Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat With Katie Omberg
Katie Omberg is a young lesbian cartoonist whose Office Bitch webcomic reminds me favorably of the early days of Dykes to Watch Out For. She's also the creator of Gay Kid, a mini-comic about growing up.
Washington City Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?
Katie Omberg: I have two different projects right now: I draw mini-comics and I also do a weekly strip for The New Gay. I do both the writing and drawing for all of the minis I'm involved in, except for a series called Suggestion Box, which I work on with Matthew Smith (he mostly writes).
WCP: How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?
KO: I do everything by hand. I like to keep it simple: just pens and a ruler.
WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?
KO: 1986, here in D.C.
WCP: Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?
KO: I moved to D.C. after college for a job, and I live in Columbia Heights.
WCP: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?
KO: I took a few art classes in high school and college, which I guess helped loosen up my line (I sure hated contour drawing at the time, though). But mostly I know how to do it from just drawing comics all the time. I remember drawing comic books in elementary school during reading time. I did strips for my high school and college papers. Working at my college paper was great experience; it really got me in a good habit of drawing all the time, even if I didn't want to. It also taught me that you need to draw to what your audience is interested in.
KO: I grew up reading Ninja Turtles as a kid, but had kind of a second coming in high school and got hooked up with really dyke-y cartoonists, like Ariel Schrag and Alison Bechdel, and other auto-bio greats like Craig Thompson. Blankets had just come out when I was 15, and reading that book was eye opening. The drawings were beautiful, and the story line felt like it was written just for me.
WCP: If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?
KO: Well, my "career" right now is a series of desk jobs at non-profits. I wouldn't change any of it, except for maybe quitting one job a lot earlier; I worked for a queen bitch. In my comics career, I would try to allow myself more time to draw!
WCP: What work are you best-known for?
KO: My new series Gay Kid is getting the most attention. I started working on it last August, and it's the first really personal strip I've done, and it's paying off. People are really liking it, and can really identify with it. I've done some work that is much more flippant, like "my job sucks" or "I HATE it when this happens!" which is fun, but you don't get the connection that's there in Gay Kid.
WCP: What work are you most proud of?
KO: Gay Kid, definitely! It's been the hardest to write, but it has paid off big-time. Also, I've cleaned up my style a lot for it, and it shows. There aren't so many stray lines all over the page.
WCP: What would you like to do or work on in the future?
KO: I would like to work on a longer piece, like a graphic novel. I've done mostly minis, since the 12-page length is really as long a storyline as I can muster. But getting onto a bigger project would be really cool. And I would like to be more experimental in my page layout.
WCP: What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?
KO: Hang out with my friends. Getting my mind clean of the writer's block is really helpful, and the energy of a great conversation is a great kick-start. You never know where the conversation's going to go, and you may end up finding something you can use later in a comic.
WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?
KO: I think the indy/small-press comics scene will keep growing.
WCP: Will you be at the Small Press Expo this fall?
KO: I will be at SPX (loving it, as I always do), and Matthew will be there, too.
WCP: What's your favorite thing about D.C.?
KO: This'll sound nuts, but the fact that none of the building are that high. I love being able to see the sky and how they city feels like it was made on a human-scale. It has all the perks of a big city, without the wind tunnels and looming buildings. Also, when you scratch the suit-and-tie surface, you can easily find the interesting, hip, laid-back D.C. that I enjoy.
KO: The summers. I'm a real wimp when it comes to humidity.
WCP: What monument or museum do you take most out-of-town guests to?
KO: Ben's Chili Bowl!
WCP: Do you have a website or blog?
Thanks to Matt Dembicki for putting us in contact with Omberg.