Maggie Umber is a cartoonist, illustrator and painter. She has published two graphic novels with 2dcloud: Time Capsule (2015) and Sound of Snow Falling (2017). Her 24 page comic The Tooth appeared in The Shirley Jackson Project edited by Rob Kirby and published by Ninth Art Press in September 2016.
Today has been a day of surprises. Several big things that have been in the works for many months have suddenly come to fruition.
I’m continuing work on my Black History watercolor series. My last two portraits, one of Jeanne Lee and one of Miles Davis, have turned into Tumblr collaborations with poets Daniel Falck and Michael Neal Morris.
ANMLY25 debuted today. The comics section of this issue features a lot of fantastic cartoonists including Aidan Koch, Austin English and Alyssa Berg. My contribution was an animated version of The Tooth. My 24 page comic The Tooth appeared in The Shirley Jackson Project edited by Rob Kirby and published by Ninth Art Press in September 2016.
Warmer was funded! Thank you to the 294 backers and to the anthology’s editors Andrew White and Madeleine Witt for making this book a reality. I have a 10 page watercolor comic in it called Pollination. It is a small print run and won’t be distributed anywhere, so the KS was the only way to get a copy of this book.
CAKE in Chicago was a huge success! Sound of Snow Falling and Yours by Margot Ferrick were 2dcloud’s best sellers of the show. Also, Raighne and I had such a good time there that we decided to both move to Chicago. So 2dcloud will be saying goodbye to Minneapolis this summer.
Thanks to everyone who is buying Sound of Snow Falling! It is finally available on 2dcloud.com, Amazon and in many comics shops and bookstores! I love getting messages and photos such as the one this anonymous reader sent: “Your book is beautiful and each page is a pearl, not so soundless, a bit spooky even. Bravo and thank you very much! I will spend time with it.”
My ten page watercolor comic Pollination is a part of the climate change poetry comics anthology Warmer.
The line up for Warmer is spectacular: Alyssa Berg with Catalina Jaramillo, Andrew White, Caitlin Skaalrud, Ellie Schmidt, Graeme Shorten Adams, Jonathan Bell Wolfe, Kimball Anderson, L. Nichols, Madeleine Witt with Anya Grenier, Maggie Umber with Raighne, Nick Soucek, Oliver East, Tor Brandt, Warren Craghead, Wenting Li, and Will Cardini.
One more awesome thing of note! I was on the TCAF panel Expressive Lines And The Power of Restraint which was moderated by Rachel Davies. Hellen Jo, Ron Rege Jr., Keren Katz, and Xia Gordon were the other panelists. So much fun! Next month I will be tabling with 2dcloud at another great comics convention! If you are at CAKE in Chicago, stop by and say hi.
Near the end of February I was contacted by Dr. Monique Y. Wells, the president of Les Amis de Beauford Delaney (in English it means The Friends of Beauford Delaney). In 2009 Monique raised the money to put a tombstone on Beauford’s unmarked grave and has worked hard to bring more public awareness to this amazing painter. Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is now working with the Wells International Foundation to bring the exhibit Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color to the US. You can join their effort here.
Monique came across my portrait of Beauford in a Google Alert. She then interviewed me about it for the Les Amis de Beauford Delaney blog. You can read the article here. Thank you, Monique! <3 <3 <3 It’s such an honor!!!
2dcloud’s Spring 2017 kickstarter is a great way to preorder Sound of Snow Falling! SOSF is an acrylic-painted, documentary-style, wordless graphic novel that follows the lives of two great horned owls through a single winter.
2dcloud’s Fall Collection launched on Kickstarter! I’m in Altcomics Magazine 4, which is part of the Collection.
I painted the cover art for Altcomics Magazine 4 and in this issue I’m interviewed by comics critic Kim Jooha.
AM4 features interviews with Maggie Umber, Juliacks, Christopher L. G. Hill, Tracy Auch, Wiley Guillot and part 1 of a larger look at the rise of feminism in Korea as a counter to the growing “Alt-Right” movement by Kim Jooha.
In my tenth grade biology class we did the usual things: dissected frogs, identified birds from slide shows, and raised plants from seedlings in paper towels. It seemed like the typical high school science experience until we were asked to write a research paper in first person from an animal’s perspective. My imagination went into overdrive. The idea took ahold of me like nothing has since. For three weeks in tenth grade I became a great horned owl.
I graduated from high school and then college, traveled with the circus, and worked at some science and art museums. I began my career as a cartoonist. A few years after that our friend Justin, my future husband Raighne and I co-founded the comics publishing company 2dcloud. Our flagship publication was a comics anthology called Good Minnesotan. For our third issue, I was looking for subject matter for my contribution and I thought to dig out my tenth grade biology paper about the great horned owl.
It had been ten years since I had written that paper. However, the emotional attachment I felt to the assignment never left me. I made a five page comic for GMN3 called You Are The Great Horned Owl and it opened the floodgates again. I decided that I would make a graphic novel about great horned owls.
There is the old adage to write what you know. I found that when I began to storyboard Sound of Snow Falling what I knew wasn’t enough. I began again, the same way I had when I was writing the research paper. I got books from the library and I also spent a lot of time on the internet googling things. A big break through came when we were having dinner with a friend and she suggested that I do google alerts for great horned owls. This led me to my first live owl cam and everything changed. I got to watch owl behavior in real time and I became obsessed.
I spent four years telling myself the story of a pair of great horned owls in winter, over and over again. I storyboarded it and put the pages in a three-ring binder. I read and re-read it and each time I did I changed the page order and added or subtracted pages. I bought the weather books of Jim Gilbert and memorized birdsongs and owl research papers. I did everything I could to make the fiction story as true-to-life as possible.
Technology was an interesting collaborator in my graphic novel. When I first wrote the research paper, the internet was in its infancy. There was no way to stream owl cams or listen to podcasts, read blogs or image search photos. The depth of my experience as a great horned owl in tenth grade was mostly one of my imagination; the depth of my experience as a great horned owl ten years later was a full-fledged live action experience.
My life was forever shaped by that single atypical writing assignment. Was there anyone else in my biology class that was affected in this way? I doubt it. Even the idea itself when applied to other subjects didn’t interest me as much. When we had to write a first person paper about a food product traveling through the human body I had fun writing it, but I was never inspired to revisit the paper. I don’t even have a copy of it anymore.
What was it that made that particular animal research paper resonate with me so strongly? It was my childhood. My Dad was always dragging us kids through the woods, teaching us how to identify trees and helping us break open owl pellets. My Mom read me bird identification books in my high chair until I memorized their names. They took us to nature centers and let me have weird pets like corns snakes, anoles, katydids and crickets. We watched monarch caterpillars eat milkweed and form cocoons on the side of the house. We did science fairs together. Those childhood experiences made Sound of Snow Falling the story that I needed to tell.