When it comes to passion projects, the online life has been very good to Renae De Liz.
Six summers ago, she met a man at San Diego Comic Con. She was a single mom living in Oregon; he was living like a “hermit” in his Kansas house. The attraction was mutual, a flame sparked by their shared enthusiasm for the world of Narnia. They parted ways, but fell in love afterward over long hours on the Internet.
“Now we draw comics together all day,” De Liz says of life in Maine with the man: fellow artist Ray Dillon, whom she married in 2009 right where they met, at San Diego Comic Con. “It’s the ultimate geek fairy tale.”
In recent days, her cartooning career, too, has taken a fairy-tale digital turn: a Twitter invitation has spun into gold.
De Liz says she had noticed “a ton of female artists on Twitter who were amazing and not published yet, when they should have been.” Artist Jessica Hickman had urged De Liz to create an anthology; the Maine mother of two mentally filed such a massive undertaking under “someday project.” Then one day, she finally popped the creative question on Twitter: “Would any female creator like to help make an anthology with all women?” Within 24 hours, more than 100 women had said “yes” to the proposal.
“The response was so overwhelming, I figured I’d better just take the leap and run with the idea,” De Liz tells Comic Riffs. “And here we are — all from one tweet!”
IDW Publishing — which has released numerous books by the artistically dynamic duo of penciller De Liz and inker-colorist Dillon (“The Last Unicorn,” “Rogue Angel,” Jennifer Love Hewitt’s “Music Box”) — signed on to publish the anthology. And so De Liz again took to social media, this time to announce the “Womanthology” Kickstarter project last Thursday. The goal: To raise $25,000 in a month’s time. Something about the spirit and the scale of the enterprise enticed people: Within less than 24 hours, the publishing project had raised the necessary funds. As of early Tuesday, the project had nearly 1,000 backers and had more than doubled its target amount.
“The people helping us are helping over 100 women realize dreams and also helping charity at the same time,” says De Liz, noting that all profits from the project will go to various causes at globalgiving.org .
“My mission for doing this was mostly to have fun creating something together as women,” De Liz says, “and to try and help give them a platform to show off what they can do.”
The extra Kickstarter funding will mean “definitely a bigger print run, but it will still be somewhat limited to maybe 5,500 copies,” De Liz says of the first Womanthology book, which will be centered on the theme “heroic. “After that, I will either fund another book, or I’d like to start an organization that’s in the same vein as this book in terms of offering opportunities. I’d like to completely fund creator-owned books and help get them published by a major publisher.”
Another crucial goal in the Womanthology project — which includes such industry veterans as Gail Simone, Bonnie Burton and Trina Robbins — is to mentor young women artists. Growing up, De Liz, 28, was exposed to only one woman comics creator whose work really spoke to her. “I first discovered Manga in my teens, and ... Narumi Kakinouchi.” De Liz adored Kakinouchii’s “Vampire Princess Miyu” series.
“At the beginning, it was difficult just because I just didn’t know what to do,” De Liz says of becoming a professional artist herself, after working a series of non-related jobs — from Taco Bell cashier to activities assistant at a Good Samaritan nursing home.
“When I first really started to take my love of creating comics seriously — I was a single mom who just picked up the pencil again for the first time in five years — the comics industry was unknown to me, and the unknown can seem too big or scary to try to undertake at first. I think many don’t try just for that reason,” De Liz says. “But I feel if you just go for it, put the work in, put yourself out there, and take the time to get to know your industry and the people in it, you will really open up opportunities for yourself.”
Now, De Liz hopes “this book will help even a few to take that leap.”