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A conversation with Paulette Poullet

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Twenty-six-year-old Puerto Rican Paulette Poullet moved here in 1997. She's using her time off "between careers" to work on her self-published comics, with an eye on her dream project: a full-length comic about her experiences in Puerto Rico, a place she says Americans don't know much about.

 

 

What was it like moving here from Puerto Rico?

All I knew about Pittsburgh was that Mr. Belvedere was set here. Pittsburgh has all these great buildings that are so huge. There are no tall buildings in Puerto Rico. I remember going Downtown and feeling like I was in a movie set, and that I could tip those buildings over because they were so empty and huge. But I really like the atmosphere here -- it's not too big, not too small, and there's so much to do. People here think there's nothing to do and that kinda drives me crazy. Especially if you're an artist, there's so many things happening -- you don't even have the time to do it all. It's just kind of trendy, I guess, to talk smack on where you live.

 

So is Pittsburgh a good town for a comics person?

Yeah, I think so! There are a lot of great cartoonists working here in Pittsburgh. And there are stores that will carry my work, and so many good people here who are supporting the scene.

 

When did you start doing comics?

I didn't really do very many comics until I got to college, and then it was mostly to amuse my friends. They loved being in them. It feels good to make people laugh.

 

This is the comic you're working on now. Whoa -- it's a pop-up!

Yeah, there's a part that will fold out, and that's in color. There will be stickers of these linoleum prints I made of comedians from the 1980s -- Andrew Dice Clay, Judy Tenuta, Sam Kinison, Bobcat Goldthwait. And it's gonna have little colored-paper bands around it with different reasons to buy the comic. I'm doing it piece by piece. It's really a labor of love. This all has to be hand-assembled. But I have the time to do it right now.

 

When I do comics that have foldouts and other little things, that's very much a Mad magazine thing. When I was a kid, I inherited my dad's stack of Mad magazines from the '60s, which were apparently pristine and devalued significantly once I used all the stickers and punched out all the records.

 

That's the Cathedral of Learning on the cover -- is the comic about Pittsburgh?

It's a lot of silliness, though you can definitely tell it's local. Like this story: "Greensburg man burns leg while torching guitar." That's a real headline, and I paraphrased the newspaper article.

 

Are comics still perceived as a male pursuit?

A lot of people grew up with the superhero comics, and I couldn't really get into them. I'd want to because I thought it was cool and the artwork was great, but [the story] would say, "Cross-reference Thor No. 367" and I couldn't make heads or tails out of the whole thing. One of the reasons I got into independent comics was because there were girls in them, like Love and Rockets -- Latina girls, oh my God -- and the stories were self-contained.

 

There aren't as many women involved in making comics. And I actually see it as an advantage because you tend to get attention for being a woman doing comics. Which is kinda strange: I'm a tomboy and I want to be on an even field, but if I can sell one more comic because I'm a girl, I'll take that.

 

Is it tough working through an idea?

I sketch out thumbnails. I'll do a rough draft. There are so many possibilities when you're faced with a blank page, and it can be very daunting. But it's very cathartic to get this work done, and if I don't have a productive day, I feel terrible about it. I'm trying to be self-disciplined and work on a schedule. It takes about 40 hours to do a page of a comic.

 

I feel like I'm still finding myself. There are so many ways you can approach a drawing, so many styles -- the possibilities really are endless. And sometimes it can feel like a chore. You have to draw things you don't particularly want to draw in order to convey what you want to convey, but I see it as an exercise too. I might hate drawing this because I'm bad at it, but I'll be better at it next time.

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