Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention

Hiding her comic talent

Jem And The Holograms cover (left) by Agnes Garbowska (far left).
Jem And The Holograms cover by Agnes Garbowska (above).PHOTO: SINGAPORE TOY GAME & COMIC CONVENTION

Artist Agnes Garbowska, known for her whimsical work on My Little Pony books, was afraid of being ostracised for being a nerd in school

When comic artist Agnes Garbowska was in high school in Canada, she never dared to bring her comic book collection to classes for fear of being ostracised by her peers.

"Being a nerd sucked. You were the one whom everyone made fun of and nobody liked. I used to hide my comic collection at home because I was trying to fit in with the girls."

Then a boy changed her life.

She realised she was not such a freak after a male friend unintentionally chanced upon her hidden stash of comic books during a visit to her home.

"When he found my comics in my drawer, I went like, 'Oh my god, oh my god.' Then he said, 'You read comics? That's the coolest thing ever!' And I was like, 'They actually think it's cool and now being a nerd is cool.'"

The 30-year-old Poland-born artist was speaking to Life from Los Angeles, where she lives, ahead of her attendance at the Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention (STGCC) this weekend.


Jem And The Holograms cover (above) by Agnes Garbowska. PHOTO: SINGAPORE TOY GAME & COMIC CONVENTION

The artist best known for her whimsical work on full-colour comic book series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, which is based on the animated television show of the same name, could not be happier with how things have turned out for her.

She says with a laugh: "Everyone wants to read comics and watch movies now. Thank goodness, because it's making the industry explode and giving me more work, so please everyone, be happy and be a nerd."

It was almost natural that she would become an artist - she was drawing 24/7 as a child.  She recalls how she, perpetually armed with a pencil or crayon, would frequently get in trouble with the teachers for doodling on her homework during lessons. "If the teacher was talking about geography, I would draw little mountains on the sides of the paper. I even got detention once because I over-decorated the pages; they were always very colourful and the teachers didn't really appreciate that," she says.

She has illustrated many other titles such as Victories For Dark Horse, Li'l Vampi For Dynamite Entertainment and Soulfire Annual for Aspen Comics, as well as provided artwork for Marvel's Girl Comics and Spider-Ham 25th Anniversary Special.

Garbowska, who describes her style as "Western-meets-Japanese art", does not believe she would have had achieved the same level of success in her career had she not moved with her family to Canada from Poland at age four.

"It's very different there (Poland) and I would not have had the same opportunities to pursue art. I don't think I would have been as influenced by my environment (in Poland) because growing up in Canada, I was surrounded by art, anime, comics and a lot of people who also love art," she says.

  • BOOK IT / SINGAPORE TOY, GAME & COMIC CONVENTION 2015

    WHERE: Sands Expo and Convention Center Level 1, Halls B & C, Marina Bay Sands

    WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 8pm

    ADMISSION: $19 for a one-day pass and $28 for a two-day pass (list of ticket retailers at www.singaporetgcc.com/tickets-queues)

    INFO: www.singaporetgcc.com

With her long blonde Goldilocks hair and large doe eyes, Garbowska hardly looks anything like the tomboy she professes to be - one who "used to kick boys in the shins", loves playing video games and has been weaned on comics such as X-Men, Supergirl, Witchblade, Soulfire and The Tenth.

Having always regarded herself as one of the boys, the artist will be speaking at the Singapore convention's Women In Comics panel on Saturday about breaking barriers in the comic book industry. Also on the panel is Canadian comic book artist Camilla d'Errico.

Garbowska says: "It was once a male-dominated industry, but women are slowly starting to take over. We have Nicola Scott and Amanda Connor who draw the sexiest women ever for DC comics and most of the people who work on My Little Pony are female. I think we have a good 50-50 mix."

She is thrilled so many people have embraced the My Little Pony franchise, especially the Bronies - adult males who are fans of the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic television show.

Describing her first experience of BronyCon, an annual fan convention for Bronies, as "phenomenal", she says: "It's awesome that Bronies are that passionate about My Little Pony, which is about six female friends going on adventures and learning about friendship. It's pretty much like Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles, except that the four guys have been replaced with colourful, neon, happy ponies. Everyone should be allowed to like whatever they like as long as it's healthy."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2015, with the headline 'Hiding her comic talent '. Print Edition | Subscribe