In October, Image Comics is set to release the original graphic novel "Not My Bag", a gothic story set in "retail hell", following a young artist fighting for his soul while working in a department store. While writer/artist Sina Grace admits he shares some similarities with the young artist protagonist, Grace has enjoyed better fortune when it comes to careers. Until last month, Grace worked as Editorial Director at Robert Kirkman's Skybound imprint at Image Comics.
Grace, who also draws S. Steven Struble's "The Li'l Depressed Boy," spoke to CBR News about his decision to leave Skybound, noting that the timing was perfect, stepping away in the wake of Comic-Con International and the release of "The Walking Dead's" 100th issue, while giving his replacement enough time to prepare for New York Comic Con and the arrival of "Invincible" #100. He also talked about why it was personally important for him to make the move now.
"There was literally a moment where my brain switched gears, and I thought, 'I would rather be broke and making stories all day than having a regular paycheck and working for someone else.' It's a bit romantic to say it like that, but I've been throwing a ton of stuff on eBay to make sure I'm not starving while I do this," explained Grace.
"I could have done the Skybound thing for several more years, but I couldn't help but scratch this itch now while I'm in my 20s with few legit bills, than later in my 30s, when I'm sure I'll be balding and owe someone for some car I purchased."
Grace has spent a great deal of time in the comic industry, beginning with an internship at Top Cow when he was just 14. From there he self-published comics in college and apprenticed under Howard Chaykin. Aside from "The Li'l Depressed Boy," Grace also adapted a comic book version of a Rilo Kiley album and illustrated a children's book written by Amber Benson.
Grace admitted that the inspiration for his new original graphic novel was somewhat personal. "The concept for 'Not My Bag' had been percolating for awhile, at least two years. I had a rough experience at one retail job in specific that inspired a lot of short stories, and after a bit of time away from it, I realized there was a larger story I could tell. From that point, it became a matter of 'how do I find time to draw this lofty, silly idea between my day job and ['Li'l Depressed Boy'] duties?' Hence the long wait for 96 pages," Grace told CBR News.
The artist described the comic as an ode to fashion designer Alexander McQueen, explaining that Craig Thompson's "Blankets" and the television show "Pushing Daisies" also helped fuel the creative approach behind "Not My Bag."
When asked who his major creative influences are, Grace joked about the easy response. "Would this be a rote answer if I said Robert [Kirkman]? If you look at his career trajectory, the risks he took, and his motivations -- I respect him so much for everything and I definitely want to be compelled by the same dreams of telling the stories that are true to the artist, and not feeding into larger corporate interests, or whatever.
"Beyond that, I love Howard Chaykin, Paul Pope, and, oddly enough, Aimee Mann," Grace continued. "If you look at her career, she really decided to just make a space for herself in music, and it paid off," he said. "Oh. I'm nothing without Cory Walker."
As for what he's learned about comics creation from his time behind the editorial desk, Grace cites several practical lessons any creative type would do well to learn. "I truly understand the meaning of professionalism and how meeting deadlines gets a person hired again. We all have excuses for being late with stuff. But this industry forgets people fast, so I know what happens if you're off the stands for too long," said Grace, who will continue his art duties on "The Li'l Depressed Boy," and teased working on another project with Amber Benson.
"We had way too much fun doing the kids book 'Among the Ghosts' together, and we're concocting a special action comic. It's like nothing fans have seen from either of us."
"Not My Bag" is on sale October 10 from Image Comics. Check out a preview right here on CBR.