The Alaska Robotics Gallery brimmed with people coming to see Juneau artist Claire Scott’s work displayed on the walls and have their copies of her first graphic novel “Meow Cats United” signed during First Friday.
She began the book when she was 12.
“I’ve always really loved art, especially reading comics – they really sparked my interest in becoming a professional artist rather than a hobbyist,” the now 15-year-old Scott said.
Scott wants to pursue art professionally as an adult. In the third grade, after reading the Pokémon series manga, she began crafting her own comics. Her early attempts were rough, she said: no inking, no coloring, just putting her ideas down on a page. Over time with guidance from local art teachers, tutorials online, and lots of practice, her work improved. She also wrote adventure stories and drew fan comics for books she was reading, like the Harry Potter series.
In seventh grade, she came up with the idea for “Meow Cats United.” The story opens in Pherin, where a band of superhero “hitmen” known as Meow Cats United fights crime for cash. Made up of people born with a genetic anomaly that comes from animals like dogs or cats, these superheroes run into trouble with local law enforcement who imprison them. Daughters of previous Meow Cats United members and adoptive sisters Willie and Bertha decide to carry on the Meow Cats United legacy when they come of age, and the adventure begins.
“I’ve always wanted to make my own book and comics. In seventh grade I thought this would be a good time to make a book and compare in the future how my books will be in the future to what my first book was. I really felt inspired by knowing all the cats and dogs I knew; I wanted to make a story out of them,” she said.
Willie and Bertha are named after her house cats and their personality and superpowers are inspired by them too. Willie is an energetic and friendly cat who likes to jump, Scott said, so she gave her the power of fire and the ability to fly. Bertha is more reserved and cool so Scott gave her an ice power. Future superhero characters yet to be introduced are based off of pets of Scott’s friends. So far, all of them are cats except one dog, which she thinks will create an interesting dynamic between them of cats versus dogs.
Scott doesn’t know how many volumes it will take to complete the story but she knows how the overall story will go, estimating the story is anywhere between 5-20 percent completed. She looks up to the storytelling of Eiichiro Oda who has inspired her storytelling style; Oda is famous for his One Piece manga series, which has 88 volumes released to date.
“Make sure you finish what you start. I really admire the people who make these ginormous things and finish it with a good ending. There are many artists I admire who consistently work and work and get their projects done. I always say getting projects done and not pushing them to the side and never finishing them is really good (for) an artist…. Many of the comic writers I look up to… even though they have these crazy work schedules they still get their work done and have a satisfying project to end it.”
Scott knows a thing or two about dedication. Putting together a graphic novel was a fulltime job and “a learning experience.”
“It was a bit confusing at first,” she said about putting the book together. “I always thought it would be very simple but I was definitely wrong. There are many things you need for getting a book published, I’ve realized, like making sure the publisher can print your book correctly… It’s a long, difficult process. It took me about two months to actually get the book approved for publishing.”
“I’ve really learned that you can’t do such a big project alone,” Scott said. She credits her art teachers for giving her new skills to visually tell her story, the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council for providing a grant to fund the publication of the novel, and the Alaska Robotics team for guidance.
“Claire is incredibly talented but I hope people will recognize how much that talent springs from dedication and hard work,” Pat Race of Alaska Robotics said. “This book is quite the accomplishment. To set out to make a book like this is a normal aspiration for a 12 year old kid. To buckle down and work at it consistently for years and actually complete and publish it, that’s remarkable.”
Scott would like to revisit “Meow Cats United” when she’s an adult to hone the story. In the meantime, she has short stories she’d like to adapt into comics. Scott can be found teaching comic art workshops at Gastineau Elementary School, and her other work can be found on Deviantart.com under the username JCcatStudios. “Meow Cats United” can be purchased at the Alaska Robotics Gallery or on Amazon by going to https://tinyurl.com/y79zooy4.
“I really love what I’m doing,” she said. “I can’t thank enough the people who have helped me along the way, who instructed me and helped me achieve my dream of creating my own book.”
• Clara Miller is the editor of the Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.