Becky Cloonan Talks Comics and Sketchbooks

Case Study

Becky Cloonan is a prolific comic book artist and writer. She’s drawn the main Batman title for DC Comics, written The Punisher for Marvel Comics, and published her own solo graphic novel called By Chance or Providence. When Becky sent in artwork for us to print, we collectively oohed and awed at its beautiful artistry. Becky’s Dream Journals pictured above perfectly utilize the kraft covers of Scout Books, with a bold black flood and striking white highlights. We talked with Becky about her books, her work, and how she’s gotten to where she is in her career.

Becky Cloonan, such a privilege to be talking with you! Can you share a bit about your work and what you do?
My day job- if you can call it that- is making comic books! I write and draw for Marvel, DC and Image Comics, as well as illustration work for Mondo. I try and round it out with original illustration work, just to keep myself busy. I’ve worked on books like Punisher, Batman, True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys- but the book I’m maybe most proud of is a compilation of three short stories called By Chance or Providence, kind of spooky folktale vibes if you’re into that kind of thing!

We absolutely love the illustration on the covers of your books. What is the inspiration for the sketchbooks you made for Sofa Con?
I released a set of prints for Sofa Con this past June in which I tried to capture the impermanence of dreams, so the ideas was to make the sketchbook a counterpart to that- a Dream Journal if you will! Dreams can be so many things- fantasies, nightmares, hopes or ambitions. At the end of the day it’s just a sketchbook, but that was the concept behind the illustration and how it tied into some of my other work!

How do you use the books? Are they available to purchase online?
Oh man, I love the size of these sketchbooks! They’re so easy to carry around in a pocket. I’m the type of person who has seven sketchbooks going at any given time, each with its own size and purpose. Sometimes I’ll save sketchbooks for a year or two before I find the right use for it. I’ve started using this one as a place to log ideas for new stories and projects!

Becky Cloonan Sketchbooks - Scout Books

Are you sketching first drafts on paper or do you start with a digital file?
I almost always start with a sketch on paper, just to get the idea down. I’ll scan that and use that as the rough for my digital work. I find I get ideas out easier when I’m working with pencil and paper, which is why I love sketchbooks so much and still keep a physical date book instead of a digital one. I still try to find time to ink traditionally, but there’s a lot of things I can do on a computer that I can’t do by hand.

You’ve made an incredible amount of artwork, things you’ve imagined yourself and renditions of already beloved characters. Do you change your approach or does it always start the same way?
There’s definitely a foundation to the way that I draw that will always be consistent, but I definitely think that it’s good to switch things up every now and again. After all, not every project is the same, so why treat them with the same techniques? I’m constantly looking for new ways to approach my work, from the way I tell a story to the way that I draw it. I think part of fighting art blocks, burnout and stagnation is always keeping yourself moving and open to learning new things.

Okay big question here, but to many, you have a dream job of writing and illustrating comics. What do you think are the biggest contributors to your success?
The great thing about making comics is that there’s always another story I want to tell, so when one book is done there’s always another ready to go. And my biggest asset is maybe my stubbornness. Even though it’s been daunting and difficult at times, I’m too headstrong to ever give up.

Any off-topic recommendations for our audience? Could be anything, music, food, recent purchase, whatever you’ve been enjoying lately.
If you don’t have any plants around, get some! They really brighten up work and living spaces, and watching them grow reminds of what it’s like making comics: slow and steady. I recently got a couple of tiny plastic dinosaurs to hang out with a miniature fig tree, and every time I look at it I smile!

Huge thanks to Becky Cloonan for taking the time to speak with us! Keep up to date with Becky via her Instagram and Twitter.