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Sandbox Spotlight: SORAH SUHNG, Comic Creator / Writer / Artist

THE CONVENTION COLLECTIVE: Thank you for joining us in the Spotlight, Sorah! How did you get into art and why did you want to become an artist? What was the first work you completed, where you stepped back and thought, “Yes, y’know what, I can do this for a living!”? 

Sorah Suhng: I actually didn’t have a moment like that – my entry into the world of comic book art was round about. I had been playing a video game that was based on comic books, City of Heroes/Villains, and I had always read comics (Marvel mostly, some DC). I began to draw my own characters for fun, and then my friends who played the game asked me to draw theirs. Then strangers were asking me to draw their characters in exchange for money. I was excited about it because I could work pretty quick (because my art was…not great at the time). Prior to this, I had never thought I’d draw for a living, I am literally quoted in my yearbook from high school saying, “Drawing is my hobby, I would never want to turn my hobby into work.” HA!

Top Cow at the time was publishing the corresponding comic book for the game and, as a broke college student, I had gone to their website to read the comic for free. When I saw Marc Silvestri and Michael Turner’s work, I literally said to myself, “I want to draw like them!” But I was raised overseas (military kid), and had no real knowledge of comic book culture (there were no conventions in South Korea at the time). I had a vague goal of “becoming a comic book artist” at 20 years old and then by sheer chance, ran into Bob Layton at a coffee shop that I worked at. When he offered to go over my portfolio with me, I was dumbfounded. He went through my work (mostly just doodles), he saw something in me and said he wanted to take me on as his art assistant. I was a quick learner, and had not developed any “bad habits” so I was quite the sponge for knowledge. But even then, I was young and didn’t quite understand how to make this into a career. It took years of me being stubborn as hell to get where I am currently and I’m honestly still in a bit of shock that I’ve succeeded in doing this for a living. I’m grateful for it! My entire career has been a learning experience and I hope it continues to be one.

TCC: Which artists inspire you? And they don’t have to be in the medium you work in, either… 

Sorah: Well, obviously Michael Turner inspired the hell out of me. His work was so beautiful and engaging, tense yet gentle, and in my very early work you can see his influence on me HEAVILY. But, as I tell most starting artists, that’s fairly normal and as you keep drawing, you develop your own “style.” I sometimes still get compared to him from random fans, but both my manager and I are baffled by it, as we don’t see it in any of my work I’ve done since becoming a self-sustaining professional.

Current inspiration I would say is Brian Pulido and a bit of J. Scott Campbell – but not necessarily for their “art” directly. In differing ways, both are incredible businessmen and I aspire to their acumen – they deliver well-polished products that are appealing to the masses, they maintain a great “presence,” and are constantly trying new things to further their properties/business. That hunger to always improve is something that I try to emulate in my day to day regarding comic work. Both of them have offered great advice, be directly or in passing, that I have taken to heart and I like to think it’s paying off, even in my small corner of the internet and comics.

TCC: Can you tell us your greatest fan moment, interacting with a personal hero of yours where you may have gone a little weak at the knees?

Sorah: I have a couple of these, which are pretty funny! My first one would definitely be meeting Silvestri at Wizard World Chicago. He’s a very tall man – so in a sea of people, he stands out. I was working for Bob Layton at the time and accompanying him to conventions. Wizard was hosting a creator happy hour (which was awesome and I kind of wish more cons would do this today) where all the professionals could mingle and network for an hour or so, directly after a con. I had been to a few conventions at this point and Bob had done his due diligence as my mentor and had introduced me to a LOT of people already. As he scanned the room to figure out who he should introduce me to, he saw Marc.

He walked me over and chatted with him for a minute before turning to me and going, “This is my assistant, Sorah. If you asked her who her favorite artists are, I’m not even on the list. It’s you and Mike [Turner].” He stuck his hand out and I shook it, grinning like an idiot and had no ability to speak. Afterwards, I said to myself, “I could literally go home right now, and be completely happy. I’m never washing this hand.” (Don’t worry, I did wash my hand). Another would be how I first “really” met Brian Pulido (versus, say, online correspondence). It was Emerald City Comic Con 2017, I believe. I was helping my manager set up Campbell’s booth for the show and I saw the Coffin Comics booth not too far away. I have pretty bad social anxiety, and so I had to hype myself up to walk over and give a proper introduction of myself to both him and Francisca.

I confidently walked over, smile on my face, and said hello, hand out for a handshake but Brian went in for the hug, and we got into this weird movement of trying to accommodate one another shifting from trying to give a handshake to trying to give a hug. It’s hilarious to think of it now, especially with all the work I do with Coffin, but at the time I was mortified at myself. I remember calling my friend at the time (who also worked in comics), and she told me, “Don’t worry, when you talk to industry people, just ask them what they are working on if you come to a dead stop in conversation! Everyone loves to talk about what they’re working on!” I thought, “That’s genius!” Except the very next day in the elevator of the convention, I ran into Brian again. I thought “AH HA! This is my moment!” Only to realize, “Wait, I know what he’s working on…he’s working on Lady Death, et al.” So I once again stumbled through a casual conversation and promptly ran to my hotel room after, feeling ridiculous again. This is all in my head of course, Brian and Fran are two of the most amiable, social, and nicest people I have ever met – I’m sure they have a different memory of it! I still get nervous chatting with either of them to this day, they really are my #SquadGoals.

TCC: What is your favorite fandom? Who is your favorite comic book character/movie/tv character? 

Sorah: I definitely love my own fandom! Readers of KARNAL CONFESSIONS are some of the funniest and thirstiest fans I have met. They hold me to great expectations on delivery in content, and I have to be careful hyping things up to them too much because they have such a great appetite for it, that I may oversell an element.

I recently released Chapter 8 of Karnal Confessions: Neros, of which I warned my readers that there was a lot of sexual content and it wasn’t going to be safe for work viewing. One of my most ardent fans messaged me and was like, “I liked it a lot! But I thought there was going to be more sex. ”Likewise, AURORA fans have been super fantastic too – everyone has been patient, I have gotten some really great feedback, and I can’t say I have a single incidence of a rude fan or inappropriate fan. We all joke around and have a good time, all while we have healthy boundaries, which is impressive to me!

Outside of my own IP fandom, it is without a doubt the Fiends/fans of Coffin Comics. Lady Death, La Muerta, and Hellwitch fans are literally some of the nicest people I have ever met. There’s a theory in psychology regarding metalheads and metal music, and how it allows for a catharsis of emotions for its fans – which then allows them the freedom to be kind and goodhearted in their day to day life. Anecdotally, I have found this to be very true.

Coffin fans are passionate fans, they’re sweet, supportive, and so kind – which on the surface is a hilarious juxtaposition because the content is so intense and “dark.” As for favorite character – I have way too many to really pin down an absolute favorite because it really depends on the context of “favorite what?” I have a favorite DC character (Catwoman), and a favorite Marvel character (Captain America), for wildly different reasons. I have multiple television shows/movies that I love and adore and could tell you WAY too much about because of deep dives into the content even beyond canon. I have decided that all things held equal though, my favorite film of all time, is likely the film Secretary. I love the psychology of the film, the quiet pacing, and the message of otherness still finding genuine happiness. I enjoy indie films immensely, as I am able to enjoy a “singular vision” from a creator.

TCC: Outside of the ones you create for a living, what characters/stories do you like drawing the most in your spare time?

Sorah: Lady Death (and La Muerta!) hands down. With Lady Death, I get to go full on edgy costume designer and she’s versatile as all get out so she’s just an absolute joy to draw. La Muerta has grown on me because I get to explore Mexican culture with her accoutrements and I love the visuals I get to play with! If speaking on Big 2 stuff, though. I still very much enjoy drawing Harley Quinn (because I get to draw someone who is crazy but still enticing), and Captain Marvel, because her look really speaks to me (especially when she’s rocking a fauxhawk or side shave).  

TCC: What’s your working routine? Do you work regular set hours and days, keeping certain days free for personal time, or do you find you create any time the muse takes you?

Sorah: I keep a fairly tight schedule. I have lots of plates spinning at once, at all times, so scheduling is important. I don’t have to follow it EXACTLY to the hour, but I do adhere to my deadlines, so I can make sure to do all the stuff I am responsible for, for my own business/projects. I have a large 4 month reusable calendar that stays in the living room of my house so I can see it at all times. I function day by day, sometimes week by week, rarely month by month. While my manager has a 12 month calendar that he keeps track of the larger picture. This allows me to focus on the day’s task without thinking about looming work down the pipeline, and frees up my creative juices.

TCC: When you’re creating, what do you use for background noise? Some artists use music or podcasts, some use a TV show that they just can listen to in the background. What do you use?

Sorah: I use a few different things: TV shows I have already watched (that way I am not looking up from my work, and I can just listen). This includes things like Futurama, Law and Order, Friends, Parks and Rec, Star Trek (I’m currently rewatching all the TNG/DS9/Voyager/Enterprise run). Music if I’m writing. Specifically, orchestral playlists I’ve put together from various contemporary composers (Hans Zimmer, Henry Jackman, Rachel Portman, Epic North, Audiomachine, Two Steps from Hell, etc.)

TCC: What was the first comic con that you remember attending? And, indeed, what was the last?

Sorah: My very first comic con, I was 20 years old, had been an assistant for not even 6 months – New York Comic Con. I was overwhelmed. I remember walking down the artist alley aisles in awe. On the walk back to the hotel, I began to cry in frustration, because I thought, “I will never be good enough to be there.” It was very daunting and intimidating. The fact that I am at NYCC every year now, is kind of surreal. My LAST convention, hilariously, was also a Reed Convention – C2E2 in Chicago 2020. The last major convention to be held before Pandemic hit. I’m glad I got that in though, it’s always a great show and I at least got to see some of my friends and fans before becoming an utter hermit. I’m eager and excited for conventions to start up again. I work so much that cons are mini working vacations for me – I love to travel and most of my friends are scattered across the globe and I get to see them via conventions. My dog, Pepper, has been bummed out because he got so used to seeing all his “road buddies” throughout the years and I may have to put a doggy diaper on him when I take him back on the road cause he may just pee on everyone in sheer excitement. Looking at you: Kincaid – wear, shoes you don’t care about!

TCC: What’s your favourite element of a comic convention? And which bits could you easily leave behind?

Sorah: Having been to a ridiculous number of conventions at this point, I really wish we could get better food in there. It is beyond hard for me to not eat like a freshman in college when I go to a con (during the show, that is). Often times, I’ll eat breakfast and just sustain myself on coffee until dinner so I can eat a properly balanced meal (I’m all for junk food on occasion but 3 days of junk food is bad news bears for me).

I also miss having the kind of ease-of-access that having a certain type of badge (guest, artist, creator, etc) allowed you. I get that security is a thing and we need it, but being able to move “behind the scenes” at cons with ease is something that I do miss. My favorite element is what I mentioned before – seeing friends and fans. As my manager can attest, I will have full blown hours long conversations with someone if they’re up for it on whatever topic…and it usually prevents me from drawing at my table! So Brett has to snap his fingers to refocus me! But comics can be an incredibly isolating field – long hours spent alone, hyper focused, in the same spot that you live. So having conventions for socializing and being human is my absolute favorite. I love connecting with old fans and new fans. I tend to over deliver to my fans but I honestly can’t help it. They make my life possible and so if I can spoil them a little without Brett, my manager, giving me too much a stink eye, then I will.  

TCC: At a convention, when you’re not behind your table or doing the things you have to do at a con, which corner of the show would we find you in?

Sorah: Likely at my friends’ tables. I got overwhelmed at NYCC a couple of years back – was just getting slammed at my booth and it was becoming a bit much. I had had trouble sleeping the night before and I had just done Baltimore Comic Con the weekend prior. I was pretty burnt out (says the hermit). So I excused myself from my booth and snuck down to Artist Alley where I wandered for a bit, saying hi to a few friends, before planting my ass at my long time friend Ryan O’Sullivan’s table. He’s an accomplished writer and was chatting up editors and the like while I literally zoned out and stared at nothing for like an hour. And that’s a rare occasion. Other than bathroom trips, I tend to stay at my table the whole time.

For one, I am easily distracted when drawing (with convos, like I said), so I am not nearly as efficient at drawing at cons as I am in the hotel room or at home. Secondly, I know fans have their own time table, and I try to make myself available to them as much as possible. I would hate to get a message from a fan saying they couldn’t find me at my table/booth. Would be heartbreaking!

TCC: With the lack of conventions, a lot of artists are taking commissions online and mailing them out to people – is this something you’re doing? 

Sorah: My commission list has been closed for…years, I think maybe four years? As I said, I spin a lot of plates, especially with the work on my two books (Karnal Confessions and Aurora) and a new project I’m writing yet to be announced! I tend to only take commissions/sketches at conventions. Once in a wild blue moon if someone catches me in the right moment, I can squeeze in a sketch cover. But honestly, that commission list is looming over me. So many great fans have been waiting and I want to start tackling it. It’s just a waiting list, no money has been exchanged, but so many of these great fans have been patiently waiting for me to have a moment for it. Commissions are a luxury for me at this point. So I haven’t really been doing it amongst all my other work.  

TCC: A lot of creatives are also taking to crowdfunding – such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo – to generate income from their work. What’re your thoughts on that?

Sorah: I love Kickstarter! I did my first Kickstarter 2 years ago for Karnal Confessions and it was a great success – we raised over $60,000 and I was in shock! Karnal isn’t a legacy character, I was an unknown element in that regard, and the response was so validating for the work I had put into it. I did the same thing with Aurora and we did great there too, especially without the same kind of marketing lead time I had on Karnal. I recently did my very first artbook via Kickstarter (which I’m currently working on the sketch covers from that) and it did well! 

I think crowdfunding is a great opportunity for creatives who enjoy having a significant amount of control over their work. It’s a great testing ground for content, cuts out the middle man of marketing and allows you direct access to interested fans.I would need a sweetheart deal from a publisher for me to relinquish any real control over my IP, and that’s how I like it. My goal was to become self-sustaining in content creation and I have been thrilled with how it’s been going!

TCC: What projects have you recently finished? What are you working on at the moment, what projects are coming up that you can talk about? 

Sorah: I am currently overseeing the completion of Aurora, book 2 (Title to be announced). I can talk a bit about it. We hit the ground running in this book – thankfully. The first book was introducing a brand new character, in a brand new world, with a bunch of supporting characters. It was an undertaking but Wes Knipe and I did it without hitting the readers over the head with walls of text or just someone talking nonstop for exposition.

With the groundwork now laid, we can dive deeper into characters and expand the world conflicts much more dramatically in this next book. We get to actually meet one of the previously “barely seen and mentioned” characters from the first book, Xanatos, this time around. As a founding member of the UN Keepers, his absence was conspicuous in the first book and now we get to dive into that whole philosophical conflict of why he left, what he’s doing, and what he’s going to do. There’s a “new” villain afoot whose sheer existence puts the world’s history into question. “History is written by victors.” And the victors in this case, didn’t write about this villain who has reared their head onto the scene. The art from Giorgia Sposito and newcomer colorist Felipe Araujo is stunning and action packed!

I can’t wait to share more on it! Karnal Confessions: Neros (the second story arc) is current up to Chapter 8 (total of 12 chapters) and I’ll be compiling it for another Kickstarter this year! And then there’s a super-secret project I’m writing with art coming from Ale Garza! I can’t tell you much on that one, but it’s something new for both of us and I am thrilled to get all our ducks in a row for that one so I can blab it to anyone willing to listen!

TCCHow do you stay connected with fans? Do you use a mailing list or newsletters, are you active on social media?

Sorah: I am active on social media. I do have mailing lists when I’m pushing a big project or have a big announcement. I personally hate getting bombarded with emails, myself, so I try to avoid sending too many out to my subscribers. I need to get better at it though, because many of my fans have lamented missing something that I didn’t think was worth sending a newsletter out. Really, I just need a social media manager!

TCC: Where can people see an example of your art online and find out about your rates? 

Sorah: I don’t have rates listed on my website because my list is closed. If I had my rates, I’d be fielding too many commission inquiries, as I am only available for cover work outside of my own work.

But my social media is as follows:

My website’s store should have current works online – from Karnal Confessions and Aurora to original artwork and books I’ve done covers for!

TCC: Thanks Sorah, for your time! 

We at The Convention Collective want to showcase the very best in creative talent. Are you a creator who would like to be featured in our weekly Sandbox Spotlight? Leave a comment here, or reach out to us at admin@TheConventionCollective.com

Dan Berry
Dan Berry
Dan Berry is a man of mystery, an enigma that flits from convention to convention like a spectre, like a spirit. His interests range far and wide: he cannot be determined, he cannot be defined, he cannot be contained. He's like the wind. He also is a Sagittarius and enjoys a nice Italian.

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