Starting Your Dreams Later In Life and Embracing the Detour

Jenee Darden speaking at Creative Mornings I know it's been a while since I've posted anything but that's because of my job. I'm working as a reporter covering Oakland and I host an arts segment on the radio where I get to interview amazing artists from around the Bay Area. Plus I'm publicizing my book  and building my speaking career!  You know what's funny? I thought this would all happen by the time I was 27-30.  Nope. That wasn't God's plan for me. I'm finally beginning to do the things I've wanted to do and I'm almost 40 years old. Some people reading this who are 40 will say 40 is still young. But some younger people reading may think 40 is nearly ancient. But I'm writing this post for those who like me, thought their career and personal dreams would come true much early in life. I'm here to tell you not to give up.  You know, death inspires life. A number of my relatives and friends have passed away, ranging in

WonderCon 2011: Super Artists Couple Beth Sotelo and Joel Gomez

Joel Gomez and Beth Sotelo
Photo Credit: Michael Pleasent

It must be nice when you and your hubby are in the same line of work. Joel Gomez is a freelance artist for DC Comics but you'll learn more about him later. He had great advice for people trying to get through the door. Let's shift the spotlight to his wife Beth Sotelo.  Just as I was on my out of WonderCon Beth Sotelo greeted me with the biggest smile from her table. I can't turn down a friendly face and I'm so glad we got to chat. Beth is a colorist for Aspen Comics and is working on "Fathom: Volume 4 which is set to be in stores this month. "Fathom" is the company's best-selling series. Beth is ten years in the game, but it took super drive and thick skin of steel before an employer told her to paint on. Get it? Like when Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four shouts, “Flame On!” …… Well, I thought it was cute. For anyone trying to make it any field, Sotelo's story will motivate you.

Cocoa Fly: How did you break into this industry?
Beth Sotelo: My background is in painting. I was doing murals, nothing like storytelling or comic books at all. My husband knew about coloring comics and when I was introduced to the whole industry I just fell in love. He got an internship at Top Cow. I got a job in production and I just started begging any artist to let me color any pinup or trading card they had. I practiced. I asked everybody with any sort of knowledge to look at my work. Nobody cared. You just have to keep bugging and have a thick skin because you’ll hear a lot of no's. I just listened to everything they said when they told me to correct. Ten years later I’m working on “Fathom” which is the book that I thought I would be working on. It’s a really a nice kind of book end.

There are a lot of women here at WonderCon, but the comic book industry is overwhelmingly men. How is it for you as a woman? How many women work at your place of employment?

I think I’m the only female colorist in Aspen Comics. There are people who run the office in some way or another who are women. I think the comic book genre in the beginning brought more guy readership. Maybe it’s the superhero fantasy, maybe it appealed to more men. Now it’s changing. Every year I see more and more girls as fans. And even better more and more girls as artists coming around. It’s still dominated by men.


I kind of don’t notice it because I’m just trying to make my way whatever way. It doesn’t matter the person’s gender who’s giving the advice. Just tell me how to make it better. I just want to be a better artist, regardless of my gender.

What does a colorist do? I think I have an idea.
The penciller draws [the image]. Sometimes the inker traces over the line art into the computer. Then someone emails it to me. I open it up in Photoshop and I just start coloring it in Photoshop. I just start using the lasso and paintbrush tool in Photoshop. I go painstakingly through and make sure everything is the way it should be.

What is the difference between what Joe and Jane Blow at home does with Photoshop and you?
I think Joe and Jane Blow probably throw everything into the kitchen sink when they’re first starting out. They’re going to want to put all of the pizazz on every single page and pinup. So your eye doesn’t know where to go. It’s just like lights everywhere that are distracting you. I think with time you learn to do a little less so that the artwork stands out, the story and the figures. You do more with less so it looks more polished and consistent.

I’m looking at this sketch of Batman holding a rescued baby in the forest. The image gives off this feeling of hope. You would use a certain color that evokes the mood. You wouldn’t use a bright green for the trees because that would not reflect the tone right?

Exactly. Sometimes you have a panel that is all red because someone is getting punched right in the face. It’s a quick and easy way to say “danger.”

Thank you so much. I wish you continued success. I’m going to talk to your husband. Hi Joel. I just interviewed your wife. What do you do at DC Comics?
Joel Gomez: I’m a freelance artist at DC Comics and currently working on "Reverse-Flash: Flash Point". It’s coming out June 22nd and ties in to a larger DC event called Flash Point.

Who is Reverse Flash?
Art on display by Joel Gomez
Photo Credit: Michael Pleasent
He’s kind of the opposite Flash. He’s a person from the future. I think he’s a serial killer or sociopath.

Is he like how Bizarro is to Superman?
Sort of. He’s the contrast to the Flash. He’s someone from the future who wants the power that Flash has, and the success and fame. He goes about it the wrong way. He’s an evil character. I’m the penciller and inker of the book.

Do the artists work with the writers at all or have influence on the storyline?
It’s not unusual but for what I’m doing, I get a script and work strictly from it. I don’t have any input on how it’s done but if I have questions I can go over it with the writer.

I saw you giving tips to an aspiring artist. There are a lot of people here looking to break into the industry. What are some of the mistakes or false assumptions aspiring artists?

People might make the mistake of having a lack of professionalism. A lot of people don’t necessarily have the idea of how to be professional. They forget that how you present yourself, how you dress yourself and carry yourself is also an aspect of carrying yourself.

Interesting. What are examples you have seen of people being sloppy?Having loose-leaf art instead of a portfolio to put it in, sometimes having unfinished art is also a bad sign. If someone who keeps coming back year after year, and they don’t show they’ve taken the advice you have given them, that’s also a bad sign. But that weeds out the people who are going to stick it through and the ones that aren’t really cut for it.

Thank you both. I learned a lot today.


  1. This is totally awesome! It looks like you had a blast at WonderCon! Great interview!

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  3. Thanks for posting our interviews! Hope the information helps some folks out :)

    If anyone would like to keep up with me or Joel we can be found on Twitter @Midimew and @j0elg (the 0 is a zero ;)

  4. Thanks Beth! It was a pleasure speaking with you and your husband. Much continued success to you both.


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