Onezumi Hartstein and her husband of 13 years, James Harknell, both founded Intervention—
Maryland’s convention for webcomics, indie creators and all geek culture. But Onezumi keeps her hands full penning and drawing Stupid and Insane Defenders Against Chaos and My Annoying Life, both found at http://www.onezumi.com. How does this busy couple keep it cool between running two webcomics and a successful convention? It’s all about teamwork. In the seven years they’ve been exhibiting at conventions, James has never missed a show.
Which conventions do you regularly attend?
Anime, comic, and sci-fi cons.
What is your role? To what degree do you provide creative input?
I mostly edit and pitch some ideas for topics for comics. Oni will ask me to proofread things to catch spelling errors and to see if I think the dialog works.
How often do people confuse you as the artist? How do they react when they find out you’re not the artist?
I’m constantly asked if I do the art. For whatever reason people tend to think the male at a table is the artist. They get very confused when I tell them that Oni does both art and writing, and that I mostly do the business stuff. The stereotype of comics is still very much that guys draw superheroes in spandex, and the idea of a woman doing anything is unexpected.
Are you both always manning the table? Are you equally comfortable pitching the product?
We try to both be at the table, but I often free up Oni to walk around and talk with other creators to network. I think we are both equally able to talk about the work since I extensively talk with her about the direction of the comic. We do much more than the comic now so I can talk about the business stuff as well.
Is it tough to coordinate vacation days/days off for conventions or book signings?
Yes, we get way more offers than we can ever fit into our schedule. Some as far away as the West Coast, Hawaii, Canada or Europe. We loathe airlines, so that factors into the time it takes to get to places. There have been cases where one of us couldn’t get the time off to go to an event, and it’s honestly too hard to do an event by yourself.
Do you have a special code between the two of you while working? If you do, what is it and what does it signify?
We definitely have weird stuff we say to each other when working, but it’s kinda gibberish and other goofy stuff that comes from being a couple. It would probably make people cringe hearing it considering how cutesy it can be.
How has working together affected your relationship?
For the positive, definitely. We’re both more confident people as a result of working together and going to conventions. We can easily be on panels and do public speaking, where before this we were much more inhibited– me more than her.
What do you do besides helping out at convention? Do you have a day job or other hobbies?
I do programming for WordPress plugins (at my site awsom.org), I do business development and handle the day to day operations of our sites, and I work in IT at a college. I like playing FPS games and survival horror games like Resident Evil/Silent Hill.
Are there any couples that you regularly see at conventions that you look up to?
Kaja and Phil Foglio remind us of a slightly older reversed version of ourselves. We worked with them a few times at cons, and they are really funny. Kaja is a bit more like me, and Phil and Oni were funny as the artists.
What do you look forward to most on the first day of a convention?
Getting our stuff settled at our table and getting our schedule of panels and events squared away. Cons can be chaos so you want to get as many things set as possible early so you don’t fall all over yourself. 90% of the time there aren’t many sales on the first day, so you are just trying to get set up and get people to know you’re there so they will come back later to get things.
Is there one thing you absolutely dread working at comic-cons?
I’m not great at improv, so I can be pretty crappy when placed on a “game show” panel. I can be very funny in fits and starts, but not when there’s pressure to be funny constantly.
Did you read comics before you met Oni? If so, what did you read?
Yes, I have a huge comic book collection. I read everything from regular superhero stuff from DC/Marvel to early Hellboy and Savage Dragon. I also used to read Peanuts and had practically every book compilation that was available.
What advice would you give other couples that tour the comic-con circuit?
Be ready for stress. Things will go wrong, you’ll forget to bring things, and the con will make it hard to get the info you need. But you and your partner are there as a team, so look to them to be your strength in chaos.