Interview with Artist Tony Almazo

I met Tony in a cafe in downtown Chicago. A mutually beneficial opportunity brought us together–I needed an artist for my graphic novel, Fusion, and he wanted to expand his portfolio. He showed me his stuff–edgy, dark, Sin City-inspired. He agreed to draw my covers, and I knew I had seriously lucked out. It’s not every day you find an artist whose aesthetic syncs with the style you’ve been envisioning for your comic. Tony agreed to an interview as well. Heed this promising young artist’s advice. (And check out his website and Facebook page).

Convince us, in one sentence, that your comics are awesome.

My comics are awesome because I’m awesome! No, just kidding, I create sharp, gritty images of robots, superpowered beings, and men with a little sanity attached.

If your comics had a soundtrack, what songs/artists would it include?

A lot of Nine Inch Nails, that’s for sure! Anything with an ambient sound and good lyrics will do. Oh, and a lot of Hip-Hop too! That always gets me in the mood.

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Tell us more about your current comic/creative endeavors.

I’m currently working on perfecting my craft, and I’ve always found Color Theory to be very interesting, so I’m also giving coloring comics a go!

What advice would you give students who want to get involved in the comic book world?

The only advice I can give is to keep doing what you do, and love what you do. You don’t want to find yourself stuck with something you’re not even passionate about. And also, don’t push yourself so much to the point where you’ll lose your mind! Sanity is the only thing that’ll keep you level in this insane comic book world!

What is your favorite comic or graphic novel?

My favorite graphic novel would have to be either Watchmen, or The Ultimates by Mark Millar. I’m a huge fan of both Millar and Alan Moore because their rich storytelling is a breath of fresh air every time I read them. And the artists on both of those novels are just as great!

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What is your dream job?

I always liked drawing since I was a little kid, and as a kid you always believe your hobby will become your job when you’re older. But I didn’t seriously consider drawing until I was exactly that. So I’ve come to realize, any job that will allow me to draw things I like all the time would be incredibly awesome!

What (or who) inspired you to begin creating comics?

There are many writers and artists that inspired me to create comics. To name a few, Bryan Hitch, John Romita Jr, Mark Millar, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Alan Moore, I could go on. They set the template for some of the best comics in history and I was always intrigued by their original approaches to comic books. You can’t beat ’em.

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How has being a Chicagoan affected your writing? Are their any neighborhoods in Chicago that have had a particular effect on you or have played a role in your creative process?

Well, I’m not originally from Chicago so it wouldn’t be fair to call me a Chicagoan, but I do love the Windy City. The cool breeze in the atmosphere is always a must! It brings me into a peaceful state where I can just relax and ideas will come to me. And let’s not forget about Graham Crackers Comics in The Loop! Nothing beats inspiration for comics than a comic book store.

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

I hope it doesn’t differ in any way…But I think women bring something entirely new to the table although men run most of the business. It sure never hurts to bring in some new ideas from a different perspective. After all, we all want to create comics.

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What is your next project?

My next project is called, “Kings, Queens & Machines.” It will be a series of images inspired heavily by science fiction comic books and films. It’s sure to make me lose my mind! haha!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I usually go by the name “Seed of Smiley,” pasting a smiley face icon on all my work, so if you ever hear it or see it then you’ll know who it is! And also, keep up the positive vibes and creative flow going, because when it’s all said and done, that’s a big part of what makes the World turn. Seriously. Adios!

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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.

Interview with Comic Creator Amara Leipzig

Amara Leipzig is a comic book artist and student studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Amara’s work is characterized by a simple yet vibrant use of texture and white space. Her depiction of the human form is haunting, and the content of her work is at times provocative (and always compelling). Amara has self published several comics, including “Yizkor,” a tale inspired by her grandmother’s experience during WWII.  Amara’s comics are for sale at Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago. She has recently illustrated a book entitled How Many More Questions? You can read a synopsis of the book here and view sample pages here.  Visit her website  to check out  more samples of her work.

 Convince us, in one sentence, that your comics are awesome.

When I ask my friends about the strengths of my work, they say that my comics tap into fairly universal human emotion in a way that allows people of many ages, groups, and genders to connect with the condition of my characters. This is definitely what I’m working towards so I hope it to be true!

What (or who) inspired you to begin creating comics?

My oldest friend, Josh Grapes, used to write comics that I would draw when we were like 7. I don’t think we ever finished one and I stopped making comics for “serious art” like painting. It was probably watching a good friend, Susan Sarandon, make an incredible comic a couple of years ago that started me at it again. (check out artbysusansarandon.wordpress.com and you will not be disappointed!!!)

 What is your favorite comic or graphic novel?

Hands down, “Abandoned Cars” by Tim Lane. I’m a sucker for the American Dream. But “Curses” by Kevin Huizenga, “Against Pain” by Ron Rege Jr and “Sleepwalk and Other Stories” by Adrian Tomine all deserve a tied second.

If your comics had a soundtrack, what songs/artists would it include?

Podcasts because that’s all I listen to while I’m drawing and inking. Often, when I’m done with a comic and I read through it, at different parts I’m hit with the emotional reaction I had to whatever story I was listening to on Radiolab or the Moth or whatever at the time.

For others though, maybe A Silver Mt Zion or some Tim Hecker?

Tell me more about “Yizkor.” I read the sample pages online and found them compelling and somewhat haunting.

During WWII, my grandfather was weatherman for the air force. He travelled around the States, and wherever the government sent him, my grandmother decided to pack up her bags and follow. “Yizkor” is the story of her experiences through the war mirrored by my relationship with her. When I wrote the comic, I was the same age she was at this time. Yizkor is a special memorial service in the Jewish faith that is only said on three or four days every year. I hoped that this comic would act as a memorial to my grandmother’s experiences and losses that so many of that generation shared.

What is your dream job?

A long string of really different kinds of experiences. I’d like to be an educational therapist, an art or physics teacher, a master printer, a published writer and cartoonist, a tutor, and many other things throughout my life. I realize that each of these professions take a lifetime to master and so I would probably also be happy doing just one.

How has being a Chicagoan affected your writing? Are their any neighborhoods in Chicago that have had a particular effect on you or have played a role in your creative process?

I moved to Chicago just about three years ago. Growing up in a secular Jewish family in the thick of Los Angeles is probably what has influenced me the most thus far. But in terms of Chicago, the shitty weather continually motivates me to find interesting activities to partake of inside, where there is heat. And a good cafe where I can do work is necessary. Swim Cafe, the Bourgeois Pig, Noble Tree and Nothin’ Less are favorites. All of the great libraries, museums, galleries, print shops, and small bookstores make for an inspired environment I could only try in vain to find in a city like LA.

 What advice would you give other aspiring comic artists and writers in regards to getting their stuff published?

In the beginning, the point is to get your work out into the world so that people can find it. This means that breaking even is much more important than creating a profit, no matter how much time you spent actually producing the books. You will have to compromise on your perfect choice of binding or print quality or paperweight for the sake of being able to make a larger edition. People will forget you if they don’t have a way to find you again. That’s why it’s awesome that making a blog is free and participating in expos and fests is generally cheap. These are at least all things that I tell myself.

What I’ve seen that stops my friends is the fear of being good enough and the fear of the technology at their disposal. You can’t get better if you don’t make something! Honestly, just put your pencil to a piece of paper and start. Making three panels of a comic that will never be finished is way better than having the perfect story exist in your mind only. And having pages and pages of god awful comics is better too. Because it’s a beginning. If you want, you really only have to show the end product to yourself. Never let the fear of a xerox machine stop you because self publishing is your best friend. Don’t be afraid to ask how to use them but most importantly spend some time getting to know the machines around you and you will be rewarded.

 What is your next project?

For the past couple months, I’ve been working on a story about a girl who lives all alone in the wilderness. Around her, she can see ruins of structures that could have been built by humans but she’s never seen another person nor does she know how she’s happened to exist in this place. The comic follows her growing up and making the sense of the world around her. It’s still very much in it’s beginning stages but is starting to look like it will be a much longer beast than I’m used to that will probably take me quite awhile. I’m trying to get myself to start writing in chronological order so that I can put out a first issue within the next four-ish months so keep an eye out!

Interview with Comic Writer Dina Gachman

What makes Dina Gachman so cool is that she’s a lot like me. Okay, I don’t edit a super popular blog about the bizarre things rich people do (and buy), and I don’t have a hit comic series about dating in LA or a gig with Bluewater Productions to write comics about influential women. But like me, Ms. Gachman is a bit of a comics late bloomer. She proves to us all that even if we weren’t obsessed with comics as kids, we can still build successful careers in the comic book industry.

Convince us, in one sentence, that your comics are awesome.

They’re a little strange, a little comedic, and you’ll learn a lot of cool things about some pretty strong, ballsy women in the process.

What is your favorite comic or graphic novel?

My favorite is probably The Wild Party by Joseph March, art by Art Spiegelman. I got it as a gift a long time ago and the rhythm of the words and the style of the art together really do feel like you’re listening to music. It’s kind of a jazz poem with drawings- it would make a great short film. In elementary school I fell in love with this illustrated book written in the 70s called Motel of the Mysteries – it’s not a traditional graphic novel or comic book I guess. All I know is it felt like one when I read it and still does. I love Persepolis and Maus too, and Dean Haspiel’s style.

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

I never really read comic books as a kid besides something like Motel of the Mysteries – I barely knew what a panel was, let alone how to go about writing a comic book. About a year ago I got involved with Bluewater Comics, had a call with the publisher Darren Davis, and our styles seemed to really mesh, so I got my first comic book gig that way. I pitched an Elizabeth Taylor comic book, asked him to send a sample script since I had no clue what I was doing. I studied filmmaking in grad school so once I got the loose format down it felt very natural – like creating storyboards for a film. Then an artist I had worked with before, Amy Saaed, suggested we create an online graphic novel based on this story I had written about relationships and dating in LA. Being naive and green we dove in – not realizing the crazy amount of hours and work it would take. But we launched that project, Fling Girl, in December and it’s tough but we really love the process. It’s a cool way to collaborate.

If your comics had a soundtrack, what songs/artists would it include?

Good question! With Fling Girl music is actually a huge part of each issue and the site in general. We work with labels like Sub Pop, Fat Possum, Merge, Partisan, and Cantora so I guess you could say it’s things like Dum Dum Girls, Black Keys, Deer Tick, She & Him – things like that. Really it’s what our characters would listen to. As far as the Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe books? Maybe 60s French pop, Serge Gainsbourg.

You started a blog called Bureaucracy for Breakfast that pokes fun at all the ridiculous things rich people do.  Did starting this blog inspire any one of your current comic endeavors?

It led me to Bluewater for sure. The blog mixes so-called highbrow culture with so-called lowbrow culture (I wrote about Snooki and Henry Miller in a post to give an idea) and Bluewater’s sensibility just felt very similar. Darren read the blog and I started writing for him. The illustrations I use for each blog post on BFB became really important too, so that visual component was there. I use a lot of vintage pinup art mixed with people like Snooki or Paris Hilton, and I think it became kind of a style, like a comic book in a way.

Tell me about your Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe comics.

I’m so excited about these. The research is pretty intense, but it’s so cool getting into the skin of these amazing, complicated women and trying to do them justice and not tell the same old story people already know, and tell it in a unique way. The Marilyn book took a lot longer to get into because I only knew the basic public perception – that she was a sexy bombshell. I couldn’t find a hook for a long time but when I started digging I found out how intelligent and complex and funny she supposedly was. She had a higher IQ than JFK. The Marilyn book comes out in August and Elizabeth in September – that one is on Amazon already. It’ll be in stores in the fall. Next up is Mary Pickford – I’m in the research phase right now. She was another amazingly intelligent, business savvy woman that people either don’t know about (unless they’re film buffs) or think of as “America’s Sweetheart.” Hopefully the book will shift that a little. She was pretty badass.

What path led you to becoming a professional comic writer? What was your experience with comics before Fling Girl?

Before Fling Girl just the first Bluewater book really. And filmmaking really ties into it – you’re basically making a 2D film.

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

Not knowing how in the world to write them! I really wasn’t part of the scene but I would say online comics are a great start since printing is pricey, or you can just read and learn and either find a publisher that fits your style or do it DIY style – just start creating so you have a portfolio, whether that’s writing or art or both.

What advice would you give other aspiring comic artists and writers in regards to getting their stuff published?

If you don’t want to go the online route you could do some fundraising, maybe create panels and do Kickstarter or something like Womanthology or the Occupy comic did, or write your script and pitch it to indie publishers. And don’t be intimidated by the word “NO.” Just keep going.

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

Honestly I’m not sure. I haven’t felt any resistance, but I’m also not trying to write the next X-Men for Marvel, you know? Although that would be pretty fun.

What is your next project?

I’m working on the Mary Pickford book, and another book that’s a more traditional fantasy/adventure comic. I’m also working on a comedy TV pilot that’s live action – it’s kind of Arrested Development in Podunk Texas.

If you liked this interview, check out Dina’s interview on the Lit Pub

Interview with Comic Artist Chad Cicconi

Chad Cicconi is one of those comic artists whose work you can easily identify, like a sharply dressed French man in a police line up of beggars. What I’m trying to get as is he’s got a cool, distinct (and dare I say, somewhat cartoony?) style that sets his work apart from the “typical” superhero stuff. His probably most well known comic work has been with Fracture, a superhero comic with a twist. I’ve been lucky enough to interview Chad, and so now you, too, can learn a thing or two about living the life of a successful comic book artist:

Convince us, in one sentence, that your comics are awesome.

If you like action-packed, thought provoking, funny, and brilliantly-drawn comics, you will love FRACTURE from Action Lab.

What is your favorite comic or graphic novel?
Other than my own work, of course, my all time favorite graphic novel is the original Marvel She-Hulk graphic novel from the late 1970’s featuring the best John Byrne art I’ve ever seen.
What (or who) inspired you to begin creating comics? Why did you begin writing and creating comics?
I’ve been a doodler my whole life, as well as a comic reader.  I’ve always wanted to try my hand at creating comics, but only got the courage to do so in the last six or seven years.  I only wish I’d done it much earlier.  In terms of my art inspirations, I’ve been strongly influenced by artists such as Art Adams, John Byrne, Kevin Maguire, Adam Hughes, and more recently, Stuart Immonen. 
If your comics had a soundtrack, what songs/artists would it include?
I’m going obscure 80’s on you here —
Swing out Sister – Break Out, Twilight World
Other artists — Chieftans, Basia, Howard Jones, James Taylor, Save Ferris, Aquabats
Tell me about  “Fracture.”
One man’s descent into madness as he slowly discovers he has multiple personalities — one of which is a supervillain, intent on destroying the city’s greatest hero, and the other of which is… wait for it … the city’s greatest hero.  The story follows the main character’s attempts to save himself without losing his grip on reality.
What path led you to becoming a professional comic artist? What was your experience with comics before taking this position?
As someone who loves to draw, and who has been a comic book reader for as long as I can remember, drawing comics was pretty much inevitable for me.  That I’m able to do so at a level where someone other than me wants to read them is just icing on the cake.  I’ve been working on drawing comics “professionally” since about 2006.  Before becoming the artist for FRACTURE, I drew a book called Mercury & the Murd for another independent comic publisher called PKD media, and prior to that, I drew a comic called “Baby Boomers” for Markosia, a comic company in the UK.  “Baby Boomers” was my first published work.
What was most intimidating about breaking into comics, and what tips would you give others who are hoping to break in as well?
As with many things, the first step is the most scary and intimidating.  Putting your own work out for someone else to see, rate, review and potentially criticize is a frightening thing, but it’s essential to do in order to become a comic artist.  So the best advice I can give anyone else is to draw as much as you can, learn as much as you can, and get your work out there, either in print or on the web.
What advice would you give other aspiring comic artists and writers in regards to getting their stuff published?
Just get your work out there.  The barriers to “publishing” are lower than they have ever been.  A writer or artist can create comics and publish them in small print runs or via the webcomic form, with little money or assistance from others.  And this is a good way to get your work in front of others who might want to work with you on other projects or to publish your stuff to a wider audience.  Don’t wait for someone else to “discover” you.  Get out there and do it yourself.
How do you think the experience of comic creating and publishing differs for men and women (if it does at all)?
As a male comic creator, I can obviously only speak from my experience.  I’ve been lucky enough to work with a number of talented female creators, both in my own projects, and as part of Action Lab Entertainment.  I know (or at least I hope) the opportunities for female creators are out there, and increasing, but I’m not naive enough to think that there’s an equal playing field yet.
What is your next project?
I’m hard at work on FRACTURE volume II, which is currently scheduled for a release sometime in 2013.  This will be a 4-issue story arc, and will take our main character even deeper into his own psyche.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Only that it’s been great fun so far working with Shawn Gabborin (the writer of FRACTURE) and all of my colleagues at Action Lab.  In addition to FRACTURE, I’ve also been involved to a minor extent in helping to put out the other titles that have been released in the last year or so by Action Lab.

Interview with Comic Writer Kara Barrett

It’s not every day that I stumble upon a comic that 1. has a strong female lead 2. has awesome art 3. involves fighting, superpowers, and other such kick-ass elements. Kara Barrett’s The End Is Totally Nigh gets a little checkmark for each of my qualifications for a throughly enjoyable comic book read. And there’s a lot to learn from Ms. Barrett, who made her dream comic happen through the help of Kickstarter, hired artists, and a ton of hard work. In this interview, she shares her experiences and advice for those looking to get their comics out into the world. (Oh, and check out a preview of the comic here.)

Convince us, in one sentence, that your comics are awesome.

The End Is Totally Nigh is one BIG burrito-wrapped apocalypse of awesome filled with hellfire, horseheads, heroes and demons! How’s that?

What is your favorite comic or graphic novel?

My favorite comics right now are Rachel Rising and Saga. But I’m always looking for new titles. You have any recommendations for me? I’ve also backed a few on Kickstarter that I can’t wait to read.

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

I read comics when I was a kid and then stopped. When Buffy went to comics, I picked up a few copies and fell back in love with them. A few years ago I started writing this story in a loose format. I looked at different mediums for my story, and ultimately decided that comics were the way to go. I think they are a great way to put your story into people’s hands.

Tell me about  The End Is Totally Nigh.

The End Is Totally Nigh is a story about a girl with mysterious abilities who is trying to stop the impending apocalypse. She suddenly has the ability to exorcise demons, but it isn’t sure how or why she is able to do this. All she does know is that the demon army is about to rise and Lucifer is going to walk the Earth. It’s up to her and a group of ragtag demon hunters to try make sure that doesn’t happen. It’s a supernatural story filled demon bad guys and plenty of apocalyptic drama. I think readers will really enjoy it.

If your comics had a soundtrack, what songs/artists would it include?

The End Is Totally Nigh playlist? Yes, I’ve got to create that!  I think there’s some country music on that playlist. T-R-O-U-B-L-E and Amarillo by Morning for the main character Jane. And Thunderstruck. That’s a must. I’ll have to ponder on the rest.

Why did you decide to write a comic with a strong female lead? When I began work on my own graphic novel, Fusion, I purposely wanted to break gender stereotypes so prevalent in superhero comics. Were you motivated at all by a similar “feminist” objective?

I definitely wanted strong women in this comic. The End Is Totally Nigh is filled with great female characters who take charge. They are also drawn in a more realistic manner than a lot of what you see in today’s comics. I hope that is a refreshing change for some readers.

You used Kickstarter to fund The End Is Totally Nigh. Would you use Kickstarter again to fund another project? Why did you choose to use Kickstarter in the first place?

I heard about Kickstarter and decided to try it as a last attempt to make this series happen. It was a lot of work but totally worth the effort. I think crowdsourced funding is helping a lot of indie writers get their stories to public. I think that means we can expect a lot more variety in comics and graphic novels. I would definitely try it again and may do so very soon. The End Is Totally Nigh is funded from my own pocket, so I will be in need of an influx of cash soon to keep the series going. 

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

I think I read something recently where someone said, there is no such thing as ‘breaking’ into comics anymore because of sites like Kickstarter. If you have the gumption, you can just go out there and MAKE a comic. I think that’s true. Write a story you believe in, find an artist and get your funding. Anything is possible!

What advice would you give other aspiring comic artists and writers in regards to getting their stuff published? What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?

Self publishing is a lot of work, especially if you are new to the business and no one has ever heard of you. But the upside is that if you self-publish you can keep all of the profit. If you have the time and money to devote to self-publishing, then go for it. Personally, I am juggling full time work, freelance work and writing and promoting this series. My plate is pretty full. I have recently found a small indie publisher willing to help distribute the title. I hope to be able to announce who that is very soon. Once I have more experience I may pitch a new book to a big publisher and see if gets picked up. Ultimately, I think it’s really just a matter of what you have the time and money to accomplish.

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

I really don’t know. This does seem to be a male dominated industry, but that is changing. Kickstarter and sites like that are giving a lot of female writers a chance to create and publish their own projects. That is really exciting. I’m glad to be a part of that.

What is your next project?

I have two in the pipeline. One is a mini series and the other is a one issue horror story. I hope to get the funds to do one or both of them later this year. Right now I’m devoting my energy to getting my series off of the ground and hopefully hitting some cons this year.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

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Interview with Comic Artist Bill Blankenship

I was perusing samples of Bill Blankenship’s work, and I literally said aloud, “Wow! Awesome art!” Really, I seriously did. Bill’s work is technically awesome while maintaining a strong sense of personal style. So, it is my honor to introduce Bill Blankenship, comic book artist.

Convince us, in one sentence, that your comics are awesome.

My comics are made by someone who loves comics and is devoted to the craft, and he is chained to a desk in my basement.

What is your favorite comic or graphic novel?

Nextwave. That book is a combination of everything I like.

What (or who) inspired you to begin creating comics?

Greg Capullo was a huge influence on me as a kid. I was reading Spawn probably way younger than I should have. I think 11. That and The Maxx around the same time. I think this is around the same time I was a Power Rangers fan so it’s mixed. Ghostbusters was a really early influence and one that I think stuck.

If your comics had a soundtrack, what songs/artists would it include?

The Black Keys, Dr. Steel, Gogol Bordello Ronald Jenkees, Die Antwoord, Fugazi, B-52’s, The Like, DJ Shadow, Hockey, Muse, Radiohead, Puscifer. That’s some of stuff on my go-to work playlist.

Tell me more about “Abigail and Rox.” I saw the sample pages online and found the comic’s tone/themes familiar—with clear Alice and Wonderland inspiration—yet somewhat haunting.

That was a collaboration that helped me work out my environments. It had a lot of amazing and creative settings that you could elaborate in order to show what kind of world you were dealing with. The story had this feeling of the loss of childhood and I wanted to portray that as best as I could.

How have you developed your personal style, both as a writer and artist?

A lot of work and study of the techniques of artists I like for starters. I mean years of work. Study of the craft of cartooning, the science of it, to get that base to work from. For a while I really didn’t allow myself to really play with style because I knew the foundation wasn’t there. I’d also see a lot of young artists use it as a crutch and as appealing as that can be it’s not serving the story and I knew that. My simple page layouts are probably a symptom of that.

What was most challenging about self-publishing your novel, Special Edition?

Promoting it and scheduling. I really didn’t plan ahead as well as I should.

What advice would you give other aspiring comic artists and writers in regards to getting their stuff published?

I’m probably the last person you want to ask for advice but I think it’s pretty evident that doing it yourself is the smart thing. I’d recommend learning all the parts of the trade. Don’t just be a penciler. The next generation of creators to succeed are those who control their works and go directly to the audience. Make comics. Put them out there. Promote them. Listen to feedback. Strive to improve. Expect to work for 5 years before anyone cares about you. You have to be devoted to the craft.

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

I think it’s pretty obvious that mainstream comics lacks a woman’s voice, but the reaction to that has been a swarm of amazing women creators in the indie world. That indie world is going to be a lot more important to comics as a craft and business in the next few years in my opinion.

What is your next project?

Without saying too much it’s going to be done with Action Lab, as with every other project for the foreseeable future. I’m hoping to put some things I’ve learned and things I suspect to the test. It’s something I’ve had in planning for a long time and something I think a lot of people will be excited to see.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I do hope anyone still reading this continues to support Action Lab and our projects in any way possible as we strive to make comics that people want to read, and I’d like to thank everyone who’s supported us so far in his endeavor. It’s been amazing so far.

And mostly I’d like to thank my wife Darcy, without whom none of this would be happening.