Interview with Comic Writer Shawn Gabborin

How do you like your comics? Superhero served with a side of character development? Horror, well plotted and well drawn? How ’bout indie, hold the cliches? If you’re like me and you like your comics…um, good…you’ll probably soon find yourself absorbed in some of Shawn Gabborin’s work. I got in touch with Shawn through my relationship with Action Lab Comics (I’ve interviewed both Chad Cicconi and Jeremy Whitely as well as reviewed Princeless). I throughly enjoyed Fracture, a comic he wrote for Action Lab, and am pleased to introduce you:
Convince us, in one sentence, that your comics are awesome.

My comics have (gasp) character driven stories, cover a wide array of genres, and are created to entertain, not fatten my wallet.

What is your favorite comic or graphic novel?

Definitely Preacher.  It was just an amazing story from beginning to end.  Love it.

What (or who) inspired you to begin creating comics? Why did you begin writing and creating comics?

My main influences come from outside of the world of comics more than inside.  My usual genre-of-choice is horror, so guys like Wes Craven and John Carpenter were big influences on me.  I think their films have heavily influenced the way I pace a script.

Creating comics is something I always wanted to do.  I’ve always had story ideas, but could never draw quick enough to make any forward momentum.  So my wife, who is also an artist, told me to write a story and she’d draw it.  So really it was through her encouragement and willingness to step into an art style she was unfamiliar with that really got me motivated.
If your comics had a soundtrack, what songs/artists would it include?

That’s a hard call.  Through my horror anthology Short Stack (published through Angry Gnome Comics), I’ve published over 100 stories… so that would be the most schizo-phrenic mix tape ever!  I have stories that specifically bring to mind “Escape” by Alice Cooper, “Like the 309” by Johnny Cash, and “Since I’ve been Loving You” by Led Zeppelin.  If we’re looking at Fracture, I could see something like “Sweating Bullets” by Megadeth and also “Vermilion Pt. 2” by Slipknot due to the way that song jumps from fast and loud, to soft and solemn.

Tell me about  Fracture.

Fracture is my first entry into the superhero genre.  Basically, it’s the story of an average guy named Jeff who, through a series of unfortunate events, comes to realize he has multiple personalities.  As if that isn’t bad enough, one of these personalities is the cities great hero… another is it’s vilest villain.  This realization sets Jeff up to have to keep his “fractures” in check, giving us a unique look at a superhero world from the peripherals.

What has been most challenging about starting and managing your small horror comics press, Angry Gnome Comics?

Keeping things organized!  Angry Gnome Comics is essentially my wife Stephanie and I.  I write all of our comics, and she draws our main titles.  Then we have Short Stack, which as mentioned earlier, is a horror anthology with artists from around the world.  Our intention with the company was to keep it small and just have fun with our comics.  Do the books we want to do, with no worry of distribution, editors (other than us), etc.  The problem with running it this way is that our “distribution” then relies on website sales and comic conventions, so we basically have an annual publishing schedule… a new issue of our main titles whenever con season rolls around.  Sounds like it’d be easy, but when you give yourself a year to do something, it brings in a lot of both procrastination and growth as a creator in that span!  So it’s got it’s pluses and minuses.

What path led you to becoming Editor and Chief of Action Lab? What was your experience with comics before taking this position?

Well, I had met (and worked with) Dave Dwonch, Chad Cicconi, and Shawn Pryor at various stages of my self-publishing through Angry Gnome.  It was right about the same time that I started talking to Chad about doing the art for Fracture that the group of us started talking about forming Action Lab.  During our discussions about forming the company, Dave and I seemed to have a very similar view on the quality of comics we wanted to be producing, so it just naturally grew into Dave working as Creative Director, and me as Editor In Chief.

What was most intimidating about breaking into comics, and what tips would you give others who are hoping to break in as well?

Just putting yourself out there is pretty intimidating.  The last thing anyone wants is to hear negative remarks on something they’ve put a lot of work into.  Luckily, we’ve been pretty well received.  I’m a fairly quiet guy, so to go to shows and try to pitch my books to people is a bit outside of my comfort zone, but it’s been eight+ years now so I’m feeling more comfortable with that.

Advise for people looking to get past what I’ve worked to get past is simply not to take it personally.  Your work isn’t going to be for everybody.  If someone doesn’t like it, that’s their own opinion.  If someone trashes it, well then they just don’t get you… and there’s nothing wrong with that.  But when someone does get you, it’s awesome!
What advice would you give other aspiring comic artists and writers in regards to getting their stuff published?

Just tell your story.  Don’t look at what’s out there and try to conform to what’s “hot”.  If you don’t have a zombie story, don’t force yourself to write one.  Write the story you want to tell.  Draw the story you want to draw.  And, regardless of the feedback you get on early projects, work through it.  If you give up, you’ll never learn.

How do you think the experience of comic creating and publishing differs for men and women (if it does at all)?

I can only speak from my own experience.  Through Angry Gnome Comics I think I’ve promoted a lot of female talent.  My wife Stephanie draws our two “main” titles.  Through our comic Short Stack we’ve published stories from 76 artists (as of issue #8), over 1/3 of which have been female artists.  For me, gender has never been an issue.  If I see an art style I like, I contact them.  Most of the time I don’t even know if the artist is a man or a woman until I look for a name to personalize the email.  Why the mainstream doesn’t call up these talented women as often as they do men, I can’t say.  It’s sad really, as I’ve worked with some amazingly talented female artists who deserve to get recognized.

What is your next project?

Through Action Lab we are working on Fracture Volume 2, and a comic called “Odin Jones” that I cowrote with Dave Dwonch.  I have a few other stories that I’m working on that are too early to talk about… but I’m always working!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just to encourage people to give the independents a shot.  Not just us, but anyone out there that’s doing the small press thing.  They love what they’re doing, and hopefully that love shines through in the work.  Back to me… if you like your superheroes, but want something different than what the big two are feeding you, give Fracture a read.  If you want horror, I’ve got you covered there as well with Snowed In from Action Lab Entertainment or our entire catalogue over at Angry Gnome Comics.

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