Newfoundland-based comics artist, graphic memoirist Georgia Webber answers 20 Questions – Saltwire

Georgia Webber didn’t anticipate she’d still be living in Newfoundland six months after leaving Toronto.

A comics artist and graphic memoirist with two books published through the highly regarded independent comics publisher Fantagraphics, Webber had a cartoonist friend, Michael Walsh, with family on the island.

“I was going a little nuts in Toronto over the pandemic and started looking for other places to live, and Michael said, ‘Well, my family has a home out in Newfoundland that is empty for the winter, so if you want to go hang out there for some time, you’re free to it.’ And I got here and just immediately was like, why would I ever leave?”

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Webber subsequently purchased a house and began to make connections, in part through her professional background. At Downtown Comics in St. John’s, she will lead a book club that will meet on the final Monday of each month to discuss a graphic novel. The first meeting is May 30 at 7 p.m., with readers gathering at the Duckworth Street comics shop to discuss “Earthling” by Aisha Franz.

Georgia Webber has published two books through American independent publisher Fantagraphics. - Contributed
Georgia Webber has published two books through American independent publisher Fantagraphics. – Contributed

Webber heard about Downtown Comics through word of mouth and first connected with the store’s owner, Kerri Neil, on Twitter.

“I really enjoy the comics community and find that it takes a bit of whipping up to get comics artists together, given that we all sort of sit at home and draw quietly at our desks all day,” Webber said.

Her 2018 book “Dumb: Living Without a Voice” chronicles the difficult experience she faced dealing with a severe vocal chord injury and vocal condition that would cause pain when using it for sustained periods. Two years later came the publication of a collaboration with Vivian Chong titled “Dancing After TEN.” Similar to her first book, the story has a medical hook, as it delves into Chong’s experience of losing her voice as the result of a rare skin disorder — toxic epidermal necrolysis.

“I started making comics because I loved drawing as a kid — I was completely obsessed with it — and then I discovered a love of writing in high school, and then it took me a number of years after that to still overcome my fears and start producing something,” Webber said. “And that really happened when I had my voice issues set in. I felt that was my story and I just had to tell it and no one else was going to, so dive in. Stop being so scared and just go for it.”

1. What is your full name?

Georgia Webber.

2 . Where were you born?

Toronto, Ont.

3 . Where do you live today?

I live between Mobile and Tors Cove.

4 . Who do you follow on social media?

I like to follow folks who are expressing themselves with regards to both their joys and creativity, and also their values. That’s actually been one way that social media has brought me a lot of community here. Accessing things like Twitter and choosing to follow and pay attention to people who are talking about the things that matter most to them. That’s helped me identify friends. … It’s also just wonderful to raise people up on social media. Like seeing someone share a bit of art or share a selfie that they’re feeling really good about that day. I’m the person on social media being like, ‘This is amazing, great work, keep going! I love it! Show me more!’ It just feels good.

5 . What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Perhaps that I’m highly neurodivergent and live with chronic pain every day. … They know it if they follow my work because, “Dumb” is about my voice pain. But it’s way more than that, and I do think the way that I sort of present myself in the world is not constantly talking about those parts of me. But they’re absolutely informing how I am in every moment. It’s like the kind of knowledge that you can keep in your brain and it seems reasonable. But then I think the experience of me with that knowledge in mind would be sort of a surprising combination.

6 . What’s been your favourite year and why?

It has to be this year, because this is the thing — I love getting older. I find my life gets better every year. It’s easier. It’s more fun. I’m more myself. So the world is a s— show. It always has been, probably always will be. But I am having a better time than I have ever had for a lot of different reasons. So weird as it sounds to say, I guess 2022 so far.

7 . What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

I really think the hardest things I’ve ever done have been moments where I’ve confronted someone I care about in my life about ways that they’ve hurt me. … That’s hard in a way that I feel more prepared to face. It’s such a terrifying and difficult thing to tell someone that you care about, that you want to still be in your life, you really hurt me, because you have no idea how they’re going to respond. Even if they love you, they’ve got their own stuff going on.

8 . Can you describe one experience that changed your life?

I’m going to say coming out here. It feeds into how this year has been so good for me. … I think it’s the biggest sort of overall change that I’ve experienced in a long time. There are a lot of things that have changed my life drastically in a very contained area, but moving as far east as I could manage by myself with my dog, not really even on purpose — because I came out here just to spend the winter and then I just decided to stay. Most of my stuff is at home. I didn’t say goodbye to anybody, because I thought I was coming back. And the way that I live today, if you compared it to last year, the year before, 10 years ago, is extremely different, in a good way.

9 . What is your greatest indulgence?

Television. I used to feel so much shame about watching a lot of TV, and I think it’s because I was doing it to help myself with all of my anxiety and depression, and I actually felt like I couldn’t help it, like I had to watch it all the time. These days, I’m just like, no, this is great. I’ll watch TV while I’m working, because I just enjoy it. … That helps me focus, weirdly enough, to have something in the background while I’m doing a task.

10 . What is your favourite movie or book?

I recently watched the movie “Glass” (2019). It was extremely satisfying for both my interest in comics and the way that history and aspects of comics are woven into this superhero narrative that is present day and unconventional. And also, the idea of medicalized or institutionalized therapeutics for people who declare themselves to be something extraordinary or something different than we expect — I found that very relevant and interesting. I think it’s among my favourites. I couldn’t call it Number 1, because I don’t think I have a Number 1. But “Glass” was a great movie.

11 . What do you like to listen to?

Music can be hard for me to listen to, because I compulsively sing along, and if I’m having voice pain or if I feel that I’m susceptible to the pain that day, putting music on can send me right into it, because I just am singing along without thinking about how it’s affecting me. I go back and forth between listening to music and just listening to the podcasts. … I’m a little bit of a nerd when it comes to podcasts. … But one that I’ve been listening to lately that’s been helping with grey days is “The Adventure Zone,” which is an actual play D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) podcast, or role-playing game podcast, by the McElroy brothers. … They start a game, it has several arcs and then they finish it and then they start a new game.

12 . How do you like to relax?

I go for long walks with my dog, and television is another super relaxing thing. I’ve been going rock climbing lately at (St. John’s climbing centre) Wallnuts, and that’s been a form of relaxation that’s actually pretty exhausting. But it does recharge a part of me that doesn’t really get recharged any other way … and to be so sore and tired is deeply relaxing.

13 . What are you reading or watching right now?

I just started reading a book called “Nightbitch” (by Rachel Yoder), which is a novel, very relevant to a comic that I’m actually in the process of making right now. … I’m also reading about 1,000 other things, because for researching my work, I just have 20 essays on the go and whatever. And I’m also reading “Earthling” (by Aisha Franz) again for the Downtown Comics Book Club that will be having its first session on May 30. … I’m really obsessed with this show called “The Baby,” which is playing on Crave right now. It is phenomenally weird. Really dark humour, but extremely slow and good. I love slow-burning shows, and it’s very strange. Highly recommended.

14 . What is your greatest fear?

I have at least mental or intellectual acceptance that everyone is going to die someday. So I don’t actively think about my death or fear death, but what I do fear is living in pain every day until I die, which is actually something I am already doing. But there’s an internal phobia of that continuing or worsening, because I know how hard it is.

15 . How would you describe your personal fashion statement?

I think I would describe it as simple, utility-focused and quality-oriented. I really enjoy things that are maybe simple or understated, but made well and have lovely details about them. I almost never wear patterns. I pretty much wear solid colours all the time. … For a couple of years, I was only wearing very bright solid colours, and then I started wearing very pale baby blue and baby pink and stuff. And now I’m in this jewel-tone phase where it’s forest green, rosy pink, gentle blue.

16 . What is your most treasured possession?

I know it doesn’t really sound like one possession, but my books, because their presence is such a home feeling to me. Just having them there and sort of seeing them every day is almost like seeing my friends just up there on the shelf. I can’t really go places without books or without things to read. … Even if I never look at them or pick them up, having a book in my bag or maybe three books in my bag makes me feel better.

17 . What physical or personality trait are you most grateful to a parent for?

I think both my parents are really kind. And I know I am also, even though I can be unkind at times. But for sure, both of them gave me that.

18 . What would you say is your best quality, and what would you say is your worst quality?

I would say that my favorite thing about myself is my forwardness, because subtext upsets me. Subtext is so challenging and it also leads to a lot of miscommunication, and I am really, really skilled at saying gently, “I think this is what’s happening right now. Can you clarify or can you tell me what’s going on?” Or saying, “OK, let’s pause. What is happening?” Because I don’t like things to sit under the surface and I don’t like to guess at what people are feeling. I mean, it’s uncomfortable for a lot of people, which is why I like it about myself, is that I’ve decided it’s important to be good at it. And so I am. Worst quality is probably impatience, because it can be a problem for not only me, but for other people if I don’t leave space for things or I don’t feel comfortable resting where there’s uncertainty or indecision. They’re kind of the same quality in a way. I don’t have the patience for an uncomfortable situation to play out. I’m just going to stop the situation and say, “OK. What the hell is going on?” It’s good and it can be challenging, and it’s OK to be both.

19 . What is your favourite place in the world?

Right now, it’s here. I’m just so happy to be learning about this place, both in terms of the context of humans around me, but very much more so the land and just experiencing the different feelings that I have here, and the different textures on sites and places to go. … I can safely say this is my first time here, even though I’ve been here for six months and I bought a house.

20 . Which three people would join you for your dream dinner party?

The first person who came to mind was bell hooks (American author and social activist) and then I thought, OK, if it can be from anywhere in history, I would like to speak with (American philosopher) John Dewey, because John Dewey was an absolutely paradigm-shifting radical educational theorist in the early 20th century. And then I realized that bell hooks actually is in the lineage that flowed from John Dewey. … Let’s call this my dinner party for pedagogical theory, because the last person would be my voice teacher (Canadian opera singer) Fides Krucker, who I’m positive has never deeply studied either of those people, specifically in regards to their teaching theories or practices. But she is the best teacher I’ve ever had, who I believe truly embodies many of the things that they talked about, and I would love to be in the same place with those three people.