After graduating high school Angela Melick had to choose between art or engineering. She chose both.
Talented in both art and engineering, she felt the path not chosen would be a wasted talent. Angela decided to study Mechanical Engineering at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. And create a comic book, called Wasted Talent, about the sillier parts of life inside and outside of engineering.
“In university, I named the comics I was working on Wasted Talent, because choosing engineering as a major was the first real step I’d ever taken away from art,” Angela said.
As the number of pages grew while she was on campus, Angela found herself with a problem.
“I used to carry the comics around with my engineering notes in my binder but then there were too many of them so I left them at home. People started coming up to me to ask if they could see such-and-such a comic to show their friend, but I couldn’t since I left them all at home!”
Trevor May, her husband, is a computer programmer and has created the website, along with a few updates, since its launch. Once the site was up and running, Angela would point her friends to the website instead of keeping the comic strips in her binder.
“It was mostly a matter of convenience!” she said. “If I had thought anyone outside my circle of friends would start reading it, I might not have posted those early comics.”
In 2006, a year after the website went online, Trevor noticed that people outside their circle of friends and university had taken an interest in the comics.
Since the creation of the website, Angela has appeared at comic conventions, spoken about how to draw comics, and released two books. Volume 2 was recently released and consists of two years and four months of material.
“It still took about seven to eight months to complete; I had to re-scan a lot of the early comics and create all the bonus content (20+ pages). On top of working full time and continuing to update the comic.”
Angela credits two people with helping her to launch the book so well. Her mother, who lives in the US, handles the order fulfillment. Angela estimates that 70% of her sales originate in the US and it made sense to have the majority of the shipping happen inside the US for that reason. The second person who helped her was book designer Jeff Ellise (http://teachenglishinjapan.ca ).
“I’m not a graphic designer and Jeff helps a lot, allowing me to focus on the content creation side of things. Jeff finishes the layout of the book and the cover design and helps a lot with communicating with different printers to get quotes and get everything finished. It’s printed by a professional printing house in Quebec.”
Printing a book can be a large expense. To head off the costs, Angela created special edition books with extras like posters.
“I offer a limited number of special editions (customized books with extras) which go directly towards paying off book-debt, so those readers can consider themselves direct patrons of my comic and I’m so grateful to them for it. Honestly it wouldn’t be possible to print professional quality books without the support of my readers, it’s a partnership.”
So how does someone work by day as an engineer and comic creator by night? Simple, don’t sleep! Angela says it’s due in part to time-management and self discipline. She hasn’t played a video game since college and has no other hobbies besides making comics.
“It can be tough, especially during convention season, but mostly I manage. But yeah, I don’t sleep much.”
Through the conventions Angela has been at, she has also met in-person many artists and creators who are part of the large network of webcomic and independent artists.
“Comickers are really interesting and fun people and I consider myself privileged to call them my friends. Webcomics are a lot of fun, but it’s also really tough so it’s a bit like being brothers-in-arms.”
Advice for women interested in Engineering:
“It can be difficult to find safety equipment in ladies sizes.”
The difference between American and Canadian food:
“I like Canadian milk better, but I haven’t been able to find pizza that comes close to what I can get in Brooklyn. Trevor could give you a thorough analysis on the regional variability in the taste of Coca Cola.”
Spirituality and if there is room for it in comics:
“It’s been a long time since I’ve even considered that question, so I would say I’m not a spiritual person. There’s room in comics, however, for every variation of any theme!”
Webcomics Angela Reads:
“Some of the comics I’ve read for a long time and will keep reading forever are Questionable Content, Johnny Wander, Filibuster, Hijinks Ensue and The Abominable Charles Christopher. Some comics I’ve started enjoying more recently: Boumeries, Love Me Nice, That Deaf Guy.”
Advice to others wanting to start a comic:
“Just start! There aren’t any gatekeepers anymore, and the barriers to entry are getting lower all the time so the only thing that’s really stopping you is fear.”