Conventional comic wisdom

Melissa Pagluica, comic-book artist

photo by bobby mull

Meet Melissa Pagluica at SacAnime from Saturday, August 29, through Sunday, August 31, at the Sacramento Convention Center and Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel. Visit for more details, and learn more about Pagluica's work at

Melissa Pagluica writes, illustrates and self-publishes her fantasy comic Above the Clouds from her Sacramento home, posting one page every week. The story follows a heartbroken Eily, who loses herself in an unfinished book and tracks down the author to try and make him finish it. Pagluica also volunteers for 916 Ink's Makes Comics program and travels the California comic convention circuit. Pagluica, who will sign copies of her work at SacAnime from Saturday, August 29, through Sunday, August 31, talked with SN&R about making comics and meeting fans—and experiencing her own fangirl moment.

What’s hardest part about self-publishing a comic book?

Getting it done! You have to keep yourself motivated, excited, and if it's a personal project, you have to have the mindset to treat it like a job. Wake up, get this done by this deadline. Doing comic-book conventions has helped me a lot, because I'll need the next chapter out before an event so I can sell it.

First comic-book love?

[When I was] a little girl, Sailor Moon was the first girl hero fighting for justice, and her transformation scenes appealed to me. New outfit! She fights crime! She wasn't just fighting crime, she was healing her enemies.

How do you fight your inner critic?

I'm not trying to make it perfect, which opens up the opportunity to draw stuff I'd never thought I'd draw before. Chapter 2 concludes the first act of Above the Clouds—I broke out my story into three acts, and it keeps it outlined but loose enough to make it up as I go when I hit these destination points. I have to keep it fun, keep playing while I'm doing it. I know how it's going to end, and I'm working toward that ending. I'm loving the process and living the journey.

How do you balance your art job with your day job?

I don't have a life. Thankfully, I work from home … which gives me lots of flexibility. I can plan my schedule out months in advance and tell my other job I'm not available the days of some conventions. I make sure I'm up and ready to go at 8 every morning. If I don't get dressed, it feels like I'm just hanging out at home. I wake up, get my day job done, and then it's comic time around 3 or 5 p.m.

What’s the comic-convention experience like?

It depends on what side of the table you're on and what the crowd is like. Anime conventions are a mellower crowd, and some kids just hang out at your table the whole time, but they forget the artists are working. I sign merchandise and draw commissions, too, but I'm always afraid of not finishing and disappointing a fan.

Have any fans geeked out meeting you?

A couple of them. It's very humbling, like, “Oh, me? What, really?” Before the convention, I got a fan letter saying she enjoyed my artwork. It was my first fan letter. She was around 12, and she came to say hello at the convention. It was so nice to meet her in person, too. She showed me her art, and she wants to work for [Tokyo-based animation company] Studio Ghibli. I told her, “You can do it!”

Have you had any fangirl moments?

Yes! I met Mike Mignola, and I’m a huge Hellboy fan. I love the way he lays out his pages. Every page is an art piece; there’s a freeness to his pages. He was at a convention I was tabling at, and I had a free moment when his table wasn’t crowded. I forgot to take a selfie with him—my mind blanked.

Advice for artist’s block?

The trick is finding that way to let go. I remember back to my old figure-drawing instructor, Mr. Hoppie. In the first day of class he said, “Hey, you all want to draw perfect drawings. It's not going to happen. You're all going to draw 1,000 crappy drawings; embrace it. Get them all out of the way. Go!” Since I embraced drawing crappy sketches, I'm not afraid to be messy. Free yourself from the ability to make a mistake, and don't beat yourself up over it. You can get much further ahead without trying for perfection.

Dream gig?

I would love to do any story with Brian K. Vaughan. He's such a good storyteller. I can feel how things connect with the characters, moving toward an ending. I love feeling like there's something satisfying waiting for me at the end. With some comics, there's a wall separating you from the story, but with his work, I get lost in it. That's what I look for, getting lost in a story.