Jey Levang

Posted on December 15th, 2014

Jey Levang is an upcoming Norwegian illustrator and comic artist currently living in the UK. Her short story ‘The Red Army’ was included in our most recent anthology. We caught up with Jey to chat about her ongoing webcomic HeLL(P), the differences between the UK and Norwegian comics scenes, and where she finds her inspiration…

Hi Jey! What are you currently working on?

Hello there! Right now, besides working on HeLL(P), I just recently picked up an old comic concept idea that I am reworking. After I graduated this year, it’s been a bit hard to know what to prioritize. I’ve been doing some different things, submitting to anthologies, contests, doing my own thing etc, but with this story I want to think bigger, I want to see if I can get it published when it’s ready! It’s still at the early stages of the concept, but to set a scene, try to imagine Fight Club meeting The Matrix. For those who are curious for more, I recommend you follow my Tumblr, hehe. There’ll be more updates there as the concept evolves!

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How did you get involved in the UK comics scene?

I moved to the UK to do my BA degree in illustration at Falmouth University, three years ago. When I decided to do illustration I didn’t know that I would end up focusing on comics, I just knew that what I liked to do was neither fine art or graphic design, which to me, seemed to be the two university options I had in Norway… While doing my degree, I kept coming back to the idea of doing comics. Whenever I was working on something, I didn’t feel that one illustration would be enough to tell the stories I wanted to tell. Our university also encouraged the students to submit to competitions and open entries, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do after I graduated; looking for comic related things to submit to, and that’s how I found you guys!

How does the UK scene compare to that in your native Norway?

Hm… In Norway, the average person would probably think about comic strips when you talk about comics. It almost feels like comics is the synonym to “Pondus”(the most famous Norwegian comic strip), “Donald Duck” and “Calvin and Hobbes” there, haha. It’s a bit sad, but I am positive it will change. I think our generation has a different view on comics, many people my age grew up watching anime and read manga online, and I also think when comics inspire series like Walking Dead, which is so mainstream, it makes people realize that comics are not just funny, lighthearted strips, or childish fairy tales. Personally I also think the Norwegian comics and graphic novels I’ve read have been really interesting and weird (in a positive way), so I believe Norway has a great potential.

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Your webcomic HeLL(P) has a really interesting, anarchic style that reminded me of early Tank Girl and some of the American Slave Labor stuff. Do you have any particular influences in terms of both art and storytelling?

I think my Tank Girl/Gorillaz/Jamie Hewlett inspiration is something that’s just happened unconsciously, and I think it’s interesting because it’s just recently that people have been pointing it out. Not that I mind, I love his work! When I was young I loved Gorillaz, it was the first album I ever really wanted, you know when you first ‘discover’ your own music taste. If I remember correctly, I paid my brother’s friend £5 to burn the CD for me, I still have it somewhere, haha.
I’m not familiar with American Slave Labor, but now I see they published Lenore, by Roman Dirge, and yes, he was definitely a big inspiration to me just when I started drawing.
Other than that, I think manga has been the strongest influence to me. I would buy mangas based on whether I liked the style or not and I think Bleach influenced my style a lot to begin with, and there’s still some small traces of it. My absolute favorite ones are Dorohedoro and Blade of the Immortal. Dorohedoro has a good mix between freaky, weird, badass and sweet that I really like, as well as the super grungy inking style and the wicked character designs. I also think it’s super cool and inspirational that it’s a woman making it!
When it comes to storytelling I guess those mangas influenced me, but also movies. I love watching movies! I’m still experimenting with ways of telling stories, and I’m aiming to make stories I’d like to read myself, with interesting and complex characters that you can relate to both in good and bad ways.

What does the future hold for HeLL(P)? Are you planning on releasing a print edition at any point?

Both C.Vinter and I have a lot of plans for HeLL(P)! Over the past year we’ve already done quite a few things! Before we launched the comic last year, we did a limited pre-order of chapter one, we’ve done competitions, livestreams, we also did a short side story collaboration with 8 artists including C and myself, to celebrate the first anniversary for the comic! Next year we are hoping to do more contests and go to a convention in Oslo called Desucon. Hopefully other conventions here in UK too, so we are aiming to get the comic printed by then!

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And finally, what are your top 3 tips for someone getting started in webcomics?

Hmm, even if I’ve been working on this webcomic for a year now, I still feel fresh to it, but here are some of my opinions, or things I tell myself if I’m stuck:

1 – I wanted to do comics for ages before we started to do HeLL(P). I had tried a few times before, but I gave up before the comics got anywhere. I think the reason why I gave up was because I didn’t feel I ‘was ready’ yet, that my art wasn’t good enough. I thought I should practice this and that before starting a webcomic! But the reality is; you can only get good at doing comics by doing comics! If you want to be a comic artist, just jump into it! HeLL(P) was essentially (and still is) to practice, experiment, improve, evolve, and I have! By doing comics, not only do you learn more about pacing and how to tell a story, but you’ll get better at other things too, without noticing it! One year ago, thinking about drawing a background killed me, now I love it, thanks to constantly pushing myself to think about the environment the characters are in!

2 – Personally I always strive to make the next page better than the previous. Instead of being upset about one page because it looks bad, and keep reworking it (many artists get stuck in a loop where they keep redoing the first pages of a chapter!), I try to look forward and keep moving. If you spend ages on a page, or a chapter, the story won’t move on, and you won’t reach the point where you can show people how awesome your story is!

3 – Try to make it as easy as possible for yourself. I think picking a way of working that it easy and familiar is important to keep working on a webcomic. Remember, webcomics have a tendency to go on for a while, you’ll be doing a lot of these pages! The easier it is to do the pages, and they still look good, the happier you’ll be working on them. And after a while you’ll be even more pro at it, and making the pages will be less of an effort. The more you do it, the easier it’ll get!

A big thank you to Jey for taking the time to answer our questions. You can see more of Jey’s work on her personal website. She can also be found on Tumblr and Twitter.