Marvel’s Power Pack artist teaching at Kennesaw State University
June Brigman is professor of comic storytelling art at School of Art and Design
KENNESAW, Ga. (Jan 26, 2021) — Looking back on her career, comic artist June Brigman feels fortunate that she makes a living doing what she loves. Professor of comic storytelling art at Kennesaw State University’s School of Art and Design (SOAAD), and co-creator of Marvel’s superhero series Power Pack, Brigman still loves drawing comic books and comic strips.
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate that, somehow, I’ve hung in there and I still get to draw funny books,” she says. Originally from Norcross, she studied life drawings and spent a summer in her teens working at Six Flags Over Georgia as a pastel portrait artist, drawing about 600 portraits, mostly children. She couldn’t have known then what a big influence this would play in her career.
Six Flags Connection
“In 1984, most of the comic books were superhero comics: idealized, hyper-muscular grown-ups, and there were a lot of artists who were very good at drawing those. But drawing children is different; their proportions are very different, and you can’t just draw a short, tiny version of an adult. That was basically how I got my big break: I could do something that most artists could not do.”
She and co-creator Louise Simonson began Power Pack in 1984. The comic book followed adventurous superhero siblings in New York City. Simonson and Brigman, now the power duo, produced 17 issues together. “I’ve been very lucky to work with very good writers. It’s nice to have the kind of collaboration where I don’t feel I like I’m being told what to draw.”
Barbie Can’t Twist
She also worked on syndicated comic strips such as Mary Worth, Wonder Woman, and Brenda Starr, and even did a stint for toy manufacturer Mattel, who had very strict guidelines for their artists to follow. “It’s part of the job description, and you have to follow their guidelines: Barbie can’t twist and can’t throw a beach ball.”
Brigman hopes to bring some of the lessons she’s learned to the classroom. She wants to give students interesting and difficult problems to solve through comic storytelling in the hope that in the future, it will make life easier. “To me, storytelling is like solving a series of problems. It’s a real juggling act: you’re a movie director, cinematographer, location scout, casting director. It’s like you’re making a movie on a much smaller scale.”
A Scruffy Cat Shows Up
After Power Pack, Brigman launched Captain Ginger. Compared to the clean, slick look of the superhero kids, Captain Ginger has a rougher look as “cats are on this rundown, junker spaceship, and it has a grittier, rundown, looser quality to it. That wasn’t something I consciously did; I was under the influence of the story and the characters.”
Geo Sipp, the director of SOAAD, says, “June Brigman is an extraordinary asset to the KSU School of Art and Design. Students gain an insight to the business of comics and the discipline that making—and publishing—comics require. She is the consummate professional, dedicated to her art form and to her students. We are so fortunate to have her working with us.”
It’s About Storytelling
She acknowledges that today’s sequential artists face unique challenges with both positives and negatives but believes it’s still worth pursuing as a career. She explains that the field is more open to different styles and different approaches, but it’s also more competitive and can be harder to make a living.
While her class at KSU covers techniques such as drawing skills and inking, it really focuses more on all aspects of storytelling, “which is the hardest part of drawing a comic book.” But for someone who loves to draw the funny books, “a comic book is still a comic book; you are telling stories, and you love telling stories.”
To see Brigman’s work, visit the Zuckerman Museum of Art’s exhibition, “The 9th Art: Frames and Thought Bubbles,” now through May 9. Also, don’t miss “Artists in Dialogue,” her interview with Geo Sipp, guest curator, on Friday, Feb. 19 at noon.