To say Allissa Chan’s comics are magical is an understatement.
Employing careful linework, bold shapes, and striking colors, Allissa’s work treads the line between reality and fantasy—drawing attention to the quiet, poignant moments in life. It’s no wonder that even as a recent college graduate, Allissa has already drawn the attention of studios and publishers like Cartoon Network and Shortbox. Interim—Allissa’s 40 page, full color comic about a fallen star, a bird, and their journey to freedom in an ever-shifting city—debuts this fall and was included in Shortbox #12. It is also available online at Shortbox’s website.
I first saw Allissa’s comics on Twitter; “Picture” (2019) explores language, loss, and longing in just four short, yet powerful, pages. I was excited to have the opportunity to talk with Allissa, and I hope you enjoy our conversation about comics, passions, and what drives us to continue creating.
Kyla Smith (KS): Could you talk about how you got your start in comics?
Allissa Chan (AC): I read a lot of webcomics as a teen and that was basically it! I started playing around with simple, two to three-panel comics my second year of college, and it kind of just developed from there. I feel like I’m still more of a person who happens to make comics occasionally than someone who’s gotten a “start” in it, but I guess I’ve made a few by now!
KS: What inspires you to make the stories you tell?
AC: Mostly I’m making stories I would want to see in the world. Sometimes I’m trying to capture a specific mood, or I’m really excited by a specific concept that I want to explore. A lot of what I’ve done so far has been more or less drawing from my own life, but that’s more because I had that material to pull from already while I was trying to figure out the other parts of making comics. I do know that going forward I’d rather move away from that and work on more experimental or fantastic narratives.
KS: Between working on comics, video games, and school projects, you always seem to be working on something—how do you manage your schedule?
AC: Poorly…I just graduated from design school this year, and managing freelance and personal work on top of school projects and general life stuff was a mess. I guess I survived, but juggling everything during school was mostly driven by an intense fear that I would fall behind if I didn’t and I was very burned out for most of that time.(I think it’s also important to acknowledge that even though this is an ongoing struggle, I had the huge privilege to attend school pretty much debt-free, and not having that pressure meant I had that much more energy for art or could turn down work if I was really overwhelmed). Being out of school now definitely helps, but it’s still a lot of trying to find something that sticks and unpacking bad habits.
KS: What’s it like getting ready for Interim to debut with Shortbox? Is there anything you’re especially looking forward to?
AC: Honestly, I have no idea what I’m feeling about this! I’m hugely grateful for the opportunity and I know I’ve got a lot to learn! It’s the first longer-form project that I’ve finished so I’m at least cautiously proud of that part. I would say I’m looking forward to people getting to read it but I’m a little scared of what it’s going to be like once it’s out in the world. I hope people think it’s ok.
KS: So…Blaseball—how did you get into it, and who have you been rooting for?
AC: I’ve described Blaseball as a surreal sports fan simulator, though that doesn’t really do it justice. I saw some people talking about it on Twitter soon after it launched and was like, “Oh I don’t know how interested I’ll be, but I like the tone and weird generative projects so maybe I’ll check it out.” It turns out that we’ve reached the point in 2020 where this was exactly what my brain needed to latch on to. I like a lot of teams but my top two are the Hades Tigers and the Hellmouth Sunbeams because I have no real-life location loyalty, and also I think they’re cool!
KS: What drives you to continue making comics?
AC: I have a lot of thoughts in my head, and, for better or worse, I’m probably the best chance they have of making it out there into the world. And sometimes I’ll see someone making something I think is really inspiring, and I’ll want to see what I can make too!
KS: What roles do art and comics play in your life, and has it changed over time?
AC: I was one of those kids who was always drawing, but never really knew there could be anything besides doing it just for fun. The idea that someone might want to hire you to draw something for them was just such a strange concept. So I guess that’s one major change, though I’m still trying to figure out how that’s going to work in the long term or if it’s where I’m going to stay career-wise.
For the past few years, art has also been my way of working through emotions. I’m probably never going to get rid of that completely, but lately I’ve been trying to consider what exactly I want to do with my art beyond just introspection, and what it means to be an artist right now. Ultimately, I think my goal as an artist would be to help people imagine how things could be different (and better) than how the world is structured right now. I don’t know yet what exactly that might look like especially across everything I do, but it’s something I’ll be thinking about for a long time.