leading male characters with disheartening regularity. A new wave of superheroines is entering the comic universe, leading the fight for justice and dispelling traditional stereotypes in fiction and beyond. Speakers include Carolyn Cocca, author of Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation; Ariell Johnson, owner of Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, Philadelphia; Gabby Rivera, author of Marvel's AMERICA series and the novel Juliet Takes a Breath; and Ashley Woods, illustrator, graphic novelist, and artist for the Stranger Comics series NIOBE: She is Life.
Wed., June 14, 7–9:30 p.m.

Fresh Talk: 7–8:30 p.m.
Catalyst cocktail hour: 8:30–9:30 p.m.
Exhibition galleries open to attendees: 5–6:45 p.m.

National Museum of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20005
$25 general; $20 members, seniors, students; price includes museum admission and Catalyst cocktail hour. Reservations required. Reserve online at For more information, contact

The program will be live-streamed as well as recorded and made available on the museum's website shortly afterward. To watch the live stream, visit on the day of the event. Also, join conversations before, during and after Fresh Talk events with #FreshTalk4Change.
Carolyn Cocca / @carolyncocca
Carolyn Cocca
is a political scientist and associate professor in the Department of Politics, Economics, and Law at the State University of New York, College at Old Westbury, where she teaches courses on U.S. Politics, the Politics of Gender and Sexuality, Civil Rights Law and Civil Liberties Law. She is the author of multiple publications about gender, law and the news media, but for the past few years she has been focused on gender, comics and pop-culture media. Her latest book Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation examines how female superheroes are portrayed in print, on TV and in movies, and how and why those portrayals have changed over time.
Ariell Johnson / @AmalgamPhilly
A true child of the '80s, Ariell Johnson grew up on a diet of He-Man, She-Ra, Thundercats and Transformers. This would be the gateway to a lifelong love of superpowers, superheroes and comics. She turned this passion into a career at age 32 when she opened Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse in Philadelphia, a hybrid comic-book store and coffee shop. Amalgam is the only black-woman owned shop of its kind, and the only black-woman owned comic book store on the East Coast. Johnson has a strong passion and commitment to diversity, representation and inclusivity. She uses her shop to showcase and promote works that are created by and feature people of color, different faiths, women and the LGBTQ community.
Gabby Rivera / @quirkyrican
Gabby Rivera is currently making major waves for her new Marvel series starring America Chavez: a queer, Latinx superhero who's been written and designed, crucially, by a queer Latinx. Rivera is also the author of Juliet Takes a Breath, a YA novel listed by Mic as one of the 25 essential books to read for Women's History Month. As an activist, Rivera also gives back. She's the Youth Programs Manager at GLSEN (pronounced "glisten"), a leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for LGBTQ students. That means fewer incidents of bullying and harassment, and more students treated with respect. She's also worked with for over five years as the QTPOC Speakeasy editor and A-Camp staff. As a film and multi-media teaching artist, Rivera has worked with social justice organizations like DreamYard Project, Inc. She has appeared as a featured panelist and counselor at the annual Autostraddle Queer Women's Conference, and has presented at the Allied Media and Digital Media and Learning Conferences.
Ashley Woods / @Ashes_Art
Born and raised in Chicago, Ashley A. Woods is an artist who got her start through self-publishing her action-fantasy comic series, Millennia War, while attending the International Academy of Design and Technology. After earning her degree in Film and Animation in 2007, she traveled to Kyoto, Japan, where she presented her work in a gallery showcase called Out Of Sequence. After returning to the states, work from her comics was included in the Black Comix compilation table-top book, which was used in college courses at various universities internationally. During summer 2015, she joined the team of Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg and Stranger Comics to work on NIOBE: She Is Life, which went on to sell tens of thousands of copies. Woods is currently working on LADY CASTLE with Delilah S. Dawson (Star Wars, Wicked As They Come) for BOOM! Studios and on the cover for Vampire Hunter D (Stranger Comics). When Woods isn't working, she enjoys traveling, playing video games and studying Japanese.
Fresh Talk is the signature program of Women, Arts and Social Change (WASC), a bold new platform at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., composed of programs highlighting the power of women and the arts as catalysts for change. Programs convene women from a range of disciplines—people whose socially conscious ideas are reshaping lives and economies, engaging communities and empowering women. WASC is a unique forum for innovators and thought leaders to engage audiences in creative conversations on art, design, gender, equity, the environment, identity, education, health, social and economic opportunity, and more.
The Women, Arts and Social Change public program initiative is made possible through leadership gifts from Denise Littlefield Sobel, Lorna Meyer Calas and Dennis Calas, the MLDauray Arts Initiative, and the Swartz Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Bernstein Family Foundation, Marcia and Frank Carlucci, Deborah G. Carstens, the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund, and The Reva and David Logan Foundation.

# # #
Left to right: Carolyn Cocca photo by Steven Goodman, Ariell Johnson, Gabby Rivera photo by Julieta Salgado, Ashley Woods; Artwork by Ashley A. Woods

May 20: Graphic Novel Workshop at Hooray for Books

Graphic Novel Workshop with 
Vanessa Bettencourt

Saturday, May 20th: 3 pm

Have you ever wanted to write your own graphic novel? Or wondered what the process is to write and publish your own book? Join us for a FREE workshop with graphic novel author, Vanessa Bettencourt, who has written the Polly and the Black Ink series.

1555 King Street

Alexandria, VA 22314

May 20: Beer and comics at Heroic Aleworks

Heroic Aleworks and the D.C. Conspiracy, a group of comic creators, writers, artists, editors, and fans based in the Washington, DC region, are teaming up for a minicomics and arts show featuring about two dozen local comics creators! Pick up some one-of-a-kind locally made comics as you enjoy a pint (or two) of your favorite Heroic beer!