An Interview with Alabaster Pizzo, Cartoonist

Alabaster Pizzo (left) and Kaeleigh Forsyth, cartoonist and author of Hellhound Lifestyle
Alabaster Pizzo (left) and Kaeleigh Forsyth, cartoonist and author of Hellhound Lifestyle

-Interview by Mariam Nasrullah

Where do you find inspiration for your work? What does your creative process look like?

Visually I take inspiration from a lot of things. Folk art, classic fairy tales, my peers. The colors I used in Hellbound Lifestyle were used a lot by my parents in their own artwork and the interior of our house growing up, I don’t know how to describe them except as slightly off-primary golden yellow, vermillion, indigo, teal, blue, and black. These colors have been stuck in my head a long time. I live in a dense neighborhood in Queens, NY. Rigid right-angle streets and buildings are common backgrounds in my comics (even ones that don’t necessarily take place in New York)

Usually I work during daylight hours like everybody else. I wake up at 8 and commute down the hall to my studio. I’ll quickly thumbnail a page to make sure I get the pacing right, then I draw the sketch on graph paper, then I trace the final on a lightbox on to a new sheet of paper (for Hellbound it was ink on bristol, though more and more i just draw the final in pencil). The color I do digitally. One page per day is a good steady rate for me.

The cover of Hellhound Lifestyle
The cover of Hellhound Lifestyle

What does being a female in the comics industry look like? Are there any issues you face? Do you write about these issues?

Being a woman in any industry is tough, especially one that is typically dominated by men, like comics. Last year the Angloueme Comics Festival in France made a list of 30 “lifetime achievement” cartoonists which didn’t include a single woman. On the extreme end you have to worry if the male strangers who are super-involved in your social media are stalking you, on the low end you have to hear your work compared to that show “Girls.” Luckily no one has compared Hellbound Lifestyle to “Girls.” Most of the reviews have praised it for its relatable human content without making any oblique point that the narrator is female.

A page from "Hellhound Lifestyle"
A page from “Hellhound Lifestyle”

You illustrated Hellbound Lifestyle, and someone else wrote it. Can you illuminate what that process looked like? How did the process differ from when you write and illustrate your own work?

I actually really like adapting words that already exist into a comic. It takes the pressure off me to create an interesting story and also allows me to turn the author into an unreliable narrator which I think is funny. Kaeleigh is hilarious and smart and ever since we’ve known each other I’ve been audience to her journal entries, internet screenshots, dating horror stories, and uncanny text conversations with her friends or mom or total strangers. I turned a list of her first dates from 2014 into a short comic for Australian literary journal The Lifted Brow and it was really well received, so I decided to do more and wound up making this book. She dumped hundreds of files of material into a folder and I’m lucky that she mostly let me use my judgement to put things together and create images to go with them. Almost everything is verbatim. None of it was written with the intention of it ever being published. I guess that makes it non-fiction? This was my first collaboration project but I’d like to do more.

A page from Hellbound Lifestyle
A page from Hellbound Lifestyle

What was a panel in Hellbound Lifestyle that you had the most fun creating?

I loved doing the full-page panels- there’s one where she’s laying down at yoga, crying at a 3D kids’ movie, laying down in a beautiful park in Sweden, and drinking alone while sitting on a beach ball at an office christmas party. For these there was no narration so I had to convey depression in an absurd setting in a way that was obvious but not cliché. Thought about maybe printing some of those as posters!

What are some comics that you are enjoying right now?

I just read Don’t Come In Here by Patrick Kyle and I really liked it. His style is so cool and enviable and storytelling fun to read.


Hellhound Lifestyle is available at Retrofit Comics.