“Behind the Mask” of Anna Litofsky


Photo courtesy of Anna Litofsky.

Anna Litofsky is the first-place award recipient of a PA News Association 2021 Keystone Media Award in the comic/graphic illustration category for her ongoing comic series “Behind the Mask.” To learn more, we asked Anna a few questions about her beloved comic series and her talents as a graphic artist.

Where do you get your ideas from?

I start with a feeling, grabbing onto some strong emotion or thought I’m experiencing – that’s the easy part. Then I brainstorm how to convey it visually, which is the hard part. I try to use imagery that accurately captures how I feel and is also aesthetically interesting to look at. Looking at lots of other comics – and art in general – is helpful for inspiration. Talking with my friends and family often sparks ideas, too.

When you began “Behind the Mask,” did you know it would become a regular feature? 

From the start, I aimed to have a new comic ready every two weeks, and I was definitely intimidated at first. What if no one liked them? What if I ran out of ideas? I was surprised by how easily the ideas flowed – I had a lot of feelings to express, and I enjoyed getting to draw in an art style that I liked. Now the comics are a fun way to say what’s on my mind, and I’m glad people want to keep seeing them.

How long does it take to create a full comic start to finish?

It depends on the length and imagery. For the most part, I work on a comic for 8-10 hours total in sessions of 1-3 hours over two weeks. They are a time commitment, but I really enjoy the process and practice.

Do you draw your images or write your text first?

I usually start with the text to pinpoint a feeling. Then I think about how that text will pair with images; I also have to visualize how they will flow in panels. Even when there’s very little text, I write a small description of how the images and panels might look, then roughly sketch those out. Sometimes there’s a lot of back and forth, editing the text and images to better fit with each other. I want to make sure the images enhance the text without being redundant.

Who/what are your art inspirations?

I’m really inspired by animation. I grew up loving cartoons like “The Powerpuff Girls” and “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends” — I still love the colorful, simplified character designs that convey so much personality. I also greatly admire the recent trend in cartoons like “Gravity Falls” and “Steven Universe” to tell emotional, plot-heavy stories alongside lighthearted humor.

I’ve also grown up with video games. Charming designs from the series of “Pokémon” and “Kirby” have definitely inspired my art style. I think that video games, along with animation and comics, are often underestimated in their ability to emotionally move an audience. “Gris” and “Hades,” for example, tell wonderful stories through their beautiful art, animation, and gameplay. Those imaginative worlds and stories are a big inspiration.

Are there any plans for future comic strip/ book projects?

Eventually, I would love to create a full-fledged graphic novel about a cast of fictional characters. I’m a sucker for stories about found family and fantasy, so it would likely involve themes like that. I want to create unique characters that feel complex and human in their adventures and interactions.

I also want to keep creating comics that express my personal experiences. Spilling out my thoughts and fears through the medium has become a great stress relief, and it makes me so happy to see others resonating with them. It’s wonderful to know that they help some people feel less alone in their experiences, especially during such a stressful time.