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Out of Office: Sophie Wong, Comic Book Muse

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Out of Office: Sophie Wong, Comic Book Muse

Creativity never goes off the clock.

This blog series delves into the creative work our people do when they’re ‘off the clock.’

Inside the TMA hallways you’ll find the typical agency titles: account executives, copywriters, creative directors, operations managers, and more… but behind the scenes, those same folks double as photographers, artists, screenwriters, novelists, singers, actors, and a plethora of other creative roles.

At TMA, we pride ourselves on creativity that matters – both inside and outside the office. We recently sat down with Sophie Wong, Senior Vice President, Culture Marketing to discuss her role as a muse for various characters in multiple comic books for Marvel, DC, and more over the past 20 years.

How did you get into this?

SW: I work with Tomm Coker who’s a well-known illustrator/writer in the comic book scene. We were introduced when I was dancer in my 20s and he needed a model to play Nikki, a vampire in DC Vertigo Blood and Water. He needed someone with the physicality to hold crazy poses. Since then, I’ve played about 10 characters in books for Marvel, DC, Undying Love, and Ride in 2019, just before Covid. Generally, my characters eventually die.

Describe what being a comic book muse entails?

SW: The words “muse” or “model” make it sound more glamorous than it is. It’s more like hot yoga meets clown school. I’ll hold poses where I pretend to ride a wolf (which in reality is a file cabinet) as I hold a heavy sword above my head pretending to spear a villain. I’ll hold a pose like this for several minutes under warm spotlights to create shadows, making the photos easier to draw from as Tomm takes photos from various angles.

We review storyboards, choose costumes, and then block out the scene. If I was being stabbed by Wolverine, how would I fall? We do a lot of fight scenes, so there’s also a lot of problem solving and choreography along the way.

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Did you think it was going to be a continuous occurrence or a one-time thing?

SW: I definitely didn’t expect to still be doing this in my 40s! It’s sort of wild watching myself age in illustration. And like any art, the styles of comic illustration have evolved over time, as well as the tools comic artist use to illustrate. It’s like going through old yearbooks and seeing how much has changed since Tomm and I met.

What have you learned as a comic book model?

SW: In many ways it makes me a better marketer. I love being a part of someone else’s creative process – observing artists and writers doing their craft. I also get dropped into a subculture and community that I otherwise wouldn’t be connected to. I pull a lot of inspiration from it. There’s no better world to observe fan culture – from the way fans are connecting with artists, with each other, and all the derivative content and experiences designed for fan engagement.

I’ve also learned to not take myself so seriously. It’s where I get to be silly, experiment, and express myself in different way. There’s also a bit of nostalgia and it takes me back to when I was chasing dreams – I was a dancer doing all sorts of random gigs to pay the bills. Comic book models are often body builders, actors, and porn stars. I’ve met some really smart, talented, and ambitious people. People I might not have crossed paths with if it weren’t for modeling and I’ve learned a lot from them.

Do you have fans?

SW: I don’t, my characters do. No one knows my real name. Tomm has a strong fanbase, so his followers recognize me from his books. We’ll get commissioned to do pieces where a fan wants my character in a certain scene. Once in while I get asked to sign a book and I’m still not sure if I’m supposed to sign my name or a character I play.

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What runs through your mind during the shoots?

SW: “What if people at work saw me right now!” and then I laugh. I think people at work see me as being pretty composed. Not someone who side-hustles as a vampire slayer.

What’s next? What are you looking forward to?

SW: “Undying Love” is being made into a movie. It’s about an ex-soldier who falls in love with a vampire, a Chinese woman named Mei. To free Mei of her vampiric curse, John Sargent must fight his way through the Hong Kong underworld to kill the vampire who transformed her.

Warner Brothers purchased it years back with Jo Carnahan attached but it’s now in production with David Leith as the director. He directed Deadpool 2, John Wick, and Atomic Blonde. It’ll be cool to see the story come to life on screen. I wonder who’ll play my character?

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Sophie Wong is SVP of Culture Marketing and is based in our LA office.