Interview with Christina Poag – American Comic Book Writer
Last week I caught up with Christina Poag to discuss her number one passion: making art. An American comic book creator living in Canada, Christina took me through her move from the sunny beaches of LA to the harsh and cold landscape of Canada. With her she’s taken her love of comics book writing, Franz Ferdinand and her ongoing webcomic, Ashes and Coffee Stains.
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Hi Christina, how are you going right now? How is this chaotic world treating you?
Christina Poag: Oh my gourd the world is a hellscape right now but I’m hanging in there like everyone else.
Where in the world are you from?
Christina Poag: Well I was born and raised in Los Angeles but for the last 7+ years I’ve lived in Toronto, Canada. I love the snow every year but I do miss the dry heat and the beaches of LA. Also good Mexican
That’s quite a move. I’ve heard that some Americans would call that treason, right? Was there much of a culture shock when you moved to Toronto?
Christina Poag: Treason? Oh I hope not! I moved because my partner’s job at a studio moved to Toronto. I just took it as another grand adventure of my lifetime. The biggest culture shock for me was that everything here is so much slower than LA. When I lived in LA I always had to be 30 minutes early to anywhere because schedules are tight and traveling there takes hours. In Toronto I’d show up 10 minutes early and everyone was very surprised and mentioned to me how everyone is usually at least 10 minutes late. I’ve learned to adjust now and it’s really helped my stress levels.
What projects are you currently working on?
Christina Poag: Right now I’m a colorist on the comic Ignition. It’s written by Shawn Pryor with art by K. Guillory. It’s a high speed thriller with suspense around every turn. Haha pins intended. The other project I’m working on is my webcomic Ashes and Coffee Stains that I lovingly like to describe as a romantic punk rock shit show. It’s on hiatus right now because of my freelance work schedule and being a work from home mom. My kiddo is almost about to start kindergarten so there is hope!
Can you tell me a bit more about Ignition and Ashes and Coffee Stains for those not in the know?
Christina Poag: Our hero, Jamele, is a former professional race car driver in the middle of a custody battle for her son. Jamele takes on a job to drive a mysterious patron with a special package from Ohio to Las Vegas on a very tight schedule. This whole journey is high speed chases and cosmic show downs. I’m the lucky one to get to bring all the colors to the amazing art and story of Ignition. I love high contrast and shiny art as you can see in my past works. I feel like this is the best coloring of my comics career so far.
Ashes and Coffee Stains is kinda my baby that I’ve had since I was 17. Yep it’s one of those magnum opus stories, haha. I feel like I’m far enough past my 20’s where I can finally reflect on my life experiences by making a comic about it. It’s going to be a story about 4 main characters finding their own “meaning of life” and growing up in a Hollywood and Los Angeles proxy. I say proxy because it’s just my version of living in LA my whole life.
How did you first get started?
Christina Poag: As my mother liked to say I “started in the womb”. I grew up with art all my life. My brother is a musician, my sister went from singer to being a chef. My Gran was a painter in oils. I’ve got
cousins in costume and practical effects design. I could go on forever really because my life is
steeped in art.
How I got into comics specifically though is because I love reading and there were a lot of manga and comics at the nearby library. I was really bad at speaking so I used comics as a way to communicate.
What’s your favorite era of creative work by other artists?
Christina Poag: My gods I love the romantic rococo era, art of Henry Fuseli. I also love Van Gough’s bright use of colors. By contrast I love Aubrey Beardsley and Erte’s thin inking style and how Dr. Susse had the same ethereal quality to his art but a bit rougher.
I’ve not heard of Henry Fuseli. What work of his would you recommend to a newcomer?
Christina Poag: This first painting of his I saw and honestly what many people know of when talking about sleep paralysis is The Nightmare. It’s an incubus sitting on the chest of a lady in white who is splayed out on a slab looking bed. It’s very gauzey and theatrical looking with very high contrast lighting. Actually, that’s how most of his work looks and why I like it so much.
Are you more of a horror or sci-fi nerd? What are your go to films to check out?
Christina Poag: I love both so much for similar reasons. I would totally classify WandaVision as a sci-fi horror because of how it uses sitcoms as a backdrop for the weird things happening with Wanda’s
mental state figuring out that she’s actually The Scarlet Witch!
The sci-fi parts were brought in with S.W.O.R.D and Monica Rambeau and the Skrull in the post credits. I would also suggest checking out Multiverse and Madness for more of the horror aspects, although some are cheesy, by Sam Raimi. If Marvel isn’t your jam of course another good movie with witches and a
vintage feel is The Love Witch.
Who are your main creative influences and what aspects of your creative work can we find them in?
Christina Poag: Junko Mizuno, Ai Yazawa, Miwa Ueda, and CLAMP. My art is very feminine and curvy and thick and squishy. I draw a lot of big expressions too and that is because of Dreamworks Animation.
‘Curvy, thick and squishy’ is something we need more of. Especially so there’s greater representation of those body shapes. Wouldn’t you agree?
Christina Poag: Oh absolutely we need more body diversity in art. More hair textures, more body types, more mobility aids, everything! When I hear someone say “representation doesn’t matter” I want to yell at them. My dudes, I cried the first time I saw Moana. That was mostly because of her beautiful curly hair. My new favorite movie is The Sea Beast because of the amazing costume design and hair and facial features.
Who are your go to musical jams to put on while you’re working?
Christina Poag: Hot Hot Heat, Green Day, Three Door Cinema, and Franz Ferdinand when I’m coloring.
Depending on the mood of the drawing though it can range from Frank Sinatra to Lizzo.
Favorite Franz Ferdinand album and justification?
“You Could Have It So Much Better” is the anthem to my grunge punk early 20’s journey growing up or rather maturing, in Hollywood. I was bouncing from major to major in college, was living in transitional housing, working at Starbucks and other food service jobs. Music in general is a huge part of my concentration process .All I had was my first gen iPod to keep me focused on my goals. This album helped me put a romantic feeling of perseverance to get me through those tough and amazing times.
What strengths in previous jobs have helped strengthen your creativity?
Christina Poag: Work smarter, not harder. Use all the tools you can find for the programs you use. My favorite tool for my coloring work is a fill in color lasso that basically cuts my work in half! Learn the rules
and then break them to pieces.
What weaknesses have you identified in your current project that you’re going to work on in the future?
Christina Poag: Learning to do my clean up work looser. I want everything to be perfect structurally but when it comes down to it I’m trying to tell a story here not recreate a real life photo.
Let’s talk about some memories that you had when you first started getting creative? How has this changed from childhood to adolescence to creating as an adult?
Christina Poag: I started out thinking anyone can make any kind of art. Then I went to art school to “get into the industry or no one would hire me” kind of mentality. Now I’m back to anyone and everyone should make art all the time however they can. Not everything needs to be monetized but I should be able to live comfortably doing what I do well, making art.
What was it about your art school experience that made you go back to the ‘anyone can create art’ mentality?
Christina Poag: It was the movie Ratatouille that did it for me really. It’s my favorite Pixar movie that I watch every time I need a little confidence boost. Everyone can cook (draw) but only a few might be
great is how I can sum up my ideals on art. ‘Great’ is subjective to what’s popular of course but anyone who pursues any kind of art can find fulfillment in it if they’re not striving for fame. That’s not a direct dig at my former art school mates, haha but there is not one “right” way to get into the business.
It’s annoying to say but it really is who you know but also how you treat others. I’m a very heart on my sleeve, direct person. I really do like being friends with my art team because it makes getting the project done so much better. We humans love creating little things and expressing our minds through art of all kinds. I think it’s so beautiful and an amazing way to connect with yourself.
What’s the worst nightmare you’ve ever had?
Christina Poag: I don’t like admitting my weaknesses, hahaha. But my nightmares that include drowning or being locked in a small room are the worst.
Do you have a favourite soft drink?
Christina Poag: Guava Jarritos. If I can’t get that, I like Baja Blast. If I can’t get that I cry, hahaha. I really like citrus sodas.
Who’s your favourite telepath or gifted character in pop culture?
Christina Poag: Saiki K! He’s such a tsundere shit head and his birthday is the day before mine in August.
Which creative work would you most like to be remembered for?
Christina Poag: I want to be remembered for my entire catalog! Hahaha. For the past 10 years it’s been Social Hangover (my journal comic) and Gardenia, a sapphic horror romance that people tend to bring up to me. The thing I want more is for people to identify with my characters and maybe learn to be more introspective and caring.
Where can my readers find you online?
Christina Poag: If it’s not labeled Kitten Butt it’s probably not me.