Morgan Beem - Turning Watercolors Into The Family Trade (Phoenix Comic Fest 2018)

Written by Neil Greenaway

 Morgan Beem at Phoenix Comic Fest 2018.

Morgan Beem at Phoenix Comic Fest 2018.

With her first published work in comics making its debut in 2013, Morgan Beem is still fairly new to the industry. In the five years since then she has made quite a splash at Image Comics, with her watercolors appearing in titles like Shutter and Goners. She really came into her own last year as the cover and interior artist for The Family Trade - a book following the story of a young woman rising through a network of thieves and con-men on a floating, ocean-borne city. When I caught up with Morgan at the 2018 Phoenix Comic Fest she was kind enough to take a few minutes away from the convention to discuss her work. We talked about The Family Trade (the trade paperback had just released), as well as some new projects that she has in the works from Image and Webtoons. This was the first time I had spoken with Morgan, and I am glad that I did. Her work is beautiful and I can not wait to see where it takes her next!


The Family Trade (2017) #3, cover by Morgan Beem. 

Neil Greenaway: Let’s start off assuming that the readers don’t know anything about you. I know that you have been working on The Family Trade, what else can you tell us about yourself?

Morgan Beem: I am a comic artist and illustrator, and I use traditional media. So I watercolor all over the comics! (laughs) I am the interior and cover artist for the Image book The Family Trade, which is a fantasy/action/adventure book. It’s very fun. It’s written by Justin Jordan and Nikki Ryan and lettered by the wonderful Rachel Deering, so it’s a pretty good book.

NG: Now I know that the Family Trade trade just came out (which is fun to say). Is the series still moving forward?

MB: You know, I think we are going to have a meeting here soon to talk about it. I think we are going to do a volume two - but we want to go straight to a graphic novel and not do the single issues.

NG: Ok. What length would you guys be looking at for a GN?

MB: Probably about the same as the first one - which was one hundred something pages, one hundred and fifty pages maybe - somewhere around there.

NG: So, a five or six-issue equivalent?

MB: Yeah, 5 or 6 issue equivalent probably.

NG: Nice. Now aside from The Family Trade do you have any personal books that you are working?

MB: So, I have a lot of things that I am working on.  Not necessarily ones that are just myself, I'm still working as part of a team. I have a Webtoons series that is up and coming with writer Ryan Cady that should be pretty fun. I don’t know how much I am allowed to tell you about it right now, but it will be horror based and I am pretty excited about that. It should be out probably early next year.

An interior page from The Family Trade. Art by Morgan Beem. (1)

NG: I will be intrigued to see your art in a horror based story.

MB: Yeah, I really actually like creepy fairy tales, they’re sort of like my main jam so…

NG: Nice!

MB: I’m pretty excited about it. And then I have another graphic novel coming out from Image with writer Jacob Semahn that was called HERE//after. It will again go straight to graphic novel format. And that one is a really great story. It’s kind of like... I want to say a slice of life comic with supernatural elements to it. It has ghosts, but it’s not really a ghost story. It’s kind of a personal adventure story. You follow a character as she explores who she is, dealing with grief and not being ok with the unknown. It’s kind of a personal and moving book, so I am pretty excited about that one.

NG: That sounds awesome! How did you come to work at Image? How did you break in there?

MB: Writers (laughs). Yeah one of the great things about comics is that it is a pretty small, close-knit community and everybody’s pretty rad. So just going to shows like this, networking, and working with other people, you just start to meet writers. Then they say, "Hey I have this book idea, I think your art would be great. Do you want to work on it?" It worked like that for both HERE//after and The Family Trade. Justin Jordan is a pretty well-established writer with Image and Jacob has also published with them a couple of times, so they both have a pretty good relationship with that publishing company. They pitched the book and Image said yeah, and that’s where we are at.

NG: I find that while I'm walking around and talking to people, your name is one I hear a lot. Specifically at D.I.N.K!, everyone was talking about you. Does it feel cool to have such a heat about you?

West of Oz (2017) #2, cover by Morgan Beem.

MB: It’s great. You know I’m not sure I’d call it a heat, though I will thank you for that. The Denver comic community it one of the most wonderful comic communities that I’ve seen. It’s pretty small, it’s so accepting and supportive. Everyone just loves to see everybody else’s stories and see everybody succeed. I have been just so exceptionally fortunate that that community has really helped me along, helped hook me up. The people at D.I.N.K! and a lot of the people that I met through a Drink & Draw that happens in Denver - it’s the same thing, they have just really been a champion for me and they do everything they can to help me out. We are all just pretty close. Do you know Lonnie Allen?

NG: Yeah, of course. I loved his Delineate book!

MB: Ok, so Lonnie is a pinnacle (for those of you who don’t know) of the Denver comic community and he was actually the person who helped me get my very first Image gig. It was a 4-page short story in the back of Leila del Duca’s book Shutter. Denver has been extremely kind to me and I am really grateful for that.

NG: Cool. Now at D.I.N.K! I had actually spoken to the West of Oz guys and they were very pleased to have a cover form you. How did that come about?

MB: Ah, so those guys are actually my students (laughs)

NG: Oh really?

MB: Yeah, I was teaching for a while. I was an adjunct professor for the Arts Institute in Denver, and I helped them run the comic book club that they have there. So Sean (the writer of West of Oz) and Nick (who draws it) are both really great rising star members of that comic club. They are super hardworking and they have really got their stuff together. You know, even beyond what I do. So just in getting to know them and being supportive of their project, they were like, "Hey, do you want to do a cover for us?" and of course I did. So, it was really great.

NG: Are you no longer teaching then?

An interior page from The Family Trade. Art by Morgan Beem. (2)

MB: Not currently. I am still technically on faculty there and would really like to go back to teaching one day, but now with the comics projects I have going on - it’s just not the time.

NG: That’s cool. It’s cool that you have the amount of work that you can choose to stop teaching.

MB: Yeah, it’s pretty exciting, I am very fortunate.

NG: What projects do you have coming up?

MB: So, just the big horror Webtoons project, then the Image comic HERE//after. Then I have a couple of short things coming up through BOOM! Again, I am not sure if I can tell you about them or not so for the sake of keeping my job I’m not going to. But possibly yeah, some small chapters will be coming up for certain things at BOOM! I am just kind of moving and shaking on those things.

NG: It certainly sounds like you have plenty to do. As a closing question for you, if people wanted to find you or see more of your work online where could we do that?

MB: Pretty much on any social media (facebook, twitter) it’s just going to be my name - Morgan Beem. Or they can check out my portfolio site at morganbeemart.com.

NG: Awesome. Thank you for your time.

A commission of J.M. Linsner's Dawn, done by Morgan Beem.

 Morgan Beem at Phoenix Comic Fest 2018.

Morgan Beem at Phoenix Comic Fest 2018.

Some of the art available from Morgan Beem at Phoenix Comic Fest 2018.