Elizabeth Wisnia has been married for nearly 10 years to her artist husband, Chris Wisnia. In the years they’ve been together, they’ve spent almost eight years exhibiting at comic conventions (including San Diego and WonderCon) promoting Tabloia, Monstrosis, Doris Danger, Dr. Debunko and a slew of other projects that keeps them busy. If that wasn’t enough, their plate is overflowing taking care of two young boys. For Elizabeth, surviving the comic circuit is all about balance and support.
What is your role?
Look pretty, sell books, make sure Chris eats, do PR. (Chris is an introvert and sometimes feels shy about approaching people in the industry that he respects. I’m super extroverted and find it easy to approach just about anyone.)
To what degree do you provide creative input, Elizabeth?
I’m not a comic-book writer but I do love to write and play with words. As such, Chris will sometimes consult me when he needs the right words for a character or specific scene. I’ve had a hand in the naming characters (e.g., Doris Danger, Dr. Debunko, some of his giant Kirby-style monsters) and books (e.g., Monstrosis).
Do you attend every convention?
Not anymore. At this stage, it’s more supportive for me to keep the boys out of his hair so that he can create and attend conventions on his own.
How often do people confuse you as the artist?
When I was attending regularly, people would mostly only confuse me as the artist when Chris was not at the table.
How do they react when they find out you’re not the artist?
I’ve experienced reactions ranging from indifference to disappointment to mild agitation. Frequently, I received comments about how supportive I must be to attend conventions. On a couple of occasions, I’ve gotten the sense that folks were genuinely annoyed that person sitting at the table is not the person who actually inked/penned the content. I guess some folks don’t appreciate the need for bathroom breaks and such.
Are you both always manning the table? Are you equally comfortable pitching the product?
There was a time that I definitely had the schpeel down. Since Chris has published several books since I stopped attending regularly, I would probably need a little refresher before being able to competently relate all the famous contributors, etc.
Is it tough to coordinate vacation days/days off for conventions or book signings?
There was a time when ALL of our vacations centered around conventions. When it was just the two of us, I didn’t mind so much. In fact, if there was somewhere I wanted to go, it was often my ploy for getting Chris on board (or vice versa). He would find a convention to attend and I would find fun stuff to do while we were there. Friends used to tease Chris about taking me on a proper vacation that didn’t have anything to do with comics. Now that we have the boys, I have begun to insist that vacations be more about family and less about comics. I’ve warned Chris that if he wants the boys to love comics like he does, he should be careful about regularly subjecting them to situations where there’s all this cool stuff that they can’t touch. We’ve tried a few times and (like most 2 and 4 year olds) their attention span is limited and meltdowns are always a possibility. As such, we’re just taking them sporadically now and won’t take them regularly until they are a little older. PLUS, since we attended so many conventions in the early days, we’ve gotten a better feel for which ones are worth the time, money and energy based on the contacts we make, etc. This makes it easier to be choosy about which conventions to attend.
How has working together affected your relationship?
It’s been a great bonding experience at times and a strain at others. Especially after having kids, I think it took Chris a little longer to realize that our world was going to be VERY different henceforth. I remember breastfeeding in a humid parking garage in the suburbs of Chicago and thinking, “What am I doing here?! I’m in this GREAT city and THIS is what I’m doing with my time???!!!” The next day, we left Daddy at the convention and my son and I took the bus to the zoo. It was a lovely day.
What do you do besides helping out at convention? Do you have a day job or other hobbies?
By day, I’m an analyst in the UC Davis Campus Counsel’s Office. I love to bake, run, write, and throw fabulous parties. I also volunteer quite a bit in our community. I recently organized the Davis Little League 4th of July Pancake Breakfast for about 500 guests and am gearing up to host our neighborhood’s annual block party in the fall. In addition, I am training for a half marathon (which I will run in September) and a full marathon (which I will run in October). My most important job and reason for breathing is being a mom to my two amazing, crazy, exhausting boys. When I think of them, I think my heart may just burst.
Are there any couples that you regularly see at conventions that you look up to?
Everyone is really so very nice. It’s hard to know where to begin. If I had single some folks out, I always enjoy seeing Jim and Wendy Williams, Adam Hughes and Allison Sohn, Mick and Holly Gray. They are all so cool and so generous. In terms of people I enjoy seeing; I always look forward to Mario Hernandez, Sergio Aragonés, Joshua Dysart and Simon Bisley. Joshua is such a shiny human being. Chris and I both enjoy basking in his glow. Simon is like a walking party. Time with Simon is always bound to generate some great stories. Mario and Sergio are so warm and they always have great stories from back in the day. We’ve also had some wild times with the Caveman Robot crew (Jason Robert Bell, Joe Infurnari, and Britton “Mr.” Walters) I’m sure I’ve left some folks out and for that, I’m truly sorry.
Did you read comics before you met Chris? If so, what did you read?
Sadly, I’ve never really been much of a comic book reader. Even now, I haven’t found something that reliably hooks me in the way that a good novel or great crossword does. Still, I have great respect for the medium and am thrilled that so many artists struggle and strive to keep it alive. I’m almost glad that I’m not into comics because it gives me the freedom to just support Chris and let him do his “thing” without my preconceived notions or prejudices interfering. I think what I love most about having a window into the comics industry is that it provides just one more example of how no matter who you are, what lights your fire… there is a place for you in this world.
What advice would you give to other couples who tour the comic-con circuit?
Find balance. Especially if (like me) you are mainly participating in the comic book industry to support your significant, make sure that there is reciprocity. It’s important to maintain individuality, have your own outlets, and feel that you are encouraged to pursue the passions that bring your life meaning.