Interview with Comic Writer Rachel Deering

I’m a superhero comic kinda gal, but this is my second interview with a horror writer this month, and I’ve gotta say, this is stuff is great. Rachel Deering‘s writing is top notch, and the art that accompanies it is totally strong (perhaps even as strong as the  female protagonist of Anathema, which, by the way,–and I just figured this one out– isn’t simply a cool, creepy sounding name, but actually means something relevant. Look it up). Quite frankly, I’m honored to have had the opportunity to interview such a successful female comic writer:

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

Following the age old advice of “write what you know”, I make comics about lesbians, werewolves, tortured souls, and fucked up dreams.

What is your favorite comic or graphic novel?
The Warren Publishing books are my favorites. Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella, etc.
What (or who) inspired you to begin creating comics? Why did you begin writing and creating comics?
I started making my own comics after repeatedly reading and re-reading the small stack of horror books given to me by my uncle. When I could recite those stories from front to back, I knew it was time for some new terror tales, and the only way I would get those is by creating them myself. There were definite drawbacks to living, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere.
If your comics had a soundtrack, what songs/artists would it include?
Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble of Shadows, Devil Doll, Miasma and the Carousel of Headless Horses, and Hammer horror movie soundtracks.
You did some editing for the Womantholgy book. How does wearing the editor’s hat influence your writing?
Having an editorial background, I tend to consider all aspects of creation when I’m scripting. I can see the panels in my mind, how they should be laid out, where the lettering will go, how the words and images will flow together and lead the eye down the page. I’m extremely mindful of each element and how it will work within the overall composition.
We don’t often see strong female leads in comics, especially not lesbians, like the main character in your horror comic, Anathema. When you decided to write a comic with a lesbian lead, did you have any concerns about how it might be perceived or pegged by readers, reviewers, etc?
Not any more than I’m concerned about how people will perceive me. I’m a lesbian, myself, so I was just writing what I know. I don’t tend to think about my sexuality much. I’m sure other people do, and some of them may even work themselves up into a frenzy about it, but I couldn’t care less. If you let yourself get upset over something so simple and irrelevant to your every day life, you should probably just stop reading comics altogether.
What path led you to becoming a professional comic writer?
The intense and undying need to tell stories. I honestly have so many ideas rattling around in my brain at any given moment, I can’t think about much else. Day jobs were terrible because of how much I would daydream about these fantastic characters and settings in my mind. Eventually, I had to give up the steady paychecks and chase my dreams. Luckily, my wife has a really good job, so we have enough money to pay the bills and keep health insurance.
What was most intimidating about breaking into comics, and what tips would you give others who are hoping to break in as well?
For me, it was that nagging uncertainty that comes with most creative brains. Constantly doubting myself and my abilities. Worrying about whether or not my stories were good enough for other people to read. I was constantly telling myself to give up the charade and go running back to the day jobs. That whole thing has subsided a bit, but not completely. For others who might be in that particular mindspace, I’d say just keep working and turning out stories. Not every story is going to be a hit, and maybe the majority of them will be crap, but you’ll eventually turn out that one idea that really works for you.
Like many comic creators today, you used Kickstarter to fund Anathema. Can you take us through the process—from idea to publication—for making Anathema a reality?
It’s a dreadfully long story, but here are the basics: I was taking a shower and the idea came to me. I told some artist friends of mine, and they all said it would be an impossible sell. I didn’t listen to them. I self financed three pages of art and took those to kickstarter. I raised enough money for issue 1 and released that to the world. The story was well received, so I went back to kickstarter to finance the remaining issues in the series. Now, here I am, waiting (im)patiently for issue 2 to be finished.
How do you think the experience of comic creating and publishing differs for men and women (if it does at all)?
I’ve never tried publishing as a man, so I don’t think I could provide any sort of clear comparison. I would HOPE that the experience is not at all dissimilar from one gender to the next. I know I don’t think about what’s between my legs or under my shirt when I’m writing. I’m just telling the stories that need to be told.
What is your next project?
I currently have seven projects in various stages of production. There will, of course, be further issues of Anathema. I’m also working on my all ages book The Other Side, a whole host of anthology stories, a capes and tights one-shot, and a dark fantasy/adventure/humor series. Like I said before, lots and lots of ideas rattling around between my ears.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Don’t listen to the hype. Don’t believe anything anyone tells you. Every single person makes their own way in life and uses experiences and lessons in a different way. If you’re trying to live your life by the mistakes and successes of another person, you’re almost certain to fail. Or come out the other side a copy-cat, which is probably worse than failure. Be yourself and tell the stories only you can tell.
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Comic Books 101: The Finale

My Comic Books 101 series, which detailed all the wisdom I learned from my comic book writing class this past semester, sort of faded away without much explanation. Long story short: I graduated.

Happily, I finished the class with a professional portfolio that contained the entire script for my graphic novel Fusion (which, admittedly, I also wrote as my senior thesis in English), the first six pages penciled and inked by an artist, a springboard, and other goodies (like character profiles, visual references, etc.). So while I’m certainly no expert at the comic creating process, I’m at least considerably more experienced than I was four months ago.

So here’s my plan. This post will act as my transition from the Comic Books 101 series to my new series, I Can Write a Comic Book and So Can You! (which will detail the adventure of creating my first ever graphic novel).

And to pretend like this post contains serious content, here’s a list of what you’ve learned in Comic Books 101:

Resources for Comic Creators

Writer-Artist Collaboration

Selling Your Comic

Breaking Into the Comic Book Industry

Writer Rights

The Elements of an Effective Comic

Pearls of Wisdom

Comics Are…

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 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.