His and Her Webcomics: Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier

You've got two people who draw comics and put them on-line. They meet, fall in love, and get married. It happens more often than you think.

I've always been interested in the subject of married comics creators (being married to another comic creator myself), so I've asked a few questions to a few other couples. Our first interview is with Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier.

Introduce yourselves – who are you, what comics do you do?

Raina: I'm Raina Telgemeier. My webcomic is called Smile: A Dental Drama. It's about braces and dental accidents and feeling awkward about growing up with a funny-looking mouth. I'm also illustrating the Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels for Scholastic, and making mini-comics when I can find the time.

Dave: During the day I work at Nickelodeon Magazine as one of the comics editors. At night I work on several comic projects including Jax Epoch and The Quicken Forbidden, Teen Boat, Agnes Quill, and my webcomic, Astronaut Elementary. I've also done stories for Volumes 3 & 4 of the Flight Anthology.


When did you marry?

Raina: We got married in December of 2006, just a few months ago!

Dave: We were engaged for just over a year.


How did you meet?

Raina: When I was still a student at [the School For Visual Arts], I organized a student comics festival, which we invited the public and members of the comics industry to attend. Dave, an alumni of the school and comics editor at Nickelodeon Magazine, checked out the event and bought a mini-comic from me. We struck up a friendship via e-mail, and discovered we had a lot in common, including our birthdays. We were born on the same day of the same year, but on different coasts!

Dave: Raina doesn't even remember meeting me, but I bought one or two of her mini-comics and was really impressed by them. I also thought it was really cool that she was selling them for only 25 cents each! By the time we met again it felt like we already knew each other really well.


Did your wedding or proposal involve comics in any way?

Raina: Ha ha, I'll let Dave tell you about that!

Dave: In September 2005, I drew an auto-bio comic that was all about our relationship up to that point. I drew it in secret and waited to show it to her until we were flying cross-country from NYC to San Francisco for Raina's high school reunion. I finally handed her the original pages when we were over the center of the United States, exactly between the two places we were born. The last page of the comic showed the two of us on the plane and me proposing to Raina. I left the last few panels blank and asked Raina to continue the story. Which luckily had a happy ending!

After we told our families the good news a lot of people asked to see the engagement comic, so we posted it on our WebcomicsNation account so we could share with our friends and family – sort of not realizing the rest of the Internet might be interested in mushy cartoonists until after it got linked to by some high-profile bloggers and MSNBC! It is still online [here].


Do you work together on any of your projects? Who does what?

Raina: Dave and I have collaborated on two projects so far. One of them was a short story for the DC Comics anthology, Bizarro World. He wrote a funny Justice League story, which I illustrated. The second project was Agnes Quill, a collection of stories that Dave writes and other artists draw, about a 16-year-old girl who can speak and interact with ghosts. I drew a 9-page story for that, which was a lot of fun. The book was recently published by Slave Labor Graphics.

Dave: We also collaborated on some art for our wedding invitation, program, and favor (which was a comic book anthology made up of contributions from cartoonist friends and family members). For some of those images, I penciled some art and Raina inked it, and in other pieces we'd each draw our cartoon likeness into a single composition.


Any cross-overs between your comics? Cameos?

Raina: I drew the two of us (from the back) into a scene of the second Baby-Sitters Club graphic novel, "The Truth About Stacey." There's also a scene in that book where you can see Miyumi from Astronaut Elementary as a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Dave: I did a pin-up of the Baby-Sitters Club as a surprise for Raina. And she appears as a character in the story I drew for Flight 4 (which should be out this summer). I'm always worried that I don't draw her cute enough!


Do either of you have a job outside of comics?

Raina: Until pretty recently, I made comics part-time and worked in publishing the rest of the time. It was a nice fit, because I love books, and it was wonderful learning what went into every step of the creation of a book. Now, I make comics full-time, and manage to squeeze in some freelance illustration work when I can.

Dave: I've worked at Nickelodeon Magazine and edited comics since I graduated from art school in 1999. There were a few months of overlap when I still worked weekends at the Staples Copy Center (in my Long Island hometown), to train a replacement to work the copy machines. I had worked at Staples for 3 years, while also commuting to NYC for classes and self-publishing the Jax Epoch and the Quicken Forbidden comic series with my friend John Green.


Has your spouse influenced your art or writing? If so, how?

Raina: Definitely! Dave is really good at seeing the weak and strong points in comic storytelling, and makes terrific suggestions about pacing and composition. He's good at making my dialogue stronger, and my work overall. Plus, he's always motivated to draw, so when I'm feeling lazy, it gives me the push I need to keep working. I can look back at the years I've known Dave, and say with confidence that they are the most productive years of my life. I'm really grateful for that.

Dave: Raina constantly kicks my ass with her insane amount of talent. Living with someone who I personally think is one of the best cartoonists out there is just a constant flow of inspiration. She's completely dedicated to working hard and always doing her best. She also got me over my fear of inking with a brush, which I think was a huge technical leap for me in my work. And she got me to start using a Wacom tablet when cleaning up and coloring my files, which was another huge breakthrough in making my work stronger and more efficient. In terms of writing, she's always making sure my ideas actually make sense, and grounding them so they don't become too abstract.

She's a great sounding board and I can tell a lot about how successful my story is, just from the reactions on her face!

Terrence Marks

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