Exploring the Craft of Indie Comics with Witch Hazel

Exploring the Craft of Indie Comics with Witch Hazel

The world of comics, particularly independent works, is an area I think is seldom explored. As someone who considers himself an artist, one of my personal final frontiers of art, as both an artist and writer, is one day taking a stab at creating my own sequential narrative.

When the opportunity to follow a fellow Alumni and artist, Beige Blum, alongside her writing partner, the mastermind behind Witch Hazel, Colton Fox, came up, I couldn’t resist learning and sharing the ins and outs of indie comic creation. Witch Hazel, which recently made its debut at Toronto Comic Con, tells the tale of a young urbanite witch making her way through life, exploring her witchy prowess through odd jobs that require her charming touch. Toronto inspires the inclusive comic’s setting and world.

CGMagazine: Take a moment to please introduce yourselves and briefly touch on how you came into collaborating on Witch Hazel?

Colton Fox: I’m Colton Fox! For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with comics, and for years I have largely focussed on building my career as a comic artist. However, more recently, I have really become interested in expanding as a writer and collaborating with other talented artists. I was introduced to Beige’s amazing work in a zine we were both involved in called Horny for Charity. I was very impressed by her variety of style and wanted to collaborate with them on a project that played to their strengths. I reached out and pitched a few ideas and Witch Hazel was one that I came up with specifically for them. Funny enough, I didn’t even know Witch Hazel was the name for a medicinal herb, I just thought Hazel was a nice name for a Witch.

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Beige Blum: I’m Beige Blum, a recent OCADU Illustration grad. Despite majoring in illustration specifically, I’ve always wanted to design characters and create comics. Though I’ve done so in the past, I’d say Witch Hazel is my first major comic project. When we first decided to collaborate, Colton really took it upon himself to get to know my likes and interests (i.e. what kinda genres I read or watch, what music I listen to, my influences, etc.) before pitching ideas to me; that was how the creation of Witch Hazel came to be. It really felt crafted to me and my tastes and it was essentially the story I had always wanted to draw. I fell in love with it and its potential instantly!

CGMagazine: Including standout influences such as Scott Pilgrim and Sabrina the Teenage witch, what are some of the influences in spell crafting the world of Hazel?

Colton Fox: A lot of my experiences as an art school dropout living in the city informed Witch Hazel. I did a lot of door-to-door work which inspired Hazel’s journey of entering scary apartments to interact with strangers. There’s also a lot of subtext about the life of a freelancer and having something people would describe as a gift that is then wasted on doing work that isn’t particularly fulfilling. Another big inspiration was my friends. I am lucky to be friends with some kick ass queer women, but my love of comics was never something that I could successfully share with them, largely because there wasn’t a lot of subject matter that’s geared towards their interests. I wanted to make a comic for them.

CGMagazine: How quickly was Toronto chosen for the project and were there any reasons for the location outside of simply being familiar with the city?

Colton Fox: I feel that grounding the series in a real setting helps keep things relatable even when shit gets bananas.

CGMagazine: Momofuku makes an appearance within the first issue of the comic. Are there any other locations from the city that the team wishes to explore in the future?

Colton Fox: Momofuku? Never heard of it. But there is a really nice restaurant called Domofuku that you should check out. Great for dates but probably out of Hazel’s price range. I’d love to know places Beige wants to draw, and we’ll send Hazel there. I’d also like to see Hazel go to the moon.

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Beige Blum: There are many places in Toronto that hold a lot of importance and sentimental value to me that I would love to lowkey insert into future issues! Many of them have to do with food… I hope Hazel is a foodie.

CGMagazine: Witch Hazel and a few other projects are among first-time ventures into the world of comics publishing, Indie or otherwise. What has that process been like for your team, both individually and while working remotely together?

Colton Fox: It’s funny to think that we only first met each other after the comic was finished and printed, but we were able to video chat a bunch during the project to introduce ourselves and provide feedback during the making of the comic. We started the project after I had just finished doing a comic and a bunch of art for the film Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls (that is set to premier later this year, I think at TIFF? Ask Julianna Notten). I think because that project was very intense, organized and collaborative that I was able to ride that momentum into this one and inform how to lead it.

Beige Blum: Video calls and DMs were THE glue of our collaboration. That being said, working alone is the usual status quo for an illustrator. Though I love collaboration and feedback, it wasn’t entirely different to the workflow and process I’m used to. Additionally, a few months before Colton contacted me I had just finished my final year of university and my Illustration thesis entirely remotely and online. I think it really prepped me for this!

…Colton was obviously my main collaborator and source of feedback, I also garnered a lot of it from fellow creatives throughout the process of working on Witch Hazel. Not only is it a great way to get outside critique and commentary from other creatives, it’s also a great motivator and support system. Jessica Huynh, a fellow artist and additionally, my assistant colourist, really held me down throughout the course of this project. I really put high value in having a good and supportive team, which I was so grateful and lucky to have in this case. I think community drives projects like this, during their creation and after. Especially in a post-covid world, I think these things are extremely important.

CGMagazine: As a collaborative effort, what has the process been like for both the art and writing aspects of the issue? (iteration, feedback from one another, etc.)

Colton Fox: The process of our collaboration is a bit unorthodox. I love comics but I really wanted to have the opportunity to expand my portfolio as a writer and also give artists that I really admire the opportunity to produce a fully finished book that showcases their talents. When I reached out to Beige they were upfront that they didn’t have a ton of experience in comics so as a way of taking some of the work off her shoulders and to speed up the process I offered to do the page and panel layouts.

What that means is that I very roughly drew the comic, blocking in the panels and occupying them with essentially stick figures that Beige then brought to life. I have a lot of comic-specific knowledge as a comic artist and from taking classes at theTy Templeton Comic Bootcamp and Beige is just such an amazing and talented artist that together we were both able to play to our strengths and create something very special.

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Beige Blum: As a newbie comic artist, thumbnailing was always one of the most daunting parts of creating comics. Colton’s assistance in that process really streamlined that for us. And seeing his thought process both verbally and visually was honestly a terrific learning experience for me as well.

In terms of character design, it was really wonderful that Colton and I seemed to be on the same page for practically everything. I drew very intuitively in response to the way the characters had been written and described to me and essentially had free reign to come up with what I wanted. Though a few minor changes were made along the way, I got to create characters that I really loved and felt fit the roles they were made to fill, and Colton loved them too! As we put it, we really felt like we were sharing the same brain throughout the creation of the comic.

CGMagazine: How was Comic-Con concerning the debut of the comic?

Colton Fox: Comic-Con was very exciting. It was a great way to drum up momentum before submitting it online to publishers. We printed up some zine-sized preview copies and solicited them to members of the press and the comic community to review and get feedback. We were very appreciative that the event organizer Kevin Boyd offered to upgrade us to a Pro Table to promote our book. Thanks Kev!

Beige Blum: We had a great response from the general audience and I was happily surprised by the wide range of people interested in Witch Hazel! Getting to vend at a Pro Table was a wonderful opportunity as well, and it sorta introduces you to a different crowd than just being in Artist Alley. Tabling at cons is always a great way to meet people in general. Aside from meeting other artists, we got acquainted with some press from AFK Media and got to do a silly little video interview on Witch Hazel in the back of what we dubbed “a stolen car” (it was really just an unattended UTV in the parking lot lol.) It was super exciting stuff all around!

CGMazine: Where do you plan on going from here?

Colton Fox: My goal for the first issue was that it would be a satisfying read on its own but would also wet your appetite for more, and boy do we have more planned. We have a badass character named Aubergine who isn’t even in the first issue but is the deuteragonist of the series that begrudgingly guides Hazel in her quest to undo the fallout and consequences of the first issue which leads to a really shocking and emotional climax. We also have so much planned for Alice, Cam and Jacq that is sure to shed many tears, both of sadness and joy.

Beige Blum: I honestly can’t wait to introduce the rest of the cast of Witch Hazel, so that’s my biggest anticipation for our comic currently!

Aside from that, working on Witch Hazel has really motivated me to start a webcomic that has been brainstormed for the longest time. I can’t really speak on it much at this time but it’s something to look forward to! I also got a lot of fun projects in the works with Dirty Laundry Collective (an art collective with friends that I co-founded with Jessica Huynh) namely a horror comic anthology. So keep your eyes peeled for that too!

CGMagazine: Where can we learn more about the comic and those involved?

Colton Fox: You can read nearly a third of the first issue of Witch Hazel at Coltonthefox.com If you are a publisher interested in reaching out about Witch Hazel you can email info@coltonthefox.com I am @Coltonthefox everywhere.

Beige Blum: You can get to know me and my work on Instagram via @icedtaho. Following me there is the best way to stay updated on Witch Hazel and all my other projects!

CGMazine: Thank you both for taking the time to talk about Witch Hazel, and good luck finding a publisher!