• Equestria Daily Interview Series: IDW Artist Brenda Hickey

    With the Discord and Fluttershy comic coming next month, now is the perfect time to interview one of the minds behind it! You may remember Brenda Heckley's art style from the pony pirate series a earlier in the year. Expect something along those lines as we break into another month of comic filled good times!

    Guest interviewer The Illustrious Q can be found below asking Brenda a boatload of questions about past pony projects, future pony projects, and the world of comic art in general.  Get it all below as always!

    Brenda, first question. What first attracted you to My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic?

    The art style, I’d say, because it was just very appealing to me. I wasn’t really a fan of the original ‘80s stuff. It was just too chunky and bulky-looking for me, but the redesigns, just all slick the way they are and are just really simple, cute, big-eyed things! I’m an anime fan, so of course the big eyes appeal to me.

    I was hearing a lot of good things about it too from online and from friends and stuff. They were, “Yeah, and I hear it,” they were saying, “I watched it. It was a lot different than what I thought it would be. It’s really fun, actually.” I’m, “I like fun, I like cute, I like quirky. I think I’ll watch this show.”

    Have you introduced any of your kids to the show yet?

    Yeah. We've got twins here, Alicen and Hayden. They just turned eight and they're big huge pony fans, which is weird, because they don't seem to be that enthusiastic about me doing the comics. They're like, "You draw the ponies really well," but that's about it. Then they just watch the show all the time and they get all the toys and stuff. They want to play with my toys and I'm like, "No, those are mine. Those are Mommy's toys. You don’t touch those. Those are here for display.”

    They haven't quite figured out that Mom draws the comic?

    They kind of do. They know I did a few issues, but they seem to like Amy Mebberson’s stuff more.

    It always seems to be Amy Mebberson or Andy Price. You’d think it would be more diverse with so many great artists on the series.

    Everybody is great! They bring something different to the comics and I really enjoy that. Every artist just brings their flair to it, which is a lot of fun.

    I have to ask, who's your favorite pony?

    Fluttershy. (In a perfect imitation of her in episode 1)


    Yup! I was very shy when I was younger and still can be. Personality-wise, I'd say I'm between Rarity and Fluttershy, but I think Fluttershy is adorable.

    Is Fluttershy also your favorite pony to draw?

    It's weird because Rarity I find the hardest to draw because of her hair, the way the waves go, but I actually find her fun for that. I like her eyes, and even though her hair is challenging. I find her the funnest pony to draw.

    Fluttershy, I don't know. Maybe I'm putting too much pressure on myself to draw her really cute and then it turns out to not, in my mind, be as good as I want it to be. Maybe that's why I can't just relax and draw Fluttershy because there's too much pressure, because she's my favorite. Nothing’s ever good enough.

    I'm sure that with everything you've done, the Discord/Fluttershy upcoming issue is going to be fantastic.

    I hope it's well received.

    What were the biggest influences on your artistic style?

    Definitely anime. It's funny. I've been making comics since I was a kid. You can tell whatever show or anime I was into at the time depending on what kind of comics I was making. Lots of Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura, Pokeman, and in high school, it was Rurouni Kenshin. Everybody in my comics suddenly got swords.

    Then after a while, I got to college and I found the Indie scene of comics in North America. I was drawn to that a little bit more because I found the magna that was coming through to the States and to Canada was just high school stuff. Like “Girl in high school, she’s awkward and she likes a boy,” and there’s a lot of that coming through. I was starting to outgrow those storylines, so yeah, looking into the Indie stuff, and just seeing, because I want to do comics too. I was doing them, pursuing them in a similar way as the Indie artists, so I was seeing what other people were doing. I’m like, “I want to do what you guys are doing,” so I got really attached to some of those stories that I found like the web comics, the print-on-demand stuff, and self-published things.

    Speaking of your going to college, what was the graphics design program like at Holland College?

    It was pretty good. I enjoyed the first year because it was more hands-on. You did more of painting and illustration studies and things like that, but then second year, it was, “Okay, design a brochure and here’s your pictures and here’s your text and you have to make a fold like this.” It was so boring to me, I just ... There was no illustration, and it was all on computer, so it was, “No, I just can’t get into this,” so I always knew I wanted to be an illustrator, and I didn’t quite know what graphic design was when I was getting into it, which is terrible, I know, because it’s the course I signed up for.

    I thought there’d be more illustration involved with it, which I think in previous years they did have more illustration in their course like life drawing classes and stuff, but by the time I got there, I guess they didn’t have as much funding, so they had to cut some stuff like that.

    Which is a shame.

    It’s a small community college, so what are you going to do?

    Not everyone can go to the Columbus College of Art and Design.

    Yeah, but it served a purpose and I met some good people there. One of my instructors actually was a comic artist, Sandy Carruthers [original artist for Men in Black], and so he was always enthusiastic to help me out with the comic stuff.

    You still keep in contact with him?

    Yeah, at the local comic shows that we do. He’s usually there, so we bump into each other every now and then.

    That’s got to be fun.

    Yeah, it’s interesting to have a different relationship. It’s not the student-teacher anymore. We’re peers now, which is very different.

    After you left college, you ended up working for an animation studio for a little while?

    Yeah, it was just something little. We’re from a pretty small town. There’s not too much in the way of animation and stuff, but this little animation studio just happened to pop up right as I was graduating, and they were looking for people, and so my instructors were like, “Oh, we got this email from this animation company, and Brenda, you’re always doodling these cartoons, so I think you should look into it.” So I did and it worked out really well. It’s where I met Troy [Little], my husband, so I’d say it worked out pretty well.

    I’d say.

    Yeah. We joke that it was the hook-up studio, because a lot of people who worked there ended up, like there’s a lot of couples that ended up happening because of that studio.

    I bet that made wedding receptions interesting.

    Yeah, a lot of comic stuff. I think two other couples got married too. And then another couple just recently had a baby together, so things are going well. We were close!

    Nice! So from what I’ve gathered from digging into your published works, it would seem that My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic is your first major professional comic book gig.

    Yes, it is!

    I have to ask, how did you get involved with My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic?

    When I heard they were doing comics through IDW, I was like, “IDW, you say,” because Troy [Little], my husband, has got two Creator Owned Books published through IDW. So I was like, “This works out really well. I’ve already got an in,” so I asked Troy if he wouldn’t mind just giving them the heads-up. If he just emailed them out of the blue it wouldn’t be so weird as if I emailed them out of the blue. So he’s like, “Just wanting to ask. My wife’s getting a portfolio for My Little Pony ready for you guys. Is it cool if she sends that your way?” And Bobby [Curnow] was like, “Oh yeah, sure.”

    At the time, Troy was talking to Bobby anyway about The Powerpuff Girls [Comics]—because Bobby was originally supposed to be the editor on that project before Sarah Gaydos came in—so it worked out well. All the cards were lined up, ready to go. I was all, “Oh, I hope the portfolio is good enough.”

    Bobby emailed me back five minutes after I sent it to him, and he was pretty positive. My jaw nearly hit the floor that it was that easy, in a way. It was amazing that it worked out so well.

    You started out with doing the Applejack issue?

    Yes, that was my first project with them, which Bobby [Curnow] wrote himself too. So it was fun to be able to get the relationship with the editor so close right away, with him being the editor and writer.

    That must have been an interesting experience. Usually they keep the editors and the writers separate.

    Yeah, I don’t know why Bobby decided to write it. I don’t know if maybe nobody pitched any Applejack stories that were working or what the story was behind that, or if he just wrote it because he liked Applejack and he wanted to be the one to write the story. I don’t know how that went down.

    What was the next project that you did with IDW from My Little Pony? I know you did the two issue pirate arc with Heather Nuhfer.

    Um-hmm (affirmative), that was the next one after Applejack, and then I was offered to do the Friends Forever issue with Twilight and Shining Armor. But, I was eight months pregnant at that point and I’m, “I don’t think I could sit that long!” So it’s, “Thank you so much for thinking of me and letting me have first dibs, but I think I’ll have to pass.” That was really kind of Bobby to give me the first choice on that and have the option if I wanted to take it or not.

    It was fun to see it when it was all finished with Amy Mebberson’s artwork. I was, “Oh, yeah, I remember reading this script.” I had a different idea of how it would turn out, but she did a really good job! It’s fun because I was starting to imagine it for myself, and then when I saw how she did it, it’s, “Oh, cool.”

    Must be nice getting that perspective on a project that you declined and to still see it finished.

    Yeah, and in such a different way than I would have ever imagined it! So it’s neat to think of what could have been and what is. I find that stuff fun!

    You also did a few sketch cards for IDW Limited?


    How many of those did you do, if you happen to remember off the top of your head?

    I think it was a full set. 52 maybe, but I can’t quite remember. It was in the 50’s, for sure. It was a lot of painting and drawing the same picture over and over.


    It was fun, though. I remember at the time I had a lot going on. Applejack was happening. I think I was working on another comic project at the same time. Yeah, there was this pharmaceutical company. I did some comics for them for kids with hemophilia, so I was working on the last issue I did for them, [K Living With It: I’ve Got Time]. There was also this local film festival happening and they wanted me to do the spread for the local newspaper for the month, and so I was trying to design that too.

    It was, “Oh no, when do I fit these cards in?” Luckily, I got them in on time. I sent them in just in time for the deadline.

    I was apologizing to Jerry [Bennington]—I think that was his name—who was in charge of that. He was, “Oh, don’t worry. Tony Fleecs hasn’t sent his in yet.” I was, “Okay,” so I didn’t feel too bad then.

    Freelance is weird. You don’t know what’s going to happen next so you sometimes take on too much stuff at once, and then you’re, “Oh great. I only have 24 hours in a day. How do I do this?”

    On top of being a parent.


    You’ve done the AJ Micro and you’ve done the Pirate Arc. I’m not sure exactly how much you can talk about Discord and Fluttershy and them going back in time to meet dinosaurs, so we’ll focus on what has been released for moment. What one of your favorite moments to pencil in those three issues?

    In the Pirate Arc, I really like drawing the sword fight that Rainbow Dash gets in, in issue 13. That was a lot of fun. Then … let me think. I liked drawing the crab too because it was silly-looking. I just like drawing silly things!

    With Applejack, I wanted to make them really expressive, but I also was cautious of keeping on model, but the pirate one for that sword fight, I remember I was a little bit more loose with it because I had just read the Ben Bates issue [MLP: Microseries #7]. He had done a comic with the Cutie Mark Crusaders and he’s got quite an anime style, and he made some of the faces anime-ish, so I was, “I think I can push it a little further.” Because Andy Price does it and Ben Bates does it, so maybe I can go a little further.

    Drawing all those crazy pirate pony horse things was so fun! Drawing all those really manly ponies! That was fun. It’s just really pushing the boundaries, like a Fabio pony. I don’t know where this is coming from, but I do it anyway.

    It was just so totally over the top!

    So when I got the script for the Discord issue with the Cutie Mark Crusaders and Fluttershy—and the way that Jeremy [Whitley] wrote his lines—I just couldn’t wait to make Discord act these out. This is really fun writing! Because of the way Discord is—just so over-the-top all the time—Jeremy didn’t write in too much for what the actions were supposed to be. He kept it pretty basic. This isn’t really part of the story or anything so it doesn’t give anything really away, but I was able to really push poses.

    One point, he snaps his fingers and he gets into a uniform, so I made him have a bit of a Sailor Moon transformation for that snap, because it was just like Discord snapped his fingers. “Yeah, let’s make him

    transform into Sailor Moon,” so I gave him the big anime eyes and the transformation pose at the end, so that was a lot of fun!

    That’s the beauty of Discord. He’s a walking visual gag.

    Yeah, whenever I was drawing him, I always kept picturing him like the Genie from Aladdin. He was larger-than-life. I feel Discord is similar, but a sinister version of that in a way. So yeah! I’m like, “I might have some fun with this, where I can …”

    Discord’s my favorite character, so I’m really looking forward to this arc.

    Awesome! Yeah, the only problem is, it’s only one issue.
    Dang it!

    I know! I’d gladly illustrate a whole series of these comics. Gosh, we only had one issue to do this. Hopefully, I can do more Discord issues in the future. If not, I’m sure the writer will give me something really fun anyway. There's always something fun to do with ponies.

    Definitely, so you did a couple of online comics. What can you tell us about In the Air?

    I started that one after college and it was very much an experiment, “I’m just going to make a comic and see where it goes.” Unfortunately, I based it a little bit too much off the Manga thing. You know how Mangas can go on forever and they’re very slow-paced and stuff?


    I slapped myself up for a bigger story than I had time for, so I got one volume done. The response on it was so-so, so it got to a point where I’m, “I’d rather move on.” That ended after six chapters, I got finished. One book with the first five chapters out and I tried to make a bit of a hype over chapter six and didn’t get the response I was looking for, so it was, “Well, you know, I can’t really invest my time and energy into something that’s not going anywhere,” because I had been working on it since 2007, so the fact that it still wasn’t getting anywhere by 2012, 2013, I think it’s time to move on.

    Yeah, I did a couple other little short stories like My Little Mascot character, [Ary 00:18:43], she’s a little purple thing with a horn on her head and the wings. I made her up in sixth grade and just keep making comics with her. She needs an origin story, though, because a lot of people are like, “I like it, but what is it? Why is it a cat thing?” I’m like, “Okay, I think I need to explain this so people can put her in context and maybe then the character will be more successful.”

    Another comic I’m working on in my spare time is this one about owls and the stand-in title is, “The Halls of the Tashin and the Halls of the Turnip King.” I’m hoping to get the first issue of that out for TCAF [Toronto Comic Arts Festival ] next year. We’ll see how that goes. It’s more of a comedy—In the Air was more of a drama fantasy thing, but this is just straight-up over the top comedy—so hopefully it’ll catch on a little bit better than the other one. I’m definitely writing it a lot smaller so that I won’t take years and years working on the same story with no end in sight.

    Those are my personal projects.

    Then that’s the pharmaceutical one I was doing for Bayer, K Living with It! I did eight issues of that. It’s just about a kid in high school with hemophilia and how he deals with that and the different stories that I illustrated for that.

    I don’t know what this distribution was on that. They said it went to kids with hemophilia and their family members. I never really heard anything too much about that from the whole medical community besides just, “We need another issue.” “Okay, I’ll draw that,” and I never really knew what happened to the issues once it was out of my hands. That’s my comics history, anyway.

    You did leave out one little thing.

    I did?

    The 24-hour comic book art challenge you did with Ary.

    That was another Ary one because she’s easy for me to draw! So I’m like “a 24-hour comic? I think it’s best to go with what’s easy to draw!”

    Yeah, that was a lot of fun to do. My arm was dying by the end of the night and I didn’t make the challenge, because I fell asleep at 4 in the morning. I couldn’t do it, but I did finish it, so that’s something, even if it didn’t work within the limits of the challenge. It got finished and I put a little mini-comic together. It sells pretty well if somebody’s, “Oh, I like your stuff, but I’m not really interested in ponies. Is there anywhere else you can direct me, or do you have anything else?” And then I’m like “Here you go. You can take this.”

    Yeah, it’s just pretty much Ary. I don’t know, she’s got a nemesis that’s a duck for some reason in this comic, because Ary’s always random.

    Peter Griffin has a giant chicken as a nemesis.

    A duck with an eye-patch and she just busts into a secret layer and then gets brainwashed while she’s trying to take them down. Then her mission while she’s brainwashed is to kidnap all of her friends because apparently the duck wants to get Ary and her friends out of the way so he can have a disco party. That’s pretty much it! Ary doesn’t even do anything in the end. She’s just brainwashed, and then gets lost somewhere and her cousin actually saves the day. “This is all great and everything,” and everybody forgets about Ary. She’s in a big oven at the end.

    Yeah, Ary’s pretty random and pretty useless. Her cousin is like super-sarcastic and just doesn’t really like anybody. Yeah, they’re fun, at least for me, anyway. I don’t know if other people think different, but I hope not.

    Well, if they do, you can always set them straight.

    Um-hmm. (Affirmative) “You’re going to like it.”

    “You’re going to love it!”


    What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to aspiring comic artists?

    Start smaller. You’ll want your own projects to be small to begin with. Don’t do a big, huge story like I did. Many comics are a great way to go. You can get it done quickly and you can get lots of material up there very fast and with a lot of different stories. You can see what catches instead of … I always have to learn the hard way. Don’t start off with a huge epic thing! If you start off with something small and it turns epic, then that’s just the story telling itself.

    Other advice, just challenge yourself every day with your art. If you start to feel comfortable, really try to shake things up a little bit if you can. Get out of that comfort zone and see where you’ll hit the next level. Then if you’re having an artist’s slump, don’t worry. Everybody does. Everybody hates their own art, so just keep in mind that even the best artists out there, people you think are the best artists, have those days too. Days where they just want to crumple up their paper and toss it across the room, break all their pencils, and scream and roll around on the floor, having a tantrum. If you feel that, don’t worry. Everybody feels that.

    I’m sure every writer feels that about their own writing too.

    Yeah. It’s always hard, because you’re your own worst enemy. Just try not to sweat it too much and just try and keep your art fun. If it starts to become not fun, try and step back from it and then figure out, “Well, why is it not fun anymore? How could I make this fun?” It will be a lot of time that you’re going to be sitting there drawing. You might as well make it something that you’re going to enjoy.

    Very good advice, Brenda.

    I had a breakdown a couple weeks ago, while I was working on the Discord issue. Just nothing I was drawing was funny enough. I got really mad at myself. I was like, “Why can’t I do this?” I was throwing stuff and crumpling papers.

    I got through it, at least, and it got fun again. It’s just, I put too much pressure on myself, I think, to hit the deadline. I was thinking, “Deadline, deadline, deadline.” I wasn’t thinking enough, “Have fun.”

    If I stress too much and just worry too much about the deadline, then the pictures do become dead on the page and that’s not fun to draw, and that’s not fun for the readers to look at. So stepping back and taking a breather is good.

    Start small and have fun, wise words.

    For sure! It’s also good if you go to conventions to talk to the other artists. When you’re first going to conventions, it’s good to make contacts and if you don’t make the sales, at least you’ve made contacts and you’ll get known within the artist community.

    Very interesting. Is there anything else you want to talk about that I didn’t cover? Any upcoming convention appearances?

    Next year, things are up-in-the-air. My husband got the job with IDW to adapt Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as a graphic novel. He’s going to be doing some traveling for that, so I have to figure out what I want to tag along for.

    There’s going to be TCAF next year. I sent off my application. Chris Butcher, the guy who puts it on, said that it’s pretty much guaranteed if I put in my application, that Troy and I would have a slide at Tea Calf next year. So I’m hoping that still rings true, because that’s a really good show, in Toronto at the public library. It’s free attendance and it’s just people and their comics. So I’m hoping to get there in May next year.

    Maybe San Diego Comic Con might be a thing next year, as well as New York Comic Con, and the New York Book Expo. Depending on what I want to tag along with Troy on, what we can afford, and what we can manage with the baby. I’ll definitely keep people posted, but next year sounds like it’s going to be quite big, or at least a big event, so I don’t know that I can go to a lot of them. At least I’ll try to get to some of the bigger ones. It can be a little tough to get around, just being from Eastern Canada. You feel so isolated.

    We got a few conventions popping up in the Maritimes, but I know it’s hard for people to get here too. You’d see your same local crowd, but it’s hard to expand from that if you just go to the local shows all the time. Because a lot of people—there’s not much in the maritimes—I’m sure they wouldn’t want to come from all over the States and all over Canada, just to come here.

    The local crowd’s great, I’m not knocking them. It’s just expansion-wise, it’s hard to that in this area, but we’ll see. I’m hoping that the more comics I do, the more likely it’ll be that I’ll get invited to be a guest. That way, it’ll be a little easier to get around.

    Here’s hoping that you can make the New York Comic Con next year.

    I hope so, because it sounds awesome, but I’ve never been to New York so it’ll be a good way to start going.

    A good excuse to spend some time with your husband …


    … away from the kids.

    Yeah, we’ll see.

    It sounds like you’ve got a very promising career ahead of you.

    Yeah, I hope things go really well, because I’d like to keep this up.

    I’m definitely looking forward to seeing some more issues, My Little Pony, from you.

    Awesome. I do have a Friends Forever issue coming up soon. I think it’s the December one, Number 12.

    Which is …?

    …going to be my next one. That one is. I’ll start working on that in September. My run on My Little Pony is not over yet! One more to go, and then I’ll ask Bobby, “So hey, anything else happening?”

    For all we know, he could say, “How’d you like to draw Equestria Girls?”

    I don’t think I’d mind drawing Equestria Girls.

    It definitely should prove interesting.

     It would definitely be a lot better than those pharmaceutical comics. *laughs*

    Thank you for your time, Brenda. This was a fantastic interview.

    Thank you so much for interviewing me.

    You’re very welcome.

    I hope you have a good week.

    You too.

    Take care. Thanks for chatting.

    Brenda Hickey can be found on:
    Tumblr: crazyary.com
    Blogspot: ary-doodle.blogspot.com
    DeviantArt: http://brendahickey.deviantart.com/
    Facebook: Crazy Ary Artworks (make that a hyperlink to this: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Crazy-Ary-Artworks/225156490831741 )
    Yes she does commissions (like the image above). Contact her if interested.